Sierra Madre Oriental

Christmas Holidays in Mexican schools started this year on December 17th and will last untli January 9th, 2012. That Friday was a last day with backpacks and books. What followed, was a Christmas show the next week and now we’re enjoying a time off school. Trying to make the best out of such long break, we’ve packed our van again and hit the road.

The plan is to make a loop around central Mexico. The first leg of this short trip took us from San Miguel de Allende, through Celaya, Queretaro, Jalpan, all the way to a small town in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains called Xilitla. The place is mostly famous thanks to Edward James, an excentric millionaire, who build… well, let me disclose that only after we visit the place.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from the winding road through the mountains. It was curvy indeed. To a point, when Agnieszka finally throw up and said: “There’s no way we’re going back this road!”. Later on she read in our Mexico guide, that highway 120 is the least frequent way to get to Xilitla. Well, now we know why…

28-Dec-2011 16:23, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 18:07, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 16:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
28-Dec-2011 16:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 16:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 18:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
28-Dec-2011 16:04, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 14:57, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
28-Dec-2011 14:54, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 45.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 

How to spend a year out travelling with kids

Since the very beginning of this Sabbatical, people reading our blog have been having questions. They wanted to know what was it exactly that we’re embarking upon. They were curious why we decided to do it. What was our approach and how were we planning to fund it. Among others, those were the most frequently asked questions. At the beginning of our trip, I promised to answer them all. Now, the time has finally arrived to keep the promise.

What is a Sabbatical?

Lets’s start with the basics. The term Sabbatical, might not be familiar to everyone. The word derives from Greek (sabbatikos) and Latin (sabbaticus) and means a break from work, a hiatus lasting between a few months to roughly a year. In the Bible, a sabbatical year, in Hebrew called the Shmita is the last of the seven year agricultural cycle mandated by Torah. That year, the fields are left alone to recuperate. Without going any further into religious or agricultural interpretations, let’s just say that recently a Sabbatical, also known as a Gap Year is most commonly considered to be an extended break in professional career. Unlike extended vacations or holidays, a Sabbatical is usually undertaken with a specific goal in mind.

The goal of Sabbatical

In the ministerial or academic field, people often take Sabbaticals to pursue personal projects – travel, research, write a book. It’s no different in the corporate world. Sabbatical gives an opportunity to focus on personal development – gaining new skills, obtaining knowledge or simply following interests.

In our case, the goal has not been clearly defined. At least not at the beginning. All we knew, was that our life was missing something and that we needed time to evaluate what it was.

As millions of other people, we were living our happy and peaceful life following guidelines prescribed by society – a house in the suburbs, couple of kids, successful careers and retirement accounts. So far, everything has been going as planned, everything on target. And yet, the American Dream wasn’t complete.

For the longest time we couldn’t figure it out. Actually, we were doing everything possible not to admit that there was a problem. We were clearly in denial. In the perfect picture of our life, we weren’t able to admit, that something was missing…

Since we couldn’t quite name it, we kept getting more and more stuff. We’ve worked hard to earn enough money to built a house. Then we worked to stuff  it with lots of items – some of them essential, most useful, some nice, others simply worthless junk. We kept bringing more and more into our life, and yet… Something was still missing.

So we worked harder to earn more money and brought more stuff, over and over again. In this pursuit, we kept rewarding ourselves for our hard work with various tokens – big toys and small gadgets, home improvement projects, vacations, entertainment, etc… And the more we rewarded ourselves, the more it was apparent that something was missing…

Finally, we decided that we needed to change our approach completely. Instead of bringing more clutter into our life, we decided to adapt the minimalist approach and concentrate on pursuing our passions.

The goal of our Sabbatical is to discover or develop them.

The Minimalist Approach

While the pursuit of passion is the goal to this Sabbatical, the minimalist approach is it’s enabler. It also happens to be a way of life, which reflects our core values. In a nutshell, rather then fulfilling desires, we decided to re-evaluate our needs.

We started with the low hanging fruits…

  • Between the two of us, do we really need 3 cell phones?
  • Do we need a land line on top of it?
  • Do we need several TV sets and 100 channels when we have no time to watch them?
  • Do we need to stuff ourselves with nutrition-less, genetically modified and poisonous food…?
  • Do we need or want to spend time and money on video games, brainless movies, junk food, mediocre entertainment, junk toys…?
  • Do we want to produce tons of garbage and use countless resources to ruin our kids future…?
  • Do we want other people to raise our kids, to decide about their education, to brain wash them…?

