$7,035.57 = How much it costs to travel around the world through nine countries over five and a half months

 

Since I get a lot of questions about how much it actually costs to travel, I thought I might go through what my trip around the world (across Asia to Europe and back to the US, click here for the rough map) cost according to my bank statements.

Cost is obviously one of the most important factors in deciding where and when to travel. Before beginning, I should say that a lot of my trip was in the low season for many places (that is, not summer), and I would almost always travel in the cheapest class of transportation Read More ...

Revisited: How to pack for an independent traveler with no set return date

 

As I am starting a trip that will take me from China to (hopefully) Eastern Europe over the next several months, I thought I might go through what I am packing for this trip. There have been a few changes since my last trip's packing list (link for original packing post), mostly in terms of electronics, but for the most part it is very similar. Overall, my goal is maximum mobility and minimum weight, but not bare-bones, super lightweight (for that, see No-baggage challenge). My backpack is right around 25-28 pounds (11-13 kg), so it's light Read More ...

A glimpse in the thoughts of Bolod Namkhai Mukhadi

 

Click here for an explanation of "A glimpse in the thoughts of..."

Bolod was the owner of the guesthouse that I stayed at in Ulaanbataar, and, due to it being the low tourist season, also my source of transport/translation when I headed out to the Mongolian countryside. His main guesthouse was actually closed, but I stayed in his "suburban guesthouse", which was just a room in his house with his wife and kids.

He grew up in a small village in Eastern Mongolia and came to the capital when he was young for school. Coming of age when Read More ...

How to get Chinese and Russian visas as a United States citizen: My experience

 

Preparing for my trip to Asia, I had to obtain visas before arrival to China and Russia. Since I am just finishing up this process, I wanted to describe the steps that I went through in case anyone might be doing the same thing and wants to save some time on research. This is geared for the independent traveler without set itinerary.

I want to emphasize that it may be different depending on where you are from in the United States (and obviously different if you are from a different country, check here for the Russian consulate and Read More ...

Marathon hitchhiking: Southern Mexico to Michigan in 7 days over 3,400 mi

 

Day 1

5:30 am. I'm leaving my hostel in San Cristobal as the sun breaks, already reminiscing about the cool weather, good people, and nice local markets stocked with fresh produce every day for pennies. I have left myself two weeks to hitchhike back to Michigan (click here to see the route). After talking with a few of the dread-locked, unicycle-riding sort on the street last night about hitchhiking, I decide to take colectivos up to Villahermosa since hitching in Chiapas is supposedly fraught with long waits and suspicious people. Another big plus is that the main highway to Read More ...

Mango Surprise: Being the victim of a random, delicious act of kindness

 

This story is the other side of the news reports, the non-profitable story, the anti-State Department website of the capital of Guatemala, Guatemala City. Instead of pointless violence, I am writing about pointless kindness.

After being abroad for a long period of time in non-traditional tourist spots, a certain persistent question always and unavoidably comes up: “But, isn’t it dangerous in [insert city]?” Even between long-term travelers who should know better the question is frequently asked, with swapping stories of tourist crime (usually second or third hand and undoubtedly exaggerated for narrative effect) being an entertaining way to pass the time Read More ...

How to wash your clothes by hand while traveling quickly and effectively

You have set out to travel to extract yourself from the daily routine, but there is one chore that will never go away: dirty clothes (nudist colonies an exception). And if you´re trying to save money on the road, or just don´t trust that random lady on the corner lavanderia, washing your clothes by hand is the only option that´s left. The good news is that it´s easier than you think, and with practice becomes no chore at all and you can tailor it to your situation. Here´s a quick run down on how to get it done.

Read More ...

How to get the local price for anything while abroad

With the cash economy spread to every corner of the globe, it´s no hidden fact that travelers abroad are many times looked at more as breathing cash machines and less as curiosities from foreign lands. It´s not that people are necessarily looking to grab money from tourists, but rather that poverty incentivizes creative pricing where price tags are lacking. Those of us traveling on a budget for extended periods need to economize since we´re already putting a hefty bit of cash into the local economies of the places we visit, so let opportunists prey on the less saavy traveler. There Read More ...

