backpacker

6 Months in Central America

 

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The Expat Ending

Last year when I came back through the United States I knew I had a series of wrap-up blog posts to write – photo projects, how my planning worked out, how it felt to be done with that trip and moving forward, highlights of places I visited. The list was long and comprehensive.

This year I feel like I should do the same, but I don’t have a list. I don’t really know how to neatly wrap things up like I did before. Going through some pictures the other night I was reminded that my Central America adventure started much like my round the world trip, hopping from place to place seeing the sights of a new region. But in December that got derailed when I decided to stay in Antigua for an unknown amount of time. Over the next six months I built a life there, and that’s what has defined this part of my Travel Abrodge. I became an expat.

And I couldn’t imagine any better way to end this adventure.

One thing that I craved when I set out again in September was to get stuck somewhere. I’d encountered places in my first year that were tempting but I was so set on my moving itinerary that it wouldn’t have been possible to really enjoy stopping. This time though that wasn’t the case. I was intrigued by what it meant to be an expat, to get to know a place on a deeper level. Antigua became that place.

Antigua, the expat haven. It’s not a unique choice for this kind of experience, but maybe that’s also why it was appealing. I entered a place where expats were a huge part of the community. For better or for worse, I wasn’t alone.

I straddled a line between expat community – Cafe No Se – and Guatemalans and backpackers – Lucky Rabbit – in a way that made me feel like I got a pretty well-rounded experience of what living in Antigua was like. And on top of that, I had a more grounded life than I had maybe ever had before. I had a house, I had a relationship, I was caring for two dogs, I started to know people in town, was invited to parties in the city, became a person people would come visit at the bar, and couldn’t walk around without running into someone I knew. For the first time in a long time I felt like I had a real home and it was in Guatemala. A little bubble of Guatemala called Antigua. But it still had the market and the water issues and the language and the characteristics of being a town in Guatemala.

It was everything I didn’t know I was looking for, and even though it came to an end somewhat abruptly, I will forever be happy I experienced that life. My first year away was world exploration, constant movement, the backpacker life. My second year was dominated by this expat life. It’s the best combination that really made me feel like I’ve done it all now. Of course it’s not possible to have “done it all,” it never will be, but without that expat time I would not feel like I could come back to the States. Come back to a job. Come back to a life I never knew I would want to return to. It’s because of Antigua that I realized I did want to return to it.

Thank you to Antigua – to everyone there for making me feel so welcomed, so at home, and to the town itself for being the picture perfect place to stay.

Over the next couple of months I will probably write a handful of posts on concluding thoughts from the past two years. I don’t know what form they will take yet or where they will lead me. I just know that I can wholeheartedly say that I have just lived some of the best years of my life. It is bittersweet saying that it’s over, but if I’ve learned anything from it all, something wonderful still lies ahead. It always does.

Early Morning Musings

I woke up today thinking about New Zealand. I have no idea why. I couldn’t remember the name of that grocery store that I was so in love with, the one that had cheap fresh products perfect for the backpacker budget. New something. New Lands? No, that’s the Justice song I put to my Fraser Island video. New… New… World! New World! Yes I wrote a post about it. After Kaikoura, when I woke up to see the sunrise with tea. Tea sounds nice. I’ll go make some tea and read my post about New World.

That led to watching my road trip video to the boat video to the oceans video to the sandboarding video and I felt myself enter a downward spiral of reminiscing and nostalgia. I knew I didn’t actually want to be on the road again, but I will always miss the lifestyle I had that year.

I’m just shy of a year away from the end of my 300 days around the world, so maybe that’s a contributing factor to this feeling of uncertainty about settling into a single place for so long. Every Timehop that shows me where in Japan I was a year ago is just a countdown to the end of that trip, to the time my first year of travel was over, to that feeling in the Seoul airport when I had a panic attack about going back Stateside. I’m not Stateside now but I am stopped. I live and work in one place, something I haven’t been able to say for almost two years.

