Maybe most of us struggle when it comes to finding out what we really want to do in life. I had been wanting to start a new business for over 15 years and yet there was no inspiration forthcoming about what type of business to embark on, until... a meditation mentor that I was following said to look at what we specifically enjoy doing, if anything, when we are sick, depressed or just not feeling well.
Where is our place of comfort in challenging times? This can be where our talents reside if we are looking to start a new job or business. This applies to anybody! It so happens that I love to check out bags online when I am under the weather. Go figure...
WHY AND HOW I STARTED PAZENA
I created Pazeña in 2016 and La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico is my current home. I was born in the South of France (Provence, yes, where the lavender fields are) in 1961.
To better understand Pazeña, we would have to go back all the way to 1966, when I started crocheting and 1973, when I started knitting. My love for crocheting and knitting was paired with a love for colors and the feel of wool and cotton. I still remember the soft texture of my cousin's blue dress when we were 4 years old, and how I longed to wear one just like hers.
Then back to 1979, when I first visited Mexico and Guatemala.
During the whole month of August 1979
I got to roam beautiful Mexico and Guatemala with my family.
We met few other tourists on our way.
We rented a Volkswagen bus in Mexico City
and crawled like snails accross mountains and deserts.
We experienced Isla Mujeres,
Tulum (Tulum was not a park and you had free access to this beach,
which is no longer allowed),
Puebla, the Popocatepetl volcano (my brothers and me one very early morning),
Chichen Itza, Palenque (this was our whole party),
Oaxaca (with the two ghosts in jeans),
(my mom, and friend Tony at Monte Albán)
Monte Albán near Oaxaca (1979)
(they have been digging out more pyramids since then),
San Cristobal de las Casas,
Lago Atitlán and Panajachel (look how small Panajachel was back then. They had the best restaurant of our whole trip),
Guatemala City, Flores and Tikal with no crowds anywhere (except the local crowds in traditional markets)! The road from Flores to Tikal was a rough red clay jungle road. The only hotel in Tikal was basically a large hut with mosquito nets as a roof in the bedrooms. We could hear the jungle noises all night. This and the early morning mist made this place magical, almost eery.
Got to spend half a day at a police station for a tiny accident that we were not responsible for. Someone had backed up into us and we had to prove it was not our fault. Waving some bank notes would have been a quick fix but we didn't even think of it 😂.
This is me somewhere on that trip. Needless to say, I fell in love with the textiles there and brought as many Mexican and Guatemalan bags as I could back to France. I also brought back an amazing and huge onyx chess board and piece set as a gift for a friend.
Back then there were no hotels in some places and the locals would spontaneously offer us to stay at their humble homes, or even at their traditional hacienda!
The outfits and textiles have remained the same.
I lost around 10 kg on this trip - all we ate was avocados, bananas and watermelon (there was too many flies on the meats exposed to the sun all day). Mostly watermelon in fact; bananas and avocados only when available. Some days we would fill up the food space in the van with watermelon and eat only this the whole day. It saved us the hassle of looking for food where there wasn't any.
One day, as we were "starving" in the middle of nowhere in Mexico, my brother opened a huge freezer in a restaurant, delighted at the thought of ice-cream. Instead, it was full of exquisite bulls' balls (yes, it is what you're wondering) to the brim, and we did not have the guts to havesome cooked up for us. We must have eaten watermelon again. The food in Guatemala was a lot better than in Mexico. We even got to have some excellent fruit shakes in Panajachel.
And all we drank was Coca-Cola for a whole month. I could not drink any Coca Cola for at least ten years after this trip.
But, apart from the Coca-Cola, this exploration left me with a life-long love for Latin America that always stayed with me in the background.
Much much later, after having settled for a normal life for way too long, I moved to Durango, Colorado (where I met my second husband, Peter) with my older sons, initially for six months and ended up living there 15 years! Later on, Peter and I lived 1.5 years in the South of Ecuador with our two young children and we’ve been living in Mexico since January 2015. Currently we are in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
We are a close family, we go everywhere together, especially our Saturday night ice cream on the malecon! My two older sons are French and they visit us a couple of times every year. Their visits are an extra source of joy and fun every single time.
