Amira and I had a lovely and adventuresome dinner at the posh and innovative restaurant, Lorea. As you can see from our photos below, the place is really thinking outside the box with ingredients, plating and flavors.
In recent days I've been working almost nonstop on the Mexico City Experience, which starts December 28th. All that nonstop work means Mike and I have been having fun almost nonstop as well.
I created the Gastronomad Experiences to share my passion: Finding food visionaries, tasting everything and deeply understanding every local food culture wherever we roam.
That I'm able to do this is the result of what can only be described as: luck. I'm lucky. We're lucky. And I'm filled with gratitude for it.
I wrote an article on my Spartan Diet blog about how I try to cultivate the life I want to live based in the wonderful concept of ikigai (which roughly translates to the realization of one's purpose). It's really our philosophy of life and what drives us.
Sometimes I feel guilty that we get to experience so much joy. Of course, our lives also contain big helpings of adversity and sadness. This is universal. But there is also so much joy.
I often wake up and realize where I am. (This morning, I realized I was in Mexico City.) And when I realize this, my heart is immediately filled with gratitude for the privilege of living in so many wonderful places.
We've been traveling for more than 12 years. That may seem like a long time. But the more we explore this beautiful planet the more certain we are that we never want to stop.
What is life but the sum of one's experiences?
Here's to living life fully and deeply! - Amira
Wandering around Mexico City, I'm reminded of other cities depending on the neighborhood.
Sometimes it reminds me of Brooklyn. Sometimes Granada. Sometimes Istanbul. Sometimes Manhattan. Sometimes Madrid.
But then the friendliness of the people, the food, the murals, the architecture and the atmosphere remind me that it can only be Mexico. Come with us.
We spend months planning every Gastronomad Experience.
Right now, we're here in Mexico City, where we'll spend most of the rest of the year working on our New Year's Eve Mexico City Experience (December 28 - January 2).
This is the phase of our research where we taste everything.
We're exploring Mexico's nascent natural wine movement, starting with Bichi Wines' No Sapiens red table wine.
This wine is made from mysterious grapes of unknown variety, but which could be dolcetto grapes (an Italian variety commonly found in the Piedmont region). The vines, which grow in San Antonio de las Minas in Baja California, are 70 years old.
The wine is low in sulphites, and is made without added yeast or other additives and without filtering, according to the winemaker.
The wine was very nice!
(Also: The label is pretty funny. The front label shows a luchador (masked Mexican wrestler) who's naked. The back label shows the same luchador from the back.)
Mexico City is such an incredible foodie city, and now has a rapidly emerging modern, hipster international food scene.
(We still have room for one more couple, if you'd like to join us on this gastronomic adventure of a lifetime!)
Mexico is one of the greatest food hotspots in the world. It's the country that’s gifted the world with chocolate, vanilla, corn, avocados, tomatoes, chili peppers many other delicious and essential foods.
While all Mexican foods are found worldwide, we believe the most delicious and authentic expressions are found in their country of origin. And all regional Mexico foods, which differ greatly from one another, are available in the nation's capital. Eating in Mexico City is like eating everywhere in Mexico.
Mexico is the land of tacos, Frida Kahlo and mariachi. Mexico City was the capital of both the Aztec and Spanish empires and today is home to the world's highest concentration of metropolitan museums.
During our Mexico City Experience, we'll dine at Mexico's best and most famous restaurants. We'll visit the city's top markets and food producers. We'll taste mezcal, tequila, pulque and sample the country's emerging wines. We'll picnic on boats, floating through otherworldly Aztec canals. We'll ring in the new year with a spectacular New Year's Eve party in a true Mexican style fiesta. And lots of secret surprises!
We'll take professional-quality photos of the whole experience for you to keep and share, so you can focus on having the time of your life.
Here's how the whole thing works. We'll pick you up from the Mexico City airport. Our small group will stay together in a wonderful spot in a cool neighborhood in the city. And We'll drop you back off at the airport at the end. Everything (except your airfare) is included -- food, lodging, transportation and activities -- in the price.
The Mexico City Experience takes place December 28, 2018, through January 2, 2019!
We still have two spots left!!
Go here to grab your spot today!