And I just got back from San Francisco, the last place that I did live and work. It’s been a rough adjustment since I got back a week ago. I do owe you a blog post on my time there, and that will help explain this a bit, but suffice it to say that reentering my old life for two weeks has put my new life in serious contrast and I’m not sure how it will play out. Yes I am still happy in Antigua, yes I still believe this was the right choice for me right now, and yes I am still staying for the foreseeable future. For the foreseeable future. What lies beyond the seeable I don’t know yet.

I do know that for now, I must make the most of my time here. Many of my friends are on their way out or have already left. Sometimes I feel like I’ll outlast everyone. But then I remember how many people have left and come back and are still around and I am still just getting to know and I know that there is still more for me here. But what some of these friends have said about their final days in Antigua is how much they’ve come to appreciate it at the end, almost like seeing it for the first time again. That instant love that we all felt when we got here, that made us stay here, seems to return when you’re about to leave. So instead of waiting for that moment when I decide to leave, I will try to remember every day how wonderful this place is and make it my own. It won’t be my permanent home, so in a way every day I’m here is like a day on my way out. Even if that final out is still months away.

But for now, I will indulge my nostalgia and watch a few more travel videos. And why not? Those first 300 days remain 300 of the best days of my life. Why wouldn’t I want to relive and remember them any chance I can?

A Chicken Bus Adventure from Antigua to Lake Atitlan

10 days after I arrived in Antigua I finally tore myself away to the next Guatemala destination on my list: Lake Atitlan. I had already begun to talk to people about staying longer in Antigua but felt like I needed some time away to wrap my head around this decision to stop moving. So I moved. On chicken buses.

Chicken buses are the generally accepted name for old school buses that have been on Pimp My Ride Latin America. They’re colorfully painted, decorated with stickers on the windshield, and outfitted with speaker systems that blast the local Latin music in your ears for the whole ride. People are packed into the seats six across, forcing the middle two to sit with half a butt cheek on a seat and the other hovering in the aisle. The classic joke “how many people can you fit on a chicken bus?” “one more” is entirely accurate. Speed limits don’t seem to exist in Guatemala in general, but even less so for chicken buses. On one winding mountain road it was a full body workout to keep myself from crushing the people on either side of me as I stood at the front of the aisle. The bus took turns like a rally car driver, forcing everyone to either hold on for dear life or play jello. Even the driver had to hold on on the turns.

The way to San Marcos La Laguna took four chicken buses and a boat. I started at the local market in Antigua and found the first bus to Chimaltenango. I sat in the last row on the bus so I could quickly jump out the back door when it was my turn to exit. I didn’t realize just how quickly I would have to jump. When we got to Chima a nice old man tapped me on the shoulder and pointed that it was time to get out. We were on the side of a busy highway intersection on the edge of town, was this really my stop? The back door swung open and someone asked me, “Donde vas?” “La Escuinta!” “Si aqui, la cruz a La Escuinta. Aca!” And he pointed at a bus that was hovering on the main road perpendicular to us. I threw my backpack on my back and jumped out the back of the barely even stopped bus and ran to the door of the next one. “La Escuinta?” “Si!”

I stepped onto chicken bus #2 as it started to accelerate to see that it was packed to the rim. My backpack found a home underneath the dashboard, held in place by a Guatemala police officer, as I found a place standing in the front of the aisle holding onto the metal rails. This was the workout ride when I thought we might go careening off the road at any turn. Every time someone passed me to get off I had to do a yoga move just to let them through.

The La Escuinta stop was another highway intersection. I jumped off one bus and found the bus to Pana (Panajachel). Finally I could calmly board a bus and wait for it to go. However this was not the bus to Pana but a bus to halfway to Pana, so without warning everyone got off and switched to another bus. Not calm anymore. Finally I made it to Pana.

The bus goes into the center of Pana to the market, but the boats are at the edge of town, so with the direction of “abajo” I walked 15 minutes back to the water’s edge. I don’t know why I expected more of a port – probably because Pana is the main tourist town on the lake and boats run from here to every town – but when I arrived I was slightly surprised by the small, rickety docks and boats. One final mini conversation consisting of location name and pointing at transport and I was on the boat to San Marcos. 30 minutes on rocky waters later I had arrived.

4 buses, 1 boat, 4 hours of travel, 46 quetzales, aka US$6.

