Life is Now

Life is Now. That's how Tasso lived, and died.

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 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.

A man sits on the stairs to a beach hut in Tulum, Mexico
Tasso in his Tulum beach rental, circa 2006.

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.

An artist named Tasso von Jena stands in front of his art at his beach hut
Tasso sold art and welcomed travelers at his ‘Dire Straits Chess Club’ on Tulum’s famous beach before the beach got too exclusive.

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.

three people at an oceanfront cafe in Tulum, Mexico
Theo, Tasso, and Ellen on Tulum’s beach in 2012 during a work vacation, just after the winter solstice.

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!)

An artist looks into the camera while shirtless on a beach

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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1 thought on “Life is Now”

  1. Tasso (Marten) and I lived together for most of the 80’s. We built a catamaran (Seahorse) in our backyard in Santa Cruz, CA. He had regular Dire Straits speed chess gatherings at our house then as well. When the boat was finished, we traveled a little around California and eventually sailed it to Hawaii. We broke up in 1990 and I left him the boat. He too eventually gave up on the boat to pursue his art and ended up in Mexico. We lost touch eventually, so I’m very happy to hear more about his life there and that it was a good life. Thanks for the lovely memorial write up.

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