The elevated waterfalls of Semuc Champey

semuc champey guatemalaAfter leaving from Lago Atitlán I made my way to the obligatory Guatemalan tourist destination of Semuc Champey (the other being Tikal, some impressive Mayan ruins), a set of limestone waterfalls that split from and are elevated above the river that feeds it. Half the ride there was kept busy by a clearly and admittedly post traumatic stress disorder-suffering American vet of Iraq/Afghanistan who had a strong scent of rum on his breath at 9am in the morning. He had no reservations about getting teary-eyed while recounting stories during the war and how he was injured and sent home to pass time on the streets of Boston before getting himself together. Although, not all of his stories were war-related, the one coming to mind about his brief romance with the Nicaraguan finance minister´s daughter (the image of him brashly holding up his hand in an okay sign while half-yelling, "Mmmm, tight as a whistle!" with a bus full of Nicaraguans staring at the scene will remain comically stuck in my head). Needless to say it was an intense bus ride, and he definitely left an impression on

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Two dollar kayaks and firejugglers: Lago Atitlán (San Pedro de la Laguna)

 

fire thrower san pedro de la laguna lago atitlan guatemalaAs happens often when traveling, I met a few people in the hostel and the bus towards Lago Atitlán from Antigua and we formed a ragtag ad hoc travel clique consisting of Alen the Slovenian/Aussie, Jean Cristophe (aka Volkan) the Frenchman, Sally/Steve/Laura the Britons, and Florian the German. We all ended up staying in the same place and kayaking the next day (we bargained hard and got the kayaks for two dollars for half the day) to a nearby town on the lake where there was a nice view and a 12 meter cliff to jump off. At night there was quite the impressive fire throwing show at one of the local tourist bars. Pictures below.

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The colonial cities are starting to blend together (Antigua, Guatemala)

cathedral antiguaMy first stop in Guatemala, I was pleasantly surprised by the cool weather in Antigua. It had all the trappings of a really nice colonial city (plazas, nice catherdrals, colorful buildings), with the added twist of collapsed cathedrals from natural distasters in the past. Yet still it wasn´t quite enough to keep me there for more than a night before going to San Pedro de la Laguna on Lago Atitlán with a few people I met in the hostel.
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The glassy-clear crater lake of Coatepeque

sunset over lago coatepequeAs I was slowly coming to find out, tourists are quite scarce in El Salvador and my visit to Lago de Coatepeque was no exception (I was the only one at the guest house I camped at there, and I saw no one else in San Diego and one other tourist in San Salvador). I ended up putting my tent at the end of the guesthouse's dock since camping was half the price of the dorm room, keeping it secure on the legs of a table and chair and yanking a few pads from the couch in the guest house's TV room to sleep on in the tent. Swimming the the perfectly clear water of the lake

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La Libertad, the Salvadoran surfing capital (San Diego)

 

IMG_2284I made my way to the coast in El Salvador after spending a chill day and a half in the capital, San Salvador. The capital seemed nice and I was suprised by its modernity, but hearing stories from a taxi driver about the gang violence from Mara Salvatrucha and MS-18 (when they robbed him, they even took his shoes) I was not planning to linger around. It was also off-putting when, accidentially knocking on the wrong door while looking for the hostel in the captial, I was greeted as door opened with a revolver and a "What do you want?". Oh right, and while riding the bus I could see from above that about half of the car drivers had a pistol of some sort on their laps. It seemed like a tormented city. In any case, the beach town I stayed at in the department of La Libertad

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Pulhapanzak, the funny-named yet regal falls of Honduras

pulhapanzak waterfalls

After leaving from Lago de Yojoa I took a short bus ride to some waterfalls near the lake to camp. Although I left my passport near the lake and had to go back, I still had plenty of time to wander around the falls. It was packed since it was a Saturday and also the Honduran Labor Day, but around 4ish everyone started to leave and I more or less had to park to myself. I hopped over the barbed wire fence to approach the waterfalls and take a little dip, and I quickly found out why they closed off the area to people going alone. The rocks were slippery, the water moved fast, and I got more than a few cuts and scrapes scrambling up there. The power of the falls were immense, and it was awe-provoking to stand underneath. Despite the crashing of the water, it felt like everything went silent when I approached mother nature's less than subtle display of her power. I was a feeling I won't be fogetting soon. Pictures are below.

