Tag Archives: vacation

Rincon Rabbit Hole

Standard
Rincon Rabbit Hole

It took me an embarrassing amount of time to finish this blog post. It’s so much more difficult to write about the Rincon Rabbit Hole while you’re currently spiraling through it yourself. It happens to the best of us here about twice a year. We live where you vacation. No Es Facil. It’s not easy living here in paradise, but someone has got to do it. Unless you have had the experience of living full time on an island in a seasonal tourist town it might sound like we are being cocky or rude with that phrase, but that is not the case at all. It truly is not easy living in paradise, there is much to distract you and draw you towards the debaucherous dark side.

Beach BBQs, bonfires, parties in abandoned buildings, fire dancing, mini music festivals, island adventures, surf contests, sweaty surfer boys and bikini clad babes every where you look. No real rules of the road so please proceed with caution. Bring your cold brew with you or a cooler for the car bar. Nobody knows what day of the week is it because every day is Sunday Funday. No shoes-no-shirt clothing optional type of town. We are Lords of the Flies governing ourselves with sometimes disastrous results. This is the Land of  The Lost Boys claiming Neverland as our very own. Bienvenido a Rincon.

Some of the town residents chase the Summer and live here in this sleepy little surf town only six months out of the year and the remainder of us take a deep breath of relief as the population swiftly declines leaving the year round residents behind. We form amazing bonds with brothers from other mothers and soul sisters that challenge us look at ourselves and our lives differently. Star aligned soul mates that will either return to us in six months with stories to tell or will fade from our lives never to be seen or heard from again but always to be remembered for the memories and moments shared on this sacred island paradise. March and April is dedicated to non stop Going Away Parties and drunken half assed goodbyes. I have the added excuse of March being my birthday month, so I am extra guilty of tossing all my regular routines and self restrictions out the window to romp around with the rest of my island clan like a wild wolf woman on the hunt.

I give in to it and slide down the Rincon Rabbit Hole willingly.  Bands, bonfires, and debauchery that you absolutely can’t miss out on, followed swiftly by “I’m never drinking again” “why on Earth did I do that” and “it never happened if we never speak of it”. We thrive off of an interesting small town bubbled balance of best kept secrets and grapevine gossip. Tourist population dwindles and the two months of Going Away parties slowly blurs into the year round American “locals” trickling out of hibernation and reclaiming their bars and beaches in a more mellow fashion. Paces slow down, businesses alter their hours of availability and responsibilities dwindle down to the bare minimum for some. You climb out of the Rincon Rabbit Hole, take stock of your injuries, brush yourself off and like a flip has been switched, island life is low key again.

It can be a vicious cycle if you are not prepared for it, but a beautiful one if you have learned to trust yourself and your surroundings and go with the island flow. It’s not easy living in paradise, but someone’s got to do it. Only the strong survive.

 

 

If you are ever visiting Puerto Rico and find yourself gravitating towards the Best Coast, pardon, I mean the West Coast 😉 then please look me up! I run several vacation rentals and provide a full concierge service to anyone in need of a little guidance while visiting Rincon. I have a groovy crew of adventurous souls and we love sharing our passions for this beautiful island! Follow the links below to be guided to my Instagram and Facebook and see what kind of island shenanigans I get into!

Personal Instagram: GypsySugarCloud

Airbnb Instagram: BeachGoddessAirbnb

Follow on Facebook: Surf Town Beach Casitas 

Adventure with Cloud and stay at her Surf Town Beach Casitas

 

 

Advertisements

Lost In The Rainforest

Standard
Lost In The Rainforest

Bosque de Guajataca

Natural disasters and wilderness survivals are my favorite genre of movie and book. Disaster and tragedy both tantalizes and terrifies me. It’s exciting to watch or read about from a distance when you’re home safe and have the “that could never happen to me” mindset. I was raised with a TomBoy mentality by my military mind set father to enjoy everything from camping, hiking, fishing, and just about everything else the great outdoors can provide. Having paid attention to most that people have taught me about wilderness survival, I wasn’t cocky in anyway, but I truly didn’t think that being lost in the forest was something that would ever happen to me. Consider me forever humbled. 

