Central America Trip Update #1: Hola from Guatemala!

The past two and a half weeks have been a blur of airplanes, refried beans, cobblestone streets, beautiful cathedrals…

…ancient Mayan pyramids, broken Spanish, sick kids, sweaty nights, tropical birdsong, swinging hammocks, freshly made tortillas, a lost (and now broken) baby bed, bumpy boat rides…

*Look ma, no seatbelts*

…volcano vistas, eight people crammed in a taxi, and rooster wake-up calls.

As I began writing this post, sitting in a little cafe in a lakeside town called Panajachel, an old sappy song came on that threw me back 13 years. Ryan and I sang it as a duet in our adopted Japanese church, our way of saying goodbye to beloved friends we’d made while living there our first year of marriage.

It’s been quite the journey for us, from that first year in Japan, where we struggled with culture shock, homesickness and newlywed struggles, while simultaneously falling in love with the people, the culture, and with travel itself.

Somehow these years have seen us through eight moves, multiple career changes, starting four businesses, having five children, and visiting over 40 countries together as a family, all the way to sitting here today in Guatemala.

*The island town of Flores, seen from the lake it sits in*

I’m tempted to say it feels like coming full circle, except it really just feels like we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and there’s no turning back.

Our life is so vastly different than I ever dreamed it would be, and that’s good news.

I used to want to travel a safer road, avoid risk, play it safe. We’ve done anything but that, and I’m surprised at how good it’s been.

Speaking of good, that’s how today felt.

I woke early to get the kids ready, so I could walk them to the Spanish school they’re attending for two and a half weeks while we slow down and stay in one place.

After dropping them off, I indulged in a few moments down by Lago de Atitlan, watching it wake up under the watchful eyes of the towering volcanoes on either side.

Then I spent the morning working on my laptop at a favorite restaurant and coffee shop, before picking up the kids and hearing colorful tales about their day.

On our way home, we ducked into a small tienda to purchase glue, pencil sharpeners and cups, before buying tomatoes, cilantro and a big stack of freshly made tortillas for lunch (all told, we spent about $3.75). In the afternoon, Ryan and I sat outside discussing business details while the kids played in the yard of our rental house.  #happysigh

*The house we ultimately rented, after stressing out over it for several days.* 

But not every day feels like this.

Only two days before, I was a bit of an emotional wreck, trying desperately to find a rental house for our family, before we ran out of time in our temporary digs.

We’d had sick kids for a week, including a baby who brought chicken pox all the way from Canada (we discovered it four days into our trip). We’d barely had a decent night’s sleep in over a week and were feeling sick ourselves.

*Creatively (read: desperately) trying to dry out still-wet laundry in a tiny hotel room before we had to pack up to leave town.*

All our laundry was dirty (read: puked on) and the machine at our rental was broken, the kids were being whiny, our rental house was too small, and I’d gotten freaked out by a turbulent boat ride the night before.

As I said earlier on Instagram the other week, travel is a package deal.

Good and bad, easy and hard, magical and maddening. We have to accept it all.

But as Ryan was encouraging the kids on one of our very bad, no good, terrible days when we all had cruddy attitudes… we were made to do hard things. All of us (yes, you too).

*Having fun at the ruins… sort of. We’re all pretty exhausted in this picture (case in point: note the heavy bags under my eyes, LOL!), but trying hard to have a good attitude and see what we came to see.*

Our kids are tougher than they think. They can adjust their attitudes in hard situations, choose to care for one another, and work together as a team.

Ryan and I can pull it together and find strength we didn’t know we possessed, even on our hardest days. We can lean into one another, instead of withdrawing or blaming, and we can choose joy and contentment even in those times when we’re wondering why we left home in the first place.

And God is here with us, in all of these moments, sustaining us and growing us into (hopefully) better and more grace-filled people than we were before we left.

That’s the beauty, both of travel, and of choosing to live a life where we’re not afraid to push off from the safe harbor and embrace the risk that comes when we unfurl our sails.

