FLORA || FAUNA
Holistic habits in the mile high city
Vol1 Issue3 Denver, CO
What brings you peace of mind? In this issue, I delve into the realm of holistic wellness, a habitual concept I never thought about until I moved to Denver. Back in the Midwest, I felt it was nearly impossible to make time for hobbies and therapeutic practices. The playful, carefree child inside me had withered away with working as much as I was between school full time, numerous (unpaid) internships, a part time job; the life I lead was draining. Only until I graduated and decided to move across the country did I realize I didnâ€™t run away from anything. My attitude and self pitying sat in the back seat as I drove through Illinois, then Iowa, Nebraska, and well into Coloradoâ€™s state lines. I quickly realized taking a hard look in the mirror was... hard. Facing the many excuses I had made for years, putting the blame on anything but myself and my actions was a tough pill to swallow. I learned hardwork is still necessary, that your actions really do speak louder than your words, but making time for yourself, your passions, and your overall mental health is crucial for success and wellness in all aspects of life. Balance.
I also realized it had nothing to do with the last four years of life in Michigan, but my schedule, my attitude and my perspective of life then. Growing up, my father taught me this. He worked hard his entire life, never made excuses, and made the most of his weekends and summer vacations. I had forgotten during those mindless and foggy years in college about the balance; that the inner child needs to explore, to play and to continuously learn and engage in this adventure we call life. I remember traveling to upnorth Michigan for summers spent lakeside; camping, swimming, hiking, biking, but most importantly, spending quality time with family. I find the more I spend time hiking the Rocky Mountains, the more my inner child thanks me. I believe that part of every person should live on, and live loudly. For this issue, I spent time with a variety of people to gain insight of what therapy means to them. From traveling, to painting, to learning a skill like pottery, or exploring a museum, one factor remained constant: the power of the mind.
I ask you again, what bring you peace of mind? Mine is honesty... and a good laugh. Be well,
Carlee Henderson Editor-in-Chief email@example.com @_flora_fauna_
Photo Credit: Max and Hannah Kelemen
Note from the Editor
Denver Art Museum presents: Women of Abstract Expressionism
FLORA || FAUNA Feature: The Whimsical World of Skylar White
In Transition: Southern Belle Bethany Knox gives her point of view on Denver
The Power of Sage: An Herbal Remedy Guideline
Local Shop Highlight: Missy Rhysing of Ritual Cravt
Six Months in South America: Colorado Natives Max and Hannah Kelemen Travel Abroad
Editorâ€™s Opinion: Mental Health Awareness
Dreams Do Come True: Women Of Abstract Expressionism Come To The Mile High. Text and Photography by Carlee Henderson Full Credit: The Denver Art Museum
n April of 2016, I started working as an intern for the Denver Art Museum.
I’m 27 years old.
Many were very confused by my decision to accept this opportunity as I’m no longer an undergraduate looking for credit.
I loved all of my art history classes, and how diverse art is perceived and expressed around the world. However, nothing compared to Abstract Expressionism. The art and the culture of that time hit me like a ton of bricks. The painterly quality, the colors, the emotion and the scale of the paintings; the artists, their lives, their ups and downs. I was obsessed. I read so much about them, and the genre itself. I would dream I was part of the abstract expressionist scene in New York during the 1950s; I could hear the men and women painters speaking, see myself at the parties and exhibitions, feel the clothing I would wear, smell the cigarette smoke from the small nitecap bars they would often frequent... Maybe obsession is an understatement.