It may sound stressful, but I actually found it entirely entertaining. I was laughing to myself most of the way. The chaos somehow works, and it made for a much more interesting ride than the shuttle.

The way back I took the same route with 4 buses, although the next time I was at the lake I had the patience to wait for the bus from Pana straight to Chimaltenango, cutting the ride down to 2. It was much easier that way for just 5Q more. But I’m happy to have done it the chaotic way the first time. Now I feel like I can go anywhere on these buses.

 

Hitchhiking Mexico

As I packed up to leave San Cristobal I was on the border between total acceptance of what I was about to do as normal and not really believing what I was about to do. I was going to hitchhike halfway across Mexico with people I had just met. For the most part I seemed to be confident in the decision, I wasn’t having any inner or outer turmoil, but once in a while a wave of uncertainty would come. It was anxious uncertainty not fearful uncertainty so I decided it was a good thing – I wouldn’t want to enter into something like hitchhiking with blind confidence so some anxiety would keep me alert, and I hadn’t felt this way in a long time, not since I had gone back to the States, so I welcomed that something stirred it back up.

Saying yes to hitchhiking and actually doing it are two very different things. When I said yes I had the same idealistic visions that everyone probably does when they think about the freedom of the road. I saw us striding down the sun-drenched highway, music playing on the portable speaker while we entertained ourselves with jovial conversations or the street side version of car games, bonding while waiting with our thumbs out until the next pick-up truck told us to hop into the bed and took us as far as we needed to go. The reality did include moments like that, but if I said that was all it was it would be like reminiscing about school or a failed relationship – only acknowledging the good and ignoring the bad. Just like the rest of life, hitchhiking had plenty of both.

I’ll start with the good: we had some great rides.

On the way up to Tulum we were especially lucky, starting with Roxy. Leaving Ocosingo Brayan barely even stuck his thumb out at the first van coming our direction but it immediately pulled over. Roxy had driven from Vancouver Island down to Mexico in her Chevrolet minivan, which she had converted into a mobile home with a platform bed in the back. She had plans to go to Agua Azul and Palenque then up to Merida and said she would take us as far as she could without veering off her route. We spent two nights with Roxy, first camping at Agua Azul and then at a gas station about an hour from the intersection where we would have to say goodbye; she was continuing North and we needed to go East. She was a gem.

After saying goodbye to Roxy in Escarcega it took less than 5 minutes to get a ride in the back of a white pick up truck. That day was the day of white pick up trucks: three in a row took us almost all the way across the peninsula. I discovered the joy of riding in a truck bed and learned that the velocity of the car keeps you dry in a flash rainstorm. These rides felt like what hitchhiking was all about.

Our luck continued when we moved from Bacalar to Tulum. First we all crammed into the cab of a delivery truck whose hungover or maybe still drunk driver stopped to buy us all a couple of beers. Risky, but hilarious. We picked up another six-pack before jumping in the back of another pick-up that took us into Tulum. We arrived energized and quite tipsy.

On the way back to the Guatemalan border we snagged a ride that took us all the way from about an hour outside Tulum to south of Escarcega – around 10 hours of driving. Not for the claustrophobic, I spent the entire 10 hours closed up inside the back of this mobile exposition delivery truck. No windows, no air flow, laying on a horizontal dolly covered with moving mats. Somehow this ride was one of my highlights of the experience. Brayan and I just chilled in the back, talking about life and napping, while trusting that Ale and Matt up front would make sure we weren’t being kidnapped. We went through two police checkpoints and both officers that opened up the back door were shocked to see me inside the truck. I just said hola and, after a confused pause, they closed the door again and we kept moving. For a second I thought we were being sold, but everything turned out fine.

Our final great ride was in the bed of a pick-up truck that was covered by a cage. It took us through an incredibly gorgeous landscape at magic hour. We sat on top of the cage, smiling like fools, knowing that our hitchhiking would end the following day. We were almost at the Guatemalan border.

The second good: I got to see everything I missed the first time.

Like I said before, I was repeating my route through Mexico. I went back to Palenque, back to Green Monkey and Bacalar, back to the Pancho Villa campsite and Tulum, back through the same border crossing from Mexico into Guatemala, and back through Flores to get to Antigua. But this time I filled in the holes from my first visit.

