About Lainie Liberti
Lainie Liberti is a recovering branding expert, who’s career once focused on creating campaigns for green - eco business, non-profits and conscious business. Dazzling clients with her high-energy designs for over 18 years, Lainie lent her artistic talents to businesses that matter. But that was then.
In 2008, after the economy took a turn, Lainie decided to be the change (instead of a victim) and began the process of “lifestyle redesign,” a joint decision between both her and her 11-year-old son, Miro. They sold or gave away all of of their possessions in 2009 and began a life of travel, service, and exploration. Lainie and her son Miro began their open-ended adventure backpacking through Central and South America. They are slow traveling around the globe allowing inspiration to be their compass. The pair is most interested in exploring different cultures, contributing by serving, and connecting with humanity as ‘global citizens.’
Today Lainie considers herself a digital nomad who is living a location independent life. She and her son write and podcast their experiences from the road at Raising Miro on the Road of Life.
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As always, one of my greatest joys when I travel is walking around, getting lost, and taking photos. I love seeing places for the first time with fresh eyes and find beauty in the mundane. Meet Lowell, Massachusetts.
Our first stop on our crazy six week trip before the conference, we were invited to couch surf with a family who lived in the quaint community of Lowell Massachusetts. We love couchsurfing with families and have done so many times throughout our travels in Latin America. But we’ve never couchsurfed in the United States, so I thought this would be not only a great reentry back into the US, but an opportunity for: Cultural exchange, learning, growing, experiencing, connecting… in our own country.
After we finally arrived in Boston after our DC debacle, we were anxious to meet our hosts. However, our early flight into Boston meant we had to wait until our hosts were available. Miro and I took the train up to Lowell, where we marveled at the scenery.
It was our first time to New England, let alone traveling through the region just as spring was about to break the winter hues. The ground was dusted with patches of snow, the trees bare and proud, rooftops glimmering from the sun’s reflection and whoa, the architecture straight out of a children’s story book.
The words “charming” and “quaint” are just words in comparison to the amazement I was witnessing, and as unreal as the snow covered scenery looked, we were completely present, drinking in the sights and sounds.
Miro said “It just doesn’t look like this in California,” and I completely agree with him. New England is part of the same country we both grew up in, but our eyes feasted upon a completely foreign landscape for the first time.
And so we were there, and had a sense of being relaxed after our DC tear drenched ordeal and had about three hours to kill. Being patient is something we’ve become pretty good at, so Miro took a nap at the train station and I got some work done.
We met our host family and had no idea what to expect.
Lori picked us up and we headed over to her house. We were two days late and the family was in knee deep in it’s own rhythms. Her husband Jon, a videographer, was filming a production of one of Shakespere’s lesser known plays, Cymbeline. We were invited to go to that evening’s performance, and although there was slight reluctance, we both said “yes”.
The play was performed by a homeschooling group and all the cast members were around Miro’s age. It was a confusing play, even had a cheat sheet.
Ah, I was starting to understand New England’s sense of tradition and culture just a little bit more.
Upon returning to our host family’s home, we started to notice the same framed photos of what appeared to be a rendering of Jesus Christ all over the house. There were over 6 identical renderings, one in each room. But it was late and we’d ask the family about that the next morning.
The next day, we learned that this family were actually Mormons. Honestly, I didn’t know very much about the religion other than:
1.) They send their young adults to other countries to convert people
2.) Mitt Romney is Mormon
3.) Mormons have what I perceive as very conservative and restrictive traditions & laws
4.) There’s something about “special underwear”?
Other than those things, we didn’t know much. And I have to admit, before this engagement, I had no desire to learn any more.
We were both born Jewish, although that has always been more of a cultural identity for our family than a religious persuasion. Miro and I love Jewish food, but we are completely non-practicing and in all honesty, don’t know very much about our own religion.
However, we both identify as being spiritual people. We are connected to the energy of the consciousness, the universe and all that exists. We live in our inspiration and follow our passions. We are kind to others and feel deep purpose when we contribute through volunteering or help others through sharing our stories.
We have studied the beliefs of ancient cultures, looked to stars for answers, investigated the wisdom in plant medicines and swam around in what’s considered a “new age” of thought. Some of my teachers include Eckhart Tolle, Abraham Hicks, Depak Chopra, science, history and humanity and so much more.