“I would rather leave I graduated with a Nature to itself. degree in Art Histoy and Visual Culture, where I It is quite beautiful specialized in Design from Michigan State enough as it is. University. But I didn’t start that way. I do not want to I dabbled in journalism, english, history, even improve it... architecture and interior design. I could certainly One semester, I randomly never mirror it. When I moved to Denver in took a Modern Art course taught by Phylis Floyd, the fall of 2014, I knew a kind and brilliant I would like more to nothing about the city’s woman who eventually art scene. I volunteered at would change my entire Denver within the first paint what it leaves MCA outlook on art. month of living downtown. Coming from a year workme with.” It was then I realized I ing for the Eli and Edythe was doing something very Broad Contemporary art right. I attended every -Joan Mitchell museum in East Lansing, I class, and ended with I did it for the art.
a 4.25 grade (I didn’t even know that was possible). I quickly changed my major thereafter.
Art school at MSU was interesting. I was required to take a variety of classes, from typography, woodshop (surprisingly not my forte), to drawing, even French. I finally felt I belonged to something and had purpose. For attending a Big 10 school of 45,000 students, that was very comforting. As semesters quickly passed, I found my niche, and that was writing.
figured I would try to continue with what I knew best. Only then did I get so lucky as to find and explore the Denver Art Museum and its expansive collections. Two years later, the internship presented itself as I was randomly scouring their website for upcoming exhibitions. Within the first two weeks of working for the Architecture, Design and Graphics department, I was told Women of Abstract Expressionism was about to open as one of the highlighted exhibitions of the year, right at the museum I was now working for. Coincidence? I think not. //
Previous page: Jay Defeo, credit: The Cut This page: Top right, Joan Mitchell, credit: The Cut Bottom left, Mary Abbott, credit: The Cut Left: Quote from Joan Mitchell, credit: The Denver Art Museum www.NYMag.com/thecut/ www.DenverArtMuseum.org
LEE KRASNER 1908-1984
the him sical World of
kylar White Interview and Editing by Carlee Henderson Photography by Karson Hallaway @karson_hallaway Artist Illustrations by Skylar White @skyillustrates
It’s a warm summer day in Denver. I pull up to Skylar White’s house, tucked away off Federal Blvd. It’s a charming white bungalow complemented by a plush green yard. Across the street is a small city park; it’s quiet and pretty. I’m greeted by Skylar at her front door, which is bright blue and cheerful. I step inside to a well decorated space which feels warm and inviting; she tells me she has two other female roommates and asks if I want to see her room. I tell her I do, and we start walking through the living room, through the kitchen, and start heading downstairs to the basement. I begin to wonder what I’m going to find. In my mind, I was picturing a beautiful studio space with ample natural light and pristine furniture to accomodate her art. What I found, however, was even better.
Shelves and tables line the dark basement walls with art, books, rolls of canvas, paint supplies and easels. The exposed pipes, bare lightbulbs and cobwebs also add to the ambiance. I popped my head into her bedroom, which was located right off her work area, not surprisingly just as charismatic as upstairs. Here is a young woman who doesn’t care where she is able to paint, so long as she is able to. Her work bursts to life through the paper as they’re all vibrant, romantic and whimsical; a stark contrast to the space she creates them. It was a perfect setting to see the real artist at work. To understand not everything has to be ideal in life to pursue your passions. Here is Skylar’s story.
When did you start painting? I started painting sophomore year of high school because my friend was in art class and I saw her painting in the hallway with acrylic paint. I was cutting class and she was spending her lunch break in the art room, which I thought was crazy. I thought, ‘This is a really cool environment, I want to spend more time here.’ Many artists can say, “I’ve been painting forever,” but it really did start in high school. So what would you say your medium is? My medium is watercolor and graphite. Mostly watercolor, but a certain texture and freedom comes from pencil drawings; it just brings a new life to something. But watercolor has such an honesty to it, it’s very simple. It’s simpe in its form, but it’s also a very difficult medium to work with, and you have to spend a lot of time trying to manipulate it to do what you want to do.