On the way to Palenque I got to see Agua Azul and Misol Ha, two impressive and different waterfalls. Agua Azul is a large system with multiple levels of cascades and pools to swim in, and Misol Ha is a long solo drop. Back in Bacalar I actually did stand up paddle boarding this time (although I was not properly warned that it would be 5 long hard hours with wind and rain and without food or water). Back in Tulum I got to go to Akumal to swim with sea turtles. So even though I had already been to these places, it was thanks to hitchhiking that I now really felt like I’d done it all.

The bad: we spent a lot of time waiting on the side of the road.

Our first couple of days we were so lucky with getting rides really quickly that I was tricked into thinking hitchhiking was easy. Traveling back from Tulum to the Guatemala border was harder. We sometimes had to wait an hour or more for someone to pull over, and with the exception of the 10 hour truck ride most people didn’t bring us very far. It was hot sitting on the side and disheartening constantly sticking a thumb out at cars that didn’t even slow down. I think the difference was that on the way up we were always walking with our thumbs out, so people took pity on us. On the way down we were sitting on the side waiting, so people just keep on going. We tested this theory our last day and it was actually quicker to get a ride when we were moving. Lesson learned.

The second bad: tensions ran high.

I don’t want to get into it too much, but suffice it to say that when four people who are used to solo travel are now constantly together opinions will collide. How far we should go with a ride, where we should spend the night, what crossing we should aim for, how we should try to get rides – there are decisions that still have to be made despite the just go with it style of travel, and when people are on opposite sides it can lead to uncomfortable situations. And it’s not like there’s anywhere to go cool off for a while when fights happen on the side of the road; the only option is to walk 10 feet further down and wait it out. This contributed to our jumping on a bus when we got into Guatemala. We had made it out of Mexico, it was time to be done with this.

The overall: it was a great experience.

I can now say that I know how to hitchhike. And that I survived hitching in Mexico. Which is not nearly as scary as it might sound. I loved the uncertainty that came with it – we didn’t know how far we’d make it in a day or where we’d sleep that night. I never would have guessed that I would sleep in a tent at a gas station on the side of a highway. We met some great characters along the way. And most importantly, I made some great friendships. What started as a whim adventure up to Tulum turned into a life in Antigua, where I continued to hang out with Ale, Brayan, and Matt.

Writing this weeks later I can say that the decision to hitchhike changed everything. What that means I’ll elaborate on later, but it’s moments like this, when I decide to just say yes to whatever comes my way, that I cherish most about traveling. This yes attitude, this ultimate flexibility, this go with the flow life, this is why I kept going. Trust in the universe and it will lead you to where you should be.

BARcalar

Bacalar was the embodiment of what I wanted to happen in this trip.

I was not planning on going to Bacalar. I’d read that the lagoon was pretty but it was on the way to Belize, which I had already cut, instead of along the prescribed Yucatan route I had embarked on. But after I lost count of how many people told me I had to go to Bacalar, I remembered that I wanted to follow that kind of advice this time no matter what path I may have thought I was on. So I joined John and Thomas, my Valladolid/Merida travel companions, and went to check out this rumored lake haven.

What I discovered at Laguna Bacalar was serenity, comfort, good people, and good vibes. It was everything I was hoping it would be. When I arrived I booked two nights – I stayed four. That’s just how things go for me now.

We stayed at the Green Monkey, a laid back hostel right on the lake. When we arrived they had space in the bus – a yellow school bus whose seats had been replaced by bunk beds – so we booked two nights there. Because when you get a chance to play Lost and sleep on an abandoned bus you go for it.

