It’s December! I can’t believe this year is already coming to a close. While last month was all about over-achieving, November was about slowing down and finding my pace. Without a tour group ushering me from place to place, I left my itinerary open and tried to “go with the flow” (which is hard for an over-planner like me). I struggled at first without a set plan – trying to decide how much time to stay in a place when you’ve just arrived can be tricky – but I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride going into my last two weeks in Central America.
At the start of the month, I spent nine days going slow in Caye Caulker, where my parents stopped by for a visit! Then I headed inland for some time in San Ignacio, Belize and Flores, Guatemala, including a trip to the epic Mayan ruins of Tikal. I ended the month with a fantastic 9 days in Tulum, Mexico soaking up some sunshine with the Brit, spending my first Thanksgiving abroad since I studied abroad in London ten years ago.
Though this month wasn’t packed-full as October, slowing down really gave me an opportunity to reflect on my journey to this life of full-time travel and how far I have to go to make it a permanent lifestyle. I realized my biggest motivator is seeking out opportunities to do things that scare me. You know – the kind of adventures that push you out of your comfort zone and make you feel like you’re growing into a smarter, stronger version of you.
Here’s a look back at a few of those adventures from November.
Countries Traveled To: 3
Places Traveled To:
- Mexico: Merida, Tulum and Valladolid
- Belize: Caye Caulker and San Ignacio
- Guatemala: Flores and Tikal National Park
Miles Traveled: 3165 km (1987 miles)
- Bus: 1587 km (987 miles)
- Rental Car: 115 km (72 miles)
- Plane: 1463 km (922 miles)
Money Spent: $2525 (down from $3264 last month)
My budget reflects my slowed pace. When you spend more time in each place, not only do you get to know it better, but you’re spending less money on transportation. Plus, I was lucky enough to rely on some free accommodation this month because of generous friends and family, which I tried (and failed) to make up for in buying them meals! Regardless, this is exactly the budget I’m aiming for – around $2000 to $2500 a month – so I’m happy.
Accommodation: $536 (down from $1189 last month)
This number is so low because my parents footed the bill for our AirBnB for the three nights they joined me in Caye Caulker, and the Brit very generously paid for our beachfront hotel in Tulum last week! We stayed at La Vita é Bella, near the ruins, in a garden view cabaña that was basic but perfect. The beach in front of the hotel ended up being the best in Tulum, at least along the main hotel street.
When I was paying for a room, I kept my expenses as low as possible. My most expensive room was $51 a night in Chetumal – I splurged so I could spend two days catching up on writing in a nice room with AC! And my cheapest bed was $12.50 a night in Old House Hostel in San Ignacio, Belize.
Travel Costs: $483 (down from $510 last month)
My biggest cost here was my $218 flight from Cancun to Guatemala City, which I booked fairly last minute to accommodate my trip back to Mexico to see the Brit. The rest is made up of rides on busses, ferries, colectivos and tuk tuks.
Food: $716 (up from $445 last month)
From the cheap taco ladies next to the lake in Flores to my most expensive (and also out-of-this-world) meal in Tulum, my food intake this month was all over the place. This number is particularly high because I tried to pay for as many meals as my parents and the Brit would let me to make up for their refusing to let me help pay for accommodation, but it always ended up being a hotly contested issue!
Entertainment: $589 (down from $1048 last month)
Diving the Blue Hole was $240 USD, but other than that my entertainment expenses were limited to a few tours and lots of boozy nights, mostly in Tulum. I would have spent a lot more had we been lucky with dive conditions last week, but unfortunately our scheduled trips were all canceled due to winds!
Necessities: $204 (up from $76 last month)
Budget-buster of the month – leaving my computer charger in Caye Caulker! Annoyingly I had to buy a new one in Chetumal for $96 (they are $80 in the States and even that is WAY too expensive!) but it was a lesson learned the hard way – ALWAYS do a last minute sweep of the hotel room to check you have everything!
Favorite Place: Tulum
While Caye Caulker and Flores were close seconds, it is impossible to beat Tulum as far as destinations go. This beach town is so different from Cancun or Playa del Carmen – it is quiet and not overly commercialized, and prides itself on the countless eco-hotels and hippie-dippy yoga and wellness havens that it offers in place of mega-resorts and Señor Frogs.
I especially loved heading into Tulum Pueblo every night (the town about a mile inland) where we found cheap food and lively locals, and then retreating to our beachfront hotel away from the busy hotel zone. I can’t understand while anyone would opt to stay in Cancun or Playa when this place is just another hour down the highway.
Favorite Moment: Diving on Half Moon Caye Wall in Belize
This was easily my favorite dive I’ve ever done. Coming right after the over-hyped Blue Hole, it wowed us in more ways than one. And it came as a total surprise!
Shittiest Moment: Soggy San Ignacio & missing the ATM caves
After making my way to inland Belize and small San Ignacio, I spent three days waiting for the rain to stop so I could visit the famous ATM caves, an adventure high on my to-do list. Unfortunately, the rain never stopped, and the tours kept getting cancelled. With no hope for sunshine for over a week, I gave up and headed to Flores with a promise to return someday.
Funniest Moment: Screaming my head off at the weirdest bug ever.