What was art school like for you? For me, art school was a time that I was a time that felt like a lot of fumbling around in the dark. I was presented with a lot of possibilities and avenues that I could go down in school. Different points of view, mediums, practices, etc. I don’t think I gave myself enough space to try out all those. Most of my instructors were about technique and quality, and if it didn’t have craftsmanship to it, then it wasn’t going to go very far. I am not a very neat or orderly person, so that was a huge challenge to become a neat and organized type. I met a lot of amazing people though. Everyone of the friends that I made was a werido and had a very different upbringing, or way of viewing the world, and it was a lot more forgiving (socially) environment than any other institution I had been a part of.
How would you describe your personal style? Art wise or fashion wise? Up to you! Art wise, whimsical. When I graduated college, I wanted to be relevant and have something to reach out to more people. Graphic, simple, with childish honesty. The shapes are not real. When you’re looking at it, when I’m looking at it, I’m focusing on the impression that it leaves or the emotion that it brings. The sense of imaginary feel to it. Fashion wise, simple. T shirts, sometimes band t shirts. I don’t like to layer a lot as I find it restricting and claustrophobic. Sometimes a little 70s, tank top and good pair of jeans. I love CatBird out of NYC, I love their jewelry. What are some of your favorite places in Denver? Rooster Cat coffee house, it’s a good cozy spot. I like Cheesman Park a lot. I found myself there a lot when I lived in Cap Hill. Vine Street by Saint Mark’s, really good. I find myself at a boutique in the Highlands off 32nd called Kismet, I love that area. And then, my back yard I like spending time out there too, just sitting out at night. How did you know what to major in? I think I picked illustration because I didn’t want to be a designer, and I didn’t want to just learn how to paint, which at the time was how I viewed my options. So, I picked illustration because I felt like a good compromise between the two.
What do you see yourself doing as a dream job? It would be writing my own books and illustrating them full time. It would also include collaborating with other people on larger projects and doing editorial work, especially for magazines, journals, books all sorts of stuff. What are some products and life hacks for being an artist in the art world that you have learned? The biggest annoyance that you hear people say is that they don’t have the motivation but the life hack is you need to have discipline. You’re not always going to have motivation so you just have to do it, it doesn’t matter if you’re not in the mood and it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to, it doesn’t mean you’re not an artist; it doesn’t mean you’re not a creative; it just means that you’re human. But you just have to do it anyways. So don’t rely on motivation, rely on your discipline. For products, soak your paper. Soak your watercolor paper. It’s called stretching. Soaking it for a couple minutes on each side so you can bend the corners, then you lay it out to dry. Do you like to buy your products online or local? I like to go to the store, and look at all the products, test them. Looking at the brushes and touching them. Meiningers and Guiry’s in Denver. They both have acrylic wash, which is amazing. It’s an in between product that gives you the ability to paint with solid, more dense color and helps add a fuller color and stroke.
“Hustle is the dark horse of creativity, the close cousin of grit and tenacity. Without the hustle, drive and complete devotion to making things happen, you are average.” -Rebecca Rebouchè (A quote written on Skylar’s wall above her workspace.)
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Working out of my studio much more frequently and making art that is fulfilling that will be reaching a larger community. What would be your advice to artists looking to start, sell, or start their own business? Well since I’m also in that same situation, you just have to do. You could take route where you work the 40 hour a week job, you still have to put in the extra hours to get it done. It’s exhausting but the advice I give and tell myself is that you can’t be afraid to share your work and your point of view. And that your point of view is just valid as anyone else’s. //
“ You’re not always going to have motivation so you just have to do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re not in the mood and it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to. It doesn’t mean you’re not an artist and it doesn’t mean you’re not a creative; it just means you’re human. But you just have to do it anyways. So don’t rely on motivation, rely on your discipline.” - Skylar White
Interview by Carlee Henderson Photography by Victor Garcia @victorlovesyou
Ceramics artist Bethany Knox is easily one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. She has seen and dealt with hardships and has overcome obstacles not many people have. Knox moved across the country last year from Charleston, SC to Denver in hopes of pursuing medical school. Her life switched gears quickly from something out of her control and Charleston called her home… All within one year. Her background story is relevant because it speaks so loudly to her character and her artistry. Instead of burying her dreams, she simply placed them aside and dealt with the raw emotion that is life. While some people turn to deteriorating habits, others excel in their craft and better themselves because of it. Bethany chose the latter. What is so admirable about is how she has stayed true to herself, to the core. Her work as a potter can be described as the artist herself: genuine, real, and beautiful. The craft and detail is special, honest. The colors are soothing and the ergonomic designs are always visually interesting and respectably high quality. Something else to be noted is her ability to be so compassionate. I believe this relates to her work eloquently. It’s a hands-on skill that requires patience, focus and appreciation for the process.