Gabriel, Angelina, Hadrien, me, Peter and Louis in La Paz.
Stéphanie, Hadrien's wife, was not able to come out this one time.
Playa El Tecolote near La Paz.
Back to Pazeña. For over ten years I was looking for the perfect practical backpack for daily use as a purse-type carryall that would leave my hands free for shopping and allow me to organize my keys and cellphone in a very unique and convenient way. There seems to be so many people who are tired of misplacing their keys or having to fumble at the bottom of their bag to find their cellphone! I used to be one of those.
I also was one of those who experienced back pain when carrying a shoulder bag. I bought and sold many bags yet I never found the perfect one. I became specifically interested in backpacks for this very reason. Could this really be my new job? How strange!
Let's jump to 2011 (Hang on, we'll go back to Pazeña at the end of this post. Many more things had to happen before creating Pazeña).
During the spring of 2011 the main source of our family income, my translation business, began to drop off. At the same time my older son was encouraging us (my husband, our two kids and myself) to meet him on his 3 month planned journey the following year somewhere in Mexico or Central America. Then a mutual friend, Doug, called us up out of the blue and started talking up Latin America also saying we should visit there and that our kids would love it. The common denominator was that these two individuals were very instrumental in encouraging Peter and I to get together 11 years earlier.
This was our lovely house in Durango.
I caught a little chipmunk eating some seeds off a stick in the woods near Durango.
Another funny little animal around Durango is the horned lizzard.
I told Peter that “Now Doug is also telling us to go to Central America.” Peter responded with something like “Your job is drying up so how can we afford to take an extended vacation to Mexico or wherever when we cannot even make ends meet here? We are using the credit cards to get through the month.” I shrugged and replied that “It’s those same two guys. It must mean something. That is all I know. We have to do it.”
Then in a moment of clarity Peter had a realization that maybe we could swing it if we just rented out our two homes and that income might provide enough monthly cash flow to travel with an open ended schedule. With no real plan essentially, and not suspecting the many adventures awaiting us!
Baby turtle release in Tecolutla, Veracruz.
The mangrove alligators in Tecolutla.
A traditional Mexican dance in Durango, Mexico.
We began to travel in earnest leaving Durango, Colorado, on the winter solstice of 2011 with one way plane tickets to Cancun, Mexico. The previous six months were very hectic, almost crazy at times. Despite all the hurdles like maxing out the home equity line of credit, completing all of the unfinished home improvement projects, the perpetual six week yard sale, selling all of the vehicles in order to pay off the credit card debt, and the night sweats, everything fell into place. 70% of our material possessions went away. The rest was put in storage before we left.
All our life was packed in these 4 carry-ons and 4 backpacks, plus the flutes and teddy bears!
Playa Norte at Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo.
First bus trip in Latin America.
We made sure we had a few puke bags on hand.
Grand cenote in Tulum, Quintana Roo.
Trip in a "colectivo".
Angelina speaking her first words of Spanish.
Peter and our two children in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.
This is us and all our gear in San Cristobal.
Louis at the border Mexico-Guatemala. It was the exact same as in 1979: the same small office with 4 officers writing down your name on a book, and no computers either.
The bus route to Lago Atitlán in Guatemala.
Lago Atitlán, Guatemala.
A yummy Guatemalan meal.
Panajachel, Lago Atitlán.
The natural reserve at Panajachel.
I hadn't been to Antigua in 1979.
We stumbled upon this language school in Antigua while looking for a place to stay. They let us spend a few days in their rental home at the back. Such a warm welcoming!
Louis and a Guatemalan weaver.
This is what a language school looks like in Antigua.
Our travel plan was to search for a new locale where we could survive on roughly $1000/month. Both Mexico and Guatemala proved to be too expensive for our budget. Six weeks after leaving Durango, just as our travel money was dwindling down to zero, we landed softly in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Feeding time at the Parque de Iguanas dowtown Guayaquil.
Louis and Angelina played with the iguanas for a while.
Guayaquil has an amazing malecon.