I really wanted to give our readers a feeling of where I was coming from but if you are a regular reader of our blog, you’ve noticed our perspectives in practice. One of the things I have absolutely no connection to is religious dogma of any persuasion. We’ve experienced traditions from the many cultures we’ve visited as an anthropologist would. We observe and absorb.
Both Miro and I weren’t exposed to religious dogma, biblical scriptures or traditional rites as children and neither of us find a need for it in our lives. When others espouse the scriptures, normally I just glaze over and tune out until we get back to the meat-of-the-matter, or the original topic we were discussing. That being said, I always make an effort to be tolerant and respectful of all beliefs.
It turns out this family is very active in their church and very active in their community. Although I didn’t learn about the religion, we experienced an open family that was very tightly knit, lived frugally, trusted the world, and had an awesome level of communication among all members.
It actually was easier to see the similarities between our two families than our differences.
Miro and I shared moments with this family like they were our own, had lovely conversations about the world and travel, engaged in a full out “sock-ball” war, sang folk songs together and threw snowballs.
The next evening the family invited us to their monthly group get together. Lori explained that once a month the families and friends from their church, about 8-15 families, decided who’s house to meet in for an arranged a pot luck dinner. The family that is hosting, also leads a discussion group after dinner on any topic they wish. Dinner was a mixture of dishes from around the world, rice and beans, cold pasta salads, and hot cider was served. The large dining room was enough for twelve adults to sit, so when the late comers arrived, we all switched seats which looked like a well dressed version of musical chairs. The participants were a mixture of professionals, married couples, doctors and lawyers. One family included three generations, each member dressed in either a dark suit or a conservative dress, whereas our host family were comfortable dressing more casually in sweaters and pant combinations for both the men and women.
The one thing in common among all the participants, they all welcomed me and I never felt like an intruder.
After dinner the kids went into the family room. Later, Miro reported to me, “they were just like normal kids even though I thought they’d be different. We talked about the Hunger Games and played Apples to Apples. It was fun!”
The adults went into the living room. Here’s where I thought, “Oh boy, we are going to talk about the bible and I’ll probably be preached to.”
But that’s not what happened.
This particular evening’s topic was about “joy”. “OK, I can wrap my head around that,” I thought.
Everyone in the group was prepared, having read “The New York Review of Books” article by Zadie Smith, called “Joy”. Luckily one of the members had printed out the article so I had a chance to read it too. The article starts out with:
“It might be useful to distinguish between pleasure and joy. But maybe everybody does this very easily, all the time, and only I am confused. A lot of people seem to feel that joy is only the most intense version of pleasure, arrived at by the same road—you simply have to go a little further down the track. That has not been my experience. And if you asked me if I wanted more joyful experiences in my life, I wouldn’t be at all sure I did, exactly because it proves such a difficult emotion to manage.”
Then it ends with:
“It hurts just as much as it is worth. What an arrangement. Why would anyone accept such a crazy deal? Surely if we were sane and reasonable we would every time choose a pleasure over a joy, as animals themselves sensibly do. The end of pleasure brings no great harm to anyone, after all and can always be replaced with another of more or less equal worth. ”
In between, the author Smith shares experiences in her life where she felt joy. Then, she talks about “pleasures” which somehow seem to be fleeting and more accessible than joy. Some of Zadie Smith’s examples of pleasure are: experiencing a pineapple popsicle, giving birth, taking the drug Ecstasy, being in love, sitting on a wall, being in a night club, experiencing her child although the author states that her daughter is mostly a joy which means in fact she gives the author no pleasure at all, but rather a strange mixture of terror, pain, and delight.
“Seemed like an interesting article for a group of Mormons to be discussing,” I thought….
Interesting and surreal.
At some point during the group discussion I asked why this article was relevant to them. I was told, “being Mormon is about living a joyful life.”
“Yes!” I said to myself. I understand this intention.
Throughout the hour and a half discussion, others shared their impressions of joy, pleasure alternating from the article to their personal experiences and every now and then a scripture was quoted and discussed.
My overall impression was that I was experiencing a group of intellectual, loving people interested in finding ways to explore their beliefs in their lives and understand their human experience.
