Friday, June 24, 2016

The End - Final Thoughts

Posted as I land in Dallas Friday night after a long two days of travel. Yawn. 

I love solo travel a little bit more. A lot more. That doesn't mean I always want or need to do it this way. I just love the experience and the unique view it provides. I think, generally speaking, for those like me who are comfortable in our own skin, are happy with who we are and  are OK with being alone and realize this is not the same as being lonely, solo travel rocks. I had days where I talked to strangers more, while other days I was ok just keeping to myself. Aloneness can provide time to reflect, relax, plan, and just be. It's nice not to be dependent on someone else for your own well being and happiness, and this goes for other areas of your life, not just travel. Basically, it's up to you. You control and you decide which way you're going to go. 
Solo travel is so enriching, empowering, freeing, and experience shifting. You see things you otherwise wouldn't see. I don't mean seeing a sight your friend may not want to see but simply while walking down the street. You notice the architecture, the vibrant door, or the grafitti covered walkway that may be missed if conversing with a friend. That's simplistic sounding, but it's that and so much more. 

I find wandering and watching people to be so interesting. I don't stare; I just take things in as they happen. When I was young, I read a book about Margaret Mead and wanted to be an anthropologist. As a doctoral student, I shuddered at the thought of qualitative research-I'm a pure quantitative person. But maybe some of those things I was drawn to as a child still call out to me after all and that's why I am so drawn to Central and South America - the people. I observe and see so much more going at my own pace, as I please. I'm already looking forward to the next adventure!

On backpacking - I brought just enough clothes, I think. I hand-washed a few things here and there. I probably stink today, or at least my clothes do. 😂
I brought: running leggings, denim shorts, Nike shorts, a casual dress, cropped cargo pants, two tshirts, a tank top, a long sleeved shirt, a light jacket, and a rain jacket. Plus Keen hiking shoes and Keen slip on shoes, a bathing suit, something to sleep in, and appropriate underclothes. I didn't use swimsuit but that is only because I got sick. I could have done without the denim shorts and had another pair of Nike shorts instead, but I did wear them. Cargo pants had the most wear, but they are also what I flew in both travel days. And they need a belt, I noticed today while walking down the street in backpack, ice cream in hand, camera in other hand. It was not a comfortable feeling, those pants easing down with every step!  
I didn't use the iPad. It'll stay home next time. I had plenty of room in my backpack for coffee to bring home and still room to spare. Finally-a trip where I didn't overpack! I've finally figured out the most comfortable "settings" on the backpack, here at the end. No worries because it's only been the first and last two days where it's been used so much.

One other thing solo travel is helping me do is lose the "I have to plan and know things or I will have anxiety" attitude. I think at least one friend, if reading this, might chuckle at that. I mean, it's going to be ok even if I don't have a place to stay lined up somewhere. I'll find a place on the fly if need be. Transportation? It'll work out. It always does. There are always enough people traveling the same or a similar pathway. It can be fun to discuss where's and what's with those who are there or have just been there. I just need to remember this. Learn. Not always having the control planning allows is not a bad thing. It's healthy to let some of that shit go and this can carry over to other areas. Don't sweat the small stuff. :)

On that note, next year, I think I want to fly into Mexico, maybe Cancun, and bus south, as time permits. Stop in Akumal and swim with sea turtles, maybe Tulum for the ruins, go on south into Belize. Take a boat to one of the Cayes, spend a day, enjoy the beach, travel into Guatemala, see their beaches, bus to the lake, do the kayaking I missed this time and maybe check out another village or two. Fly out of Guatemala City. 
Another option would be Nicauragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. I also want to visit Bogotá and Chilé and maybe Evuador. Time will tell - but I'm already looking ahead to next time. I'll likely still do Costa Rica in December - I need to surf again with a stronger body. Ok I want to surf more and maybe visit new friends there. But after that, who knows what the world has in store. Travel. Explore. Be. Live. Live. 

Some final pictures follow. Thanks for sticking with this if you're still there. 😊
In my hostel - interesting table.

In Mexico City - street musician. I wish I could post the video!

Mexico City, the National Cathedral by the Zócalo. Hazy day...

2nd story window somewhere in Mexico City

Obligatory dog photo, 2nd story, Mexico City

Double Swallow-tail butterfly. Or flutterby, as luck would have it. A bit blurred as I was zoomed and it sort of flew into my frame. 


What my airport pizza was served with. 😂

My purse zipper broke yesterday. I found this lesther purse from Chiapas in the airport for $18. 


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Day 8 - Travel Day 1

I left my house at 8:15 this morning, but not before taking some pictures. It started out as a beautiful day. 
Seriously. Gorgeous. 
I took some time to play with Milly. 

I said my goodbyes, walked to docks while feeding stray dogs along the way. I made the 9:00 am boat to Panajachel, which arrived around 9:45. Took some photos along the way. 

Many birds

That tree - so pretty.

