Live More Happy
Living Loving and Traveling the World
residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

I arrived at Residencia Gorila in Tulum, by following a pin on a map a friend had sent me with the message “You will find people like you there.”

They were right, I instantly felt right at home. 

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

I arrived just in time for acoustic guitar and brunch and was greeted with a piece of vegan chocolate birthday cake. Karen, one of the Gorila’s residents is managing the vegan cafe and is apparently a wiz with coconut oil and bananas. As a cake connoisseur myself, I was impressed.

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

I then met Alfonso Garrido, or “Poncho,” the coordinator and director of all things Gorila. What started as a film studio, has evolved into a community and living space for musicians, artists, film makers, photographers, creatives and activists. The motto of the Residencia Gorila is crecer, crear, compartir, (create grow and share) and they follow this ethos in their art, their activism and their daily lives.

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

“While you are creating, you are healing yourself and growing. Both in a spiritual and personal way. The growth also happens when you share knowledge and ideas. Sharing is key. “ -Alfonso Garrido

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

Alfonso showed me videos of the recent projects they completed in the last year, including a mural series by local street artists of nature, marine life, as well as Mayan culture. Their art also addresses social issues, like endangered species, environmental sustainability and the threat non-native species, like lion fish, are creating for the Caribbean.

 Anna Fishkin / everystring.com tulum art project residencia gorila

Photo by Anna Fishkin / everystring.com

 Anna Fishkin / everystring.com tulum art project residencia gorila

Photo by Anna Fishkin / everystring.com

 Anna Fishkin / everystring.com tulum art project residencia gorila

Anna Fishkin / everystring.com

 Anna Fishkin / everystring.com tulum art project residencia gorila

Photo by Anna Fishkin / everystring.com

I love the way they leveraged the tourism and the local businesses, as well as art and video, to create awareness and solutions to the lion fish issue. By educating the local dive tours and shops, they are promoting the sport of hunting lion fish and collaborating with local chefs and restaurants to create culinary experiences with the delicious white fish. This is helping to reduce the rapidly growing population and restore balance to the delicate eco system of the Caribbean.

Lionfish Project (Episode 01) from Residencia Gorila on Vimeo.

Its a wonderful example of using creativity and community to create positive change.

The coolest campaign to come out of Gorila in my opinion, is the Finding Infinity project.

With the collaboration of Ross Harding, Gorila hosted “Solar Parties” around the world, raising funds to provide renewable energy for under developed communities in Mexico.

Finding Infinity Residencia Gorila Mexico

Ross is now living in Australia, growing the project by consulting and developing important sustainable projects worldwide.
See the clever and informative animation the Gorila Films created for Finding Infinity below:

Like Residencia Gorila, I was powered by sunshine, feeling energized from the sea breeze and integrated with the nature all around me. We rode bikes around Tulum, swam in cenotes and lakes and  the warm, turquoise Caribbean water.

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence fortune 421

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

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After just a few days at Residencia Gorila, I felt more inspired and excited about my own projects with Givebackpackers and all the possibilities for creating an impact through art, culture, travel and experiences. 

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

That is what Residencia Gorila is: an experience. From the food, the music, the conversations, the art and the expression of ideas, in the middle of paradise, Gorila provides the setting to connect with nature, experience culture and collaborate with creatives.

residencia gorila tulum mexico maya riviera mexican volunteer art community culture tourism artists collaborative residence

I personally see a lot of opportunity to grow our projects for Givebackpackers but also see Gorila as a place for all creatives to find new inspiration, expand your heart and mind and receive the support from the global community, while collaborating with other “people like you.”

If you are interested in staying or bringing projects to Residencia Gorila, they are currently accepting inquiries and are happy to discuss options for lodging and offer a variety of creative services and promotion for your project. I know I cant wait to get back soon for my own creative retreat. Who’s coming with me?

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akumal mexico tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure

I haven’t been home in San Diego a full month and here I am in the Mayan Riviera in the Yucatan,  Mexico, on a completely spontaneous and unplanned trip.

akumal mexico tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure

Monday I was heading to Vegas, working as a social media and event coordinator for a client at the Consumer Electronics Show for four days, when my friend asked me to come to Playa Del Carmen with her for the BPM music festival. It was way too last minute, way out of my budget and totally inconvenient.

She promised a free place to stay and the flight came from her stockpile of air miles from her even busier travel lifestyle. (Can you believe I have friends who travel MORE than me?)  I had no choice but to say yes.

Then panic hit me. Its always there, the anxiety and racing thoughts of all the shoulds and the responsibilities I am constantly taking on.

“I have so much to do.”

