Last Updated on January 1, 2024 by Ellen
In 2003, we met a German artist and sailor named Tasso von Jena. He lived on the beach in Tulum, Mexico. We met him during one of our first ‘work vacations’ together when we would escape the northern Ohio winters. Our friendship with him developed over time as we returned to Mexico two or three times most years until our early retirement in 2015.
Some years Tasso lived in a hut, other years under a tarp tied to trees. In his later years, he lived in a moldy old, dead and parked camper.
Most people may have thought he was crazy. We adored him, and some of his various philosophical approaches to travel and life.
When we first met Tasso, before he lived under a tarp or in a camper, he managed beach cabanas at a small boutique place in Tulum – the type of business that has vanished in recent years since the “Hollywood” and “New York” crowds invaded.
I’ll never forget the moment I laid eyes on him. I knew in that second we looked at each other – knew without doubt – he would have a profound effect on me.
Tasso rented us an oceanfront cabana “for a song.” That was March 2003. While in our Tulum oceanfront cabana for $20 a night, the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Back then we still worked in our careers. But whenever we could, we took budget vacations to foreign countries — often to Mexico.
Over the years during our Tulum visits, Tasso urged us to “travel now” before it was too late. Tasso and Tedly had many memorable, animated, and sometimes exhausting debates about when we might “quit the rat race” and take off into the sunset.
Tasso had a unique world view. He was a young boy who remembered desperate survival efforts in Berlin tunnels right after the official end of World War II. He understood hate and holocaust. As a great artist, he lived for beauty and ardor. As a sailor and beach bum, he enjoyed his booze and oranges, and he loved Tulum’s beach and seawater.
Although we didn’t start this budget slow travel adventure as early as Tasso had urged, we felt right about our timing for early retirement.
And we think the artist and sailor would be proud that today we live his mantra: Life is Now.
(RIP Tasso! See you on the journey of souls!)
Some of Tasso’s art from his Tulum years
“Life is Now” case in point: Ellen’s breast cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy while traveling in 2018.
Slow budget travel in early retirement — because Life is Now.
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