Years ago, our dear friend, Carol Hewitt introduced us to the concept of ‘Slow Money‘… an ingenuitive alternative to conventional money lending from banks. ‘Slow Money’ is driven by private citizens who sponsor local projects, often in the realms of farming and food by providing loans to be paid off slowly over time with low interest rates. Indeed ‘Slow Money’ enabled us to purchase a walk-behind tractor which gave a huge boost to our farm business and especially our rice growing project at the time. And certainly ‘Slow Money’ played in beautifully with the ‘Slow Food’ nature of Edible Earthscapes. ‘Slow Food‘ blossomed into an international movement over 30 years ago as a counterpoint to the fast food industry’s increasing presence around the globe. ‘Slow Food’ as an organization, provides education and support for businesses like Edible Earthscapes in what is literally a food revolution to take back our food systems. It represents a return to a more traditional and certainly slowed down approach to producing, preparing and consuming food.
As Edible Earthscapes evolves from a farm/edible landscaping biz and into a 2 person, global traveling crew, we carry on with the values of ‘Slow Money’ and ‘Slow Food’, and embrace all things ‘Slow’. ‘Slow’, as we see it implies mindfulness within everything we do, and it turns travel into a deep, contemplative and fully conscious experience. In the past when we embarked upon lengthy travels, it was about covering as much ground as possible and squeezing as many sights and experiences as we could into any given country. This time around, our focus is on delving deep into each location we visit, cultivating relationships with the people we meet and absorbing the fine nuances of the cuisines and the cultures of each magical spot we happen upon…. Slow Travel.
Slow Travel means different things to different people, and just how slow is a personal preference, but for me it comes down to striking a balance between actually moving around the country and getting a truly rich experience out of each location. For us, 1-2 weeks in each place is just about right, but there have been a few exceptions. We started our journey back in January on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, where we spent 5 weeks in one bungalow. That was our decompression period as we transitioned from life on the farm to life on the road, and it also gave us an opportunity to take a few weeks of Spanish classes to prepare ourselves for what was to come. Slow Travel also gives one an expanded opportunity to take in the local language, and while our rudimentary level of Spanish is nowhere near fluent, it still gives us a reasonable vehicle for communicating the basics with locals and thus, we take so much more away from our experiences than just speaking English can provide.
The other notable exception to our travel pace came after our 2 week residency in Oaxaca, when we covered Puebla, Pachuca and Tolantongo Hot Springs over the span of one week. Puebla and Pachuca served as transit points for our journey into regions north of Mexico City, and 3 nights in the lavish resort of Tolantongo was just right. The $50/night luxury hotel room was much fancier than our norm, and it blew a giant hole in our budget, however that wasn’t what this stay was about. What makes Tolantongo one of the most epic hot springs I’ve ever experienced, are the deep caves that have phenomenal loads of therapeutic, thermal water gushing out of portals in the walls of the cave into waist-deep pools of pure aquatic goodness. During the day these pools get overrun by tourists, so our morning ritual was to enter these caves when they opened at 8:00, which would usually give us complete solitude in this divine cathedral of nature. The thermal waters of the caves flowed down the valley where a series of maybe 20 man-made dams formed very large pools of deliciously, warm water in the river. There is a huge network of infinity pools on the other side of the resort overflowing with warm but not hot, healing waters. Its a good 30 minute, uphill hike to that side, and on the return trip you can ride a series of 4 ziplines covering over 1300 meters for $10… totally worthwhile! The restaurant food here is average, which in Mexico means that it’s still pretty damn good, and it’s fairly reasonable considering it’s a resort.
Next on tap was another spectacular wonder of nature…the very down to earth town of Bernal. This quaint village is one in a distinguished group of Mexican cities and towns known as ‘Pueblo Magico’, meaning it’s been designated as a place with unique historical and esoteric features. Peña de Bernal is the largest monolith in Mexico, and one of the largest in the world. The interior is said to be loaded with quartz and amethyst, making this natural monument a true power center that emits a constant flow of crystal energy. Perhaps this explains the 94 year-old average lifespan of residents here, or the many lightship sightings over the years, but one thing for sure… there was a blissful vibe to this place that made it a joy just to be there. We spent the better part of a week here, doing basically nothing but walking around, meeting kind local people, soaking up the peace of the place and eating delicious Gorditas (blue corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and the veggie or meat filling of your choice and then roasted on a giant skillet). Bernal is one of those places that sinks its energy into us and becomes part of our being, propelling us along our journey into the unknown.
The next stop was Guanajuato, where we spent a solid week in an Airbnb apartment. Having our own place with a kitchen at $30/night made an ideal base for exploring this mid-sized, Pueblo Magico city. Exploration is the operative word for this place, as the city is virtually a giant labyrinth of brightly colored buildings constructed in the valleys and on the steep hillsides of this picturesque region in Central Mexico. It was Semana Santa (the week of Easter), which is one the busiest vacation periods of the year in Mexico, and Guanajuato is a magnet for tourists with its various museums, cultural landmarks and exquisite architecture. It’s also the birthplace of artist, Diego Rivera, which the city definitely capitalizes on even though he only spent his early childhood years here. But if you’re looking for a review on Guanajuato tourist traps, you won’t find it here, as we spent most of our time dodging the tourist hordes, which is surprisingly easy to do here. Our time was generally spent off the beaten path, losing ourselves in the meandering alleyways that are colorfully punctuated by every hue imaginable. Even with all of the flash that this city possesses, there is an unmistakable rawness and realness to this place that is brimming with the human spirit, and we felt positively charged by its energy as we continue our journey onward… slowly.