…and we ended up asking ourselves some pretty difficult questions. What started as an analysis of our monthly house budget utilization, ended up shaping our world view manifesto. This is obviously a much broader subject. For this article, suffice it to say that re-evaluation of our expenses resulted over time in significant savings, which became the corner stone of the Sabbatical Travel Fund.

Family Travel

We have quickly realized that our little “pursuit of happiness”, the search for life’s passion will have very little chances of success if we don’t change the environment we live in. Not to mention that if we were to quit our jobs, living in upstate New York would be way too expensive. At that point, the idea of  an extended travel career break was born…

In the past, before we had children, we have been travelling a bit around Europe and North America. Despite popular belief, we found  travel to be fairly inexpensive and always inexhaustible source of inspiration. Therefore we were both immediately sold to the idea of a long journey. The only questions were: where are we going to go and how are we going to finance it?

We decided to look at our finances first, as we knew those will determine our options. Since we didn’t plan to generate income (read:  work) on the road, the financing had to come from our savings. Even though we have been fairly considerate about our spending in the past, we haven’t put aside as much as we figured would be necessary to support ourselves during a Round the World trip. On top of it, we weren’t necessarily interested in visiting great number of tourist attractions, while schlepping our kids through countless airports and sharing cheap hostels rooms in shady parts of big cities. Therefore we’ve scratched that idea off the list very early.

If we were to search for our life’s passions, we wanted to have the flexibility of choosing places we wanted to visit, being able to extend (or shorten) our stays in various places, or change direction of travel on a dime if we needed to. We didn’t want to stay in cities, preferring natural attractions over man-made marvels. Not to mention, that staying at campgrounds, is not only more romantic, but also less expensive and more adventures (especially in less developed countries) than hotels. Weather permitting, of course…

Having said all that and with the ever rising prices of gas, we decided this might be the last opportunity for a real road trip.

The Sabbatical Travel Fund

Once we decided we will travel using our minivan, and as much as possible stay at campgrounds we needed to assess how much would it cost us. We figured that on average it will be USD $20 per night to setup a tent in a State Park. That’s $600 a month – in Mexico and Central America, we hoped that would be enough to rent nice apartments. Considering that we wanted to cover about 30,000 miles during that trip and factoring in our van’s fuel consumption and estimated gas prices along the way, we figured that USD $500 a month would be sufficient amount for gas money. We realized that availability and prices of quality (mostly organic, local, unprocessed) foods  in different places will vary, but we’ve estimated it will cost us between USD $1,000 and USD $1,500 per month. On top of that between USD $400 and $900 for incidentals, tourist attractions, etc… Bottom line, we’ve estimated it will cost us in average about USD $3,000 per month to support ourselves on the road. Adding car and travel insurance, reserve for unexpected repairs and other surprises, we’ve figured we needed about USD $40,000 for a year long Sabbatical.

As a result of the Minimalist Approach, we have adapted a rather frugal lifestyle already sometime before we decided to set off on this Sabbatical road trip. Thanks to that, over the last few years, we were able to set aside almost half of the required amount. The rest came from the annual tax return, but also from the sale of our vehicles, furniture and other household items.

I’d like to add at this point that with the exception of mortgage, we have always been debt free, which – in times of recent economical turmoil – is especially important, and was a significant variable in weighing our options. Also, with a favorable rate and high equity to debt ratio (and with a bit of luck), we were able to rent our house out at a rate that just covers the mortgage, taxes and property management fees. Barely, but it does…

Mental Liberation

In last weeks before hitting the road, we went through countless garage sales and trips to Goodwill, but were able to empty the house to almost bare walls. I have to admit, that getting rid of all our possessions was almost a spiritual experience –  at times difficult, but mostly very invigorating. Removing the clutter, the material anchors, allowed us to detach our life from the limitations imposed by objects we possessed. While giving the stuff away, we realized that the items we accumulated over years not only didn’t make us happier, but actually skew the way we viewed our life choices. Because of all this junk, we understood our life options as only being limited to a given geographical area. Suddenly, after being freed up from all this worthless luggage, the World stood wide open in front of us.

