Week of Panos Day 1: Funchal from The Epic

They aren’t always the best photos, but I’m a sucker for the iPhone camera’s panorama mode. This week, I’ll post one panorama per day to share some of the best that I’ve captured in our last five weeks of travel.

To kick it off, this was taken April 27th aboard our cruise ship. Imagine seeing nothing but ocean over this deck railing for 9 days, then waking up one day to this.

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal from port aboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship

Funchal, Madiera from the port side deck of the Norwegian Epic cruise ship.
Click image for a larger version.

Funchal on the map Funchal is the main port on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Our ship stopped there for about 8 hours on our ninth day out from Miami. Catherine and I disembarked for just long enough to find a public bathroom, enjoy high speed internet from a shopping mall, walk around a park, and head back.

We’ll have to go back if we ever want to dig in, but we’ll always remember Funchal as our first glimpse of Europe from the Epic.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

The Monastery of Valldigna

Today our friends Steve and Pura drove us about an hour south of Valencia to Valldigna. The valley is a long, gradual slope from lush mountains down to the Mediterranean, covered in orange groves. “It means dignified valley, if you like,” offered Steve, and it fits.

We stopped for an hour in the middle of the valley, at the municipality of Simat de Valldigna to visit its star attraction: An historic monastery nestled amongst the orange trees, called Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna.

The gate of Convento Santa Maria de Valldigna

Our new friend Juanjo (more on him later) stored oranges in this building as a kid.

Inside the Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

The floor of Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

La Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

All of the vibrant colors are painted on recently-added plaster in an attempt to recreate something of what this place was centuries ago. Compare to the relatively bare stone above the doorway.

All of the vibrant colors are painted on recently-added plaster in an attempt to recreate something of what this place was centuries ago. Compare to the relatively bare stone above the doorway.

Why don't we build like this anymore?

Why don’t we build like this anymore?

Outside was beautiful, too:

Arches at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Arches at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Historic ruins at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Inside the Convento Santa Maria de Valldigna

Proof we were here. Remind me to lose 20 pounds.

Proof we were here. Remind me to lose 20 pounds.

After visiting the monastery, we drove further up valley into the mountains and enjoyed a home-cooked paella at the summer/country home of Steve and Pura’s good friend Juanjo. This was a special treat for me, because my parents met Juanjo on their trip here two years ago. He taught Dad to make his own version (which is fantastic), and Mom and Dad have raved about his paella ever since.

While waiting for the paella to cook, we enjoyed tapas with meat, cheese, bread, and olives, a swimming pool, good drink, and 360 degree view of orange groves, the company of new friends, and the energy of three young boys running around. The boys were Steve and Pura’s son Ethan, and their friends Rencho and Maria’s boys Enzo (short for Lorenzo, like his father) and Albi.

Rencho had heard Catherine was a singer, and he kept on playing show tunes until he got her to sing along to something from Grease (I think). Everyone agreed with me that Maria looked a lot like Kimbra when I pointed it out with help from the Internet.

We also enjoyed Steve and Pura’s other visiting friend Virginia, another fellow to reflect with on our experiences here. And our dear Alba — another American who’s in Valencia over twenty years. Alba understands (and forgives) my futile attempts at bilingual humor, and generally helps us with the subtleties cultural translation.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

7 Day Challenge: After Day 2

A quick update before we both pass out for the night.

We’re learning first-hand how launching a side business in your free time, after you’ve put in a full day at the full time job, is no easy feat.

We don’t feel we’re making quite enough progress to stay on track with this goal. (The Timbers’ 3-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes tonight may or may not have something to do with that.)

Good thing we don’t have too many plans this weekend!

Lower body Kinesiology Audio Study Guide

Here’s some of our final album art as a teaser…

The good news, is we’ve got one thing checked off the list: The album art is done!

We’ve also added more items to Tasks in Progress. Although it may look like we’re being unfocused, at this stage of this project there are lots of things that need to come together before they can be finalized.

Tasks started and finished:

  1. Install Easy Digital Downloads to replace WooCommerce
  2. Product / audio file album art
  3. Stripe gateway
  4. Final Audio File QA
  5. LMTW Logo – (Catherine’s learning PhotoShop, under pressure to get this done. Nothing to shake a stick at.)
  6. Settings for upper body product
  7. Settings for lower body product
  8. Settings for full package product

Tasks left to begin:

  1. Finish changed noted in InVision
  2. Fix fatal Error in LMT World child theme after upgrading Make parent theme
  3. Mailchimp subscription boxes
  4. Thorough review of SEO settings
  5. Favicon
  6. Finalize global nav menu
  7. Update Catherine’s bio


Introducing the Cats

We’ve written you some introductions to our cats. We’d like you to know that we feel a bit ridiculous doing this, but it seems to make sense. We’ll be referring to them a fair bit, and in fact we’re about to publish a series on tips for traveling with cats.