Two days ago I was rescued from the Guajataca Forest in Puerto Rico after 8 hours lost in the rain forest.  The Guajataca Forest (or Bosque de Guajataca in Spanish) comprises 2357 cuerdas (which is about 2289 acres) of hilly terrain with elevations ranging from 500 to 1000 feet above sea level. My partner, Jibby & I, who live here on the island, were taking a visiting friend, Becca, for a hike to the Cuevo del Viento (Cave of the Wind) and had decided to try a new hiking trail instead of the Interpretative Trail that we were used to taking. We all carried plenty of water, two flashlights a piece, each had our cell phones, and were also hiking with my 12lb Pomeranian, Osita. Although tiny in size, Osita is not your average prissy city dog. She is highly active for her 14 years of age, well traveled, incredibly intelligent, and a service dog who is completely in tune with me and my physical impairments and will respond accordingly based upon my current state of health. I have an auto immune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis that causes me to use a cane at times due to the constant chronic pain and nerve firings from the slow progression of bone fusion developing between my joints, and narcolepsy which kicks in and puts me to sleep anytime my mind or body is overwhelmed with pain or stress. I am normally very good about carrying my own weight, but on this day Jibby and Becca were already assisting me a great deal on the trails even before we realized that we were lost and potentially in a bit of danger. 

The very first mistake that I made was not determining where the trail we had decided to start at actually lead us to or the distance we would possibly be taking before we set off from the car. I am normally incredibly well prepared and organized, but on this particular day my brain was extra befuddled and I mistook trail head #9 for #19 which I knew would connect us to the caves. We began the hike at 1:00pm and by 2:30pm I realized that we were traveling farther and farther from our intended destination and the paths were looking more and more unsued so I suggested we begin finding our way back before we lost light. We had to decide to back track completely and go all the way back the way we came, or push on following the direction that the GPS was telling us our vehicle was. The path we had just completed was so steep and windingly treacherous that we decided to follow the GPS instead and go slightly off trail. This might have been our second mistake. In hindsight, it would have been easier to simply suck it up and take the steep switchback trail from back the way we had come, but we all kept thinking  “but we are so close, the GPS says were SO Close! Why go all the way back?”

The trails took us over Fast. Within 30minutes we realized we were traveling what felt like a long distance that actually left us doing circles and not making any headway towards the car. I was not panicked, but the reality of the situation hit me hard and I adjusted my energy accordingly to pull out reserve strength for my body and remain calm so I could think rationally. We were losing day light in a tropical rain storm, my dogs paws were now swollen and she was getting leg cramps so we began taking turns carrying her, what little physically strength and energy I had began with was fading fast, Becca had a flight to catch at 3:00am, and we were lost in a rain forest. Ok, Now I panicked, just a little.

Rain Forest Puerto Rico

Rain Forest Puerto Rico

From here on my memory of our experience gets scattered and I had to hear Jibby and Becca retell me about what happened later after we were all home safe. I recall us all being together down low in a valley and I had the thought that I wanted to just get higher and see if I could see a trail anywhere and to see if I could get cell service. I do not recall making the decision to leave my dog behind with my companions, strap my cane to my backpack and begin climbing the rocky cave cliff side, but apparently that is what I did next. I remember hearing my friends screaming my name but I couldn’t figure out why, or why we were even separated, or why I was so determined to keep moving up and forward. Later, I recalled that during my solitary ascent, most of the trees and things that I would try to grab onto to pull myself up or stabilize myself would crumble and disintegrate and I kept falling back down the cliff side and banging myself up more and more. In addition to the forest crumbling around me, I was having a rapid series of narcolepsy attacks which kept causing me to pass out and come to finding myself laying among the moldy leaves with spiders crawling across my line of vision. My brain was mush, my body was fighting for survival by making one horrible decision after another, stumbling blindly as thorny vines ripped up my bare legs. It was the sight of my own blood that kicked my brain back into gear, I remember that clearly. Everything snapped back into focus, I heard my name being called repeatedly, I heard Osita yelp and whimper for me, and I pulled my phone out to check if I had a signal to get us help. I have a friend in town who I knew I could rely upon to think smart and act fast so I called Carla and when then dropped a pin to my location. Then things got cloudy again and I probably made some more bad decisions….

