Lessons Learned ~ 426 days on the road and where to next?

Today I sit in Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico. Exactly where I sat 1 year ago today. It is no new news that our compass appears not just broken but totally deranged, leading us back here and not south to Central America where we were sure you would find us about now. There have been a lot of memorable moments and lessons learned from these last 426 days on the road~ not the least of which is that life is uncertain.

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The Myth of Mexico in the Media

It has been nearly 14 months since we crossed the border south into Mexico. Nearly 14 months of fascinating history, delicious food, gorgeous countryside, and friendly people. Nearly 14 months and thousands of miles covering all of Baja and the vast majority of the mainland. During our time there, we have been disheartened again and again with the negative media regarding this most beloved destination. The myths of Mexico as highlighted in the media are profound.

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The Versatile Blogger Award

What a great life we lead! We slept in a bit this morning after the fun of the 2nd annual La Ventana hot dog crawl and a few too many cocktails. The sun was peeking its way over the horizon on the Sea of Cortez and it was just chilly enough to really enjoy our cup of brew as we meandered the beach watching Aspen chase her coconut. The wander home culminated in the wonderful surprise of seeing Kato & George from 2born2travel had nominated us for the Versatile Blogger Award!

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A Year of Coddiwomple

In 2015 my word for the year ahead was transformation and wow, did we ever do it up right. We sold our house and the majority of our material goods, we moved into our camper and headed south to points unknown in search of a different lifestyle.

2016 found me choosing surprise as my word for the year and, once again, the universe provided. In fact, no one is more surprised than I to find myself not somewhere in southern Central America, but back in Mexico!

For 2017 I may have found the perfect word to truly describe not just the year ahead, but a more general thought on our life in general:

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A Lesson in Coffee Production ~ Guatemala Style

I was never one to appreciate coffee, just as I was in my mid 20’s before I developed a taste for beer. I totally blame this on my parents. Growing up in small town Minnesota with Folgers instant coffee and restaurants, ok lets be honest and call them truck stops, chosen merely for offering a bottomless cup of bad coffee did not inspire the desire to imbibe. In addition, my parents also drank this bad coffee loaded with milk and sugar as one does, of course, when drinking crap.

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Travel to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala ~ What you Need to Know.

We are in paradise. Granted, we’ve been to quite a few “bits of paradise” in our years of travel, but Lake Atitlan is pure magic. We came for a couple of weeks, and just extended our stay so it will equal nearly the entire length of our 90 day visa. Other friends came for four days, and just hit their four week mark. Like I said, this place is magic. Having said that, the road into the lake is shit. And I mean total shit, the sort of road that gives you nightmares for a couple of days after arrival. Here is what you need to know if you, too, are planning on visiting Guatemala.

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A Tale of Four Borders

Border crossing days ~ no one relishes the chaos and confusion of attempting to exit one country and enter another. Now, we have done a lot of border crossings all around the world. But driving ourselves, and with black dog in tow, requires a bit more thought. And yet, we had somehow done almost zero research on what would become only our second country, but fourth border crossing in nine months. Finally, a mere 24 hours before the big day, we actually fired up the laptops to find out what the hell we were getting ourselves into.

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Gear Review ~ Lodge Dutch Oven

Overlanders depend on their gear. After all, most of us are homeless in the traditional sense. The road is our home, and the gear we travel with can make or break the trip. As very active campers even in our old life, we were quite certain what cooking gear was going to make the list for the PanAm. Although we quibbled over and considered a few items, one item never in doubt was our Lodge Dutch Oven.

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An Embarrassment of Choices ~ Travel Beyond the Crowds

Written in cooperation with Goodshop.

New travelers are often at a loss when choosing a vacation destination. For experienced travelers, the choice is not so much about where to go, but where not to go, for an embarrassment of choices for world travel exists. Searching for the best travel deals or coupons from Priceline is a given, but researching a location can be a more formidable task. While the normal, and proven, questions to ask yourself will point you in the right direction, below is a rundown of a few of the must-see regions around the world, but with a slightly different viewpoint.

Mexico~

Image via Flickr by Greencolander

High on many travelers’ lists, Mexico is a destination that arises again and again. Part of the appeal is simply the proximity and short flight times from the United States. However, many only look to this vibrant country as a beach destination.

While beaches on both coasts are stunning and offer different experiences from one another, part of the great appeal of this diverse country is in its hills. From the Copper Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world, to the colonial hill towns such as Patzcuaro and San Miguel de Allende, much of the magnetism of this amazing country is found far from the sands of the coastline.

Southeast Asia~

Image via Flickr by poida.smith

Nearly every traveler is aware of the charms of Southeast Asia — the chaotic charm of the large cities, the fantastic food, the inexpensive massages, and the verdant and rich countryside. As the gateway to the region, Bangkok is nearly impossible to avoid, but move beyond this fabled city to discover an impressive diversity. Vietnam offers French colonial architecture, amazing food, and immense beauty.

Cambodia’s recently troubled past is merging into a young, progressive country full of hope, as well as the home of the extraordinary ruins of Angkor Wat. Laos, long considered the ugly stepchild of the area, has emerged as a front-runner on the lists among those in the know. Myanmar, recently reopened to tourism, offers the astonishing ruins of Bagan, as well as a feeling of stepping back in time.

Europe~

Image via Flickr by jarnold221

Granted, nearly everything has been “discovered” in Europe. If finding great flight deals so that you can jet to the continent sits high on your bucket list, never fear; you can still find ways to avoid the crowds. Most travelers simply do not have the time to get off the beaten path and explore. Thus, they follow the guidebook crowd from one photo op to the next.

Fully escaping the tourist crowds may be a challenge, but to get a more personal experience, you need only walk a few blocks away. When St. Mark’s Square is literally sinking in the crowds, meander a few blocks off the square and discover a Venice with no crowds. If you can no longer bear the crush of humanity in the Louvre, see what you must see and escape to the more civilized crowds of Sainte-Chapelle or the Musée Rodin.

Wherever your holiday may take you, using a few simple techniques can create a magical experience. Instead of having a holiday like everyone else has, venture a few steps off the beaten path to find the true local charms.

Inevitable Comparisons

I know I shouldn’t compare. I know I should live in the moment, focus on what is in front of me, not develop a “been there, done that” mentality. And yet, the more I travel, the more these inevitable comparisons raise their ugly head.

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