“I just got back from a major trip”

“I’m being irresponsible”

I had to answer all of these questions and doubts in my mind with what was being said in my heart.

“Just Go.”

I truly believe these opportunities open up for a reason. There is no accident my friend was in need of someone to come with her at the same time I was feeling the most pressure I have felt (from myself) in years.

Launching my second business, Givebackpackers, has been one of the most exciting and terrifying experiences of my life.  I am not just a consultant for a project or working for a specific campaign or event. Its entirely on me. However, its the first time I have had a business partner, and so its not entirely mine.

Working, traveling and having a very close friendship with someone is a wonderful and delicate situation. I love working with Krissy, I love traveling with her and seeing our dream come to life. We are living our purpose together. Helping people, while sharing the stories and creating a community of travelers with purpose, is the most rewarding thing either of us have ever done. Its also the most challenging.

givebackpackers laakra live more happy lmh

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Having a business partner is like getting married. Both of those things have terrified me more than anything because of the risk of loss, heartache and betrayal. You have to trust completely, be open and honest and WORK on the communication, with patience, love and commitment.  I was finally willing to give the marriage thing a try a year ago and the whole thing crumbled around me leaving me with this feeling of absolute loss of control over my own life. It’s been an interesting year of examining my broken heart, my loss of all trust and what I learned from it. I want to throw myself back into that space of being open and trusting and glad I have a “wife” like Krissy to live this amazing life with. ;)

akumal mexico givebackpackers tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure

I’m the kind of person that pours my heart and soul into something, weather it is my work, my volunteering or my partner, I want to give the best and deepest parts of myself but find myself hurt when I don’t get the same in return or things don’t work out like I planned. Thats one reason my new years resolution for 2015 was No Expectations.

This brings me to the Yucatan. While I was in Bali last month I kept thinking to myself, “This place is great, but its so far away and so touristy. I really love the Yucatan best.”

I thought this several times, knowing that I wanted to come back here and revisit the place I spent a few weeks backpacking in 2013. It was calling my heart and then the opportunity arose, completely unplanned and unexpected.

akumal mexico tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure

I haven’t planned out the next week. My girlfriend only stayed the weekend and went back to LA for work commitments. Here I am now, “alone” but surrounded by amazing, intelligent, fun and spontaneous travelers from around the world. I’ve got my new amazing camera and laptop, a shitty rental car that makes my 98 ford escort seem luxurious and a week of no expectations.

akumal mexico tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure 

I need this week of unplanned, solo adventures. While on our trip around the world I was completely consumed by Givebackpackers, the kickstarter campaign, updating the site, creating content, working with artisans, touring non profit projects, sleeping a few hours to make the most of the daylight and work hours and while I enjoyed the trip, it was definitely a lot of work. When I got home I didn’t slow down for a second. I had fundraising events and a volunteer trip to Mexico the same weekend. I went to LA for a GUESS event and developer meetings, then Palm Springs for a Givebackpackers photo shoot and every minute in between was meetings and working on the website I am building for Givebackpackers and other website projects for LMH Promotions clients. 

I spent Christmas alone, working. While I am not a big Christmas person at all, I still realize how much I have been pushing myself to achieve and accomplish too much, too quickly, under too much pressure. Last week I spent 3 days straight at my desk without leaving or eating. My friends were worried and would come by to get me out of the house for coffee or make me dinner so I ate. I realize I am an intense person and sometimes, you just have to take a break.

akumal mexico tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure

No expectations. Just taking a break to breathe and get back to me. Thanks for reading. While I am not publishing this to justify to you why I am here, I am doing it to justify to me, while hopefully inspiring you to see where you might need to lessen your expectations of yourself and others as well. Take a breath, you deserve it.

P.S. If you need a real break, Tulum is Heaven on Earth

akumal mexico tulum mayan riviera travel explore wanderlust backpack adventure david manning photographers san diego

peace bliss happiness

Last Sunday I participated in a sacred Hindu water ceremony at a set of temples on a bluff over looking the ocean in Sanur, Bali, with a healer named Bunda who took myself and my three travel companions on a day long prayer and intention setting ceremony that involved bathing in a river that flows into the ocean, being splashed by high priests with holy water and entering a cave filled with a golden Buddha and praying for whatever it is we were in need of.

buddha temple bali

I prayed for forgiveness and peace of mind. It has been something I have struggled with my whole life and while I am a loving person I am not easily forgiving. I have always struggled with letting go of past wounds and my personal mission on this trip was a search for a relief and some release from my tight grip on painful memories.

