Best Roatan Experience Ever: Spanish and Sloths!

Sloth Love
Sloth Love

If you’re learning Spanish and like cute, cuddly animals, I highly recommend adding this Roatan experience to your bucket list!

Speaking Spanish with a Local

For the past 5 years, I’ve been learning Spanish and wanting to practice in a Spanish-speaking country by taking an annual winter trip. Even though I feel very empowered and independent when I go alone, I’m lonely… and also scared about venturing out by myself. I’m clueless and very directionally challenged even in the States, so… I thought this year I’d get my “speak Spanish with natives” goal accomplished via a cruise excursion.

When I checked the cruise ship options for excursions in Honduras, none of them included “speak Spanish with locals.” They also were very “touristy” and high-priced.

I decided to see if I could find an option myself and asked a port-side vendor (Victor Bodden Tours) if a driver could help me with my Spanish while giving me a driving tour of the “real” Roatan. He told me it would cost $80 and the driver would take me wherever I wanted to go for as long as I wanted.

“I’ll take it!” I said. A private tour and Spanish tutor for $80 for as long as I want? That’s better than any of those high-priced excursions from the ship!

Mi Maestra y Amiga Nueva: Charlene Dilbert

CD - Charlene Dilbert
Ask for Charlene Dilbert for a personal driver and Spanish tutor.

The taxi-driver’s name was Charlene Dilbert with a CD on her business card! Is that a Carpe Diem sign or what? I’m all about the CD!

Charlene (“Charlie”) was an excellent Spanish teacher. She spoke slowly and didn’t constantly correct my many mistakes. Instead she made sure I understood and if I didn’t, she repeated slowly or used easier vocabulary.

She also gently encouraged me to speak in Spanish. If I lapsed into English, she’d say, “En Español?” with a smile on her face.

Charlie with her Aunt
Tia y Charlie

Charlie told me about herself and her family as we drove. She introduced me to her Aunt and showed me the oldest school in Roatan.

She showed me the houses that were up in the hills that Americans and expats lived in as well as where the locals lived.

Charlie is a single mother and I asked her about the economy, tourism, and her job. She admitted that she had a long commute and some days she didn’t get any work.

I told her that some of the people on the cruise ship warned against taking anything but the cruise excursions, saying they might be dangerous for a single woman. She was frustrated by that, telling me that while some parts of the country are dangerous, tourists are safe. The tourism business is extremely important to the economy, so they don’t need to worry when using a reputable vendor like Victor Bodden Tours.

I asked her if the locals ever did the tourist activities.

Charlie: “Oh no. Those activities are way too expensive.”

Me: “Do locals want to do any of the tourist activities?”

Charlie: “Well, it would be a dream to show my son the dolphins, but that costs $100 and there are more important things to spend $100 on.”

Me (very excited): “Oh, if you take me to an ATM, I can give you a $100 tip and then you can take your son to see the dolphins!”

Charlie (visibly surprised): “Are you sure? You would do that?”

Me: “Yes! This private tutoring session and tour is absolutely worth it. You’re a very high-value teacher!”

So, our next stop was the ATM, which was a bit of an adventure in itself. It was a good thing Charlie was with me or else I think I would have been stuck with much more Honduran Lempira than I wanted. I also couldn’t figure out how to get out of the ATM booth! Embarrassing!

Charlie said she wanted to wait until it was off-season to see the dolphins, and, of course, I don’t mind how she spends the money. It felt so good to make her happy.

I told her I’d spread the word about her wonderful service. If you’re reading this, help me pass it on. Charlene Dilbert is the taxi-driver to ask for!

Victor’s Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary!

We still had plenty of time before I needed to be back on the cruise ship, and Charlie asked if I wanted to go to a park where I could see the sloths and monkeys.

I’d been to a park in Costa Rica where there were monkeys, so I imagined it would be like that. It ended up being much better! These were animals we could actually interact with!

Monkeying around

Macaws
I love this cuddly sloth!

I asked Charlie to join me in the park and she, once again, was pleased, telling me no other clients had ever invited her to join them. “Necesito mi maestra!” I assured her!

I’d never realized how adorable and cuddly sloths are! It’s like they have a permanent smile on their faces. I was instantly in love with this baby.

(I wanted to take him home, but my friends warned me the interspecies relationship would never be accepted. So true.)

Bucket List-Worthy Goals

Even though I’ve pretty much done everything I’d planned on my bucket-list, I did two unplanned things that I’d encourage anyone one to consider:

  1. Hug a Sloth
  2. Make Friends with a Local When Visiting a Foreign Country

Carpe Diem!

