Friday, June 21, 2013

Raw Traveling is Officially Over



Raw Traveling is Officially Over
It began in 2006 and ended in 2013 on my birthday, April 24th . 7 years. It began by discarding my decent standard of living through enterprising endeavours lifestyle (read constant struggle through low wage jobs supplementing a self-made artist chosen career, culminating in a successful job as an advertising consultant/ account executive), to pursue a dream that included everything I felt my life was missing. It ended in a reduced state of financial, physical and spiritual disillusionment.
Many times on my journey, even at the beginning, I held moments of longing to be sitting alone in front of my TV in my apartment over whatever precarious situation I was in. But I pressed on and was gifted with many extraordinary, people, events and places that counterweighted those moments, until the end when it was all shit. My mind kept trying to rationalize what was happening until I was within a hairs breath of annihilation. Yes, I love to exaggerate and the Doctor who threw me out of the clinic in Calgary at 1am with no medication other than a few anti-nausea tabs that I had to threaten him to get, told me there were people sicker than me too, but I have never been sicker than leaving Mexico with Hepatises A at the end of April 2013.
Coming back to Canada broke from one of my winter sojourns down south is nothing new.  But it doesn’t take me long to get rolling on what I created in those 7 years, a decent business shooting and selling aerial fine art photography. All I need is enough to hire a plane for a half hour and the rest is business to business selling that I perfected through the hard core training I received selling yellow pages advertising.
There were many instances of divine grace between transitions while I was Raw Traveling that are for the history books. These instances confirmed in me the presence of spirit and faith in my life. You will never know these things if you don’t test them. However, I was laid flat for 6 weeks and am still in a retreat state in June. It felt like grace had abandoned me, but it hadn’t. I recovered with the help of friends in Canada.
I got off that flight from Mexico too sick to walk, with 2 50lb suitcases, 2 heavy carry ons, a purse and 2 cats, (both Baja rescues). It felt like death had a hold on me. During my recovery, slimy entrails of bitterness I held for Mexico (and other stuff too) constantly seeped into my awareness.  Indeed, I had had a night vision/ astral encounter, with several dark overlords of this realm in my presence just a week before I left.
I have lost my original following at Raw Traveling, (in the beginning Henry Rollins was posting), so it is probably without foreknowledge that most of you are reading this, but I started out being much more expressive about my spiritual life. I have always had very strong dreams - clairvoyant dreams, lucid dreams, and soul to soul encounter dreams with the living and the dead. Now, I am sensing the veils are thinning more and more between the dimensions and I am having waking revelations that tie into the other dimensions. The funny thing is we are all part of it.
People have this terrible impression of me that I am so lucky to live the way I do, flying around taking pictures of things, traveling, creating art, exploring different cultures, living in Mexico for months at a time. Most people would never make the sacrifices I made to do these things. They would never have the guts or the courage. They would never have the internal fortitude or the skills or the talent to be totally self-reliant on the road without having sold out to some wage slave retirement plan, or be directed by greed and profiteering, or be on some trust fund/government/co-habitation/sustenance lifestyle allowance plan. The hard moments in my life are beyond most western people’s capability to endure. And I have finally come to my end as well. Raw Traveling is over.
There is no place like home… There is no place like home… I only stayed in Canada one winter out of those 7 to see if I was missing anything business wise (turns out I wasn’t). But every time I returned from traveling I almost kissed the ground, I was so happy to be back. Canada is my home. I connect with the earth here, as well as the sky and water, whereas in the States and Mexico, I only connected with the sky and some water, rarely with the earth. The earth and the trees of Canada are healing me now. They have been my inspiration since I was a child. I can’t be away that long in the future and I can’t make plans to live in any other country. Or I will die. And now I have 2 cats. They need a home.