Come celebrate with us in astonishing, unique and delicious Mexico City!
The Prosecco Experience starts in just one week! I’m sooo excited! It’s going to be epic!
Also, I’m super happy that all The Gastronomad Experiences for 2019 have sign-ups already, even though they just recently went up on the website! (Don't worry -- they all still have availability as well!)
Hooray! And thank you to all who did and will sign up and join us on one of our adventures next year. Special thanks to those of you who have sign up for two or three Experiences! Thank you for appreciating what we do and for continuing to believe in us.
Next week’s Prosecco Experience is actually the first Gastronomad Experience we’re hosting for a second time, and it’s a great feeling!
And, of course, it’s going to be different than the first one! Each Experience is unique!
For example: We'll host the amazing and talented food writer, photographer and cookbook author, Valeria Necchio, who will join us for The Prosecco Experience next week!
A local Venetian who’s currently spending time in Piemonte, Valeria will join our small group for a day of cooking and chatting. She’ll talk about her book, her life growing up in a multi-generational Venetian family, and she’ll even teach us about food photography! We’ll conclude the day with a magical long table dinner gathering by the fire!
Veneto, Valeria’s beautiful cookbook, will be the inspiration for a day of handcrafted food from the book’s recipes, including her delicious handmade pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter and walnuts! She also has expertise in Gastronomic Sciences and History so we’ll get to do some deep learning about Venetian cuisine and the Veneto region in general.
Her book is more than just a cookbook -- it's a beautiful composition of family recipes, food anecdotes and wonderful storytelling through food inspired by her own upbringing and her family traditions in the Venetian countryside.
I’m so incredibly happy to have Valeria join us for a day of authentic Venetian revelry with food, wine and a dinner gathering to remember for the rest of our lives!
The Gastronomad Experiences are about learning, connecting, appreciating and enjoying life in the most profound way through meaningful and fulfilling gatherings with inspiring people in the world most beautiful places!
We only have one life to live. And it’s up to each of us to create the life we want. That's been our Gastronomad philosophy for 12 years, and we're sticking to it!
If you’d like to experience life in the land of Prosecco, the next Prosecco Experience will happen in May 2019. But space is limited so sign up soon!
Earlier this year, our friend Claudio invited us to his winery's harvest party, which took place yesterday. So we made a point of being here in Italy for it in advance of our upcoming Prosecco Experience.
The winery is L'Antica Quercia, a shockingly beautiful organic winery and vineyards on the Prosecco Road in Conegliano between Venice and the Dolomites.
Back then, Claudio and his winemaker Umberto told us about a wine he was working on -- a singular and pure prosecco.
To oversimplify, sparkling wines are made more or less like still wines. But then they're made to sparkle with a secondary fermentation, which almost always involves the addition of yeast and sugar. For champagne and most sparkling wines, this carbonation takes place in the bottle. But for most proseccos, it happens in pressurized steel tanks.
This new sparkling prosecco is unfiltered and unfined, and acquires its bubbles without the addition of yeast or sugar. Of course, carbonation requires yeast and sugar. But the yeast is from the vineyard and the sugar is from the grapes.
Long story short: This kind of wine is very hard to make. And very risky for the winemaker.
While we were standing there before dinner, Claudio showed us the brand-new labels for the new prosecco (the designers had brought it to the party). L'Antica Quercia labels form a Japanese-inspired inky “mural” when you line up the wine bottles in the right order.
The winery is named after an old and perfect oak tree (the tree is highlighted in medieval church records). After dining with Umberto and his family and colleagues at the party, we were invited to try the new prosecco under the oak tree!
The friendship, the scenery, the shade of that majestic oak tree -- and the prosecco! Wow.
The wine is actually hard to describe, but it bears all the marks of its sublime origins and natural processes.
This prosecco represents the rare ability of the winemaker to maximally insert himself into the process in order to maximally remove himself from the product and let you taste the work of the microbial world, the grape, the vineyard and the region.
It was a magical moment, and we were filled with gratitude to have been able to enjoy the party, the meal, the incredible wine and, above all, the company of such wonderful, soulful and skillful people.
Claudio told me that he might not actually sell this wine. But if he does, I'll be sure to post about it and tell you how to get some.
