Traveling is wearing on a body. Living out of a suitcase, crammed into someone’s spare bedroom with two huge loud teenagers, using our hosts’ energy sources and eating their food. We buy a lot of the food, but you have to wonder what their utility bills will be like after we leave…

We are in Key West today, using Uncle Brian’s (Jal’s brother) and Aunt Peg’s air conditioning. Fortunately, they have plenty of space! But anxiety is high here for me and I can’t sleep. I’m overwhelmed with the need and desire to see my buddies, and afraid there won’t be time to really connect. The flip side of that coin, providing a double anxiety cocktail for me, is that the preferred topic of conversation is still real estate. You can’t get away from it. It used to be happy talk.

In 1985 or so, I moved to Manhattan for a year. I heart Manhattan. Anyway, I was a vegan then (Jal says that’s when you throw away the food in a box and eat the box), I practiced yoga and meditation. The professed goal was to be in tune. The secret goal was to be thin. So I was sitting yoga-style on my bed, starting a meditation. I did a little deep breathing, relaxed my body and "opened myself to the universe." Whoa! Within ten seconds, my eyes popped open. I had to shut down and stand up. Maybe it was just the subway that ran under my building every 20 minutes, but my immediate universe started to vibrate like crazy. A rush of NYC energy hit me like a ton of bricks. It was freaky.

That’s a little how I feel here now: I can feel the vibrations, the hum. It’s an anxious hum and I am tapped right into it. Yuck. Totally psycho, I know. Don’t tell anyone. But it makes me want to run away again. Because I’m in real estate here, everyone wants to talk to me about it. I want to talk about it, too, especially to my friends. But I’m kind of a downer on the topic (oh, you think?) And NOBODY wants to hear it. I don’t blame them. So I’m measuring my words, thinking before I speak. It’s wearing me out.

For some people, this real estate correction will be life-changing in the negative. I ran away from Key West because I’m a chicken: I don’t want to watch it happen. By a simple twist of fate, Jal and I didn’t participate in the bubble. For the last three years, we’ve been renters, kicking ourselves for missing out on the double-your-investment opportunities we passed up. When people found out we didn’t own a house, they looked at us in disbelief: "How could a real estate salesperson RENT???"

"A simple twist of fate," I’d say. In February ’01, we bought a house to renovate and sell, sold fall of ’02. We made a decent return on our time and investment, not huge. Probably less than we imagine had we factored in all expenses and headaches. We never learned an inexpensive lesson. We considered jumping right back in, but the stress of a flip almost killed us. We decided to rent for a year, then re-evaluate.

That year, 2002-2003, was the first year of the meteoric rise in prices here. By fall of ’03, we could no longer afford an entry level fixer-upper without going into huge debt. We could have done it and still made beaucoup cash, but we didn’t have the stomach for those big payments. Besides, I was too busy selling real estate, and Jal would have had to stop home schooling the boys… so… problem solved. We rented.

Thank God. We would not have had the good sense to get out when the gettin’ was good. We’d still be here with our ill-timed investments. Clearly, a correction was due, but when? I guess I’m running away from survivor guilt. Like when Wilma flooded our home 2" while flooding our neighbors’ homes 3′. There but for the grace of God, and some ridiculously good luck, went we.

Despite my anxiety, being back in Key West is like slipping on an old shoe. Costa Rica is still a
little stiff to us. We aren’t part of that community yet, and we are community people. Very social!
Making inroads there, but you can’t cultivate 30 years of familiarity in one. We aren’t ready to move back here yet, but we love the comfortable feeling of knowing and being known. If we could get our friends and family to at least visit Costa Rica, we’d probably never come back. But they are here, our community. Anxious as it is, the pull remains.

Today, the Key West sun is shining, it’s not too hot with a lovely warmish-coolish Florida breeze. It’s truly another glorious day in Paradise, U.S. style. With a little sleep, I could actually enjoy my visit!

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