What we found was a group of beautiful people, kind, gentle and welcoming. The whole family and the entire community has a sene of peace and you could feel the love in their hearts. It was a blessing for us to be invited to share their lives, just for a short while as we continue on our journey.
I’m extremely empathic. Normally, I feel the emotional energy around me from people and places. In other other words, I’m emotionally intuitive. No, I don’t read minds, nor can tell fortunes, but I am very sensitive to energy. I’ve learned to manage this throughout my life. I even used this to my advantage professionally, when I worked in branding, but that’s a completely different story for another time.
But I’ll get to how this relates to our travels, in just a second…
Washington DC was where we embarked and our first reentry back into the States in over a year.
Now I admit, I was emotionally exhausted. I was drained from the travel too. But the last day we were in DC and things were sorted out in terms of our travel, Miro said he wanted to see the Capital. So, with about 3 hours to kill, we took a shuttle into town and did just that.
The day was picturesque, just as winter was winding down, branches bare and skies blue.
It was a cold, cold day, but Miro and I were dedicated to walk from the Washington Monument to the Capital building. The iconic nature felt larger than life, and my eyes were wide open, hair standing on it’s end. I was alert and I was present, in Washington DC.
We walked passed all the museums, felt connected to the Miro sculpture.
We observed lots tourists as curious as we were.
It was surreal. I expected to feel some overwhelming pride, connection to my country of origin, or even some level of connection.
I expected to see important politicians making their way through the grassy parks, connecting with the people they represent.
I expected to feel the buzz of productive energy swirling around me, progress, and hope.
The energy of Washington DC felt extremely heavy to me. The energy was strong, and for me, just a little too much to deal with, especially in my fragile state. No judgement, just a overwhelm heaviness, like the feeling of the weight of the world on it’s shoulders..
Our travels back to the States have been eventful, to say the least. But a good night’s sleep is always welcome when we are traveling. One of the perks of living so publicly and sharing our lives through this blog are the occasional invitations we receive to write a review and share our experiences about hotels, attractions, etc. On this occasion, we were so grateful to receive the opportunity to to stay at 40 Berkeley in Boston in exchange for our honest review.
Visiting the United States is expensive. Staying in Boston is more expensive than I could have imagined. This was our first time visiting New England, and our first visit to Boston. We have been living on a budget now for just about 4 years and our relationship to money has changed drastically. Knowing that Boston is one of the most expensive cities to visit we were so grateful for the opportunity to stay in a hotel for two nights without having to pay. But according to the 40 Berkeley web site, our room rate would be over a $100 a night. Here’s what you get for that in Boston:
Our room, was a simple dormitory room style, equipped with two single beds, desk in front of the window and a very functional radiator heater on the the well. For me, the mint green walls had a calming effect, since hey, green is my favorite color. Down the hall we found the shared bathrooms, a common concept on our travels. (For some reason I forgot to take a photo of our dorm room, but the photos on 40 Berkeley web site are pretty accurate.)
The bathrooms were clean and there was plenty of hot water to accommodate the guests on our floor. Our first night there, I took a very hot bath in the deep bathtub, and lounged undisturbed for about 30 minutes. Privacy though is consideration, as several women came into the bathroom and used the toilet while I was in the bath, and the smell was not always so pleasant. Just saying.
The halls were clean and sterile. There were security domes with cameras throughout the hotel and I personally felt like I was being watched which was a little unsettling, although many find that comforting. Miro and I talked about how the hostel has a very formal feeling in contrast to many of the hostels we’ve stayed at in Central and South America.
There was wifi throughout the hostel, a TV room down near the loby and rocking chair through out invited us to relax and check emails. However, more than once, I had flash backs of living in college dorm, oh so many years ago.
The loby was clean and inviting. The staff was friendly and helpful. There were fresh cookies to greet us when we checked in and free popcorn popping throughout the day. The waiting area was stuffed full with information about Boston and the activities and all questioned went answered.
Every breakfast food you can think of was included. Cafeteria style. Miro and I both felt overwhelmed with choices so we ended up with odd combinations. Miro: a plate of bacon, French toast and cornflakes. Me: yoghurt, cheerios and pumpernickel toast. The coffee, milk and juice came from a machine and always ready to refill until our cup runneth over.