I made the mistake half way through Raw Traveling to slip into a perceived comfort zone. I got lazy and kept going back to the same place instead of letting my spirit roam. The first winter in the Baja was great. The second was not so great. The third was trying and the fourth was disastrous. There was no health, no wealth, no fun and little work. I even got a work visa the last year which was thoroughly pointless.
The whole health aspect of Raw Traveling got subverted. Casting backwards again, Raw Traveling was as much an exploration of the raw food movement at its advent into popular culture as anything else. Early on in the game, I realized there were serious credibility issues with the lifestyle and the diet and some of the people. Instead of experiencing the movement from behind the computer which most people are doing now, I went out and lived it. Many people did and it was, in many ways, a gathering of souls, a tribe, even a religion that I felt I could participate in. I learned a lot about health from many alternative practitioners and feel very confident in my knowledge in this area. It is not however, my livelihood. I did toy with the idea of becoming a healer or some sort of new age practitioner or health professional, but like most people in the last decade, went back to what I always did or stuck with what I knew. In my case, it was photography.
7 years ago was the beginning of social media and my awareness of it. Since then, I have successfully created a professional brand with my photographic career and it is starting to work. But it all started with Raw Traveling. I am now setting Raw Traveling free to be the wonderful thing it always was because the rest of the work is done.
My contribution to the health awareness movement has mostly been volunteer. I have made a few bucks organizing events, but I don’t really have patience to “help” people that way professionally. My patience was really tried in the winter of 2011 when my sister came to stay with me in the Baja for 2 weeks. She is on 8 different medications up to 2 times a day and on the maximum recommended dosage for each. She has been ingesting this toxic cocktail for over 30 years. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and manic depression in her teens, (now bi-polar), the root cause of her disability has never been addressed by any of the doctors and care workers that attend her now and have through her convalescence.
I pulled in all my resources. I contacted the best orthomolecular doctor in Canada. He said it would take a team of doctors several years to wean her off.  I had alternative health practitioners ready to assist. Yet, as soon as she returned to her home, she lost all confidence in me and her team turned her against any idea that there may be hope for her beyond continuing on the same cocktail of drugs for the rest of her life.
I watched the slow decline of my mother over the course of her adult life the same way. In the 50’s she walked into the most notorious psyche ward in Canada, the Allen Memorial in Montreal, headed up by the mad Dr. Ewen Cameron, whose barbaric experiments on patients attracted the attention at the CIA and the MK ultra program. (The woman in this clip of the recently released movie: State of Mind - The psychology of mind Control, is my mother.) She went in with God knows what, mild depression?  She came out a broken and shattered woman. My mother, Emma Jane Crunican, died after 45 years on a government sponsored drug/psyche experiment and now my sister is just 15 years shy of that.
Since my mother was on this toxic soup during all her pregnancies and while breastfeeding we were all born with compromised immune systems and struggling gut flora. My sister had eczema, I had asthma, my brother had a learning disability, all classic symptoms of what is now termed, gut and psychology syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. There are ways out. Recovery is possible, even after 30 years of drugs to suppress the symptoms and worsen the still untreated root cause.
Personally, I was completely devastated by the outcome of my sister’s visit which took a lot of the shine off of life, bringing back the trauma of my childhood in living colour.