*Tuk-tuks fly past us on the main street in Panajachel*

A quick overview of what we’ve done so far:

  • Spent a couple days exploring the charmingly crumbling colonial city of Antigua.
  • Flew up to the northern reaches of Guatemala, to Peten department, where we explored the isolated ruins of Uaxactun and the more popular but stunning ruins of Tikal, as well as spending a day on the petite island town of Flores.
  • Flew back to Guatemala City so we could catch a ride up to Lago de Atitlan, where we’ve been ever since. We’ve plunked ourselves down in the town of Panajachel where we’re spending a couple weeks doing our version of slow travel… trying to live a little more like the locals, studying the language, shopping at the markets, working and running our businesses, and just doing regular life with a different view. We’ve put the kids into a Spanish school 5 hours a day, and Ryan and I are both studying with a tutor an hour per day. On some afternoons and on the weekends, we’re doing our best to get out and see as much of the surrounding area and sites as we can.

*Incredible temples and ruins at the Mayan city of Tikal, in Northern Guatemala*

Where to next?

On April 1st, we head back to Guatemala City for the night, just in time to catch a flight early the next morning to Merida, Mexico. We’ll be attending the worldschooler’s summit there from April 3-8, and then take another week to do work, school and take day trips around the Yucatan peninsula.

From there we cross over into Belize on April 15th, then onward to Costa Rica and Nicaragua after that.

If you’d like to follow along with our travels, you can find me sharing regularly on Instagram.

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12 things that are saving my life right now

There are times of year when it feels particularly hard to be motivated or excited. For me, February is one of those times.

We already live in the Pacific Northwest, which is not exactly known for being a bastion of sunshine and happiness. Stunningly beautiful, yes.

But also gray and depressing and endlessly rainy and sucking-the-vitamin-D-right-out-of-me? Oh my goodness, YES.

When my dear friend Anne posted on her blog a list of things that are saving her life right now, I could relate.

I also thought it sounded like a brilliant idea to remind myself of all the things that are pleasant and helpful and little points of figurative sunshine within my day.

Here are 12 things that are saving my life right now:

  1. Smoothies. Not only are they fast to make when you’re busy and stuck for a meal idea, but they’re also a perfect way to get in fresh fruit and even fresh greens during the winter. I also add in various superfoods like spirulina, chia, hemp, gelatin, collagen, probiotics, etc. I’m really enjoying the recipes in this book right now.

dandy blend

2. Dandy blend. This was recommended to us by our friends Mike and Genevieve at Mama Natural, and it’s pretty delicious. It comes in the biggest bag ever from Amazon and a lot of nights we make it into a warm drink with cream (like how we’d drink coffee) or blend it in smoothies during the day. It has no caffeine and has dandelion as one of the ingredients (which sounds gross, but it tastes fine and is really great for your liver).

3. My diffuser. I was actually spoiled with not one, but two beautiful essential oil diffusers this Christmas. I’ve got one in the living room and one beside my bed, and I use them both frequently, with immune-boosting oils when I’m sick, oils to help me breathe when I’m stuffed up, energizing oils on my tired days, or relaxing ones when I need to chill.

4. Sandwiches. I’ll write a post about it soon, but some of you may know that we opted to put our kids in school (for the first time after 7 years of homeschooling!), just for the remainder of this school year. I really want to be that mom who makes awesome, exciting lunches… but most days, I just can’t be. Thank you, humble sandwich, for being easy on this tired mama and well loved by my kids.

5. Earrings. On days when I just don’t have time to do much, they make me feel pretty and put together.

6. Fireplaces. Our current house has two, but it’s the large stone fireplace in our living room that I adore. We all love to cozy up on the living room couch or the kids even sprawl out with blankets and pillows right there on the floor in front of the fireplace, to read, talk, watch a show, play games, whatever. The ambience is almost like having a coffee shop in our home, minus someone to make my lattes for me.

diffuser and kindle

7. Kindle. Every night, pretty much without fail, I pull out my Kindle Paperwhite, and enjoy 10-20 minutes of calm, quiet, in-the-dark reading after everyone has gone to sleep. Ahhh.

8. Slack. When my email inbox overflows to scary proportions, I always somehow manage to keep up with our team on Slack. Best team management software I’ve used yet.

9. Storybrand. This new technique for copywriting has seriously been saving my butt as I have to turn around a lot of copy (ie. marketing writing) these days. I went to the live event in Franklin, TN back in August, which I think was well worth it to learn in a group atmosphere with Donald Miller himself. But now they’ve also made it available online, so you don’t have to travel to attend. If you sell, well, anything, you should learn the Storybrand method.