The day we arrived it was rainy and muddy. The lake was nowhere near the color it was supposed to be and, since all the activity in Bacalar centers on and around the lake, there wasn’t much to do. But the point of Bacalar wasn’t to go go go, it was just to chill, so I didn’t mind the excuse to dig into the literary feat I had decided to set out with this trip  – Moby Dick – and chat with the other travelers who were sticking it out hoping for good weather. Day two had some patches of sun, just in time for our excursion to the swings on the lake and margaritas, but day three we woke up to a beautiful sunrise. It didn’t take much convincing to extend our stay another night, although we were forced out of the bus due to an influx of online reservations and had to settle for a hammock. When I extended yet another night I actually asked for the hammock even though beds were open; I loved sleeping outside in the breeze. Those last two days were perfect weather. John and I did a little boat excursion one morning, but otherwise I spent most of my time hanging out in hammocks or on the dock.

It probably doesn’t sound like somewhere that would be so hard to leave when the main thing to do is just sit around and look at how pretty it is, but that is just the foundation of why I stayed longer. The beautiful setting got everyone there, but it was the everyone that made us all stay. The travelers that were in love with this place were cut from the same cloth. Everyone wanted to take a step back from the pace of the Yucatan, relax in a lovely place, and spin yarn with other people who wanted to do the same. A group would form on the dock swapping stories before deciding to grab veggie burgers together for lunch in town. Three out of four nights I cooked dinner with a mixture of travelers. My last night we enjoyed rum punch and cigars while playing a dice game. The talented Irish couple treated us to a live performance of traditional music and Tenacious D. Friendships were formed, laughs were had, and memories were made that will live with us all forever.

The lake was a big part of it all though. I felt like I’d returned to a home in an alternate world. A dock, ample reading time, and the clearest turquoise fresh water lake – I was in the Wörthersee of Mexico. All those years I visited the lake in Austria came flooding back to me at Laguna Bacalar. No wonder I wanted to stay as long as possible, it was familiar and sentimental and relaxed me to the core.

I left Bacalar in a way similar to my arrival there – totally unexpectedly. I had gone under the impression that I would continue with John to Palenque in Mexico. Something inside me felt uncomfortable about the prospect of the night bus though, and after a couple of days of hesitating with the idea, combined with a great group of people I didn’t want to leave just yet, I came up with an alternative that allowed me to leave after one more night on a day trip. I would go to Flores, Guatemala.

Flores, the launching point for Tikal and El Mirador, two sites I absolutely did not want to miss, is not near the rest of Guatemala. But geographically it happens to be almost on the way from Bacalar to Palenque. And our hostel offered a direct bus to Flores. And then I picked up a new travel buddy, Cassidy, who also wanted to see Flores but probably wouldn’t make it if she didn’t come with me. So totally last minute I changed the pseudo-plan once again and the next morning Cassidy and I left for Guatemala.

So because of travelers I landed in Bacalar. Because of the idyllic setting and other travelers I extended my stay in Bacalar. And because of gut instinct and spontaneity I left Bacalar for Guatemala.

Thoughts from Tulum

October 11, 2015.

“Just over 2 weeks into this trip I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of transitions in my thoughts about what I’m doing now.

First was the feeling that the phrase “this trip” was incorrect. I am traveling, but don’t want to set an itinerary. As soon as I shed the idea of this being a “trip” and started thinking of it as just my life, the lingering logistical tendencies from last year started to fade away. Recommendations are great but I don’t have to do them all – I can change everything as I go.

Second followed that idea: all the ways I was documenting my trip, little projects and things I always did or collected, I don’t have to do anymore. The food project is done, ticket stubs are expendable, if I don’t write down a town or city in this notebook that’s ok. I am not extending the RTW trip but living a nomadic life, so I don’t need to keep up with things I did last year, they are also done. This extends to pictures too. I find myself just being places more and leaving the camera in my bag.

Which brings me to three: the blog. Do I have to blog about everything? I went through a weird two days in Playa that really don’t have to be explained, so can I just leave that part out? Separately but along the same idea, do I now try to monetize my blog? It’s always been for friends, family, and myself to keep track of where I went, but now it could change just like my experience is changing.

Fourth, my budget. I started out with the same spreadsheet, tracking every dollar I spent. Then I got to Tulum and lost track and didn’t care. I know what it costs to travel the world already, what does it matter this time? And as a new friend asked, “Doesn’t it get exhausting worrying about money all the time?” Yes, yes it does. So if I want to go diving in a cenote, fuck it, I’m going diving in a cenote. Maybe this time I will see what “till I run out of money” actually means, and in the process I’ll have the time of my fucking life.