a southern belle in denver
Name: Bethany Grace Knox Age: 29 Education: BS in Public Health from College of Charleston, Nursing Degree from Midlands Technical College Occupation: Public Health Nurse
“ I’m inspired by so many of the people I’ve met. The nurses I've worked with, my fellow potters, my mother. I am constantly reminded that I have this insane network of support and love.” -Bethany Knox
What made you start working with ceramics? When I was 16, a pottery studio opened up on Rosewood Dr. in Columbia, SC (where I grew up) and I started taking classes there. The owner, Peter Lenzo, soon became a good friend/ fellow potter and Southern Pottery became a part of my life. I spent a lot of time there and that was my first potters community that I was a part of. I fell in love with the art immediately. What drew you to pottery? My dad always talked about pottery classes that he took while at the University of South Carolina and he had some of his college pieces sitting around the house growing up. They were all very strange and almost creepy looking, mostly face jugs, but also some large urn pieces. I was drawn to them and I loved that there was something cool that my dad did when he was in college. Its fascinating to me to see things that people created before you knew them. I also just love to get messy and being a potter is a great excuse to be muddy all the time. What are you inspired by? People and nature. I’ve had to take a lot of science classes for my nursing education and nature, biology, chemistry-people think its all so science-y, but to me, it is art. Pottery is actually full of chemistry. Each glaze is a chemical compound that will react differently with different glazes under different firing conditions. Its magical how components of nature at the most basic level can produce so many different textures, colors, patters. And thats what people are to me as well. I’m inspired by so many of the people I have met. The nurses I’ve worked with, my fellow potters, my mother. I am constantly reminded that I have this insane network of support and love. Also, since having lived in CO, I realize there is an entire world of mountains waiting to be explored and to be inspired by. So often, I have been in the mountains hiking and thought, “Oh that shape, or that line or curve, how can I replicate that?”
From someone who has lived here briefly, can you tell me your perspective of Denver? (Why do you think so may people are moving here?) To me, Denver is a bustling modge-podge of like minded people. It gives you that metropolitan feel of total accessibility and choices of art, culture, food, people. But then is so close to the most beautiful nature scenes that you really get the best of all the worlds. I think people are flocking there both for career purposes but also because it allows for a certain kind of lifestyle. Being outdoors is really important to me, and living in Denver makes the outdoors so accessible and convenient while also providing the industry aspect of a large city. It was a little over whelming to me when I first moved to Denver, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind living in small town CO in the future. Something a little more slow paced. Anywhere close to nature. Also, CO is like a launch pad to the rest of the west. Once youre in CO, so much of American is right there, Yellowstone, Yosemite, The Arches in Utah, New Mexico, hot springs, mountains, desert. Everything beautiful. Dream job: Part time community nurse midwife with small lavender farm and pottery studio... If thats a job. Describe your personal style: Practical and low maintenance with a whole lotta earthy-ness. Where do you see pottery in your future? Hopefully in a small studio in my back yard in CO. I miss being part of a potters community. Cone 10 in Charleston, SC became like a little family to me. I miss that sense of community and having a safe place to foster my pottery skills and grow as an artist.