Writing these has been surprisingly difficult. I found it similar to writing an auto-biography. How to be objective enough for you to trust how I present little Jaxy? How do we know we’ve conveyed something of their true character, given our biases?

This agonizing just further underscores how silly this all seems.

To the point: Click on their pretty faces below to read.



The 7 Day Challenge

We’ve been working for 10 months, in our occasional spare time, to launch a new business at We’ll keep the site itself a surprise until it’s done, for a bit of fun. Suffice it to say for now that it is an e-commerce website that will serve students studying to become Licensed Massage Therapists (LMTs).

The last two or three months we’ve gotten ourselves all psyched up to finish “tomorrow!” or “this weekend!” or “by next Saturday!”

It hasn’t worked out that way. It seems we’re better starters than finishers (not exactly breaking news).

So we’re going public with a self-challenge:

By this time 7 days from now, Monday October 13th, we shall have completed all of the following todos, and more — whatever it takes to launch a fully armed and operational battle station website at

Challenge accepted

Self-challenge Accepted!

Of everything we have left to do, here are our tasks in progress:

  1. Install Easy Digital Downloads to replace WooCommerce
  2. Product / audio file album Art
  3. Stripe gateway
  4. Final Audio File QA

Here are the todos we have yet to start:

  1. Settings for upper body product
  2. Settings for lower body product
  3. Settings for full package product
  4. Finish changed noted in InVision
  5. Fix fatal Error in LMT World child theme after upgrading Make parent theme
  6. LMTW Logo
  7. Mailchimp subscription box
  8. Thorough review of SEO settings
  9. Favicon
  10. Finalize global nav menu
  11. Update Catherine’s bio

We would like to enlist you, dear Internet readers. Will you be our accountability buddies?

Stay tuned for updates.

Our Plans through August, 2015

Yesterday, we outlined our Grand Nomadic Plan. Today we get specific.

September through November 20th, 2014

Our adventures begin in Denver, Colorado.

Here are the main reasons we chose to start here.

First: Denver’s got sun

Denver’s 300 days of sunshine a year easily beats Portland’s 144 days in our view. This is coming from a couple who are both self-diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome. We love Portland weather during the summer, but it bums us out most of the rest of the year. Extending our ability to bask in the celestial glowing orb’s rays of warming joy is an important requirement in choosing where to reside for more than a few days.

Second: Denver’s comfortable

Denver shares a lot in common with Portland, so we won’t have to adjust our lifestyles much at all to get on here. Keeping things relatively simple in our home life will allow us to maintain continuity at work, and focus on the adjustments we’ll need to adapt work to this new lifestyle.

We’re also relatively close to Portland, compared to some of the other places we’re excited to see (Spain, Thailand…), so in case this adventure doesn’t work out for some reason, we can get home easily enough to recharge and rethink our plans.

Third: Certain people live in Denver

Okay FaceTime vs face time which wins?

FaceTime vs face time okay who wins?

My brother Dan moved out here a year and a half ago for school. He and I are super close, and he and Catherine are big fans of each other too, so we’ve missed him quite a bit. He will show us around and introduce us to his friends and his cat, Spice. We’ll have work/study parties, and be Star Wars nerds together.

I’ve also been meaning for years to visit some good friends from college days who live here. Since I saw them last, they’ve established a thriving urban farm and made another (omg adorable) person together. Reconnecting is long overdue. I hope they don’t get sick of us while we’re here.

We’re here. Now what?

So whatchoo wanna do? I dunno, whatchoo wanna do?

So whatchoo wanna do? I dunno, whatchoo wanna do?

Through Airbnb, we’re staying in a small, charming studio apartment in the Wash Park neighborhood, about 10 minutes south of downtown by car.

Catherine had the brilliant idea of looking up Groupons a few weeks before we arrived, and booked us four weeks of salsa dance lessons.

Me enjoying the Washington Park flower gardens

Me enjoying the Washington Park flower gardens

We’re also looking forward to the touristy things. We’ll camp and go for hikes in the beautiful Rockies to the west, and perhaps Telluride to the south. I’m excited to check out local museums and city parks, and probe how easy it is to avoid my food allergens while dining out.