Terminating Employment

At times I wish I was able to continue working for Alstom during our travels. It’s not unheard of and quite often even expected by the Company, that their employees work from remote locations. I’m sure I could find few hours everyday to support the firm, in exchange of a steady paycheck and benefits, which would allow to extend the Sabbatical trip beyond it’s planned duration.

On the other hand though I always knew that an arrangement like that would not work in a long term.

With today’s technology, telecommuting from even the most remote places in the World is no longer an issue. And yet only a few organizations are mature enough to allow their employees to travel and pursue their passions while working for the Company. For such an arrangement to work, the organization has not only to implement trustful and truly results oriented work ethics in their work environment, but also have a very strong and mature management in place.

Unfortunately Alstom is no different than most traditional companies. I would even risk a statement, that driven probably by the dated (compared to other industries) technology at the core of it’s business, the Company is even more stiff then other businesses in the Industry. There is no shortage of talented people within the organization and yet work ethics and management are heavily impaired. Finally, for our journey to be truly considered as Sabbatical, I don’t think I was ready to even investigate possibilities of such work arrangement. Instead, I requested an unpaid leave of absence, which in fact is no different from flat out quitting. What I got in exchange though, is an offer letter from the Company, stating that upon my return, Alstom will make all efforts to make employment options available to me. I truly think this is the best possible arrangement.

Conclusions

Obviously it’s a long process and only slowly we’re getting used to this thought. Finally, we start to consciously shape our life. No longer enslaved by the material world, we start to notice our inner drive. The lyrics of Jannis Joplin’s old song start to finally make more sense:  Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose…

I’m sure I didn’t cover everything I wanted to share, most probably I didn’t even answer some of the questions. If you’d like to know more feel free to comment under this post. At times I’m having difficulties with prompt, individual responses, but as you can see here, I’m very transparent and I’ll make all efforts to respond quickly. If you’re interested in the minimalist approach or mental liberation I mentioned in this post, I’ll try to develop those terms into more detailed articles in the near future.

Feliz Navidad!

Couple of weeks short of six months. That’s how long we’ve been on this Sabbatical. So far, everything has worked out exactly as planned. Or better… Sounds like a cliche, but it’s true – time flies when you’re having fun!

Recently, I’ve been having really hard time coming up with new updates for this blog. Fortunately, my talented wife stepped in and (as usual) saved the day. While I was tinkering with yet another programming pet project, she took things in her capable hands and made sure our loyal readers are kept frequently updated on the developments of our Sabbatical…

Today, we’d like to thank all of you for being with us for so long and for keeping us company through your encouraging posts and emails. Gracias a Todos! Feliz Navidad and …we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Our Mexican Christmas

It is the first time we spend Christmas in warm climate. Very strange feeling but not for Mexicans who are in Christmas spirit for a month or so. The whole town is beautifully decorated and the Christmas carols are playing everywhere. The celebrations of „posada” which means „inn” or „shelter” also started few days ago. This tradition recreates Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. They are held on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from Dec 16 to 24 th.

All the markets are full of beautiful decorations, lights, candles, sweets and trees of course. We, instead of getting a classic tree decided to do something different. On our way from Guanajuato we picked up a dead tree branch. On our roof top terrace we shaped it and spray painted it white. An upside down plastic red bucket serves as a stand and ……tada!!!!!! Tree was ready for decorations and these were very special this year. All were either knitted by me or made by my children. The only thing we bought were lights. It was sooooo much fun even though, I have to be honest – it is not the most beautiful thing I have ever seen:-) The kids were extremely happy and proud cutting out all the dinosaurs from color paper. We also have Spiderman, who on a daily basis is just a finger puppet but now during Christmas guards order on our funky tree.

Now all we have to do is make sauerkrout and muschroom pierogies for Christmas Eve dinner…..Feliz Navidad Everyone!!!!

17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 16.0, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 11.0, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 55.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
 
17-Dec-2011 14:19, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.5, 28.0mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 200
17-Dec-2011 14:59, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
17-Dec-2011 14:59, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
 
17-Dec-2011 15:00, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
17-Dec-2011 15:01, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
17-Dec-2011 15:01, OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP. u850SW,S850SW , 3.5, 6.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100
 

How to raise multilingual children?