10. Pandora. I get lazy about putting on music, even though I love to listen. I bought Ryan an Amazon Echo for Christmas and he hooked up our Pandora account, and now I can simply say “Alexa, play Ed Sheeran station on Pandora” and suddenly Ed’s crooning in my fireplace-lit living room, along with other songs Pandora thinks I might like (and it’s usually right).

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 12.41.40 PM

11. Our kids new “creative” room (to which we just added a door- hallelujah). They spend so much more time down here than they used to, and usually doing imaginative or creative activities, which was pretty much the whole point.

12. Taking my supplements. Right now my main ones are cod liver oil, B vitamins, and an herbal Stress complex. I can’t overstate the value of taking care of myself, during busy work seasons, and especially in these winter months.

What’s saving Ryan right now…

Just for fun, I thought I would also interview EntreRyan and get him to share some of his own “saving graces” right now (so technically, this means I leaned over on the bed and poked him, and he gave me a look and removed his headphones to answer my question).

ryan's airplane tattoo
1. His awesome new tattoo. It’s a sketch of the Wright brother’s first airplane, and since he’s getting his pilot’s license right now, it’s pretty meaningful to him.

2. Treadmill desk. He puts in more miles per day than I would have thought humanly possible, so it’s a pretty good thing for him. Not to mention, people find it humorous when he has Skype calls with them and he bounces up and down, so there’s that.

ryan at treadmill

3. C25K app. This is the Couch to 5 K app on his iPhone, which he’s used to hit the 5K mark for running literally just this week. I’m super proud of him. He’s working his way up to his first marathon, hopefully this summer. In Iceland. Go big or go home, right?

4. Lulu Lemon clothes. This is a local Vancouver brand, but their athletic clothes are incredible in quality. It used to be that if he was late coming home from a trip into the city, he’d gone to the Apple store. Now he’s at Lulu Lemon.

5. Lumosity. This is a brain training app that he uses as part of his extensive morning routine.

6. Muse. Another part of his morning routine, this one is for meditation.

7. My kids (that would be, our kids, but whatever. I’m glad he loves them.)

What has been saving your life lately?

Why the world needs you to make mistakes this year

I beat myself up a lot.

I always see the things I missed. The mistakes I made. The embarrassing way I goofed up. The silly thing I said. The important thing I totally forgot to do.

The imperfections.

The blemishes.

The deficiencies.

The fallibility.

The weaknesses.

I see them all.

They glare at me in my mind’s eye, tsk-tsk at me through my computer monitor, scold me between the lines in emails I read, and badger me in restless thoughts as I lie down to sleep at night.

When I think about my mistakes, I usually feel stupid. naive. foolish. Like I shouldn’t have bothered trying and what on earth was I thinking, anyways?

Maybe you feel the same way.

Maybe the mistakes you’ve made have a way of haunting you, or convincing you that you’re not cut out for this or you’re irrelevant or you don’t have what it takes.

But what if that’s not what our mistakes said about us at all?

Tonight I opened a newsletter written by a dear friend. Like me, she knows the struggle, uncertainty and risk of living an intentional yet unconventional life. She’s an entrepreneur, a writer, a creator, and an innovator.

I’m pretty sure she’s no stranger to making mistakes.

Which might be why she chose this quote with which to christen the new year:

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you’re making mistakes, then you’re making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly you’re Doing Something… Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” Neil Gaiman

(You should definitely check out Tsh’s inspiring newsletter, The Quietest Chambers, as well as her blog, The Art of Simple. This quote image is courtesy of her.) 

And as I read it tonight, I drew in a sharp breath, full of strength and hope and truth.

You see, these past couple months, I’ve been making new things. Doing Something that I’m a little bit scared of doing. Something I’ve never done before.

I’m making mistakes and plenty of them. And for sure, I’m also doing things right. Lots of things, most likely, but it’s the mistakes that play through my mind like an old-fashioned movie reel on repeat.

The life of an entrepreneur, if you’re actually living out the vision and calling you have within yourself, will be riddled with mistakes. You can count on it.

And we get to choose how we feel about them.

We can listen to the accusations of those mistakes and feel them deeply, reverently, and shamefully.