Everyone we spoke with was pleasant. The other other guests thought they received great value for their bucks, and overwhelmingly people seemed happy with 40 Berkeley. The service, smiles, information, and cleanliness balance the college dorm institutional like feel. The location was ideal, the hotel was easily accessible and the neighborhood was safe. And all we spoke with felt it was a good value.
Our re-entry into the U.S. after being in South America for so long was more than just a little jarring. The experience was peppered with travel drama, exhaustion, but during those hours, we had a lot of time to people watch.
The DC airport was abuzz, the beginning of Spring break and it became our fish eye lens to observe the people who rushed through one end to the other. We were in super slow motion, no where to go, only time to observe. The world we left almost four years ago was represented here, in DC as a true microcosm. A microcosm on steroids, actually.
We had much time to sit, watch. I love airports as I’m always searching for those Love Actually moments, a window into people’s lives, love and connections with one another. My perspective was tainted through my tears and exhaustion, but it also gave me a chance to observe closely, actually stare at people through my puffy eyes and become still with what I was seeing.
I watched. I observed.
And I became aware of the way the energy felt too. It was heavy. Noticeably so. I was certain it wasn’t just my energy I was feeling. It was all around me.
I saw stylish, manicured people rush in and rush out.
I saw people , of whom I perceived thought they were very important.
I saw people dressed in very expensive clothes.
I saw people wearing expensive shoes.
I saw rushing.
I didn’t see many smiles.
I didn’t see people connecting with one another.
I didn’t see any of those “Love Actually” moments. Anywhere.
And I surely did not see much joy. Anywhere.
I imagined this country’s politicians, their assistants, their staff, all rushing away from the Capital, eager to go somewhere else. I imagined this was the group of stressed people who were running the United States of America.
Then, I thought about “primitive” peoples, of cultures past.
I thought of the people I’ve read so much about in my quest to understand the cultures behind the ancient archeology that intrigues me so. I thought about the people who were the great builders of the many sites and the temples ruins that surround our little house in Cusco.
I think about the stories of aggression among the rivaling ancient cultures from Peru, the Incas, the Moche, the Chimu, the change of ages and the movement from one great culture to another. I recall the tales of warfare, violence, aggression and the fight for territory and power.
I look at the people around me and wonder if they consider their practices, their lives, as trivial as some might perceive the ancient cultures of Peru that intrigue me so? I wonder if busy bodies of Washington DC’s airport might consider their own actions in the same manner we view people throughout history? Was I witnessing the actual tribes of Washington DC who inflict warfare, violence, aggression and the fight for territory and power too?
I clearly have a different feeling about the United States now. I feel as if I’m on foreign soil. I don’t perceive the energy as welcoming. I don’t feel that Love Actually connection.
Has the country changed? Or have all the changes I was feeling actually occurring inside of me?
We have reentered the United States.
But for now, we are just visitors.
The mesmerising country of Ecuador has so much going for it – especially in terms of little-visited destinations that remain largely off the beaten track. One fantastic place worth visiting while on a luxury holiday to Ecuador is the small village of Otavalo, located in the mountains an hour and a half north of Quito. Here’s why it’s worth paying an extended visit…
The people of Otavalo are easily recognized by their traditional dress. Men wear white trousers and a dark poncho, whereas women wear a dark skirt and a white embroidered blouse with a colourful waistband. Both sexes wear their hair long (the men usually platted). Locals are known for their skills at manufacturing colourful rugs, jumpers and scarves and the town markets are the place to shop around for fabrics and souvenirs. Llama and alpaca products are popular with tourists but be sure you know what you’re buying is the real thing and not synthetic.
The Otovalo ‘Indian’ market is held on Saturdays throughout the year and is the best place to buy woven goods and materials. Vendors come from all over the surrounding countryside to sell their goods and you’ll also see animals and food items being traded. The whole day is a place for hustling and bustling and there is a lot to take in! If you try to speak a bit of Spanish, bring small notes and change, and don’t barter too hard, you’ll get some good prices and winning smiles from the vendors.