Carpe Diem Experience: Solomon’s Castle

Solomon’s Castle exterior is made from aluminum printing plates.

Solomon's Castle
Solomon’s Castle is the perfect Carpe Diem experience

The Humor of Howard Solomon

“A visit to Solomon’s Castle may be the most unique experience of your life,” touts the brochure. The visit didn’t disappoint. I’m a lover of Whimsy and puns, and visiting Solomon’s Castle provided both in spades… and hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Yes, I know. I’m such a card.

You know who was a bigger Joker? Howard Solomon! The King of this unusual castle.

Howard Solomon had more than a sense of humor. He was a very talented artist. He made his dreams a reality by building his fantasy workshop and home and sharing it with the world.

Photos weren’t allowed within the castle. That was lucky! I would’ve wanted to photograph everything and I would’ve been too busy taking photos rather than just enjoying the art, along with the funny tour script.

This must be a newer rule, though, since I found this blog post from 2017 which includes pictures of several of the quirky art pieces and their titles.

Betsy Ford, our tour guide, told us that before Howard died, he’d written the long script, riddled with one-liners and Dad jokes. While the barrage of puns might be groan-worthy in a comedy club, the timing and delivery from Ms. Ford was perfect. She proudly (with a hint of apology?) told us that Howard had written and requested all the tour guides learn the script and that we should “imagine an 80-something-year-old man” giving the tour.

I, of course, loved every joke, and felt an immediate bond with Howard Solomon. As a pun-lover myself, I found his script clever and endearing.

“Fencing” around the castle

The Art of Solomon’s Castle

Of course, his art was his true genius. Every piece was amazingly creative and unique. Art pieces were made from recycled or scrapped materials which added to their charm. For example there were animal sculptures made entirely out of coat hangers.

The outside of the castle is made with aluminum printing plates. There are more than 80 stained glass windows, many in thematic sets. As we passed through the studios into the living quarters, the lights streaming from above through one of the stained glass windows created a ethereal brilliant glow.

The Castle exterior is made from aluminum printing plates

Just beyond the castle, guests can enjoy a restaurant called “The Boat on the Moat” with indoor and outdoor seating. There’s a Light House, a Pavilion, a Gift Shop and even the opportunity to sleep at the castle!

The Boat in the Moat

Whimsical and unique, Solomon’s Castle, in Ona, FL. is right up my alley. It was the perfect Carpe Diem adventure that I wouldn’t have even known about, had I not met a new thoughtful friend last week, Sue Ellen. But that’s a story for another blog post.

Bottom line? GO!

*Notice that in the spirit of an artistic representation of the final sentence above, I’m including a green “Bottom line” to this blog post. Though this may not seem like “art,” it took me much longer than I thought it would to figure out how to do this.


Carpe Diem Day Superhero: Carpe Dee O’M

Carpe Diem Day Superhero: Dee O’Malley

Carpe Diem Day Superhero

Carpe Diem Day is coming up this week and in that spirit, I’d like to honor Carpe “Dee O’M” (aka Dee O’Malley) as this year’s honored recipient of the much acclaimed Carpe Diem Day Superhero Award!

The last time I picked a Carpe Diem Award Winner it was Carpe “Lee M.”! Lee donated her late husband’s book collection to a Rehab and Nursing Center.

The original Carpe Diem Day was inspired by Craig Dunham, who lost his life to ALS in 2010. His initials, CD, along with his “live life fully” attitude are what prompted me to pick “Carpe Diem” as my mantra.

What do each of these three Carpe Diem inspirations have in common besides living life fully?

Resilience!

Yes, each of these three Carpe Diem Superheroes have earned admiration from me, not just because of living life fully, but because they do so (or did so), despite challenge, grief, and hardships.

Dee, at age 88, was told she only had a couple of months left to live and was put on hospice care. That was almost 2 years ago! I wrote a blog post about her then titled:

The Ultimate Adventure Awaits

Dee is not afraid of dying. In fact, she is very much looking forward to, what she calls, the “ultimate adventure.” Dee is also very dynamic, witty, happy, and full of good humor. She looks and acts much younger than her 90 years!

Despite physical ailments, she never complains! She has had falls and broken bones and so many problems that I’m sure doctors are scratching their heads trying to figure out what the super-power is that keeps her alive.

Dee’s Superpowers: Optimism, humor, fearlessness

Could it be that Dee’s longevity is due to her optimism, humor, and lack of fear? According to studies, the less we fear aging and death, the longer we will live healthy, happy lives.

Certainly, that’s not a universal truth as we all know. Many happy, optimistic people, such as Craig, still die young.