And, of course, our Prosecco Experience gastronomads will be tasting this wine in a special and exclusive tasting with Claudio. I can’t wait for them to try it….
We define a "tourist" as a category of consumer -- a consumer of products and services aimed at holiday-makers on vacation.
When you join one of our Gastronomad Experiences, you're a maker, a participant, a taster -- a food and culture explorer. You become a temporary local.
Each day is filled with amazing experiences, and each experience is exclusive to us. These are not "services" provided for tourists. We have lived in each of the places where we have Experiences, and have spent years developing special relationships with local food visionaries, makers, artisans and others.
We take you inside the culture, where you'll get to know these wonderful people, learn how to make the food and taste the very best of everything.
Here's what people say about Gastronomad Experiences:
"Planning an experience this exceptional by ourselves would be impossible without the years Mike and Amira have spent living in these locations and their dedication to making each event perfect."
"The experiences that we lived were truly real and authentic."
"It was clear that Amira and Mike had established a real relationship with everyone and every place we visited. We were welcomed and treated as if we were family."
"Everything was expertly organized and of top notch quality."
"A relaxing, casual, and friendly get-together with a small group of food and wine aficionados in one of the greatest gastronomic places in the world."
"Every day was filled with culinary activities and fascinating destinations where we learned about local specialties, ate fabulous meals and soaked in the beauty of the region."
"Words can't express how amazing this experience was."
"I would go anywhere with Mike and Amira!!"
Our upcoming Prosecco Experience is sold out. But we still have spots open for our Mexico City Experience, Morocco Experience, Summer Prosecco Experience, Provence Experience and Cava Barcelona Experience.
Today, the ability for people to travel more can be limited to a relatively small number of professions. But over time, thanks to changing attitudes and demands on the part of the workforce, and technology, that option will only grow.Read More
What does "Gastronomad" mean, anyway?
A Gastronomad is a person who lives to explore.
Our own Gastronomadic path began more than 12 years ago. Our whole family went "Mayan ruin hopping" in Central America, and we continued to work while traveling.
In those 12 years, we've formed beatiful, lifelong friendships with wonderful people all over the world. We've seen amazing things, and tasted incredible food.
Most recently, we've started sharing our approach to living and traveling in the form of our Gastronomad Experiences, which are culturally authentic, food-obsessed travel adventures.
As the first and only of its kind, The Gastronomad Experiences focus on the genuine exploration of a region’s culture through gastronomy and oenology in the world’s most beautiful places.
When you join one of our Gastronomad Experiences, you'll go inside the local culture in a way that's impossible with tourism.
We participate in authentic local traditions, create magical gatherings and explore incredible locations. You’ll be immersed in the way of life while learning from the local producers and makers, enjoying local delicacies and making friends with local food and wine visionaries.
And the only way to be part of these adventures is to join us! Give yourself the gift of an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime exuberant, blissful, joyous and bubbly adventure!
We travel not to change the world, but to be changed by it.
You will never see food and wine the same way again. You will be delightfully transformed in wonderful ways you never imagined.
Grab your spot today! -Amira
Argentina is facing financial collapse.
Argentina’s currency, the peso, has now fallen to 38 pesos per dollar. The country has lost around 50% of its value against the US dollar this year.
That means prices have gone way up for Argentines — and way down for Americans in Argentina.
Normally, Argentina is an unusually expensive country. But the financial crisis and the peso's plunge makes Argentina much more affordable, at least for now.
In a perfect world, a million gastronomads would rush into Argentina to take advantage of the currency plunge. And this could help Argentina through the crisis.
Unlike tourists, who tend to gravitate to already overpriced hot spots for their vacations, the overcrowding of which drives prices for locals way up to the point where they have to leave their homes and neighborhoods, gastronomads are good for local economies.
During an economic crisis like the one Argentina is suffering from, unemployment goes up, and consumer spending goes down. Stores, restaurants and other businesses suffer because people stop buying things, so they lay people off. It's a hard situation to recover from.
The great thing about gastronomads is that they make their money in one country and spend it in another. That means an American gastronomad living in Argentina is spending money in Argentina and stimulating Argentine businesses, and without taking a job from an Argentinian.