Picture this: You’re quietly reading at night before bed, safely tucked into your mosquito netting as the Brit next to you scans the news on his phone. Suddenly, you hear a chirping sound inside the room. You glance over to the Brit, asking if he thinks that was Larry, the lizard that has been hanging out in your cabaña the last couple of days. He looks back at you, staring over your shoulder, and says, “I don’t know, but what the fuck is that thing?” You turn around and see this, a mere inches from your face:
The Brit has never seen me move faster than I did scrambling away from this thing. He calmly removed the creature and placed it outside, laughing hysterically why I repeatedly yelled “What IS that!?” over and over. For the record, we still don’t know what it was. If you do, please tell me.
Weirdest Moment: Riding in a colectivo from the border of Guatemala into Flores.
Two hours in a crowded van packed full of people hopping on and off on a whim for the entire journey + a woman with a machete = my strangest public transportation experience to date.
Most Meaningful Moment: Spending a day on the water with my parents in Caye Caulker
My parents and I had a fantastic three days in Belize together, but the most memorable experience was the half-day snorkeling trip we took with Scuba Sensation out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Both of my parents are not big snorkelers and my mother hadn’t even seen a substantial coral reef before, but they braved the waves and hopped in for an unforgettable experience.
I loved seeing my mom’s face light up when she saw her first sea turtle! As I’ve said before, there is nothing like experiencing new things with the people you love – it brings you closer in ways sitting at home watching TV never will.
Coolest Person I Met: Zach from Scuba Sensation in Caye Calker
This guy was our guide for our snorkel trip to Hol Chan, and he was beyond amazing. We literally wandered right up to the shop and inquired about a tour, and within half an hour we were loading onto the boat with him to head out. He not only took us to areas where there were few to no other groups, but he was patient with my snorkel-rookie parents, encouraging me to explore on my own while he stayed with them and explained the different fish and coral species they were seeing.
Zach has such passion for the reef, the animals, and protecting the natural environment of Belize that I can only hope the other operators on the island care this much about preserving their home country! He and the rest of the staff at Scuba Sensation are committed to sustainable tourism, only taking out groups of six or less on snorkel and dive trips. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I hope he knows it was because of him!
Best Thing I Ate: Dinner at Kitchen Table in Tulum
This was hands-down one of the best meals of my life. For reals.
This place was only a five minute walk from our hotel and came very highly recommended. Though the prices are expensive by Mexico standards, I’ve never had a better quality meal for the cost. A post dedicated to my meal here is coming up this week so I don’t want to spoil it, but if you’re headed to the Riveria Maya anytime soon, do. no. miss. this. place. Oh, and order the pork ribs and the huitlacoche quesadillas.
Biggest Accomplishment: Diving the Blue Hole
I wrote about overcoming my fears this month and diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize, something I would have never thought possible a few short years ago. Diving to that depth, with sharks around, several hours from civilization was something that would have sent chills down my spine at one point in my life. But I did it, and the day was fantastic.
My Favorite Photo: Sunrise in Tulum
Our last day in Tulum we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea, and it did NOT disappoint! The Brit snapped this of me while I was counting my blessings and saying thank you to the universe for a life filled with adventure, fulfillment, and so much love.
Number of page views: 2,056 (up from 1,905 last month)
(please note an earlier version of this post showed a different number here…..turns out I was reading my stats wrong!)
Most popular post: Sign Up For Stuff That Scares The Shit Out Of You
While I’m a bit bummed my views didn’t go up by much this month, I’m not at all surprised. I didn’t write as much, I didn’t promote as much, and I let my slower pace lead to a bit of laziness. But I’m also not letting it get me down – I have loads of great content to unleash in the next couple of weeks!
And I’m working on focusing the blog and expanding what I have to offer would-be adventurers who are also looking to leave complacency behind and live a life worth remembering. If that describes you to a T, please email me your thoughts, questions and suggestions! Seriously, hearing from people who are excited about adventure is what keeps me going, every day.
I’m not surprised by this either, for the same reasons! But, I do have some freelance writing prospects on the horizon that I didn’t have before, so I’m very hopeful for the new year.
Here is what I read this month:
- Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – Loved this, and I wasn’t even much of a Lena fan before I casually traded one of my books for it in a hostel. She is a fantastic writer, despite all the negativity that surrounds her, and she talks about all the aspects of being a millennial woman that no one else wants to talk about!
- Bossypants by Tina Fey – Tina is my hero, and has been since I was in college. I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book, but there is so much about it that I love. Having a background as a TV producer, I died reading about her experiences writing and producing 30 Rock. She’s a legend.
- Around the World in 72 Days & Other Writings by Nellie Bly – How did I not hear about this amazing woman before now?!? She was a journalist in the 19th century who was the first person to travel around the world in less than 80 days. I love reading old travel writing, and despite her biases (and occasional racism) this woman kicked ass.
- Junky by William S. Burroughs – Very different from the other books I read this month! But great in it’s own terse and hard-hitting way. I’ve been carrying this book around since Mexico City because part of it takes place there, but only just now got around to reading it. Ironically I ended up finishing it while being stranded at Mexico City airport yesterday, waiting for a delayed flight.
Yesterday I made it to Antigua, Guatemala after a long travel day (including two long flight delays) from Tulum. Today I’m heading onwards to Lake Atítlan, where I plan on spending six days spread between two towns directly on the lake: Panajachel and Santa Cruz. Then I head back for a week in Antigua before heading home to Texas for the holidays.
My first big adventure of the month? Paragliding on Lake Atítlan. Why? Because it scares the hell out of me.
What are you planning to do this month that scares you?