Any homeopathic remedies you swear by? Tea Tree Oil. It does everything good for your skin from helping with acne to treating infections. Iâ€™m also obsessed with lavender. Its calming effect and beautiful color makes me feel so dreamy and relaxed. Advice to those who want to pursue such an art form? Whether it be ceramics, glass blowing, sculpture? Find a way to make it happen even if its just in small steps. Pottery isnâ€™t an art form that travels well. To have a studio set up can be cumbersome from needing a wheel and a kiln and the electrical set up. Its not always practical to have all of those things in your living space. When I am transient, I still work on my art form in other ways. I seek out local ceramic galleries, make sketches of pots in my sketch book, keep a list of ideas of forms that I want to make, write down glazing recipes. Penland School of Arts & Crafts is also an amazing option. Its outside of Asheville, NC and they offer 2-3 weeks workshops in all different mediums. Its a great option for people who want to pursue a 3-D art form. I hope to do a 12 week concentration there one day. //
age is used in Magic for the purpose of cleansing, healing, promoting longevity, prosperity, passion, purification and wisdom. Sage is associated with the Earth element and so can be used to enhance earth magic. Sage is popularly used as the main herb in smudging rituals. It can also be used in spells and rituals to promote divination, domestic harmony, increased energy, happiness and to inspire creativity. Read on to gain insight on the other benefits associated with sage.// Written by Carlee Henderson
A sea of sage in Taos, NM
Anti-aging: The antioxidants in sage reverse the signs of ageing such as wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. These antioxidants provide protection against free radicals that damage skin cells, causing premature ageing of the skin. This herb is loaded with calcium and vitamin A, which protect your skin against the assault of free radicals and aid in daily cell regeneration, minimizing and delaying the onset of facial wrinkles.
Toner for Oily Skin: Sage oil benefits as a great toner by regulating sebum production in oily complexion. You can prepare a home-made toner by boiling a spoonful of sage in about 250 ml water. Steep for 30 minutes and strain the concoction. Dab it on your face after cooling.
Regular intake of sage can improve memory and information processing. This may be because the essential oil from sage has been found to improve acetylcholinesterase (Ach) levels in the brain. This Ach enzyme improves concentration and helps in the treatment of memory loss.
Treatment: The antibacterial properties of this amazing herb prevent the occurrence of skin infections. It also possesses antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which help cure acne as well as relieve the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. For The Home Aromatherapy: Cures nervousness, stress, fatigue, tiredness, headaches, and anxiety. Cleansing: Smudging is a method of burning Sage to rid your home of negative energy. Smudging can be useful when you’re feeling depressed, angry, resentful or unwell. Best when used to cleanse a new home or space where you spend much of your time.
Sage tea is often used as a rinse or gargled for soothing inflammations. Sage extracts, tincture and essential oil are easily available in medical stores. They are used in medicines meant for the treatment of mouth and throat inflammation. This herb has been recommended for external use by the German Commission for treating inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Neurological:
Treatment of Depression: Sage infusion is often referred to as “thinker’s tea” as it contains Thujone which is GABA and Serotonin (5-HT3) receptor antagonist. Besides improving concentration and attention span, it helps to deal with grief and depression. Physical: Sage oil contains volatile essential oils such as camphene, cineol, borneol and bornyl acetate, which are known for their tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant properties. This oil can be used externally to soothe painful ailments like muscle stiffness, rheumatism, and other neuralgic conditions.
R Interview and Photography by Carlee Henderson
FLORA || FAUNA
I approach a small storefront off Tejon and 42nd. I’m greeted with an enchanting sign that reads, “Magic Lives Here.” Intrigued and curious, I enter through a charming old door that’s appropriately chosen, complementing the brick and mortar facade. I walk into a beautifully decorated space, filled with glistening gemstones, books, trinkets for the home, and shelves of herbal remedies. The space is lit naturally by the sun. The shop’s smell reminiscent of sage. Behind the counter toward the back of the room sits Missy Rhysing, relaxed while making conversation with customers. On this day, she was organizing readings for guests that were held privately in a small room in back. We greet each other excitement as we begin to talk about her background as to how she got to this point of such success and happiness in her career and in the Denver community...