Gastronomads rent homes and rooms and cars from locals who need the money, usually in non-tourism zones. They shop in stores and food markets, dine in restaurants, take taxis and Ubers and advertise for local businesses by blogging and posting photos on social media.
All that food exploration helps farmers, truck drivers, food producers, store owners and employees, restaurant owners and employees and others.
The only problem is that there aren't enough gastronomads yet, and not enough engaging in this brand of economic opportunism.
If a million gastronomads did this, moving from troubled economy to troubled economy based on wherever the value of currency plummets, it would have a softening effect on whatever economic crises pop up, infusing those countries with foreign cash until they can get their economies going again.
This is a classic example of a net positive impact of capitalism that Adam Smith never imagined: Gastronomads, taking advantage of the flexibility of nomadic living and acting in their own self-interest, could materially improve the lives of people all over the world suffering from an economic crisis.
In other words, gastronomads make the world a better place.
Tourism has a big problem. There's just way too much of it.
I've seen it firsthand. And wrote about it here.
The problem is that certain places become "famous" among visitors. They flock there in their millions. This drives up prices. In order to stay in business, shops and restaurants and other places must cater exclusively and expensively to the tourists, turning the original thing into a simulacrum of what made it famous in the first place.
It also drives prices down, specifically the price of airfare and hotels, further encouraging ever larger numbers of people to flock to the well-traveled locations.
Something like 670 million people "traveled" in Europe last year, a total that includes Europeans traveling domestically or elsewhere in Europe, and also foreign visitors from outside Europe.
The trend is driven by other factors. Instagram is a constant, compelling advertisement for exotic locations. The rise of China and the increasing desire in that country for foreign travel is another.
Overtourism ruins the places people love. And it ruins the experience of traveling.
Airports are mobbed. AirBnBs are harder to book.
Locals are driven out of their neighborhoods and cities because it's more lucrative to serve tourists than locals.
Locals come to resent visitors, creating an feeling of hostility.
Cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam respond by restricting services like AirBnB and Uber, making travel there deliberately more challenging.
That's why the Gastronomad movement is redefining how travel happens.
We see Gastronomad travel as the opposite of tourism. Specifically:
- flock to the same small number of destinations
- stay in hotels, resorts and cruise ships
- eat in restaurants
- surgical-strike on cliché tourist spots
- photograph themselves in scenes everyone has already seen
- buy trinkets and souvenirs
- favor “safe,” easy or convenient spots to vacation in
- try to live like they do back home
- seek out countries, cities, towns and neighborhoods with zero tourist activity
- stay in homes and apartments with locals as neighbors
- vary sources of local foods, including shopping, cooking, street food
- explore to discover the previously unknown and undiscovered
- capture authentic and surprising moments, not cliches
- avoid spending on “stuff”; instead spend on experiences
- favor the new, exotic, interesting, undiscovered instead of the “safe”
- live like the locals do
We invite you to join our Prosecco Experience to find out what this approach to travel is all about.
Instead of a hotel, we'll all stay together in a beautifully restored traditional farmhouse with a view of vineyard-covered hills. After a delightful breakfast each day, we'll head out and explore the most delicious things the Prosecco Hills has to offer, plus one glorious day in Venice.
During The Prosecco Experience, we'll meet the world's greatest makers of prosecco, as well as the winemakers who produce incredible red, white and orange wines in the region.
The Prosecco Experience is about prosecco and the wines of the region. But it's also about all the things that go with prosecco: Otherworldly vistas, joyful gatherings, astonishing grappa and above all, the incredible, complex and subtle cuisine of Veneto.
You'll not only enjoy this delicious cuisine at every meal, you'll learn how to make it yourself.
The Prosecco Experience includes pasta-making class and other cooking classes. You'll learn how to make Italian cheese, artisanal bread. And more. Much more.
We've even figured out how to visit Venice and avoid the tourists!
Every day is packed with delightful surprises, sweeping landscapes and joyful gatherings with new friends.
Join us! (And please hurry! Space left for just one more couple!)
One of the most wonderful styles of white wine is one you've probably never tried: prosecco with no bubbles.
But wait, you say. Isn't prosecco a sparkling wine?
The answer is: no, not always -- and definitely not originally.