We were guided to Vilcabamba, a traditional village in the South of Ecuador, which we called home for the next 16 months. Vilcabamba is in a tropical valley in the Andes, and boasts an average temperature of 75°F or 20°C.
Why did we choose to stay in Vilcabamba? We just listened to our kids. Louis said this town felt like home the first morning we were there, and immediately we knew this was it. Our kids had also told us that Guatemala did not feel safe to them and indeed most certainly it was not safe.
Vilcabamba, close to the border with Peru.
The Mandango above Vilcabamba.
A traditional Ecuadorian home.
Most of the times they were Peruvian style. They were always a joyful celebration.
Traditional dance rehearsal. Check out what a blast this toddler is having and how he is naturally allowed to participate!
We signed up the kids at a local public school with essentially zero comprehension of the Spanish language. It was very hard at first:
First moments at school, a tough time for both our kids, especially Louis, and especially when you don't speak a single word of the language. It was hard to witness.
But in time they began to understand the language and then life slowly became quite idyllic.
Monday mornings at the elementary school.
A weekly opportunity to celebrate the Ecuadorian identity.
Every monday morning too, several kids had to give some news about the world in front of the whole school. That day was Louis's turn.
The coutyard at the elementary school.
Angelina coming back home with her classroom water bottle.
It was our turn to bring it back to school filled up the next day.
Mother's day celebration at the school.
Marbles and tops are national sports for school boys!
Louis became an expert. Check out this video:
Angelina and her classmates.
Both our kids had the honour of taking part in the Fiestas de Vilcabamba parade.
Louis as a drummer and Angelina a majorette!
Angelina was selected to be part of the town choir.
She got to tour different cities in Ecuador and sing in other places without us! She loved it all.
We also have fond memories of our jungle house, a rental 5 blocks from the central plaza. Our friend Leo's mum took this picture.
This is us in our backyard.
We had a lot of tarantulas and rats in our house.
We never killed the spiders, we would catch them in this bucket and set them free in the bamboo trees in our yard. As to the rats, they had a nest up in our bedroom but never bothered us other than shuffling their leaves at 3 am to make their bed.
Just that one night, Peter was woken up by a rat fumbling in the kitchen. He was able to catch it in the spider bucket. Then he took that thing out in the yard and threw it as far away as he could. The rat ended up landing on a fence with all four limbs spread out on it. Just to say. If you don't like wildlife in your house, don't go there.
The creek behind our backyard.
Some workers were bringing some sugar cane back to town.
And this is the same creek after a short tropical storm. We could actually see the level of the creek go up by the minute from our bedroom window during big storms.
Soccer with our neighbours.
We kept these two cats that showed up at our house.
They were spending a lot of time in the hammock.
Check out the extra cute Mishu and Lucy videos we have in our YouTube channel by clicking here!
By chance, the celebration of the Lord of the Good Hope (el Señor de la Buena Esperanza) happened on Peter's 50th birthday. This is the type of fireworks they have.
This is how it started.
It took them one day to set it all up.
Interpretation of the famous Mexican song "Es demasiado tarde" (It's too late") composed by Mexican artist Ana Gabriel. What a treat to see this take place on the plaza. This event was a fund raiser to help somebody's sick friend in need. The three kids in the streets were collecting donations.
Louis enjoyed riding his bike in front of the church.
Louis's buddies wanted him to play soccer but he wasn't into it.
Abundant and lush exotic food. We bought all this food at the market for 20 US dollars. Everything in Vilcabamba is so tasty. Veggies are very green.
Vilcabamba is also home to:
the "baño de cajón" or herb sauna;
Paso Fino horses ("Barbie" is the one on the right);
sugar cane and donkeys;
fermented cane sugar;
sugar cane machines;
the machete girl (this little girl was a knife wizard);
the donkey guy who collects sand from the creek every week;
saturday laundry sessions by the river
while grandmas cook on the bank;
excellent cumbia and merengue concerts with bands from Colombia;
misses going to church in their outifts;
people on horses;
the San Pedro cactus 🤪;
the hola - como te llamas - chao parrot on the plaza
the best snake liquor one can have (we had it every week)
prepared by soaking a live snake in alcohol for years...;
the best mangos one can have;
the best water one can have (I wish they could bottle their air too);
outdoors spiders that build webs right outside your kitchen window
or on trails in the hills, right in your face;
the fireworks guy;
the fireworks kids;
the guy who almost blew up in the fireworks;
the guy who carries loads of pesticides on his horse;
grandmas who play basketball on Sundays;
tarantulas behind coffee machines;
tourists riding up the mountains;
the local guy waiting for the tourists who want to ride up the mountains;
the guy with the monarch;
happy kids in buses;
the yearly rodeo
and Paso Fino show;
ants disguised as butterflies dancing on kitchen counters;
lazy afternoons; and much more.