“I’ve always worked off of my intuition. I think if you are your most authentic self and you put that into your business, its really hard to go wrong that way.” - Missy Rhysing, Owner
You’ve been a tattoo artist for some time. Can you tell me about that and about the transition into owning your own business? I’ve been a tattooer for 15 years. I started in Minneapolis (technically Maui). I love tattooing, it’s taken me all over the place. I do a take on traditional tattooing. I appreciate line work. I really do still love it. I am moving into doing more hand poked, ceremonial style tattooing here. Is that style of tattooing in popular demand in Denver right now? It seems like doing hand poked tattoos are, yes, and I want to do is similar to that only that it is by hand, with no machine, to cast a circle in a ceremonial style, small symbolic tattoos; a right of passage to people. I felt this call to bring my tattooing to another level. So you still do that on that side? How do you balance the time of owning your own shop and tattooing? I’m traditional tattooing twice a week and I’m here three times a week. My husband owns a non-profit tattoo shop where he holds an event once a month where they donate all of the proceeds to three different nonprofits in Denver. So I would like to do that once a month and then I’m going to do the ceremonial work for the full moon and the new moon.
So tell me about your shop; how did it come about and how did you transition? When I started delving into this path deeper, I was seeking tools for my craft and couldn’t find them locally. I was going to metaphysical stores where they were offering unethically sourced animal products and mass produced items which wasn’t appealing to me. So, I started making some myself and selling them online which became really successful. I was fortunate that because of my tattooing background and the connections I’ve made in the community that my tattooing appealed to, I was able to move people from tattooing into what I’m doing now. It started becoming very popular on Instagram and my Etsy account, too. I started doing a lot of metal working and was looking for a studio space to make jewelry out of. I found this 500 sq ft space where I used the front area as a storage room. On Halloween day of 2015, a major sabat (called a sowen), a holy day for people of different pagan paths, I opened the storefront and it was insane. It got to a point where a line formed out the door all the way down the street; the store can really only hold ten people! It became successful and now I’m at a point where I moved my metal working out of the back so I’m able to offer a treatment room and a space for readers.
LVNEA products, www.lvnea.com
So what are your favorite products? I love Sister Spinster. She’s an herbalist based out of Oakland. She makes all of her products in ceremony. You can really tell the difference in a Sister Spinster remedy. So many people from Denver come here to get her products. LVNEA is a beautiful line of oils. The packaging is sexy and I’ve worn their own oils for years. How would you describe your shop’s style? I honor the shadow that we all have inside of us and the shadow that the world has. I appreciate the balance of light and dark, of the sun and the moon, so I’m attracted to darker aesthetics so that is what I tend to bring into here.
“I appreciate the balance of light and dark, of the sun and the moon,. I’m attracted to darker aesthetics so that is what I tend to bring here.” What about your personal style? Well, I wear black and grey... all of the time (laughs). I’m picky about where I buy clothing from. I buy from four or five companies including OVATE, SISTERS OF THE BLACK MOON. I made the decision a few years ago to stop buying unethically made clothing which is extremely difficult in the clothing industry. I’m simple, I have the minimalist mindset, where I have twenty really amazing pieces in my closet.