Right after that I had a bad experience with a dentist in Mexico, Dr. Lorenia Estrada Tamalantes, and ended up losing a molar to a botched root canal job. Right after that, my van broke down and a yearlong nightmare began after I let the brothers to the mother and father of my Mexican landlord family work on it.  2 months of misdiagnoses and faulty repairs ended in an ugly showdown between me and a drunken, licentious, incompetent bully, Filipe Leon.    A few other people got involved, including legals, but I ended up getting sold out by this privileged, self-appointed, do gooder neighbour who mediated a slam dunk in the other guy’s court.
Despite this inglorious farewell, I returned at the end of 2012, after a fairly successful summer shooting and selling aerials in British Columbia. Although, I took half the summer off and did some kind of lazy work/ living/ trade arrangement for this semi-retired photography enthusiast who just happened to be doing the same thing I was. I lost 20,000 dollars, but I had some fun with the crazy guy. I made up half my usual summer income in the last 2 months of the season and put all my investment into returning to this little shit hole town in Baja, Mexico - La Ventana. I brought over $1,000 of fine art photo canvases with me that didn’t sell. I made impossibly advantageous deals to the businesses, windsurfers and kiteboarders for little to no return. It turned into a twilight zone episode as too many people back peddled out of shoots and promises to buy. Others smugly enjoyed seeing their pictures but acted like paupers as they walked back to their paid for homes, cashing their government checks.  Still others thought that I should be paying them to take their picture or should gratefully fund their careers in the kiteboarding industry, just because.
By early February, I realized, I was just living in squalor amongst a largely strange and hostile community of hustlers on the business side, boring retired people on the resident side and a steady influx of eco trendy sport jocks on the transient side. I suppose I should mention that my residence was a small postage stamp of slope under a fig tree in the back yard of the founding family of La Ventana headed up by 90 year old, Don Ruben Leon, which just happened to be beachfront. Think One Hundred Years of Solitude. I had been sick most of January, recovered and got sick again, got infected with the ringworm fungus from a mattress I was sleeping on; One of my cats got feline acne and an ear infection; There was mold under my tent; The camper was old; Bad plumbing, water issues, mosquitos…