After the 5 hours of ceremony, Bunda explained that to show our commitment to what we are asking for, we must pick a day, Monday or Thursday to fast for seven weeks, starting at 5am until 7am, absolutely nothing to eat or drink. At 7pm you must shower, pray for what you want and then only eat white rice. I accepted this challenge as a sign of commitment to myself and Mondays will be my day of deep thought, prayer and emotional self love while fasting. 

As I write I am enjoying my 7:30pm bowl of rice, the first thing I have eaten since I went to bed at 1am (with a bag of my favorite Mexican tostitos) Today I woke up at Las Rocas Resort, my favorite Mexico destination just 30 minutes south of San Diego, on a cliff over looking the ocean, surrounded by friends who accompanied me yesterday to the Door of Faith Orphanage to volunteer and bring some Navidad cheer.

mexico dofo christmas hunger mexico dofo christmas hunger mexico dofo crafts hunger

I skipped the free breakfast Las Rocas gave our group (breakfast is my favorite meal and Las Rocas has great desayuno!) and skipped the fish taco and ceviche lunch as well as ignored the tostilocos and churros in the border line on the way back. I could say that it was torture but in every craving I found strength and in every desire for instant gratification I felt a commitment to getting what I want, inner peace.

I also realized that there are billions of people in the world, including children living all around me, who face this kind of hunger and longing every day, and not by choice. My awareness was so much higher and I felt so much more compassion for them all day today.

India children hunger poverty

mexico hunger

My bowl of plain white rice tastes so amazing to me because I went without. I am so grateful to be eating it because I have been living with hunger all day. I am so much more grateful for the ability to eat when I’m hungry and eat the best food. I am grateful I only know hunger by choice.

rice hunger

hawleyween flier

In ten days I will be flying all the way around the world, stopping in at least 8 different countries, without any real itinerary or schedule to follow. I am traveling with a few girlfriends at different times, meeting up with different friends all over the world, and working on my newest project, Givebackpackers.

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The givebackpackers kickstarter is in full swing, with 17 days to go, and the goal of raising $8,000 so my partner, Krissy and I can effectively create sustainable business solutions to artisans in poverty.

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I will also be working on several new social media campaigns for brands I really love, building the givebackpackers blog, and Krissy’s new website and the ecommerce shop for the goods we find around the globe.

To top it off, I am coordinating 20 volunteers to visit Baja Mexico and volunteer at the Door of Faith Orphanage with Fortune 421 for our Share The Fortune program in December, the week I get back from the trip.

dofo fortune1

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We had the best time visiting Mexico last year, delivering our donation of 5k raised from the parties and clothing sales Fortune did throughout the year.

jason fortune

This year, we have stepped it up, with the goal of raising 7,500 to remodel the teenage boys dorm, putting in a kitchen and new furniture for them to comfortably live in their space.

Since last year, DOFO has expanded and improved their orphanage so much, by adding a computer lab for the high school students to work separately from the young children after school. They moved the toddler girls’ dorm from a difficult upstairs location to a ground floor, easy to access room. They put in a soccer field and have continued to feed, clothe and provide love and support to over 120 kids who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents.

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This Friday, 10/10 I am helping to host a fundraiser for DOFO at Duck Dive in Pacific Beach, to help us reach our goal by December, as well as my annual Hawleyween fiesta and now also, my “going away awhile” party. I would love to see you all before I take off on this epic adventure, and hopefully I will see your name in my email when you sign up for our Mexico Trip on December 7-9!

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Remember, its a Hawleyween party so wear something funky and festive and get your face painted like a Dia De Los Muertos skull by my talented friend Nicole who is donating her time and collecting donations for DOFO!

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As I wrote all of this I felt a little bit overwhelmed with how much I have on my plate, but I wouldn’t change a thing. When you are following your purpose and doing what makes you most passionate, it feels less like work and a lot more fulfilling.
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dofo fortune1

In 2013 Live More Happy &  Fortune 421 has raised enough money, through parties and fashion sales, to provide school supplies to 100 orphans and children rescued from abuse in La Mision, Mexico, just about 30 minutes south of San Diego in Baja.

Click the image to watch the video of our trip to Door Of Faith Orphanage in October, 2013.

In 2014, with Fortune events and clothing sales, we raised 7,000 to help remodel the boys dorms and put in a new bathroom and a kitchen at Door of Faith.

We led numerous groups of volunteers last year and already in 2015 and are excited to announce that with our new venture, Givebackpackers, we are raising money for DOFO through the sales of handmade accessories from Mexico.

laakra backpacks mexico backpacks

003IMG_0368-La Mission Goddess WeekendBuy a backpack, headband, bracelet, anklet and help supply kids in need at DOFO with school supplies.

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If you would like to apply to attend one of these incredible trips, send us a message here

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