What all of this means really is that I’ve totally put my RTW travel behind me, sealed as a complete trip. What happens from here on out only time will tell. But I have released myself from all the pressures of my previous experience. I am truly just wandering. Maybe I should change this to my WanderAbrodge.”

At Home on the Road in Mexico

At 3:00 am my alarm went off. Time to get up for my flight.

Last year that alarm was overwhelmed by anxious nerves that caused me to jump out of bed at the first note. This year I groggily exerted the effort to shut it up and stumbled to the bathroom to wash my face. That’s when it happened – out of nowhere a song popped into my head that would not leave me until I was speeding through the air thousands of miles above the earth.

Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known,
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone…

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I was aware of what I was about to do, and apparently that somewhere decided Whitesnake was my best departure anthem.

Pre-Departure Face

Pre-Departure Face

So with an apropos 80’s rock anthem playing on repeat in my head, I went through the motions like the veteran traveler I had become. Nothing phased me about the flying routine: I swiftly removed and replaced my laptop and shoes; I easily fell asleep upright without even an eye shade; I was on the free Phoenix wifi faster than it took my coffee to reach drinkable temperature. No on-board meal or entertainment? No problem, my body remembered how to survive on snacks and my mind on wandering.

Then I landed. I had mild reactions to the stimuli that come with being in a foreign place, but I was still waiting for the “holy shit I’m actually here!” feeling to hit. Sure the signs around me were in Spanish, but I was just trying to see how much I could understand when I read them. And I had to go through immigration, but I just smiled at the colorful new stamp and was grateful that the officer continued my passport flow by putting it on the same page as Canada. And even though the questions I was asked were not in my native tongue, I just automatically responded with “Hola” “Si” and “Gracias,” even eliciting an, “Ah tu hablas Español?” To which I responded, “No no, un poquito.” I calmly walked through the terminal searching for and fairly easily acquiring the two things I needed – cash from an ATM and a Mexican SIM card. No big deal there either. Then I got an Uber (now that was a change from the normal sketchy cab negotiation) to my friend’s apartment.

I stared out the window at the new city passing by. I was fully aware of where I was, and I was excited about it, but it wasn’t stomach flipping, heart pounding, pulse racing excited, it was just excited like I was excited to go to dinner with friends last week or go on a hike in Vermont.

It’s like Whitesnake said, “Like a drifter I was born to be alone … Here I go again.” Let me try to explain it a different way – when you’re home, do you feel a stomach flipping excitement? On the road I am home. I cannot properly express my joy at being in Mexico City because it’s so natural that it doesn’t feel worthy of over-embellishment.

I may not be making any sense, I did only get 2 hours of sleep, so just trust me: I feel like I’m where I should be.

In case this is a strange let down of a post about my arrival in Mexico, I will leave you with a scene of how I spent my first evening here.

After dropping my stuff at the apartment, I realized how starving I was, so I walked two blocks to a recommended and delicious cafe. I ate my mango chutney pollo sandwich at a counter looking out at the street – no headphones, no books – watching life go by. I left the cafe and walked the ring of Avenida Amsterdam in Condesa, where I’m staying. In the center of the street there is a pedestrian path surrounded by varying thicknesses of flora through which I saw the diversity and attractiveness of the architecture here and the many bars and restaurants this area has to offer. As I write this, the sounds of a live band playing upbeat, dance-inducing Mexican music is wafting up to the apartment from one of those bars below. If you asked me to move onto this street today, I would say yes. If this first impression holds up, I have a feeling Mexico City will find a permanent home my favorite cities list.

This scene and the travel experience before it have one majorly important thing in common: I am back at it again, and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t feel lost or unsure of this decision, I feel like I have jumped right back into the swing of my life. Hopefully that is what this first post of Round Two: Round the Central America conveys.

Avenida Amsterdam

Avenida Amsterdam

My Stuff is Ready to Go

I’m all packed. Same Gregory Deva 60L backpack, same Fjallraven Totepack No.1, same packing cubes and system – I fell back into old habits pretty quickly. I’ve made a few adjustments here and there based upon my experience from last year, but despite saying that I was going to bring less I think that I am actually straddling the line between reduced packing and over packing. Here’s why.