Any favorite products from your clientele that you notice sells the most? When the full moon is coming, peoples’ emotions are heightened, they’re buying tinctures and herbal relaxing teas to calm themselves, whereas when we head into a dark moon where you’re going ‘inside’, people are looking to buy products to support that. It’s so interesting how many people come in with same issues at those specific times. We offer many classes, especially for women. This is a safe space. There’s a shift happening where they are deciding they don’t want to live in a patriarchal society, so they are finding the truth in themselves and Mother Earth. What is the most rewarding thing about owning this store? I’ve owned my own business for so long even when I was tattooing, I owned my own shop. With that comes a certain freedom that comes with that, which is very important to me. I get to look the way I want, be who I really am, and trust my intuition that way. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to meet so many amazing people in here, I can’t believe the community in Denver so that is really rewarding. This shop is only 500 sq ft, and it consumes my life! (Laughs) I have to try and figure out how to balance my own practices and what I believe in and working on this. I could spend all of my time in here. Any advice to someone looking to start their own business? It’s hard because I’ve had multiple successful business, but I’m not a business trained person. I’ve never taken a business class. I’ve always worked off of my intuition. I think if you are your most authentic self and you put that into your business, it’s really hard to go wrong that way. But, you also have to know your clientele and know what they’re looking for. So much is shifting, with the mindset of ‘I don’t want to just buy this, I want to know the story behind this and where it comes from’, so I make sure to know those things about my products. I tell people to trust their intuition. Trust that. If you need business classes, do that. I started small; I know I could have double the space, but I love this location. //
A couple left their lives in Colorado behind to spend six months traveling through South America. This is their story. Interview by Carlee Henderson Photography by Max and Hannah Kelemen
Name: Max and Hannah Kelemen Age: Max, 30. Hannah, 27. City: Denver, CO Education: Max = MPA (Master’s Public Admin.) from University of Colorado, Denver + B.A. Political Science & Non-profit Mgmt from Pepperdine University; Hannah = B.S. Integrative Therapies from Metropolitan State University of Denver
What brought on this trip? A few goals inspired this trip. The first and most obvious was a strong desire to take some time off from our careers and do some extended travel. In college we both were fortunate to be able to study abroad. As many know, once you start exploring other parts of the world, it is easy to to catch the “travel bug” - and when we first started dating it was clear we both had clearly caught the bug. Many of our conversations would revolve around our future travel plans and ambitions. So from early on we both knew that traveling and exploring the world together would be an important factor in our relationship. In addition to that, we both had been considering applying for the Peace Corps after college. When we began dating this became a serious discussion of possibly applying to serve together. In fact, we pretty set on applying for the Peace Corps soon after getting married. However, as we looked into it more and considered other factors (i.e., leaving our dog behind for more than 2 years), we decided the timing was not ideal. But we still knew we wanted do some type of extended travel but perhaps not quite so long and more on our own terms (rather than directed by the Peace Corps assignment). Finally, the big push that helped us pull the trigger on this trip was possibility to work and learn about farming on Max’s aunt and uncle’s small vineyard in the Mendoza region of Argentina. Max’s aunt and uncle had purchased a small working vineyard about 10 years ago with the intent to retire and live as ex-pats in Argentina. However, due to serious of life events they never were able to make the full-time move. Eventually Max’s uncle passed away from cancer, leaving his aunt with this property with no real future plans to live on or develop the property.
This struck our interest as Max’s aunt was possibly considering selling the farm for a very reasonable price. So, as a young, idealistic couple we began to fantasize what it would be like to own and run a small vineyard in Argentina. So, we began talking with Max’s aunt and making arrangements to stay and work on farms in the area near hear farm to see what that region and lifestyle would be like. Once we started on this track of thought, we decided to plan some other travel across South America before making our way to spend time on the vineyard during their harvest season. That is how we came to plan this trip of flying into Colombia and making our way south to end in Argentina. From start to finish, how many countries did you travel to and for how long? In total, we went to 6 countries over the course of 6 months - about 1 country per month. The countries we visited, in order: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay. Which country was your favorite, and why? That’s a tough question to answer... each was unique and gave us amazing memories. With that said, we did seem to have a strong connection with Colombia. Perhaps it was because it was the first country we visited and everything was exciting and new at that point. But knowing that Colombia is emerging from a violent history in the ‘80s & ‘90s, we were pleasantly surprised how safe and welcome we felt there. The country is going through a great period of development and seems to be prime for tourism now. The people we met across Colombia were very warm, friendly, and excited to have us there. We also enjoyed the laid back feeling of Uruguay. It really seems like a county that “flies under the radar” but has amazing beaches, a strong and stable economy and social structure. It was also a place we could dream of living when we grow old. But again, all the countries had something unique and beautiful to offer. A big takeaway was the amazing natural beauty of this continent. We experienced such a variety of terrain and ecosystems - from tropical rainforest to high mountain snow to the driest desert in the world - it was incredible experience all that variety of nature.