The area is great for families, and kids will be kept amused with plenty of activities from horse riding, mountain biking and hiking. There are lots of nature trails around, such as the 3km walk to the 18-metre-high Peguche Waterfall. The river here is a sacred place and local bathe here to purify themselves amongst the spirits.
The hike to Laguna Cuicocha is a splendid one. The lake is actually formed from rainwater filling the crater of an extinct volcano. Two lava islands and a spectacular view make this a sight well worth seeing. It’s about a 3 hour walk from town and there’s also a boat tour of the lake available.
Or walk to the healing powers of the Lechero tree. Follow the painted arrows on the ground on the road out of town until you pass a eucalyptus grove. If you carry on from here to the crest of a hill, you’ll see a solitary, rather stubby tree. The walk is enjoyable in itself, even if you aren’t cured of your ailments!
Stay at a traditional hacienda for a quintessentially South American vibe. Hacienda Cusin, for example, is a beautiful 27th century building which now plays host to plenty of visitors each week. The friendly English owner has put his own twist on the place, with unusual antiques dotted around. Each room at the hacienda is unique, boasting stunning vistas over the gardens and the mountains. Crackling log-fires keep the hacienda really cosy even through the winter months.
Forty kilometers from Cuzco in Peru, is the small town of Maras where we find the Salinas Salt Ponds tucked into the valley.
For quite possibly thousands of years, a flowing subterranean spring from the mountains above, has filled the 3,000 salt-pools below. Through a series of channels, the farmers block the flow determining which pool the water flows to. Once the pool is filled, the flow of water is blocked, allowing the sun to evaporate the water which can take up to one month.
As the salt water becomes supersaturated, salt crystals begin precipitating out of the water. The farmers then scrape the salt to the side and collect it once a sizable amount has been gathered.
The salt mines are available to any person wishing to harvest salt. There are many unused salt pools that are available to be farmed. Any prospective farmer need only find an unoccupied pool to start working.
Colombia is a fascinating country with a colourful history and vibrant modern culture. While its rainforests, beaches, coffee plantations and pristine natural areas offer vast riches to visitors, its cities are also packed with treasures. Founded in 1538, Bogota is with good reason referred to as the ‘culture capital’ of this amazing country. Every Sunday, the city centre even goes car-free for the day, and locals take to the streets on bikes in a tradition known as La Ciclovia!
Here are just some of the best ways to enjoy the city at its best.
There are 58 museums in town. The Gold Museum perhaps draws the most crowds to gawp at the mind-boggling collection of pre-Colombian artefacts from across this gold-rich nation. The largest of its kind in the world, the museum is part of the cultural complex of the Bank of the Republic.
The Police Museum is also an interesting place to spend a couple of hours. The National Museum of Colombia has an amazing array of scientific instruments, crafts, portraits and art.
(Don’t forget to check out the art and culture found in Medellin too!)
The old town
The district of Candelaria is the city’s captivating old town. With its cobbled streets, Spanish colonial and baroque architecture, this is certainly the prettiest part of Bogota. Here is where the Gold Museum and the Zipaquira Cathedral – an underground place of worship carved in the remains of a former salt mine – are located.
The Casa de Nariño, (site of the President’s offices) is located in Candelaria, as is the Congress of the Republic, the Supreme Court of Justice, and the Mayor’s Office.
Some of the city’s best boutique hotels can be found here, too, many in colonial buildings and oozing a charm you simply can’t get from modern buildings. Hotel de la Opera offers just 29 rooms within the warm atmosphere of its colonial walls, each with large picture windows and balconies with views over the rooftops and distant mountains.
South Americans are passionate about artistic expression, and nowhere is this more evident than in Bogota. The Bogota Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1963 and today houses over 2,200 works of art. There are some brilliant pieces by local masters such as Juan Antonia Roda and Fernando Botero.
There are festivals held throughout the year in the public parks – from theatre to jazz and dance, so there’s nearly always something on worth seeing.
Eating and drinking
The best of the city’s entertainment is found in the Zona Rosa – the part of the city that draws in the young and the beautiful for great food and glamorous partying. Restaurants open for dinner around 7, and the more upscale ones stay open until after midnight. La Fragrata is one of the hottest venues in town. Specialising in seafood, the dining rooms of this upscale restaurant revolves so you get a view of the whole city during the course of your meal.
Photo: from natalia love