The whole time my van was running like shit. I had left it for the summer with the mechanic who fixed it after the rip off.  I hoped to have a van back in good working order. He said he didn’t drive it much, but I had countless reports of him tearing up and down dirt roads and speeding. I knew it firsthand. He drove like a possessed maniac. He picked me up at the airport in November and all was well until the moment we drove into the town. The thing stalled right in front of the tire shop of Filipe Leon.
For about 3 months, the problem got worse and my friend the mechanic, Jose, could never get the time to look at it, although he was using it frequently to go to the city, La Paz, for his business. I finally ended that relationship as I realized I was in no position to help this guy and I was better off putting my faith in another mechanic. As it turned out the van kept running the same way for 3 more moths. I even sold it like that. I figured out these little fixes myself. When it suddenly stalled on the road, there was a loose wire that needed jiggling under the hood. Fuel injector cleaner additive came in handy as well. But all in all, it was like driving an out of control vehicle in a bad dream that had become my reality. I was not able to use it for anything but short jaunts and even then it was a hair raising experience. The problem was in the wiring that had been tampered with a year before.

By March, I figured things might be a bit better in San Jose del Cabo, where I had spent time in other winters. There is a refreshing group of artists and performers there whom I connected with in 2009 that I am still very good friends with. I got support and more connection there, but still lived in relative squalor. I did as much as I could in the small time frame I had left of the season in the way of marketing myself but it was really too late and I had no intention of staying the summer. Changing my ticket home from April 23rd to June 11th, was a costly mistake, financially and physically. I did it in an overly hopeful gesture that business would improve if I spent more time promoting it. Plus, I was worried that my cat was too sick to get the health certificate to leave Mexico.
My older cat was on this dreadful course of treatment that I subjected her to as a result of a feline acne problem, misdiagnosed by a vet as a fungus. The cream for the fungus caused her hair to fall out. I believed that she had ringworm, since it was a fungus and I had had it earlier.  So I went about using all kinds of store bought and homemade topicals for ringworm that only caused her hair to fall out more. I was at my wits end with grief, when I finally took her to another vet, who said she just needed a bath and to be left alone. I am still apologizing to her for what I put her through. She is recovering and her hair is growing back. But that didn’t stop me from getting ring worm once again from a pair of new sandals that I bought at COPEL, a Mexican department store. At least I knew what it was and used the same cure as the first case (which was also misdiagnosed by a Mexican doctor as shingles), MMS and bleach – not at the same time.
Then a series of even more shitty events made getting out as quick as possible my only option. First I got a bladder infection in the 2nd week of April. That cleared up with antibiotics after all the alternative things I tried didn’t work. I still didn’t feel right but attributed it to recovering from the infection and the meds.
The whole time in San Jose del Cabo I was broke or nearly broke. I sold my smart phone, my van, my e-reader, some jewelry and as much of the stuff I had accumulated over 2 years as I could. It was a bit of a Catch 22 in terms of timing. Selling stuff I needed in an already disadvantaged position was hard, so I left it all too late. Everything came cascading to a finale at once. I couldn’t afford to pay for the short notice ticket change until I sold my van. I should have sold it earlier, saved some money and took the bus.
By the third week in April, I was on a mission: sell van, book ticket, health certificate for the cats, plan birthday/ going away party. The whole time I was feeling worse and worse. The 2nd day before I was to leave; now the 27th of April, I had a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. I dragged myself out of the house and took the bus to the American clinic who would properly diagnose me for $1,300 American dollars. Since I get free medical in Canada, I only needed to wait those 2 days. Besides I didn’t have the money. So I hobbled to the Mexican doctor with the Mexican price and got misdiagnosed with a kidney infection. The American clinic also suggested that this might be the case. It made some sense since it often follows a bladder infection. I started taking the antibiotics and some other crap and didn’t feel better.  
The next day I managed to collect a few people for my party but called it off at 9pm and sent the latecomers away because I was too sick to stand. The following morning was my departure day. I had already experienced a snarky WESTJET operator earlier that week who insinuated I was privileged enough to stay in Mexico for 6 months therefore not entitled to any pity that might allow me a discount on the hyper inflated last minute ticket price, the extra costs of the cats and the change fee. Since I only had Mexican cash to pay for the ticket change, I had had to go to the airport to pay for it. What should have took 15 minutes ended up taking 2.5 hours. First they said they didn’t take cash, and then they quoted me a much higher price than I was expecting. I felt they were overcharging me because of my desperate situation or maybe it was just sheer stupidity, either way, not an unusual situation in Mexico.  I was not looking forward to the whole WESTJET ticket agent Cabo experience again, but I didn’t care, since my one and only goal was getting out of Mexico. I asked for a wheelchair at once. Two of the WESTJET ticket agents from the first encounter approached me cautiously from behind while I was waiting on deck to ask if I was okay. I felt like punching them in the face.
So maybe all the fuss was one of the reasons why nobody told me that my connector flight was the same day. I hadn’t received a confirmation email on the ticket change. I had looked at so many flights in the last week that I thought I had an overnighter in Calgary. When I showed up at the airport the next day, once again in a wheel chair with the entourage, I was told I had missed my flight and I could get a new ticket for $200 plus dollars. I didn’t take that flight but I ended up paying over $1,000 for a ticket that usually costs me under $400, paying over $120 in cab rides to and from the Calgary airport, and not getting to my destination.
 Now I know why people hate Mexico. I defended it for years but have to admit that in the end,  I was just another one of those northerners having a cheap holiday in someone else’s misery, a misery that had now become my own.
For the first time in my life, I got very, very sick. My preventative approach worked well for me up until somebody’s infected shit got into my digestive system. Now I look forward to rebirth as I rebuild from the bag of bones I became. I aged 10 years in 2 months. Not good for someone as vain as I am. But I love a good challenge; another before and after story in the making.
Raw Traveling is over. The experience is over, but the blog will live on, resurrected in fact, purged of the bloat. I had turned it into a cheap marketing tool for my photography business because it gets great SEO. I do apologize for that. It will return to its true essence. I did not abandon my work in the alternative health world; I actually went underground for 2 years and worked directly with an industry insider in the political activism arena. I have lots to tell. I have my voice back and things are in order.
Copyright 2013 Ellen Atkin
There are many people who really helped me in the Baja and on the way back who are not mentioned in this telling for the sake of effect. I am eternally grateful to those folks. You know who you are.

2 comments:

  1. OMG Ellen -- what a nightmare. I had no idea you had been through all this... Thanks for writing more about your sister and mother -- sorry I wasn't able to meet her although i looked for her often -- Take care of yourself. Will read more of your blog soon! You really are a gifted writer and creator -- be well!

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  2. Thanks for the kind words Ann. Well this story is just one of many of my precarious adventures. I have about 10 doozies in all. cheers!

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