I have two weeks in San Francisco first. This has led to a fairly blasé attitude about the shirts I am bringing. I have a third cube of clothing that is “for SF” and that I say I will get rid of when I leave, but just like the “for Rio” bag last year I have a feeling some of it will stay with me longer. I also threw in an extra of everything again, knowing that I technically have the space to fit it. And, since I have pretty much zero attachment to anything I’m bringing with me, the fact that I don’t mind ditching things along the way has contributed to the extra stuff – I admit it’s a bit backwards but thinking “I’ll just throw it out if I don’t want it anymore” resulted in more stuff sneaking in. Plus with the warm climate I’m going to they’re all small tank tops that don’t take up much room. So with that, I admitted defeat to myself and packed up everything.

But I still don’t count the “for SF” cube as being part of my 6-months-worth of clothing. So here is what I’m bringing for the trip, minus the supposed “for SF” stuff.

6 Months of Clothes

Clothes for 6 Months

Doesn’t look too bad right? 4 tanks and 4 tshirts, 2 long sleeves, 1 inbetweener, 1 cardigan, 1 dress, 1 jeans, 1 black yoga-type pants (hopefully to be replaced ASAP), 1 shorts, 1 set of sleeping stuff (shorts and tank), 9 socks and underwear, 4 bra types, 1 bathing suit (but top and bottom are reversible so it’s like having 4), 1 sneakers, 1 Toms, 1 Tevas (bringing the Tevas back), 2 hats, 1 gloves, 1 buff, and 1 scarf (not pictured, had to dig it out of a box).

One thing that is also more concrete this time is the notion that I will get things I need along the way. Like new pants. Last time I got thin loose pants in Vietnam that ended up being a great addition – mostly for hot weather temple days when I had to be covered up – and I’m hoping I’ll find something similar this time. They would replace the black yoga-type pants that I do not want to bring but packed anyway since I need some alternative to jeans. Picking up clothing and accessories that I needed was also a great excuse to get souvenirs.

Other things that are not pictured here are the same practical items I had last time – medical kit, hygiene stuff, collapsible 1L water bottle, sleep sheet, etc. If you’re really curious just let me know and I can list those out too, but it’s pretty much everything you’d expect.

My electronics haven’t changed either: Canon G16, GoPro, Lenovo laptop, iPhone 4S. They all worked so well why would I change anything? I did not end up getting the external hard drive like I said I would, I just couldn’t justify the price, so I’ll go with Google Drive again. It works fine, as long as I can get enough of an internet connection to upload. Plus now I know my camera’s memory card has enough space for over 6,000 photos. I did bring a back-up 4GB SD card again, but this time loaded it up with movies I forgot I had on my external hard drive at home. Since I am out of Sopranos (anyone want to send me seasons 4-6?) I need something else to entertain me when I don’t feel like reading. For music I am bringing my shuffle again, but I have tripled the amount of songs in my iTunes library. Just because the shuffle can only hold 150 songs doesn’t mean I only have to have 150 songs with me. This way whenever I plug in my shuffle it will randomly select a new batch of songs to load so I’ll have at least some change of music. I plan on doing that about once a month.

I did get travel insurance again: Explorer level through World Nomads. Now if something happens to me in the caves in Mexico or on a flight to the Corn Islands I will be protected. Better to be safe than sorry. All my important Google Docs have been updated and I made sure to scan in my license this time so if it gets stolen at a club again I will have some proof I can drive. Major oversight on my part last time.

So with all the logistics taken care of, I’m all set and ready to go. You’d think I’d be jumping up and down in excitement, but for some reason I’m pretty relaxed about all of this. Maybe because it’s become so routine for me now there’s no reason to stress. Or maybe it’s just not real yet, and I need to get on that plane before it sinks in. Or maybe the distraction of seeing everyone in SF first is pushing the international trip to the back of my mind. Whatever the reason, at least I’m not freaking out about anything. And now I can just enjoy my last weekend in the beautiful countryside of Vermont.