Because of all the thought I’d been putting into how to wrap up my entire 2015 in my end-of-year post, I nearly forgot about completing a monthly review for December! But because these posts are usually some of my most popular (plus a good friend prodded me today about finishing it) it’s time I dove into the numbers and the nitty gritty of last month’s adventures, for your entertainment.
As is usually the case with the holiday season, December was a slow month for me. The first third of the month I spent in Guatemala, wrapping up my time in Central America with some solo travel around Lake Atitlán and Antigua. Then I spent over two weeks at home in Texas with my family, enjoying time with our three dogs and laughing until my stomach ached with my parents and siblings. And finally on Christmas Day, I hopped on three long flights that finally got me to Thailand, where I rang in the new year on my first Yacht Week.
Here’s a look at the breakdown, the highs and lows, and of course, the moolah spent.
Countries Traveled To: 3 (Guatemala, USA, Thailand)
Places Traveled To:
- Guatemala: Antigua, Panajachel, Santa Cruz la Laguna
- USA: Texas
- Thailand: Phuket, Krabi, Koh Hong, Railay Beach, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi
Miles Traveled: 19,494 km (12,113 miles)
- Bus: 209 km (130 miles)
- Plane: 19,137 km (11,891 miles in 5 flights)
- Boat: 148 km (92 miles)
Wowzers! That is the most miles I’ve traveled in a month to date, but most of them are air miles from DFW to Tokyo……and that was a free flight because I used my AA miles to book it!
Total Money Spent: $3282 (up from $2525 last month)
Due to the handful of intercontinental flights and how much money I blazed through in only a few days of Yacht Week, it’s no surprise I spent more than in November, even with two weeks in Texas spending next to nothing!
Accommodation: $830 (up from $536 last month)
Sure, I didn’t pay for accommodation for two weeks at my parent’s house over the holidays, but when you factor in four days on a yacht at well over $100 a night and a few last minute splurges in Guatemala, you get a higher number than I’d like! Luckily, I’m already drastically reducing my accommodation expenses this month in Thailand and Vietnam. I have a lot to make up for!
My flight from Guatemala City to DFW ended up costing me $672 in total because I changed it twice – first from Managua (I decided not to squeeze in Nicaragua at the last minute) and secondly to move it up a few days to surprise my mom. My second highest travel cost was the $412 flight from Tokyo to Phuket on Air Asia, which wasn’t too bad considering the distance!
Food: $344 (down from $716 last month)
HA! I totally won in the food budget category this month! Being at home with my parents helped tremendously – mom’s cooking is delicious and free. My biggest cost in food came when I treated myself to a big American meal during my layover in Fort Lauderdale coming back from Guatemala. That’s right – Southwestern Egg Rolls from Chili’s. I really know how to live.
Entertainment: $456 (down from $589 last month)
Paragliding over Lake Atitlán cost me about $95, but was more than worth it! And the rest of this amount mostly comes from a few nights out on the town in Guatemala and Texas, and of course a fair amount of booze once I got to Thailand.
Necessities: $120 (down from $204 last month)
A trip to Target to get some last minute Yacht Week supplies and the kitty we gave to our skipper to pay for port fees and gas makes up most of these costs.
NOT INCLUDED IN MY BUDGET:
- Christmas gifts I bought for the family in Guatemala and at home.
- As always, my monthly bills: travel insurance, health insurance in the US, cell bill, student loans, car insurance, etc.
Favorite Place: La Iguana Perdida in Santa Cruz La Laguna
I didn’t end up posting the long essay I wrote dedicated solely to this place, mainly because I thought it was too gushy and the adventure I had here was solely an internal, spiritual one, so I wasn’t sure you guys would dig it. Here’s all you need to know – this place is a magical spot, period.
La Iguana Perdida is a hostel/hotel located directly on Lake Atitlán in a small village with no road access. To say it’s quiet doesn’t do it justice. When you walk through the brightly colored gates and into the dining room, you feel the warmth, the heart of the place. Here, people do sunrise yoga, relax in hammocks, read with their feet dangling off the dock, and make lifelong friends over the communal dinners.
There is no wifi at La Iguana – and I think that is the reason why it is such a special place. You truly get to know other people here, and the buzz of the outside world and the interwebs is silenced by the calm lapping of the lake against the shore as you watch the sunset over the surrounding volcanoes with your new friends.
This was my favorite place in Central America, and I arrived there at just the right time – I was feeling really fucking down (see Shittiest Moment, coming up) and within 72 hours this place had lifted me back on my feet, dusted off and handed me my confidence and patted me encouragingly on the back as I set off on my way again.
If you go to Guatemala, it’s my number one must-do recommendation. You won’t regret it, I promise!
Favorite Moment: Paragliding over Lake Atitlán.
This experience really was something I never imagined I would do, let alone love as much as I did. Flying serenely over Panajachel with the lake shimmering below my swinging feet was a moment only matched by a handful of others in my life. Here’s a video I edited for my Facebook page that sums up the feeling pretty well!
(And if you aren’t following me on Facebook yet, you should! It’s where I post all kinds of fun mini-stories and little gems like this.)
Shittiest Moment: Getting hit with a bad cold and some hardcore negative feedback on the same day.
Just before heading to Iguana Perdida, I came down with a nasty cold, which was followed immediately by a surprise email from a successful blogger that I respect immensely. She runs a blogging course that I’m enrolled in, and I’d put up my blog for feedback from fellow students, unaware that she’d also be critiquing as well.