It is fairly easy. Kids are like sponges, soaking up everything without any effort or even concieus idea that they are in fact learning.

There are different scenarios:

  1. The family is moving abroad for a job.

  2. Parents are different nationalities and decide to teach their children their native languages.

  3. Parents know a foreign language very well, so they speak it to their children at home.

  4. Children are sent to school that the curriculum is in a foreign language, parents not necesarily have to speak it.

I personally know many families for every scenario. My cousin Patrycja, who lives in Poland talks to her son only in Spanish that she know very, very well. Our good friends, who lived in Toronto tough their kids Polish and French which are their mother tongues. The kids learned English outside, at school. In our case it was a job transfer to the USA where our children were born later.

We were sure that we wanted to teach our kids Polish, we just did not know how. We realized pretty quickly that it was not natural for us to speak to our daughter in English (despite knowing it very well) and it did not make any sense to introduce it at home since the whole world around us spoke it.

Nadia at a very young age realized that something weird was going on. Many times she had a surprised face, asking why everyone else is speaking different then my parents and I can not understand any of it:-) It changed very quickly, playing with American children every day, she reached their language level in few months. The situation was finally clear – Polish at home, English with everyone else. Sometimes she tried to mix, but we repeatedly and consequently asked her not to.

When she went to school, we started to introduce at home writing, reading and Polish grammar.

At this point she can write, read, speak, understand both languages and she just turned 7 last month.

In the meantime, our son Alexander was born. With his language education, we applied the same approach, except it was much easier because his main teacher was… Nadia. Now, he is 3,5 years old and does pretty good in both languages.

Here in San Miguel de Allende our kids learn a third language: Spanish. We enrolled them in Spanish only curriculum school so it is complete immersion. It has been 4 weeks and they can have a simple conversation, buy groceries at a local store and order their own food at a restaurant. Pretty good as for one month of school…!!!! 🙂

Nadia often finds similarities to the languages that she already knows. That only proves that it is easier to learn another language while you already know some.

We also decided to learn Spanish and we use Rosetta Stone program along with real life practice. I have to say it is pretty good and gives me the flexibility to learn at my own schedule. Most days we learn in the morning and in the afternoon we go out and try what we learned with the Mexicans who are very, very patient. 🙂

What is your experience? Please share…..

How to make lemonade in Mexico

After a few sets with his older sister, Alex finally got promoted from an assistant to an anchor. On his mother’s birthday, he not only helped with the breakfast to bed in the morning, but also offered to prepare fresh lemonade. Taking advantage of his generosity, we turned that rather uncommon event into an instructional video for all the scamps in the World!

Fitness on the go, how I stay in shape while travelling.

Most of my adult life life I have been working out on my own. I say most, because I divide my life into two eras: „before kids” and „after kids”. „Before kids”, I am not even sure if I was an adult… maybe just on paper :-).

Anyway, belonging to a gym or taking regular classes are pretty darn tough when you have a family. Who has time for that, right!!!! Time gets a totally different meaning, you wonder how much more can you do with 5 minutes and sleeping for prescribed 8 hours is not an option anymore.

I could not get through all that if I did not excercise, I swear. Fitness to me is means of producing energy. Without it I would be sleepy, lethargic, tired and I would certainly not be able to keep up with my kids, who are NEVER EVER tired.

I was wondering, how I was going to fit it into my schedule while driving for few hours every other day, sleeping in tents and not being able to take any props with me (except for my bicycle and strech band).

Well, when you want something you can become pretty creative. Here is what I did before we got to San Miguel. I woke up an hour before the rest of the crew and went for a run or rode my bike. It was a great experience because we stayed mostely in National Parks, so I got to enjoy the beautiful sceneries and nature. My favourite was Hunting Island beach, the hard sand was perfect for both, running and cycling and the view of the endless ocean was very calming for my mind. Cardio is great but strengh is also escential. I created something that I call playground fitness. I would take my kids to the playground and instead of sitting on a bench just watching them play I would workout… not for long maybe 20 minutes. I started with jogging 5 times around the playground, then I would alternate between pullups on the mankey bars, pushups and tricept dips on a bench. I did few rounds and I was done for the day. The most challenging where pullups, but I started with one and gradually was able to do more. Old school excercises, but they make wonders for your body, mind and the strengh that you gain is unbelivable.