Last but not less, one cannot finish this post without showing the yearly carnival:
Agustin Jaramillo, 100 years old, was the highlight of the parade.
It's a four day event where people throw buckets of water at you and spray foam in your face.
We actually had fun.
It was getting close to leaving Vilcabamba.
A heart-breaking farewell ceremony for Angelina.
The same thing happened in Louis's class.
So much love.
Why did we leave such a paradise? Vilcabamba was just too far from my older sons and it was almost impossible for them to come visit us. As they were both going to Thailand in the summer of 2013, we decided to leave Vilcabamba to Thailand, maybe to settle there.
A footbridge in Pai near Chiang Mai.
Learning how to make real curry paste from scratch the old fashioned way.
Angelina took classes to become a foot masseuse. She became very good at it.
The waterfall near Pai. A real blast.
We had a taste of Chiang Mai,
where even the monks need their TicTacs.
Don't bang at a wat.
A "colectivo" taxi.
Had the last left over of snake liquor from Ecuador on the train.
This is me and my 4 fantastic kids in Bangkok in 2013.
Gabriel was leaving to Laos, don't go Gabriel!
We visited Thailand for three months, loved it too but experienced tropical diseases and visa problems, and had to return to Colorado.
Click here for our complete travel blog since 2011.
Click here for the videos on our YouTube channel.
We basically returned to complete the material possession purge and sold most of our remaining belongings including all real estate.
Welcome back to the US of A.
An old gold mine in the mountains North of Durango, Colorado.
We took advantage of summer to visit Northern USA.
This is Crater lake, Oregon
Louis eating bison chili at the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.
The ancient Anasazi indian archeological site Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde has plenty of cliff dwellings like this. The ladder is coming out of an underground ceremonial kiva.
We drove South to Taos Pueblo in New Mexico
and Santa Fe.A year later, we chose to explore Mexico some more. We lived in San Martin de las Pirámides very close to Teotihuacán, Mexico, for eight months.
Another horned lizzard at Teotihuacán.
The pyramids of Teotihuacán near Mexico City.
Nahuatl ceremony at the pyramids.
Louis's 6th grade classroom in San Martin de las Pirámides.
48 students, a dedicated teacher
and a ton of personalized after-class support by the staff.
What a remarquable public school.
Louis and some classmates: a bundle of joy.
A dance at the elementary school in San Martin de las Pirámides, where Angelina was a student.
Precolombian Nahuatl ceremony in San Martin de las Pirámides during the fair of the cactus fruit "tuna".
The plentiful market at Otumba, near San Martin.
A real paradise of exotic fruit and vegetables.
A cool weekend at Tecolutla, Veracruz, with a tour in the mangrove.
The Grutas at Tolontogo, Hidalgo: a hot spring that starts as a powerful waterfall from the roof of a pitch dark cave and turns into a whole river. We loved the challenging swim through the dark tunnel leading to the dark cave, against the strong current.
8 months after arriving in San Martin de las Pirámides, we left because I did not want to spend another winter in such a cold place. It was another heartbreak. We headed towards La Paz, which was our second choice after San Martin.
We got to visit many beautiful places on the way, among which:
the gorgeous city of Aguascalientes.
Loved the meals at the municipal market.
Guanajuato is also famous for its naturally mummified bodies interred during a cholera outbreak in 1833.
Oooh, Sombrerete and its many churches and plazas
and the awesome gorditas!
The amazing new highway between Durango and Mazatlan, dozens of bridges and tunnels. What used to take 9 hours to drive is now 2 hours!
