Happy 2024, everyone! I hope that the new year will bring us all, individually and collectively, closer to our dreams.
I have just finished up a two-week cat sit for a sprightly orange fluffball named Viggo!
During that time, I also completed all the medical tasks I had returned to Portland to complete. In the span of about three weeks, I donated plasma four times; attended three OsteoStrong sessions; had two doctor’s appointments with blood draws; had my first colonoscopy; got my latest COVID and shingles vaccines; received an IV iron infusion; and even had a surprise visit to an urgent-care clinic when an incident on a city bus soundly bonked my (thankfully bike-helmeted!) head into the wall of the bus. (Fortunately, I seem to have walked away from that incident unscathed—whew!)
I am so glad to be on the other side of all that. I plan to stay in Portland another month—through January—and then, depending on finances, I hope to spend February and March in a warmer place, such as southern California, Arizona, or possibly even Austin, Texas. We’ll see! (Know anyone with extra Amtrak points they’d like to gift to me? Feel free to put us in touch!)
The good news is, I did have some downtime during my sit with Viggo, which allowed me to have a few magical meetings. One of these I would like to share with you: the force of nature that is Vanessa Pan!
In early December, I spent two nights at the cohousing home of an amazing woman named Elisabeth Seaman, in Mountain View, California. During our visit, I told Elisabeth about my magical-meeting practice, and asked if she knew of anyone I should reach out to in that vein. She told me about Vanessa.
Vanessa grew up in the Bay Area as well, but now lives in Guanajuato, Mexico, where she is partnering with a group of people—both local and non-local—to build a sustainable ecovillage, Calvillo, just outside the city.
Vanessa is an amazing person. Early in life, she set a goal for herself to learn three languages by age 30, by immersing herself in three different countries: first France, then China, then Mexico (Guadalajara). She also spent time living back in the Bay, as well as Maui.
Just a few weeks ago, she moved from Maui to Guanajuato, and is partnering with local folks—as well as her French boyfriend, who recently moved from France to be with her, and is currently learning Spanish—to build this ambitious and beautiful ecovillage.
The ecovillage will sit on 12 acres of land, currently owned by a local Mexican woman whose family had held the land up until now. That woman will sell six of the acres to the ecovillage community.
Although Vanessa is American, her vision is for at least 2/3 of the residents to be local Mexican folks, because she does not want this ecovillage to be an “expat Disneyland,” like some other ecovillages in Mexico and Central America seem to be.
The property will consist of eleven plots, with one to three households per plot. The community will be multigenerational, and will allow for aging in place. The early community members have already planted a “natural fence” of cacti and other prickly plants, and soon they will plant 100 fruit trees.
The ecovillage is situated near one of the country’s top universities. Vanessa has a vision that the community may offer free housing to a handful of graduates of this university, such as physicians and elder- and childcare providers, in exchange for offering their professional skills to community members. For example, they might agree to spend 5-10 hours per week sharing their services, as well as to mentor their successors when they feel it is time to leave the community.
Vanessa and Elisabeth had met when Vanessa toured Elisabeth’s cohousing community, Mountain View Cohousing Community, as one of six cohousing communities around the United States that she visited for research during the planning stages for the ecovillage.
(She also visited FrogSong, in Sonoma County’s Cotati, which some of you may recall I also visited in my year of travels, back in November of 2021. Vanessa told me that Marcin, my FrogSong host, was a great resource for her in her planning, since he had been one of the original planners of FrogSong, more than 20 years ago.)
I also shared with Vanessa some of my experiences at Louisa County, Virginia’s fossil-fuel-free intentional community, Living Energy Farm, which you may recall I visited in April of 2022. After she and I talked, I found these two recent video interviews with Living Energy Farm’s founder, Alexis Bledel, which I encourage you to watch if you want to be inspired:
I love meeting inspiring community builders like Vanessa! I am excited to watch her bring this dream to fruition.
If you know of anyone she might appreciate talking with—or vice versa—feel free to let me know, and I can put you in touch.
And, as always, if you know of anyone I might have a great magical meeting (one-hour video chat) with, please let me know as well!
Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!
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