The Details: One Year of Travel

Finally reaching Machu Picchu after 4 days of hiking

Finally reaching Machu Picchu after 4 days of hiking, May 2012

View from the top of the Cathedral in Quito, June

View from the top of the Cathedral in Quito, Ecuador, June

In the jungles of northern Colombia, August

In the jungles of northern Colombia, July

Mountain biking through the Colombian Highlands

Mountain biking through the Colombian Highlands, August

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Panama City, Panama, September

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Catching a ride in the back of a pickup, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua, October

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Tree-hugging in Parque Imposible, El Salvador, November

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Christmas morning hike, Honduras, December

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Cooling off in Guatemala´s Semuc Champey, January

In a cenote, near Valladolid, February

In a cenote, near Valladolid, Mexico, February

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At a Jaguars game, Chiapas, Mexico, March

Soaking in the petrified waterfalls near Oaxaca

Soaking in the petrified waterfalls near Oaxaca, Mexico, April

In front of the Cathedral in Puebla

In front of the Cathedral in Puebla, Mexico, April

Sailing off Mexico's central Pacific coast

Sailing off Mexico’s central Pacific coast, May

I’ve done a lot of living these last 12 months (details from the first 6 are in italics). Here are the details…

The Highlights
Click here for full details from the First 6 months
Highlights of the last 7:
*75 hours of one-on-one Spanish Classes + 2 weeks living with a family in Guatemala.
*6 hour kayaking adventure through a reserve to a turtle sanctuary
*Toured a cigar factory and learned to roll cigars
*Danced & belted out hits from the 90s with a group of American volunteers at a Rancho Bar in Esteli, Nicaragua
*Spent Thanksgiving on a beach in El Salvador, with Canadians
*Sampled Salvadorian specialties at the Juayua Food Festival
*Climbed Volcano Santa Ana for fantastic views of 2 crater lakes
*Embarked on a difficult 8 hour, uphill hike through Parque Impossible
*Learned the harsh realities of a Salvadorian Coffee Proccessing Plant
*Spectated at a Beauty Pageant, with fireworks & dancing, in Suchitoto
*Hiked with an old Salvadorian Gorilla through his former battlefield
*Stayed at a microbrewery/hostel in the jungles of Honduras
*Birdwatching in an archealogy park
*Cleaned, prepped, lived on, and finaly, steered a sailboat to the Bay Islands.
*Got Scuba certified
*Ate conch soup in a Garifuna Village near La Cieba
*Visited a gallery opening in Utila
*Spent Christmas, sharing a potluck meal with travel friends on a breezy dock in Utila, Honduras
*Spent New Years Eve watching fireworks in the streets of Antigua
*Took a sunrise hike to a viewpoint above Lago de Atitlan
*Climbed a volcano in the Guatemalan highlands, alongside Mayan religious pilgrims
*Explored/swam through dark caves by candle light in Semuc Champey
*Slept in a hammock, to the sounds of the jungle
*Explored the mighty Mayan ruins of Tikal
*Made it through Guatemala having never once used the popular tourist shuttles–only chicken buses and combis–even though it meant traveling alone through remote parts of the country.
*Explored the Mayan ruins of Western Belize
*Visited an iguana sanctuary–held in my arms a massive iguana
*Swam in a wild, cool Belizan river; slept in a jungle cabana
*Stayed 2 rainy nights in a tiny Belizian Garifuna village
*Was the only guest in a lakeside hostel in the beautiful Bacalar
*Partied hardy in Playa del Carmen
*Spent the day drinking rum and beach bumming with a fantastic group of travelers in the postcard-perfect beaches of Tulum
*Swam in several of the countless refreshing turquise cenotes in the Yucatan
*Accidentally discovered, then spectated at a (very graphic) bullfight in a tiny Mexican puebla
*Visted impressive Mexican ruins–Ek Balam (Valladolid), Monte Alban (Oaxaca) and Teotihuacan (DF)
*Rented a golf cart for exploring: and stayed on the beach in Isla Mujeres
*Won a beer pong competition in Cancun
*Danced salsa, drank mojitos, smoked cigars, slept at Casa Particulares and listened to amazing live music–in Cuba
*Learned how to make tortillas and ensalada de nopales (cactus leaf salad)
*Co-organized, lead a group outing and cookout in a park in Chiapas
*Attended a Mexican National soccer game
*Spent 6 weeks working at a hostel in San Cristobal
*Rode a carnival ride and danced the night away at a fair in Mexico
*Sampled Mexico`s wide range of Mezcals
*Celebrated St Patricks Day with a BBQ, piñata, and cake–in Mexico
*Celebrated and observed a traditional Semana Santa in San Cristobal
*Visited a unique Mayan church in rural Chiapas on Easter Sunday
*Swam in the impressive El Chiflon waterfalls and threw stones into the beautiful high altitude lakes of Montebello.
*Observed crocs on a boat tour of the Sumidoro Canon
*Went dolphin spotting on Mexico`s Pacific Coast–saw hundreds + sea turtles and snakes
*Boogie boarding in Puerto Escondido
*Enjoyed fresh, homemade mole where it was invented/perfected–Oaxaca and Puebla
*Swam in petrified waterfalls
* Received a free bike tour of the pueblas of Oaxaca, from a random Mexican man I met on a bus.
*Visited the first library of the Americas
*Saw the worlds widest tree
*Ate fried grasshoppers in Oaxaca
*Met a random local in Puebla (in Spanish) and was given a tour of the city & incredible dinner at a nice restaurant
*Navigated the Mexico City metro/bus system solo; saw large parts of the city on foot
*Attended a space-themed party in Mexico City`s elite Condessa neighborhood
*Couchsurfed in Condessa
*Visited the former home of Frida Kahlo, and the former hideout of Leon Trotsky; and gazed at Diego Rivera`s grand murals in the Palacio Nacional.
*Watched the sunset over Mexico City from the 43rd floor of Torre Latino Americana
*Hooted and hollared at a Lucha Libre wrestling match at Arena Mexico
*Spent an afternoon at Mexico City`s impressive Anthropology Museum
*Saw the eerily preserved corpses in the Museo de Momies; and explored the mazelike, scenic UNESCO World Heritage streets of Guanajuato.
*Visited Tequila, Mexico: checked out the tequila museum, then toured and sampled at a tequila factory.
*Went sailing to the Marietas Islands: saw humpback whales, dolphins and unfortunately lots of jelly fish
*Spent my last days with a fun group of travellers–drinking too many margaritas, spending too much time in the sun, swimming in the sea, falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing.