We’ll continue this writing habit, and make it more regular. Any day now, we’ll start that daily yoga & meditation practice we’ve been planning on. And, we’ll pick back up with our Spanish studies, which we had to pause as we got a little too busy packing up our apartment.

We’ll work as much as we can every day to launch a couple of side business projects. The weather has started to turn to the cooler side, so Catherine has started knitting like a mad woman (for the record: her words, not mine). We’ll write more about our other projects in the near future.

More generally, we’re excited to shake up our patterns, and bring a little more focus and intention to our lives. More astoundingly insightful reflections on that later, I’m sure.

Late November through early January, 2015

We’ll come back to Portland for the holidays, and live with Catherine’s father Art and his wife Elaine at Timberline Meadows, their horse farm out in The Boonies, Oregon City, Oregon.

We’re looking forward to the quiet of the farm, and the juxtaposition that turning towards rural living will bring, not to mention spending time with Art and Elaine.

We’ll head to Southern California for about a week in early December for Catherine’s mother’s annual extended family Christmas.

We’ll also try to work on catching up with as many Portland friends as we can, although time is sure to run short.

January through July, 2015

Ideally we’ll be in Valencia, Spain for six months, if we work out a legal way to live there that long as American tourists. Alternately, we will split our time between Spain and nearby countries outside of the European Union’s Schengen Zone. This all depends on our visa situation.

Once again, we’ll be working full time — not technically on vacation. This move will introduce a new time zone dimension into our distributed team’s workflow at Rocket Lift. This is part of what building a vibrant and sustainable modern business looks like to me, so I welcome the challenge.

Things we’re looking forward to include Living in Spain!, gorging our guts on paella, bending our brains with Gaudí’s space-warping architecture, soaking in the Mediterranean coast, lots of seafood, and Spanish language immersion. I’m over the moon about the potential to see Barcelona FC play in their own stadium(!), and am excited to build international connections in the open source web developer community.

We’ve chosen the coastal Spanish town of Valencia as our home-base because some long-time family friends who live there. We’re both excited to branch out from there, taking long weekends to visit other European cities. Catherine’s especially stoked to show me Berlin, and visit Prauge and Toulouse. We’ll reconnect with some expat and foreign friends we’ve made over the years, hopefully including Catherine’s brother [Dominic](LINK to Facebook), if his world travels as a professional Tango dancer and instructor happen to overlap with ours.

Early July, 2015

Our European tour next year will culminate in France, for Catherine’s cousin Meggie’s marriage to her beloved François.

July through August, 2015

We expect to head back to Portland for the summer. Since we’ve just started, it’s hard to imagine, but I’m sure it will be good to be back home.

Fall, 2015

Thailand? New Zealand? Mexico? Fellow traveling fiends out there, got any advice?

I don’t see a problem with that (wherein our neighborhood bar is awesome)

There’s something about the interactions we have with strangers in Denver that’s hard to describe. It’s like whatever happens, it’ll inevitably be good.

For instance, this just happened: I walk around the block to our (awesome) neighborhood bar. (Best lamb burger I’ve ever had).

“Hey, I’ve got a weird request.”

That could mean anything, his eyes say. “What’s that?”

“Can you put on Fox Sports 1 at 8:00?”

“… Sure… Why, what’s on?”

“Timbers game. I’m from Portland.” I make a circular motion pointing at the dozen patrons scattered around the small place. “Nobody else here’ll be interested. Like at all.” I want him to know I feel silly asking, so I laugh.

“I don’t see a problem with that. ”


“Sure, man. Nobody else in here’s watching anything.”

“You’re awesome. Thanks!”

Finley’s in Wash Park is the place. (I’ve had like three lamb burgers in my life, ever. But believe me.)

Our Grand Nomadic Plan

A week and four days ago, Catherine and I vacated our apartment in Portland. We gave away or sold perhaps a tenth of our belongings, packed our most important things into the Camry, and put the rest in storage. (Thanks for the garage space, Moms and Dads!) Then we drove to Denver, Colorado, with our cats and our excitement.

We’ll be living in Denver for a total of two and a half months. It’s the first stop in what we expect will be a lifestyle of traveling around the world. Stay tuned for more on why specifically Denver, tomorrow.

The idea is novel, but pretty simple. When your work is Internet-based and not tied to a specific geographic place, you can work from anywhere that you have decent Internet bandwidth.

Now we are Digital Nomads

By choosing to live simply and carefully managing our finances, we can trade having lots of things for having lots of new experiences, without a significant change in our income.