In fact, prosecco may be the single most misunderstood and underappreciated popular wine in the world.
Outside of Italy, most prosecco drinkers believe that prosecco is: 1) a sparkling wine; 2) made like champagne; 3) always tastes the same; 4) inexpensive; and 5) something you shouldn't drink with food.
None of these beliefs is accurate.
First of all, let's define prosecco.
Prosecco is a white wine grown in a small area north of Venice, Italy, in the northeastern part of the country. The prosecco wine country is closer to the Slovenian border than it is to Milan. (And, in fact, the drink "prosecco" is named after a grape, which is named after a town, which originated as the Slovenian word "prozek," which means "path through the woods.")
The prosecco wine-growing region is also one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and it's where we're holding our second Prosecco Experience in October.
Specifically, to qualify for the "prosecco" designation, wine must be produced in Northeast part of Italy.
Three authorities govern prosecco, listed in order of geographic size are: 1) Prosecco DOC; 2) Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG; and 3) Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG.
The second authority listed above -- Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG -- produces the best prosecco, and the grapes are grown between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The road that connects these towns is called the "Prosecco Road." Most of the very best proseccos made in this area are never exported. You've gotta go there to try it.
In order to be considered for the prosecco designation, the wine must be made from at least 85% of a grape variety called Glera. (Some proseccos are 100% Glera, but prosecco can also contain up to 15% Perera, Bianchetta, Verdiso, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and/or Pinot Noir.)
Glera used to be called prosecco. They changed the name of the grape from "prosecco" to "Glera" in 2009 in order to control the "prosecco" brand. If the grape was still called "prosecco," anyone using that grape could put the word "prosecco" on the label, and thereby mislead buyers into thinking they were buying real prosecco.
Most sparkling wines in the world, especially French champagne but also including Spanish cava and California sparkling wine, are made using the "French method," also known as méthode Champenoise. The wine is fermented, then sugar and yeast are usually added before bottling with a beer-bottle style cap for a second fermentation (called "tirage") and aging, which, for French champagne, can take years. During this aging, complex chemical reactions with the dead yeast cells, called lees, take place that give champagne its highly complex, bread-like taste and buttery mouth-feel. Later, the dead yeast cells are often purged in a process called "disgorging." The bottle is then corked and the wine is ready.
Prosecco has been historically known as "Italian champagne" -- a sparkling white wine that's like champagne, but cheaper. It's really nothing like champagne at all. And in recent years have some wine drinkers come to prefer prosecco to champagne because of its lighter, "cleaner" and subtler taste.
Prosecco is so popular that there's more prosecco produced each year than champagne.
Most sparkling proseccos are made using the "Italian method," which is also called the Charmat Method. This process is nearly unique to prosecco.
The secondary fermentation happens in special steel tanks, and it's bottled after that secondary fermentation. It's already carbonated upon bottling. This method is far more efficient and less labor intensive, and it's one of the reasons why prosecco is usually cheaper than champagne.
The Charmat Method, plus significantly less aging and aging without lees, are the two main reasons for the cleanliness of the taste of prosecco compared with champagne. It doesn't have that yeast smell when you open the bottle, and it doesn't have a yeasty taste, either.
Note that a small percentage of proseccos are made using the French method.
The most surprising fact about prosecco is this: Proseccos offer a full range of bubbliness, from the champagne-like "spumante," which is highly bubbly, to "frizzante," to "tranquillo," which is a still wine.
Everyone is used to the bubbles in sparkling wines. But proseccos that are lightly carbonated (frizzante) and uncarbonated (tranquillo) are wonderful, delightful wines. (Note that the picture in this post is a frizzante prosecco.)
(During our totally exclusive Prosecco Experience, you'll learn all about -- and, of course, taste! -- the very best proseccos in all varieties directly from the best wine-makers themselves.)
If still prosecco seems like a new thing, you should know that prosecco was always tranquillo for at least 2,000 years, only becoming available in a sparkling style in 1868. (Glera and prosecco are ancient. Pliny the Elder loved it, for example.)
And prosecco comes in a full range of sweetness from Brut to Demi-Sec and everything in between.