Now in San Miguel de Allende (SMA), I have much more freedom. Since we stay in one place and in a APPARTMENT I got to be much more creative and change it up a little.

I still run in the mornings. I walk my kids to school and then jog back home. It is pretty challenging since most roads here are cobblestones but on the other hand balancing on it sculpts your ass in a way you never thought was possible 🙂 I also have my favorite P90X on my laptop, so I do it 2 or 3 times a week. You need weights for that, so I made my own from gallon water jugs. I also jump rope on the rooftop terrace of our house when I do laundry.

Since we have been staying here for a while, I was able to take some yoga classes, but I am still searching for the perfect one. Either the time, the teacher or the style does not work for me. Today I tried kundalini yoga and I am positive it is not the right fit… too calm for my personality and I do not own an animal fur rug that they used as a mats 🙂

It all would not be possible if I was working full time. I would have to limit my workouts or get up at 4:30 am like Jen H does:-) I am very grateful to be a SaHM (stay at home mom), even on the go, take care of myself and what is even more important set an example for my children.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

It’s holiday season, and we have some serious problems getting a real Christmas tree. Even though it’s not impossible, it is rather expensive to get a live tree in San Miguel de Allende. Since our budget is rather short and we are trying to be environmentally concious, Nadia and Agnieszka came up with a version of an inexpensive and eco-friendly Christmas Tree. All it takes to make this holiday decoration is an old magazine (visit your hair dresser if you’re running short on color publications), some ribbons and beads. Or actually, whatever you fancy…

Fernando de la Mora

As part of the Festival San Miguel Cantador, last Sunday, one of the contemporary greatest tenors gave a free concert in front of the Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende. As you can imagine, this drove crowds from all over Guanajuato and other parts of Mexico. The concert was televised live.

In one of the few short breaks, Fernando gave a great speech calling for a national action to show that Mexico, despite it’s recent problems, is not only a land of drugs, corruption and violence, but it’s also a great place for connoisseurs of fine art. With it’s long and rich history and talented, friendly people San Miguel de Allende is a true cultural mecca for people from all over the World.

Even though, I’m really not much into opera music, I have to admit, I really did enjoy the event. The orchestra played many classical pieces, as well as some season relevant songs by modern composers from all over the World. Rather then sitting or standing in one place, I was able to walk around, see kids break dancing in the park, grab a coffee and take a few pictures.

Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 21:38, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 800
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 800
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 70.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 400
 
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 85.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 400
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:26, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 200.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:25, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 200.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 400
 
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Fernando de la Mora on stage in front of Parroquia, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 20:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
Parroquia (parisch church) at night.
Parroquia (parisch church) at night.04-Dec-2011 20:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
Break dance in the park.
Break dance in the park.04-Dec-2011 21:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
 
Break dance in the park.
Break dance in the park.04-Dec-2011 21:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 800
People gathered in Jardin Allende to watch performance of Fernando de la Mora.
People gathered in Jardin Allende to watch performance of Fernando de la Mora.04-Dec-2011 21:26, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
Kids dancing in a gazebo, in the back Fernando de la Mora performing on the stage.
Kids dancing in a gazebo, in the back Fernando de la Mora performing on the stage.04-Dec-2011 21:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 800
 
Parroquia at night with moon in the background.
Parroquia at night with moon in the background.04-Dec-2011 21:43, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 45.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
Agnieszka and Estefania in  Jardin Allende after Fernando de la Mora's concert.
Agnieszka and Estefania in Jardin Allende after Fernando de la Mora's concert.04-Dec-2011 21:44, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
Agnieszka and Estefania in front of Parroquia after Fernando de la Mora's concert in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Agnieszka and Estefania in front of Parroquia after Fernando de la Mora's concert in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.04-Dec-2011 21:45, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
 

Fireworks against a backdrop of a Parroquia.The concert concluded with a display of fireworks against the backdrop of the Parroquia. In the series, there more concerts coming, and since now we have a babysitter (or even three of them), I’m  sure we’ll take the opportunity to spend a few nights on town this winter season.

Golden rules of Happy Families

The Bajan Family

Last Sunday, a friend of ours said something that got stuck in my head. She said, that she likes our “Family Philosophy”. Although flattered, I had to dismiss that compliment saying that we actually don’t have any. But over the week, I got to think about it, and even though calling it a philosophy would be a great overstatement, we actually do have a few golden rules or principles.