We can rent cozy, fully-furnished homes anywhere in the world on flexible schedules, for about the same cost as rent and utilities in a traditional long term lease. It’s all made possible by Internet-based services. Airbnb connects us with new landlords. Directories like Yelp crowdsource local knowledge to help us find great places to eat, and attractions to visit.

This is not a vacation. We aren’t spending money we have saved up to adventure full time for several days, before heading back to the grind. We continue working full time to sustain our income, even as we travel. This lets us travel more often, enjoy local experiences during nights and weekends, and continue advancing our businesses and careers simultaneously.

This translates to living more simply (in some ways), being more mobile, seeing more places, and having more adventures. It’s a bit like retirement, without stopping work.

Itching to Travel

When we met two years ago, we were both interested in seeing the world. We shared a passion to make this happen for ourselves somehow, some way, and sooner than later.

Catherine felt she’d missed out by not studying abroad during college. She’s been wanting to try living anywhere outside of Oregon for years. She misses the sunshine something fierce during Portland winters, and would like to reconnect with her childhood home state of California. She also wants to see the country, and spend time in Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America … name an interesting place, and she’s probably up for it.

And I craved the full time globetrotting-while-working lifestyle. I was introduced to the idea by colleagues in the WordPress field, where it is fairly common for teams to work remotely spread across the globe, and meet up a few times a year for workcations in far-flung places, to see the sights and collaborate on work projects in person. This has always appealed to me, because my idea of vacation includes work. Leisure quickly bores me. I want to chew on stimulating problems with a beautiful view by day, and to play hard with great food and friends in novel places at night.

Getting ready for this

So together in the last 18 months, we’ve read books and blog posts from people living the wandering life. They’ve paved the way for us with inspiration and insights.

We’ve learned about traveling light. (We have more of that to learn.) Catherine has mastered credit card mileage rewards like a boss. We’re working on building “passive income” (misnomer alert!) businesses. We’ve learned to make mail forwarding sane despite moving frequently. We’ve socked away some dollars in a safety fund.

Here goes!

Catherine and Matthew on a Seattle water taxi

Pandas. On a boat! In Seattle. Not quite as baffled as we look.

Travel Diary: Portland to Denver, Day 1


Left: From Catherine’s mother’s in West Linn, OR at 5:15 am (Pacific Time)
Stopped: At our vacated apartment in Portland to pick up two suitcases, at about 5:30 am.
Stopped: At a coworker’s house to drop off the PO box key at about 5:40 am.
Stopped: At Burgerville in The Dalles, OR for breakfast at about 8:00 am.
Arrived: At the Royal Garden Inn in Salt Lake City, UT at about 8:00 pm (Mountain Time)
The Next Day: Denver to Portland, Day 2



$361 on car maintenance (yesterday)
$103 on fuel (two stops)
$35 on food (two meals)
$70 on lodging (includes $20 pet fee)
$3 on incidentals (super glue, a Diet Dr. Pepper)

$572 total ($211 excluding maintenance)

Listened To

Catherine: A great many hours of Game of Thrones (audiobook)

Me: A great many podcasts

Together: Prince’s 1999 and Purple Rain, Simon & Garfunkle’s “America”.


We also made a handful of stops at rest areas and gas stations.
In lieu of stopping for lunch, we snacked on trail mix and dried fruit in the car. Dinner was takeout at a Thai place a block from our hotel.

It was my first time through Idaho on I-84 (previously been through the panhandle, on Hwy 12 and I-90).

It was also my first time in Utah (outside the boundaries of its airport, a Delta hub where I must’ve laidover at least a dozen times). I am dumbstruck at the beauty of Utah’s landscape. Since we crossed state lines, it’s been nothing but soaring, dramatic hills and mountains as far as the eye can see.

The cats did surprisingly well! They seemed to resign themselves to the journey sometime before 7:00 am. That is to say, Jaxon stopped walking everywhere and Miria stopped howling her pretty little head off. We put one of the back seats down and packed such that they could get to their litter, food, and water in the trunk. They mostly just slept back there all day. After seven months living together and not exactly getting along, they’ve seemed to bond as actual friends in just the last month. So seeing them snuggle, in this anxious adventure together, had us cooing over how adorable they were, all day, like typical cat owners.

Tweets and Things

Off topic, but neat: WordPress 4.0 was released today. I read the release announcement from the passenger seat in Idaho. We celebrated me being one of the 275 contributors with a high-five. 🙂