Moments of Frusteration:
General lack of small change
Mysterious back spasms in Chiapas
Stomach illness in Guatemala and Mexico–mysterious illnesses, in general
Traveling alone through Guatemala on chicken bus
Checking into a hostel to see I`m basically alone and now must explore a new place solo
Loud nights when wanting to sleep
Constant presence of street venders and people trying to sell me things
Needing to get my visa renewed in Mexico City
Almost constantly feeling like I`m being stared at/noticed/hit on or creeped on.
Expensive buses in Mexico
Getting ripped off in Cuba
Packing and unpacking and packing again
Losing things
Broken shoes, dirty feet, dirty clothes–and paying for laundry
Death of an iPod
 
*Maybe I was just lucky: but It should be noted that after 13 months of travelling throughout Latin America, and very often in transit alone–there were no times (which come to mind) where I was ever a victim of a crime, threatened or harmed by anyone, or even afraid of where I was. And I definitely strayed from the backpacker trail often. I continually ran into kind, helpful, curious locals who seemed to watch out for me, help me with my bag, chat with me on a bus and give me advice or directions.
 
I learned:
*To scuba dive
*To make tortillas
*About US-Cuba-Central America-Mexico relations
*How to better communicate
*To live without a phone, TV, computer
*That people are more alike than they are different
*An appreciation for real Mexican food
*America is great; but not ¨the greatest country in the world¨
*That my physical capacity is far greater than I ever expected
*That I am much braver than I ever imagined
*To stretch my money to unbelievable lengths
*To surf
*To sail
*To play pool
*To be alone
*To play countless new card games
*To make chocolate from scratch
*To shoot a blow gun
*To shoot a harpoon gun
*To man a bar/restock a cooler
*To live on little
*To converse in Spanish
*To enjoy a sunset
*To dance Salsa
*To relax and enjoy the moment
*To pan for gold
*To love rice and beans and corn tortillas
*To sleep in a hammock
*To navigate, bargain, small talk, survive on my own–in Spanish!
Number of books read:
84 (I had a lot of long bus rides, and general time on my hands)
 
The General Route:
 
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centralamericaroute
 
 

 
 
 
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Time breakdown:

Peru: 3-4 weeks
Ecuador: 3 weeks
Colombia: 12 weeks
Panama: about 4 days
Costa Rica: 8 days
USA: 3 weeks
Nicaragua: 34 days 

El Salvador15 days
Honduras: 3.5 weeks
Guatemala: 4 weeks
Belize: 6 days
Cuba: 9 days
Mexico: 16 weeks

Nearly 13 months; 12 border crossings, 12 countries, 9 flights, 6 night buses of 12 hours or more

Land/Sea Covered:
Approx 18,932 Kilometers, or 11,763 miles–on buses alone!! This is not including a flight from Lima to Guayaquil, a flight from Medellin to Cartegena, a flight from Bogota to Cartagena, lengthly rides in the Guajira, a sailboat trip from Colombia to Panama, a flight to and from Nicaraguas Corn Islands, sailing to the Bay Islands, and a flight to and from Cuba.

Favorite Places: Colombia, particularly the coffee growing region and the highlands: Nicaragua, particularly the Corn Islands and Isla de Ometepe: Pretty much all of Mexico

Disappointments: Guatemala, but this is likely had more to do with the people I met (or lack of) and the time of the year (cold!), as it’s a beautiful country with plenty of culture

I consumed way too much:

Ice cream; fruit, fruit juice, and smoothies; beer; granola; rice and beans. And still love them all…

Corn Tortillas, hot sauce, cilantro, mangos, fresh orange juice, ice cream, cervesa, pork, fish tacos. And still love them all…
 
Rode on:
Luxury Bus, chicken bus, plane, puddle jumper, speed boat, panga, river taxi, ferry, train, moto-taxi, motorcycle taxi, tuk-tuk, horse, truck, bike, kayak, taxi, metro rail, cable car, colectivo, sandboard, intertube, raft, sailboat, 4X4, cycle rickshaw.
 
Averaged a new bed every 4 nights, with 6 weeks being the longest spent in one spot
 
The Cost for an entire year of big adventures; approx. $14,400 for everything but my monthly student loan payments
 
What’s next?
Good question. Open to suggestions…
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