Bolivia’s got the beat, man. It’s a zoo, an Alice in Wonderland adventure, and a Dr. Seuss creation. I loved this country and can confidently say this was my favorite country yet on our trip and it rivals China for its outlandish uniqueness. In this post, I’ll share some of the anecdotes we heard and observations that support my Seussian summary. As a heads up, some of the content in this post gets a bit morbid so beware.
We flew into Peru for only a brief time with our sights set on the major tours around Cusco – a jungle trek, Machu Picchu, and Rainbow Mountain. We were successful with these adventures, but learned some lessons and new tricks that can be played on travelers.
We spent about a week in each of these cities with our friends from Honduras. Leon and Granada are classic old colonial Spanish towns with colorful concrete front facades, ancient wooden doors with heavy iron gates and door knockers, and clay tile roofs. Sidewalks are a jumble of steps, homemade grates, cobblestone, and sheer cliffs. Stray dogs sleep in any shade they can find on the sidewalks unperturbed by pedestrians stepping over and chicken buses coughing through intersections.
The Bay Islands in Honduras are renowned for their scuba diving and sit about an hour’s boat ride from the Atlantic side of Honduras. Utila and the larger island, Roatan, are the two main islands in this region. Roatan is big enough to bring in cruise ships from Florida and has enough people to support a city-like feel. Utila on the other hand is small enough to walk nearly everywhere and has the reputation of the cheaper, younger island.
Semuc Champey is a unique water and rock environment with caves, terraced pools, and a disappearing river. Tucked away in the mountains of Guatemala, it may have been the most difficult of places to get to of anywhere I’ve been.
We spent a little over a week in Antigua, Guatemala where our primary goal was to learn some Spanish. Antigua is known for its Spanish schools and it lived up to its reputation. Antigua is an old Spanish colonial town that’s done a ton of work to preserve its old buildings despite volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, marauding armies, and uprisings. The streets are all still cobblestone and the appearance of front facades of the buildings downtown are strictly regulated.
Initial reaction after hitting the road
I already feel relaxed and refreshed after only a few days abroad. The US with all its niceties and luxuries can also be a stressful place. The mountain of things everyone deals with just to stay afloat can suck the fun away. Utilities, health care, cell phone plans, car payments, insurance, gym memberships, furniture, decorations, car maintenance, dead light bulbs, raking leaves, shoveling snow, and dirty dishes, etc. are seemingly endless and can lead to a rut of a mindset where there’s always something you could be doing or taking care of so you feel guilty taking time for yourself to sit and reflect or relax.
After only a day in Mexico City, I feel refreshed. The atmosphere is relaxed and things happen when they happen.
A friend once told me that this part of the US is like a retirement home for outdoors enthusiasts where everyone at any moment was ready to jump up and climb a mountain. This sounded too good to be true, but in the end, the summary wasn’t too far-fetched.
I consider this city to be the epitome of American easy living and quintessential Americana. Cost of living is outstanding, the city is growing, the housing market is in great shape, the city government has been tactful about government spending, education, and city planning, and the people are damn glad to meet you. BBQ was long a pillar of the city and still is, as my belly can attest, along with Jazz music and the status as a flyover state oasis.
I roll up Montreal and Toronto into one post to make easier comparisons between the two. Montreal is a big city at about the size of Seattle. They still speak French there but you find a lot more English in Montreal in Quebec City and certainly than the surrounding countryside. Both Montreal and Toronto are very international cities with vibrant cultural communities, outstanding food, and neat influences on the architecture and mood of different neighborhoods.
My wife and I quit our jobs, sold our belongings and are hitting the road for nearly 2 years. We're blogging about our adventures, lessons learned, ideas, and recommendations. Take a gander at the content, leave a comment, or reach out to us to meet up on the road!