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Lago de Yojoa, quite the peaceful place

IMG_1985Leaving from Tegucigalpa I made my way to the biggest lake in Honduras, Lago de Yojoa, to get some fresh air and stay at a microbrewery owned by American that supposedly whipped up a fine brew. The beer wasn't that good, quite pricey, and the hostel not that well-located or nice, but strolling around the area was a treat. I was introduced to the kindness of Hondurans when, after getting off of the bus that left me about 4 km to walk to the hostel, I was picked up my a man and his son in a truck who let me ride in the back. I wasn't even hitchhiking, they just saw me walking and picked me up without a second thought (the reflection picture below is from the back of their truck). I wasn't even against walking since 4 km wasn't that far and I had been sitting on buses all day, but I couldn't complain about a free ride right to the place I was staying. After arriving, I wandered over to a coffee plantation with a strangely beautiful blue pool, and then over towards the lake and a river that came off of it. Pictures are below.
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Expecting cooler weather in the Nicaraguan highlands...and not getting it (Matagalpa)

waterfall matagalpa nicaragua cascada blanca

Leaving from Leon and arriving after what is now appearing to be the characteristic dusty Nicaraguan bus ride, I was disappointed to feel the unrelentless heat in Matagalpa much like in the lower areas. Supposedly it´s "cooler" here, but I can´t imagine by more than 5 degrees. I was hoping to hike around some coffee farms in the area, which the region is known for (I´ve tasted some damn good coffee in Matagalpa), but the heat has sucked any motivation for physical activity out of me. Instead I made my way to a big waterfall in the area called Cascada Blanca, and had the good fortune of being the only visitor the entire day. It was quite the treat during the thermal peak of the day. Besides that visit though, the weather is very conducive to sitting around all day and reading, so not much exciting report (although I would HIGHLY recommend reading In Defense of Food: An Eater´s Manifesto by Micheal Pollen, click for the Amazon Link). Pictures are below.

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VIDEO Taking a rickshaw through the streets of Leon, Nicaragua

Arriving in Leon from Granada, I was disappointed after seeing the Laguna de Xiloa en route and being told by several people that I would be robbed if I walked up to the supposedly nicer laguna, which was my real destination (the entrance was barbed wired anyway).  Anyways, I grabbed this video after arriving on the bus and in transit on a bicycle rickshaw towards my hostel. I was hoping to do a volcano boarding tour near Leon supporting street kids, but they needed a minumum of three and I was the only one that had signed up for the next day given it´s the low season. With time contraints I moved on, so this video is the most interesting part of Leon that I´ve got. It´s a street scene that gives a nice look at the no-so-photographed part of town. Sorry for the shakiness, and the lady´s voice you hear in the beginning is a vendor selling water (¡agua!).

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The island of two volcanoes (Ometepe) and another colonial city (Granada) (and not the one in Spain)

mural granada nicaragua womens rightsAfter a mad dash from the overpriced Costa Rica to take refuge in Nicaragua, my first stop after a dusty border crossing was Ometepe. Formed thousand or millions or billions or however many years ago by two volcanoes rising almost symmetrically from the island, it sits imposingly as the largest freshwater island in the world in the middle of the huge Lake Nicaragua. I took a boat over the island and met a French Canadian named Usagi who had been living on Ometepe for years and had a nice little hostel near the dock. He told me all about the local folklore along with another Nico who had been living in Miami for years and was planning a move back to get into the tourism business. Folklore slowly led into indigenous rights (which don't exist on the island) and inevitably to

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Recent Photos

Camping in Puerto Olbaldia along the Atlantic.JPG
Leaf cutter ants in the Darien.JPG
The crystal clear waters of Porvenir.JPG
The jungle of the Darien.JPG
The ornate mola of the Kuna Yala people.JPG
Wax plams in Salento.JPG
a central plaza in tikal.JPG
a compass while hitching back to the US from mexico.JPG
a fire juggler near lago atitlan.JPG
a semuc champey in guatemala.JPG
a the market in san cristobal.JPG
a zapatista graffiti while in san cristobal.JPG
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