Here’s a short list (in no particular order):

  • Learn something new everyday.
    You’d be surprised how easy it is to follow this one if you’re home schooling your kids. But if you’re not, it means you have more time and you can learn something of interest to you, rather than stumbling upon yet another fact you’ve forgotten thirty years ago…
  • Don’t get attached to material things.
    True happiness comes from being, not having. This may sound a bit Zen, but one of the major causes for suffering in the World is our attachment to material possessions. We try to reduce it as much as possible. The less we own, the less trouble we have. Especially, when we attempt to travel light.
  • Try new things everyday
    Not all of us to the same extend, but we are curious about the World we live in. We enjoy discovering new things – tasting new dishes, meeting people, learning new phrases. Breaking our daily routine, often builds up excitement, sometimes causes anxiety, but more often than not, helps spice things up.
  • Eat healthy
    In the World we live in, this isn’t as obvious or as simple as it sounds. My wife could probably extend this simple rule to a full length article, or even a blog on it’s own rights, but in a nutshell we try to eat organic, unprocessed foods in a balanced mix of carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals. All in moderation, common sense applied.
  • Drink healthy
    We avoid any and all sugar based drinks. Water, pure water is all your organism needs. It has more nutritional content than any artificial drinks and it tastes great, too.  We also drink natural juices, in moderation.
  • Stay (reasonably) fit
    We are no fitness nuts. Well, at least most of us… but we try to build exercise into our daily activities. Whenever possible, we walk and leave the car in a garage (helps save on gas money and car maintenance expenses too), we play with the kids outside rather then watching television or playing computer games, etc… It not only helps us stay healthy, but also builds characters and confidence.
  • Live in the present
    Again, some of us are much better at it then others, but overall we try “not to cry over spilled beer”, leave the past behind, learning from mistakes, without drilling too much into the “what if’s”. On the same token, we don’t worry too much about the future, being aware that  our actions will shape it the way we want.
  • Smile often
    This one does not need explanation. However, for those who know the author of this text – he is working on bringing a constantly happy grimace onto his face – he’s half way there, smiling internally all the time.
  • Joke around
    Life’s a serious business, we know. But we hate when everything is pumped up, gray and boring. We spice things up when we crack a joke every now and then. Life’s much more enjoyable that way!
  • Think positive
    Things tend to work out the way we want… when we want them to work out. Instead of worrying about the future, we accept life as it is – not foolishly hoping for the best, but knowing that our actions will shape our future. And our focused, positive thoughts help take actions that lead to the desired results.
  • Spend time outdoors
    This is related, to staying fit, but being outdoors also help us of soak up the sun. The sun is the main, natural source of vitamin D. And vitamin D in turn helps us maintain good mood,  positive outlook on life and crack a joke from time to time.
  • Help other people
    We are all part of the same living organism. By helping others we really help ourselves. I don’t talk about any large scale, pompous initiatives, but simple day-to-day actions. In our experience, Newtons third rule of motion applies not only to the physical world and every action triggers reaction. Our deeds never go unnoticed, but the reaction sometime comes from totally unexpected direction.
  • Be honest
    It’s way to complicated to live in lie. Being honest is not only morally superior, it’s also so much simpler.
  • Travel
    For us traveling is the most exciting and educational activity in existence. Traveling never gets boring, ever changing environment keeps us stimulated and doesn’t allow to build up unnecessary routine. While on the road, we meet new people, make new friendships, discover interesting places, learn without even knowing.
  • Read books
    We all love books. We visit a library at least once or twice a week. That’s also why I was heartbroken, when my Kindle broke and my library evaporated in an instant. A perfect example how attachment to material things causes pain and suffering…
  • Lead by example
    We require our kids to do a lot of things. Even though difficult at times, we don’t only tell them what they are suppose to do, we actually make sure that we do it too. Starting from simple things like eating habits, through exercising, reading, all the way to being honest, we do what we say we want them to do.

Following or just attempting to follow these simple rules, we live our ordinary, but happy life. Of course we have some ups and downs, just like any family, but the core values help us navigate through tough times and decide what’s important.

Does it sound like a “Family Philosophy” to you…?