Hearing Jibby retell of hearing my blood curling screams from below and then silence after as I kept falling and them not being able to find me or reach me was terrifyingly heartbreaking. Once I relocated Jibby & Becca and we were all together again, we made our third mistake. Even though I had contacted help and dropped a pin to our location we all still had the mind set that we could still make it out of the rain forest and find the car before dark, so we continued to follow the GPS and I continued to drop Carla bread crumb pins via text when I was able to get service. Carla’s continued warning to stop moving and remain in one location so that the search party could locate us didn’t kick in until almost an hour later when she texted the words, “try not to move so much okay.” I didn’t realize that my brain had clouded again until her words cleared the fog. I looked back at my pins and realized they were all over the place, why the hell was I moving, I knew better than that, I was a Girl Scout for goodness sake (which was repeating like a broken record inside my head for hours). We finally stopped making mistakes at this point and got everything right from this point forward. I sent out a final pin to Carla, promised to stay still, and passed the communication responsibility to Jibby because I knew I could trust my partner to handle the rest of our rescue properly and I had absolutely no strength left. By 6:30pm, as darkness set in, the night noises got deafeningly loud and Sargent Cortez messaged Jibby with instructions to keep our flashlights on and respond to the vocal shouts when we heard them so that the search teams could locate us. I will never forget how fast the search team responded, even though it took them almost three hours to actually locate us because of how high up on the mountain side we were, we began shouting back and forth with the searchers almost immediately. The relief we felt just knowing that help was out there and working hard to get to us was almost enough to jump start my tears, but even then I held them in.

Press Play on the YouTube Video below to hear the night noises we were surrounded by!

We all found places to sit as we waited to be found. My dog remained curled up in my backpack nestled close to me, I massaged her tiny legs when the cramps would come and tried not to think about the snake I saw slithering along the rock we were resting by. I could feel Jibby’s concern about my condition and apparently they even tried to give me a dose of my medicine while I was incoherent which I refused. Jibby kept reminding us to take tiny sips of water and keep our lights up. Becca revealed that she had a battery charger pack in her backpack and a few other helpful items we were unaware of and we all fell into a delirious bout of laughter as we held hands to transfer strength and energy for a moment, recap our stupidity, and apologize for things said during our fearful moments. I found a few videos on my phone later and Jibby told me that when we first heard the search party I tried to put on a brave face and make light of our situation by making a Blair Witch type of video so that we could remember this forever and hopefully laugh about it later. None of us were ever worried about the possibility of not being found and making it out. Pain, discomfort, and the potential of a missed flight was our only real concern. One positive thing that can be said about being lost in a Puerto Rican rain forest as opposed to anywhere else, is we had no predators to worry about and the weather was actually kind of beautiful despite a little rain fall. By 9:43pm we saw the lights of one of the search parties through the trees and for the next half hour I apparently repeatedly asked Jibby for confirmation that they were actually there. I kept hearing “Yes Baby, they’re really here, we’re going home, drink some water” but I still wasn’t sure if it was really happening or not.

The Search & Rescue members involved in locating us and getting us safely off the mountain side and back down the trails were all amazing. I keep trying to come up with a word other than “amazing” and I simply can not, there are no words. Reflecting back now I can recall they smelled like clean clothes and every one of them had huge smiles and beautiful eyes. I remember feeling their energy. I could feel their happiness that the search was finally over, relief that we weren’t injured more seriously, and pride that they had done their job so well and swiftly. I could feel all of that coming off of them in a heavy wave, and it was their energy wave combined with Jibby being so near making me feel safe, that gave me the final burst of strength to lift my dog into my backpack one last time and begin the descent on my wobbly legs. I don’t recall leaving the rain forest with the search party or the hour hike we still had to make to get back out to the road but I do recall being mortified when I stepped out of the darkness and into a street completely filled with rescue lights, ambulances, cop cars and about three dozen search and rescue members. My manners kicked in immediately and I could hear myself repeating how sorry I was, thanking everyone, and checking on Becca while silently I was sobbing in my head for Jibby to just get me home, get me clean and hold me. 

Home safe and wounds cleaned, we all got relieved earfuls about wilderness safety from all who cared about us. We fully understood exactly what mistakes we had made and how to not repeat the same mistakes ever again. I will admit, living here on the island has taught me a lot of good things about letting go when the universe demands it and going with the flow, but I “let go” to the point where I have begun to get a little to comfortable with simply thinking, “No worries, we’ll figure it out as we go along…”. Balance is a beautiful thing and I am learning more from every mistake and success life brings my way. All of a sudden all those geeky wilderness survival books that I took for granted seem like a super interesting read! I found a website that I have become addicted to reading through every little detail of that has a wealth of information about any and all types of wilderness survival, check it out and share it with anyone enjoying the great outdoors!