And we all die, no matter how optimistic we are. It will be hard for me to accept Dee’s death, even though I know it’s inevitable. Just because she’s accepted it (and even is looking forward to it!) doesn’t mean those of us who love her are in any rush for her to die. Every minute that she’s on this earth is a better minute for those of us who love her.

My Fairy Godmother

Dee, my mother’s best friend, has always referred to herself as my “Fairy Godmother.” She has been close enough to our family that I think of her as a beloved Aunt. I’ve always admired her spunky confidence and fearless attitude. She’s been my “fairy godmother” in life and will continue to be so after she dies.

Now, in this final chapter of her life, she’s still guiding me with her humor and grace. Though I doubt I will be able to show the same good humor when my time comes, I’ll remember that she’ll be wherever I’m going and show me how to live the afterlife to the fullest!

(Of course, given her uncanny super-power, she may out-live me and I’ll just have to hang out with all those other dead people until she joins us.)

February 15, 2024 Update: Another year, and Dee, at age 91, is as witty and vibrant as ever.

Making Room for Joy

How do you make room in your home for Joy? Listen to this week’s episode of Carpe Diem Connections where we are talking about decluttering to make space for the things that bring us the most joy.

On this week’s episode of Carpe Diem Connections, Becky Burns and I continue exploring the link between Joy and our “stuff.”

Last week, we talked about finding more joy in experiences than things. This week in The Joy Makeover , Ingrid Fetell Lee talks to Gretchen Rubin, author of Outer Order, Inner Calm, about decluttering and how that can help us make more space for joy.

Tune in to hear our thoughts about clutter and how we plan to make more space in our homes. Then chime in with some of your own ideas on the Carpe Diem Connections Facebook Group page.

Spending Money for Joy

Our topic this week on the Carpe Diem Connections Podcast is about Joy and Money. We’re doing a deeper dive on the topics found from Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Joy Makeover.

The material from the Joy Makeover includes an informative interview with Elizabeth Dunn, author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending.

In this season of gift-giving, we’re all hit with decisions about how we’re going to be spending our money.

Tune in to this week’s podcast about Joy and Money to hear some thoughts from my co-host, Becky Burns and me, as we explore our own history with money and spending.

Join us in the Carpe Diem Connections Facebook Group and share your own thoughts! Are you a spender or a saver? Experiences or things? What were some of your favorite gifts – both those you gave and those you received?

Do you make time for joy?

Do you prioritize joy?

The second episode in Season 2 of Carpe Diem Connections focuses on Time and Joy. Join Becky Burns and me as we do a deeper dive into The Joy Makeover.

Ingrid talks with Time Management guru, Laura Vanderkam in her Joy Makeover video series. Laura gives suggestions about how we can all make some intentional time for joy each day.

The Joy Workbook asks us:

“What would you do if you had an extra hour each week just for yourself?”

I had to laugh a little at this because at this stage of my life, I have so much (dare I say it… too much?) time for myself! I’m an empty-nester and retired from the corporate world and I’ve been isolating (for the most part) for months! I definitely have had more than my share of “me-time”!

I remember the days of being a busy working mother of three, though, and feeling like I never had enough time for myself.

It really is such a JOY to have complete control over my time, but now I’m recognizing that joy is usually much better when shared with someone else.

Tune in to listen to the podcast and let us know how you feel by chiming in on the Facebook Carpe Diem Connections Group page.

Amy Sargent explains why emotional intelligence contributes to happiness

Learn more about Social and Emotional Intelligence and get information about free Webinar.

This week’s guest on Carpe Diem Connections is Amy Sargent, Executive Director at the Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence.

Amy does a great job of explaining how emotional intelligence helps us understand and process our own emotions as well as those of others. By processing our emotions and really asking “why” we’re feeling a certain way, we have more power to choose our reactions to the world around us. Amy explains how this, not only helps with our own happiness, but helps us understand others which leads to better relationships.

I was happy to hear that there’s a free Coaching for Social and Emotional Intelligence Webinar on November 6th at Noon ET. Tune in to learn more and to receive an assessment for attending.

Amy also reminded me of a free assessment you can take via the VIA Institute on Character to discover your strengths. I’ve done this before and it’s a great first step in helping you discover purpose and helping you prioritize your time. My #1 strength, by the way, is Love of Learning.

One of Amy’s key strengths is Appreciation of Beauty. She took a radical step last year and is now living the RV life, giving her the ability to regularly surround herself with beautiful beaches and scenic vistas throughout the country! I’ll be excited to talk to Amy more about her adventures as I move into Snowbird Season myself!

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