The sea water pool in Mazatlan, Jalisco.
Downtown Mazatlan is surprisingly beautiful.
The malecon is awesome.
And as always we loved having meals at the municipal market.
It's an 18 hour ferry ride across the Sea of Cortez from Mazatlan to La Paz.
Playa Balandra in La Paz, BCS, Mexico.
At the famous Cabo Pulmo fishing village converted to ecotourism.
We love riding our bikes on the malecon of La Paz.
End of year school ceremony celebrating the Mexican identity.
This specific event is called Escolta. It is a privilege to be part of it.
Crossing of an arroyo after rain.
Whales and their babies in their natural breeding environment in Baja California love to interact with humans. They come back and ask for more pets! This is in Puerto Lopez Mateo.
Día de los Muertos in downtown Mexico City December 2018.
One million people were out in the streets.
This is where I get fresh fish from the Sea of Cortez in La Paz while I still can. I suspect that fishing may become prohibited or restriced in Baja.
Hummingbirds are around all year in La Paz.
Lately we've been trying to teach our cat some Spanish verbs. The result is this:
Are you still here? 😱 Thank you. You must love travel then. I would really like to know where you've been too. (Let me now by message or in the comments below)
Back to Pazeña now. One day I discovered some remarkable bags made in Oaxaca while shopping in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur. I already had an idea for a special backpack (the perfect backpack in my mind) that nobody was making and in 2016 Off I went to Oaxaca in search of weavers to hand weave my idea into fruition.
The weavers asked me if I it was just one backpack for my personal use or if I was going to sell this backpack model. I was in shock, just a few words from the weaver totally changed my perspective. I immediately said yes, because it sure sounded like a good idea. I had never thought I would start a business of this sort!
The church Santo Domingo in Oaxaca.
A traditional waist loom weaver downtown Oaxaca.
The plaza Santo Domingo in Oaxaca, a friendly atmosphere.
Sorry about the quality of this video, my camera was letting me down...
Among other features, I wanted a backpack with an innovative elastic key fob and a convenient cellphone pocket. After 2 years of trial and error, the final version of this Hazaña™ backpack is now available on this website, among other backpacks, bags and rugs I discovered in Mexico and Colombia.
This is me in the amazing Lanatos store in Salento, Colombia.
Nataly, the owner of the Lanatos store,
uses her pedal loom in the sitting position.
My customers love the exclusive Pazeña™ key holder feature, they say it simplifies this aspect of their daily lives. They no longer have to look for their keys or fumble in their bags! They also tell me that they are in awe of the quality of the backpack when they open their package and that they were not expecting such a level of craftmanship. These backpacks are also machine-washable!
This backpack was named Hazaña™ because it is very hard to sew together considering all the different features it has. Hazaña means a feat or exploit. Some weavers actually refused to make this backpack for its complexity both at the weaving and sewing levels. Click here to see a detailed description of this backpack.
Clicking on the first picture will take you to a short video showing how this backpack works, and the second picture will take you to a video of a similar backpack, the Capricho™ model:
This is the backstrap loom technique used to make these backpacks and bags.
These unique quality bags have made a long journey in many ways not only through the ancestral artisan craft handed down from generation to generation that is evident in the product line, but also the path that led me to start this business. And you, the shopper, have also made long journey to be here right now perusing these lovely items.
So, just like many other one-woman businesses, I am the CEO, marketing chief, website designer, backpack designer, seeker of supplies, human resources, public relations etc. Guess what, I'm getting better but it is endless...
Now that you know so much about me, I would love to hear your story too! What do you do? Do you have any questions? Any comments? Use the comment form below to communicate with me, or send me a message ("Message Us" button) or an email at email@example.com. I hope I did not bore you with my stuff...
For more information on how and by whom these backpacks are made, click here.
Click here if you would like to know what is the meaning of "ethical" in my business.
Feel free to contact me for any inquiries by phone or SMS/WhatsApp at +52 55 45 95 06 51 (Mexico), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, through my Message Us button at the bottom left corner, or through the contact form at the top of the home page. I love to read messages and I respond to any inquiry.
For any other practical details, check the FAQs.
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