Wilderness Survival Database Website 

Search & Rescue

Search & Rescue

AirBnb: The Psychologist and The Accountant

Standard

As a young girl I was raised hanging out at hotels and parties with my mother the Catering Director. I loved the process of planning, organizing, and executing a successful party. In my early twenties I applied my skills to a few of my own parties and transitioned into Wedding Planning. I noticed the party planning taking a serious draining toll on my energy and drive but I also recognized that I couldn’t let it go because I Loved working with the people. I had an appreciation for the tiniest of details and an ability to make anyone feel comfortable and welcome. I had a secret dreams to open my own Bed&Breakfast that never manifested, life happened and I moved on. I never purged the dream though, every trip I took became a secret hostess fantasy. My journals and sketch books were filled with dream houses, breakfast menus, fake guest itineraries and mock-up brochures. Somewhere along the journey through my twenties I forgot to continue dreaming. I thought hopes and dreams were for frivolous people who had no “career driven goals”. Back then I was not aware that hopes, dreams and career driven goals Could be one and the same.

Surprisingly I did not become aware of AirBnb until late last year (Nov 2014)  while living here in Rincon, Puerto Rico. I was approached by someone who knew a little bit of my background and asked to assist in running AirBnb room rentals to travelers out of an apartment. I experienced my first life Ah Ha (So This Is What The Universe Was Telling Me To Wait For) moment when I began my AirBnb Hostess journey. I was handed the opportunity of a lifetime, an arrangement that allowed me to live out my fantasies without the risk and investment I was concerned with in the past. I ran AirBnb rentals for others for enough months to allow me to learn the ropes and work out the kinks before I ventured out on my own…..

A week ago I took over a friend’s apartment, and in the middle of transitioning our belongings I got a little Mainland Impatient (I’ll admit, the rum soaked coconut Piratas made me do it!) and prematurely posted my extra room just before I went to bed. I should have known better, especially out here on this isla loca! I woke up the next morning with 3 bookings, one of which was showing up Pronto. I looked from my computer screen around at the boxes, 2 thin beach towels I was using, and linens that the last tenant was kind enough to leave me with, back down to my computer screen clock. <> Start laundry loads, line dry linens, set Private Room up for guests, clean bathroom, personal paraphernalia put away, tiny decorative touches utilizing what I could find around the apartment, sweep, mop, prep fresh fruit, and collapse into a perspiring lady like puddle of wilted gypsy.

So it’s officially official! Last night I hosted my first guests here in my new spot! Rebeca (the Accountant) y Roberto (the psychologist) were a delightful first start. We discovered an instant bond in our appreciation for environmental activist groups and things available to be a part of and experience here in Puerto Rico. When I learned that the Sierra Club has a PR chapter I booted up my computer and signed up right then and there. With more than two million members and supporters, The Sierra Club is now the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.  Their efforts range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.  You can become a Member or a Wilderness Guardian by signing up on their website here: Sierra Club Home Page

Use this link for the Sierra Club-Puerto Rico Chapter

For more travel websites, location information, and less gypsy ramblings check out my

Travel Links Page

In our conversations I learned that Rebeca has been creating an extensive medicinal herbal farm on her property. I shared my past experiences with my ex-roommate and talked about the herbs and roots that he would collect an teach me about for my own medical purposes. I expressed a desire to find or create a book that listed Only herbs native to Puerto Rico….and Rebeca pulled one out. My jaw hit the floor and an embarrassing squeal of delight slipped past my lips. I sent up silent Thanks to these amazing people involved in this perfectly amazing interaction that was unfolding before my eyes and rejuvenating my passions all over again! The AirBnb Experience is not so much unlike utilizing an online dating service. During the booking process everyone involved is interviewing each other for the best possible fit and selecting strangers to live with for a short amount of time.  By the time the travel day arrives and you finally meet in person you already feel a connection. The biggest difficulty that I have being an AirBnb Hostess is forgetting that these people did not come into town Just to visit Me. The guests that come into my home are virtual strangers who will leave and go about their lives and adventures. We exchange as much information as we chose during our short time together, pictures, stories, tidbits of knowledge, book titles, travel websites, etc, and then we all go about our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of bad AirBnb experiences, but I trust my instincts and am usually rewarding for doing so. Roberto y Rebeca left me with fresh handpicked mangos, fresh hand steeped Tamarindo juice, a homemade pesto that they learned to make during a class taken from Maria Benedetti, and a renewed sense of purpose. I do not know if I will ever see them again, but I’m ok with that. I have our memories, and the taste of her Pesto still on my lips.

Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico

Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico

Maria Benidetti’s Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico is available for purchase on Amazon in both Spanish and English. Click the book title to follow the link.

If you have any interest in being my guest during your visit to Puerto Rico follow my AirBnb link to see available listings and dates. I take great pride in making people feel welcome during their stay with me and come away feeling like they experienced the best that Rincon, PR has to offer.

Surf Town Beach Goddess Casita

My Tourist Collection is Growing!

Standard
My Tourist Collection is Growing!

I found a cure for my loneliness! I have begun a new hobby collecting tourists. Don’t you laugh at me, I’m conquering fears one baby step at a time. I’m not afraid of people or anything weird, I just have found few that I like to spend time with on a long term basis. I’m not going into a ramble about my quirks and oddities today, save that for another post 😉

What started as a temporary relief from a case of sever blues and loneliness, is quickly becoming my new favorite hobby. I came to Puerto Rico alone, I left all my family, friends, regular routines and hobbies back on the mainland and started fresh here. I do have a cousin Summer who lives here but she’s just as much of a LoneWolf as I am. I will properly introduce you to her loveliness later since I mention her a lot, she creates Rockin swimsuits. There is an immense sense of relief and freedom that comes with starting fresh, but it is paired with an intense feeling of loneliness at times as I readjust to my new surroundings and meet new people here. I was mentally preparing myself to spend my very first Christmas completely alone and I was not handling it well. After I was done feeling sad about my current state of solitude I decided to pretend it was just another day and go through my regular routine of beach hunting/dog duties/movies and crocheting. I even went so far as to cook up a roasted chicken for myself and my buddy before he left for work. Just as I had settled my soul the universe gifted me with a lovely, equally lonely Brazilian girl who was staying on the property (I live on the property of vacation bungalows, new people come and go constantly)! I quickly pulled my curls into a bun so I didn’t look like a desperate crazy person, and offered myself up to her as a Christmas Companion. Lara & I have hung out everyday since, and yesterday we collected another solitary straggler, Justin from New Jersey!

Lara & Chelsea's Chubby Shadow Heart

Lara & Chelsea’s Chubby Shadow Heart

Paddle boarding, beach hunting, and a few impromptu mini adventures where I took them to some groovy spots for photographs and secluded swimming. Every time I get to show someone around I remember why I love it here. I feel like I should make this a Thing. Offer myself up as a tourist companion………wait a second, nope, never mind, that’s beginning to sound a lot like a borderline island escort girl! Making friends with the people who come to stay at the Las Palmas Del Mar Vacation Bungalows is defiantly going to make life a wee bit more interesting though that’s for sure. I love hearing about where people come from and what brings them to La Isla Encanta! Foreign and out of town friends means more vacation swapping in my future, Bonus! 

Lara intrigues the heck out of me. She is young, beautiful, intelligent, and has the world at her fingertips. She is currently on a slightly similar self quest as I am and I applaud her bravery! Meeting her has been a blessing and I have high hopes that we will stay in contact even when she leaves the island. Justin was a handsomely odd addition to our trio with his giant man paws and military background, but we fast discovered there was far more to him. Sensitive yet ultra sarcastic, he ended up fitting right in to our shenanigans. Each of us had individual needs yet instantly adjusted from going solo to having each others backs and interests in mind. I had good times bonding with these two and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.

So, my Holiday melancholy was successfully diverted. I also retaught myself an important lesson about how powerful my mind can be. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out and be a social creature, but every time I do I am rewarded for it. Rewarded with friendship, experiences, lessons, confidence, and memories.

Aguadilla Ruins

Aguadilla Ruins

Lara Above Spanish Wall

Lara Above Spanish Wall

Lara/Justin Playa Crashboat

Lara/Justin Playa Crashboat