Previous page: Colombia
What was the most challenging part of your trip? Looking back, we feel pretty fortunate that our whole trip went pretty smoothly. We did not have any items stolen or held up by anyone. Considering how many buses we took over the course of the trip, we had pretty smooth sailing there too. Only one 4-hour delay the whole time. With that said, we both agree one of the biggest challenges was traveling with another person 24/7 for 6 months straight - no matter if it’s a significant other or just a friend. t takes a lot of patience and communication to work through the less-than-glamorous moments of traveling. Whether its walking through a humid, hot day with all your bags on your back trying to find a bus connection, or dealing with stomach bugs from questionable water sources... we had to stick together and be very patient with one another. We can say in retrospect that this difficult moments strengthened our relationship today and gives us hope that we can weather challenges to come in the future. Favorite foods? This is going to sound terrible to say, but overall (talking about the dayto-day local eateries) we were not all too impressed with South American cuisine. Of course there are many exceptions where we experienced some tasty meals. But we found a lot of fried meats, rice & beans everywhere with little to no spice. Which is indicative of the traditional, simple cuisine of most regions. Some of our best meals we shared on some of the work exchange experiences we had on farms. In these areas we would have access to fresh, farm-to-mouth, homestyle cooking. Some favorites include “arepas” from Colombia - basically handmade flatbread made from cornmeal. Typically served warm as a snack or with breakfast with some butter and/or “queso fresco”. The other big favorite are the “asados” in Argentina. These are Argentine barbeque with piles of slow-roasted meat (beef, chicken, and chorizo sausage) over wood coals, tasty bread, big salads, and of course plenty of red wine (notable Argentine Malbec). Argentina is well known for its quality free-range, grass-fed beef and these asados highlight this. And of course, we loved the empanadas from each country... great homemade snacks when on the go all the time.
Describe a typical day during your trip: Typical days would vary. If we did not need to be up early to catch a bus or join a tour or something... we would take our time getting up (the freedom of having nowhere to be). Most hostels offer some sort of breakfast included in your stay so we would wake up and eat breakfast. We would chat with other travelers in the hostel over coffee to learn about where they have been and where they were going. Often times this would lead to joining plans with other travelers to go check out a tour, a show, or a wine tasting; something fun for the day. If we did not do that, we would typically look for something active to do. If we were in the countryside we would go for a hike or check out some cool little town. In the cities we would end up walking around, exploring different neighborhoods and eateries. Towards the end of our trip when we were starting to get over doing very touristic activities, we really enjoyed walking to a park (or beach if nearby) to go read, relax, and people watch. We found this to be a relaxing way to “soak in” an area. And, of course, we would love to dine out in the cities and explore some of the nightlife with new friends we made that day or week. Best memory you took away from this experience? The treks... we completed 3 treks during our trip: 2-day trek in Cajas National Park, Ecuador, 4-day trek to Machu Picchu, Peru, and 6-day trek at Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile. Just the spectacular views and nature we experienced along these treks alone were memorable. But the challenge of completing the treks, meeting amazing people along the way, and being inspired to do more is something we both won’t forget. Another awesome memory we have was an impromptu road trip we took with two other couple along the Chilean coast. We rented a fun camper van in Santiago and drove it south for a week along the coast popping from surf town to surf town (one of our friends was an awesome surfer - he showed us the way). It was just a fun memory and adventure to share with new friends and to get off the beaten path and discover some remote and fairly unknown gems along the coast. //
Previous page: Argentina
Self Portrait, late 2015
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