We can let them tell us who we are and who we aren’t and what we should and shouldn’t do.

We can let them define us and shush us and stop us from doing the world-changing work that’s in our soul.

But we shouldn’t.

This year, I want us to let our mistakes remind us that we are:

risk takers




world changers

I want us to let our mistakes define us as people who are:




and fully alive

So let’s get out there and make a whole lot more mistakes this year, my friends.

The life of an entrepreneur, if they’re actually living out the vision and calling they hold within themselves, will be riddled with mistakes. You can count on it. And we get to choose how we feel about them. We can listen to the accusations of those mistakes and feel them deeply, reverently, and shamefully. We can let them tell us who we are and who we aren’t and what we should and shouldn’t do. Or we can choose to view them differently. - via

Need a great read to inspire you further? I just finished Brene Brown’s Rising Strong and it’s a perfect book to begin 2016 with.

How do you usually respond to mistakes that you’ve made?

Summer vector designed by Freepik

Roots and Wings: How we’re choosing both this year…

I love my life.

I’m frequently in awe at my good “luck”; working with best friend (EntreSteph) every day, homeschooling my kids, and adventuring around the world with them.

When we first started traveling, one of our biggest motivations was that we wanted to give our kids the gift of an open mind. We wanted them to wrestle with new ideas, expand their creative palette, and learn to love other people and the differences they embody.

And while our traveling has definitely shaped them in that way, I’ve come to realize that our children need more than just adventure… they need to belong.

I first came to this realization when I heard this quote somewhere…

“The best gifts we can give our children are roots and wings. Roots to remind them where they are from, and wings to show them what they can become.”
– Hodding Carter… {kind of}

Turning a blind eye to the fact that my version above bears very little resemblance to the original quote, I was still impacted by the truth in it.

I realized that I had been focusing almost entirely on giving my children wings (read: a sense of adventure and possibility), and have been neglecting this deep need of theirs to belong somewhere; to forge deep friendships and shared memories. And if I’m totally honest with myself, EntreSteph and I need that too.

We’ve spent 19 of the last 36 months on the road, visiting 43 countries, and “living” in hundreds of different “homes”.

Throw in a big move to a new city and the start of a couple of new business ventures in the midst of it all, and you can see that our adventure quotient had been achieved with healthy margin. But our new paradigm requires a new schedule.

EntreSteph and I have definitely had “enthusiastic” conversations attempting to figure out exactly what that new schedule should look like, but we’ve come to an agreement on one that we believe will help us to nurture both that sense of belonging and adventure in our family (brace yourself…it’s not rocket science): For every 12 months, we’ll spend 9 months at home and 3 months abroad.

While we’re at home, we’ll intentionally invest in our community through church, EntreEvents, and kids activities.

And when we’re on the road, we’ll fully embrace the adventure; learning new languages, eating new foods, and taking on new challenges.

As simple as that sounds, it’s taken us awhile to be willing to “settle down” for any length of time, and it’s going to take some discipline on our part to stick with it.

I realize and respect that you may not be at a place where you’re able to spend 3 months abroad every year, and am so grateful that we’re even able to consider it as an option.

I’m also keenly aware that there are other ways to develop that sense of adventure and possibility in your family.

How do you find the balance between roots and wings in your family?

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 4.05.58 PM

Looking for more community yourself? Maybe with other “EntreFamilies” who get your lifestyle?

Join our brand new Facebook group and find a safe place (no trolls! 🙂 to connect with other entrepreneurial couples, share tips, talk about struggles, ask questions, chat with us, and stay up to date on what’s happening here at EntreFamily. See you there!

The importance of routine and ritual as an entrepreneur


It’s a tricky thing. Routines can be difficult to establish and make habit. We can also feel that they’re tedious, monotonous, or even that they stifle creativity.

This past couple of months, though, Ryan and I have both recognized afresh how vital having a regular work routine is to our ability to:

  • Keep up with our businesses and tasks in a way that feels balanced, and not stressful.
  • Ensure that both of us are getting sufficient work time and not having to scramble to get things done.
  • Put out high quality work that we’re proud of, and to which we know we’ve given the best of ourselves.
  • Stay motivated, inspired, growing and developing in our fields.

We’ve seen the two extremes of both having and not having routine over the past two months.

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