Prosecco tastes sweeter than it actually is. The reason is that the region produces grapes that are a riot of light-fruit flavors (honeydew melon, pear, etc.) and sweet flowers, honeycomb and vanilla with relatively low acidity. It tricks your mind into thinking it's sweeter than it actually is from a measurable sugar-content perspective.
There are exceptions to that rule. My favorite prosecco is acidic to the point of being almost lemony, due to natural-wine production methods.
In fact, I think that prosecco tranquillo will, and should, become globally favored, at some point. It's fantastic stuff, and unlike "regular" still white wine.
This is the grand irony about prosecco. Everyone thinks prosecco is uniquely uniform in taste and style, simply because the the overwhelming global demand is for a light, cheaper, bubbly alternative to champagne. The reality is that prosecco is by far the most variable and flexible style of sparkling wine. It ranges from super sweet to super dry, super bubbly to still, Italian method, French method, aged, not aged much and absolutely everything in between.
But you have to visit the Prosecco Hills to experience the full quality and variety of prosecco.
Unlike champagne, Prosecco is very good with food. And unlike cava, most prosecco is best with subtler food flavors. The food in the Veneto area is extremely subtle in flavor, and nearly all but the sweetest proseccos pair great with it. But I would pair only the sweeter proseccos with spicy food, strong cheeses or any other big flavors.
Because of its light, fruity, floral taste, prosecco is also better than other sparkling wines in cocktails. It's one of the ingredients in any good Bellini or Aperol Spritz. It's also better than champagne in a mimosa, in my opinion.
I also wouldn't drink prosecco out of a champagne flute, as is common around the world. Because of its subtly and light-fruit nose, it's much better in a big red-wine type glass or a white wine glass. There's even a prosecco-specific glass, which is like a wide flute (shown in the picture). But I like drinking prosecco out of a big glass with a wide mouth.
In any event, the prosecco you encounter along the Prosecco Road and in the region of its origin is vastly more complex, variable and often just far better than the stuff they export.
If you want to truly grasp what prosecco is all about, you've got to spend some quality time in the region with the area's most brilliant and visionary wine makers. And that's why we do our Prosecco Experience. You really should join us. But hurry! There's only one spot left in our very small group. - Mike
When you're living abroad, especially far outside of cities and towns, you can bring everything with you -- including internet connectivity and power.
It's expensive, but you can get your own internet connectivity via satellite in most countries. And if the sun is shining, you can get your own electricity.
There are many mobile solar power products on the market. Most of them aren't big enough to even fully charge your phone in a day.
That's why I love the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase. It's a $300 solar panel with a handle, that turns it into a large briefcase or portfolio.
You plug it into a Goal Zero Yeti Portable Power Station, which can be had for as little as $200, and you'll never need to plug into an outlet.
The beauty of the Gastronomad lifestyle is the freedom to live anywhere. The Go Zero charger is one way to include any off-the-grid location as well.
Here's all the stuff I use and recommend. - Mike
Gathered around the table in the heart of a secret underground ancient wine cellar from a lost era discovered only by chance.
Our gathering of new and old friends sharing this unforgettable moment in a place once forgotten.
The untold stories of how it came to be will never be known and we embrace its mystery.
A secret man-made ancient underground labyrinth filled with wines that somehow got lost in time.
We gather, we laugh, we drink to the mystery of the magical cellar. To remember this moment forever, we raise our glasses in awe of the mystery. We’re transported back in time together filled with awe and exultation — happy to be alive and experiencing this moment in time somewhere in Italy.
This is just one of the countless unforgettable gatherings during The Prosecco Experience this past May.
Only a couple of spots left. Join us this October for more magical gatherings in the land of Prosecco. - Amira
Someone who knows us via social media recently said Mike seems to live a "charmed life.”
We hear this a lot. The problem with social media is that all you know is what you're presented. Do people with beautiful Instagram accounts really live beautiful lives? Or is it all "success theater" -- a mere performance?
In our case, I can tell you that in fact the beauty is real. In fact, I'm often frustrated by the inability of our cameras to capture the true beauty of what we encounter in our travels.
Of course, it's not a complete picture. But, on the whole and across our social media accounts, we present a pretty accurate picture. (We even post about the mundane stuff, the tragic, the comic and the tragicomic....)