After I arrived in Pana, I walked around, ate breakfast, went to friend's house at 11:15 to wait for 12:00 shuttle. Yes, I have a friend in Pana! Ha. We were in Antigua by 2:30, caught the shuttle to Guat City at 3:00. I arrived to my hostel by 5 - I was the last stop. 
Within 10 minutes of arriving, I was having a microbrew on the Terrace in the rain with Christian from Montreal. Seriously, solo travel is the best - the people you meet, the stories you learn. 
My shuttle rides were both interesting, too. I bought a bracelet from a girl from Kansas City whose jewelry making has helped finance her trip. I visited with people from Vancouver, the Netherlands, and Ireland. My 2nd shuttle involved interesting conversation about area NGOs and politics with Patty (the Pana friend and one of the founders of the Mayan Families NGO) and a lady from the Virgin Islands. 
People on the shuttle agreed - solo travel makes you more open to possibilities, to talking to strangers, to going with the flow and being open to new possibilities. Being. Be. That word. Again.

Tomorrow is travel day 2. Flight at 6 am to Mexico City. 8 hour layover. Dallas at 9:15 pm.
Camp Esperanza orientation Saturday 8-4. Party at 5, then evening at friend's house (Tish-friend since kindergarten!). Home on Sunday. 
Probably a final wrap up post and the food post are all that remain - until the next trip, which is already brewing in my mind. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Day 7 - Wrapping Up

I finally made it up and out of mi casa! I am currently in Santiago waiting for lunch to be cooked for me. It's my first meal since Monday evening, about 44 hours. Wish me luck. 😳 
My first thoughts upon walking up from the docks was annoyance. Several tuk tuk drivers accosted me, wanting me to buy their tour. I said no gracias. One kept on and walked with me for about 2 blocks before giving up. His price went from 65Q to 20Q. He was annoyed because that was cheap and I could not comminicate that I did not care. I want to walk. I do hope I can find Maximón on my own. It's a chance I'll take. He's an evil character/Saint, depending on who you ask, but i am also beginning to think he's an evil tourist trap that in which I do not want to partake. I will barely have time to find him before catching the 3:30 boat back to San Pedro and then another boat back to San Marcos. (ETA: I did not find Maximón, but here is more info for those interested: This isn't how I planned to spend my last non-travel day, but it is what it is. I am not complaining. I spent the morning reading in the hammock, playing with Milly, and otherwise relaxing. Nothing to complain about there! 

And then on the boat ride - choppy waters today. 

In San Marcos, the walkway to the docks. 

Back on the boat, waiting to leave for San Pedro. In general, I did not like Santiago. From getting off the boat back until I returned to the docks, I felt like I was constantly being hounded to buy things. "No gracias" was usually not strong enough. The only exception was a few blocks where I was away from anything touristy and the only white person in sight. There, I think I was met with curious amusement. I passed a basketball court and grabbed a lose ball. I asked if I could shoot and noticed a small audience watching. Unfortunately, I've lost my touch. 😂😊🏀⛹🏻 A young man with Down Syndrome ran out and took a few shots too. I think that made his day. I said thank you and moved on my way.
Even while waiting for the boat to take off, peddlers were on the dock trying to sell things. People did not seem as friendly, either. Well, unless you count the drunk old man who shook my hand and rattled off I don't know what. He had one tooth and I could not quit staring at it. I said gracias, went on my way, but he caught up with me when I stopped for photos. He shook my hand again. I said buenos tardes and took off quickly. I had seen enough of that tooth. 
Some pictures from the day: 
Veggies on the walkway to the docks - San Marcos 

Another pathway 

La Iglesia - St James the Apostle 

She saw me taking a picture and wanted one taken of her - for 2Q (.26 cents)

She only got 1Q - that's all I had left. She was ok with that. 

I was at the top of the steps taking a picture. This lady shoved my leg. I was in her way. Oops. 

Traditional Mayan attire. I typically didn't see young boys dressed this way. 

Oh Shannon?? :) 

Top of the church 

Another alleyway with interesting lighting and textures.

And then came a ball.
Followed by a boy.
Pros and cons of only bringing a backpack with me? No room for some of the beautiful handmade items. Yes, this is a pro and a con.

Adios, Santiago. 

Clouds in the background. Taken from the boat - wish I could have composed it better. 

Approaching San Pedro, before I had to jog a mile to the other dock to catch my boat. Made it by 2 min!

More laundry 

He wanted his photo taken. 
And then brother did as we were rushing for our boat. 

And then oldest brother pulled a chicken out of his backpack. I asked if it was for dinner (in Spanish) but his mom didn't say. I think it's too small... 
The family 

Tomorrow, I leave here around 8 to go catch a boat to Panajachel. I may wander around a bit and then will meet at Patty's place to wait for the shuttle. She said they usually come to her first which will guarantee a front seat! It's the little things. We go to Antigua and then leave there at 3. I should be at my hostel in Guatemala City by 4:30 or so. I am staying h by the airport; they will shuttle me there at 4 am for a 6 am flight. If all is on time, k expect to go play on Mexico Coty a bit before flying back to Dallas. 
Adios for now!