Also: I go extended periods of time when I don’t do any social media. Mike’s Dad died three weeks ago today and I was feeling too sad to share anything on social media except just a couple of posts about what we were going through.
My feelings about social media are mixed. I object to the negative impact it has on our society in general and people in particular. I especially dislike and disapprove of Facebook and to some extent Instagram. Yet I still use them because they enable me to stay in touch with people I love.
In particular, social media often evokes negative emotions and attitudes about self image. It instills unhealthy competitiveness and jealousy while inculcating egotism, narcissism and self-righteousness. This is particularly worrisome for what it does to the younger generations who don't remember a world without social media.
I post on social media, usually Instagram, only when I have something personal to share and feel compelled to write what comes from my heart. Honesty, transparency and authenticity is something I strive for. And it’s my hope this is reflected not only on my day to day interactions in real life with people in general but also in what I share on social media in particular.
I’ve struggled with social media the last few years because on the one hand, I don’t want to participate in a system designed by self-interested companies with self-serving agendas to manipulate people and how they feel while controlling what we see and what we don’t see in our streams.
On the other hand, social media allows us to stay connected with our extended relatives, global community, and family of friends all over the world. It allows us to share what we’re up to and learn about and enjoy what others are doing. It’s also beneficial for our business as it provides a platform to promote our work and labors of love. So I decided to embrace social media and use it in accordance to my own values.
Our social media posts and our pictures are real and they actually represent not a small but a significant part of our lives. It’s not social media "success theatre" -- it’s authentic slices of our life, which include the beautiful and the joyful as well as some of the sad and the painful.
We suffer loss, we experience pain, and sometimes experience family discord like everyone else. And although we have our fair share of suffering in our lives, I can genuinely say, with great humility but unapologetically, that we do live a "charmed life," and we're grateful for it. And the charm in this life is by design -- we've worked hard to get it. And Mike tells everyone how to get it in his book. In fact, that's the sole point of the book.
The joy, the happiness, the adventures around the world and the unforgettable, life-changing and exuberant Gastronomad Experiences are real. They represent our cumulative knowledge and lessons learned during our 32 years of travels and our nomadic living of 12 years.
We don’t want you to feel jealous of our "charmed life." We want to inspire you (and show you how) to put a lot more charm in your life. - Amira
For years, Amira and I had thought about where we wanted to "settle down" when we were done living nomadically.
Our thinking went something like this: We really love living here (wherever we happened to be at the time). We fall in love with every place we live.
On the other hand, we want to be close to family, which is mostly in California between L.A. and Sonoma.
But then we'd remind ourselves that living nomadically enables us to spend more time with family than if we were residential.
In the end, we've finally decided where we want to "settle down." Which is that we don't want to. And for one very simple reason.
Living in one place means you're not living in every other place. And we can no longer bear the thought of not living in every other place.
The journey is the destination. - Mike
(I took this camel selfie in Petra, Jordan.)
We Gastronomads live abroad for the food -- and everything that goes with it (the people, culture, the natural environment and human experiences of living).
We go for the things we find. And we pay for it all by working using the tools we bring -- laptops, phones and all the rest.
But there's one important tool we can't bring: Local internet connectivity.
It's easy to find fast (or fast-enough) internet access in rich countries, where the cost of living is very high. But in developing nations, which tend to be more interesting and exotic, fast internet is much harder to come by.
That's why it may surprise you to know that Madagascar has the fastest broadband internet speed in Africa -- comparable to the United States.
In fact, Madagascar's 24.9 megabits per second average clocked speed is more than twice the global average. It's faster than the internet in Canada, France, and the UK!
This may seem like a small consideration, but I can tell you it's not. Internet speed is the crucial and often missing factor while living and working abroad.
Sadly, just 2.1% of the Madagascar population has access to this fast internet. It's a very poor country and has gotten poorer since independence from France in 1960. The country does have crime, but the crime rate is pretty low by African standards.
The cost of living is very low. So it's a great place to save money for your growing business or for that next sojourn in Switzerland.
Living in Madagascar as a temporary local can help the poverty in some small way because you're earning money from the United States and spend it in Madagascar.
Beyond the well-known charms of Madagascar's flora and fauna, the country also has an amazing food culture.