She was very direct. She implied the reason I’m not getting the engagement on the blog I’m looking for is because I’m not really seeking out adventure – I’m just showing up places and taking pretty pictures. She told me to create a better sense of place in my posts, to tell more engaging stories, to talk to people more and write down what they say.
In a nutshell, she told me that my writing isn’t good enough.
She was right, of course. My writing isn’t great. I haven’t been using my words well enough to paint vivid pictures of my adventures and I have a lot to learn about the world of travel blogging. I know this site lacks direction in many ways. Still….I felt really shitty after reading her comments. And then I felt even more shitty because I took her words so personally. I thought I was tougher than that.
This is another bit that was in an uber-long post I wrote and then scrapped because I didn’t think you’d benefit from my hearing about my ridiculous bruised ego, but there it is. For a couple days, I considered giving up, like I wasn’t good enough, and far too sensitive for this line of work.
But thankfully, I didn’t.
I spent three days at La Iguana consciously unplugged from social media, email, this blog, and the voices in my head. I talked to people and got some clarity. In the end, critiques like hers are the reason I signed up for a course in the first place – for honest feedback and to improve. I took her words to heart so much because this is such a personal project for me, and that’s ok. I decided to take her advice and move on. The only way to get better is to keep writing, so that’s what I’m going to do.
I haven’t looked back much since.
Funniest Moment: The (now-infamous) cacao ceremony.
This was my most popular post of the month, and I think that’s because it really was a hilarious afternoon spent with some hippies who blew ash up my nose. Read the whole story here.
Weirdest Moment: See above.
First it was hilarious, then it was weird.
Most Meaningful Moment: Playing every board game imaginable with my family.
We’re a competitive family, and this isn’t more obvious than when we are playing Spades, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Cards Against Humanity, and any other game we can get our hands on. I mean, things get vicious when we’re in the thick of it. But in the end, we laugh so hard our sides hurt and the winners only gloat for a few moments before moving on in the name of love and sportsmanship. These are some of my favorite holiday memories every year, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
But, it should be known that I kicked everyone’s ass in Monopoly. Big time.
Coolest Person I Met: Christian from RealWorld Paragliding in Panajachel, Guatemala.
Christian was the real reason paragliding over Lake Atitlán was such a memorable experience. His enthusiasm was inspiring – read more here.
Best Thing I Ate: Every taco (but especially the mushroom one) at Resident Taqueria in Dallas.
When the Brit was in town for a few days before Christmas, we checked out a hip spot in Dallas that supposedly has the best tacos in the area. We ordered one of everything, just to find out. And holy. shit. They were incredible. The best was a surprise – the slow-cooked mushroom taco! It comes with poblano, Oaxacan cheese (you know I love it!) and Almond salsa. Perfectly crunchy and savory and sweet and spicy…..I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Biggest Accomplishment: Hiking up Pacaya volcano at sunset.
As far as hikes go, this one wasn’t the hardest or the farthest I’ve ever done by any means. But considering how I’d avoided all intentional exercise since my half marathon in October, I was pretty proud of the fact I was able to make it the several miles uphill as quickly as I did when many of the people in my group gave up and rented a horse to take them the rest of the way.
It was a rewarding hike too – after dark, we could see red smoke glowing around the rim of the volcano, and we roasted marshmallows on the cooling lava from it’s eruption over a year ago. Cool!
My Favorite Photo: Jumping off the back of the yacht off Railay Beach at Sunset.
This was our first night on the water for Yacht Week. It was sunset, we were surrounded by gorgeous limestone cliffs and the lights of Railay Beach twinkled in the distance. I decided to jump in for a quick swim before heading to the evening’s scheduled party. It doesn’t get much better!
Posts: 12 (one more than November!)
Number of page views: 1,483 (down from 1,056 last month)
Most popular post: My First Cacao Ceremony, Or That Time My Nose Was Rapéd
It was a quiet month for An Adventure A Week. I am equal parts unsurprised and disappointed, mostly at myself. I’d hoped to get a lot more work done while at home in Texas and churn out some more writing and videos, but the comfort that comes with being at home can easily turn into laziness, and I spent more hours cuddled up with the dogs on the couch than I’d like to admit. Even so, no regrets: family time is the best time.
That being said, in January I have my first large chunk of time on the road carved out for work in Chiang Mai. Two weeks taking advantage of the countless coffee shops and fantastic digital nomad community will allow me the time to create more content for your enjoyment. In the meantime, as always, I love hearing your thoughts and feedback (yes, even the bad feedback – that blogger’s harsh words gave me a good kick in the ass to work harder!)
Here is what I read this month:
- Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac – On The Road is my favorite book of all time, so I’ve been nervous to read any of Jack’s other books in fear that they’ll disappoint. This one did not – it’s an entirely different journey, and reading it while I was at La Iguana Perdida was exactly the right time. Read this if you have interest in spirituality, nature or Buddhism, and let it challenge you to really dig into the depths of what you believe.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – I have a fun habit of binge reading Harry Potter books while I’m home in Texas. I’ve read all of them at least three times. For some reason I thought book four would be a good one to rehash, and I forgot how much of this one didn’t make it into the movie! I totally forgot about S.P.E.W!
- The Beach by Alex Garland – I read this cover to cover on the flight to Tokyo from Dallas. What a compelling read, and not just because I was on my way to the Thai islands! If you travel a lot and you’re familiar with the constant conversation that goes on about what an “authentic” travel experience is, this is a must-read. It takes a dark, Lord of the Flies-ish turn that is guaranteed to draw you in. Now I have to see the movie (I know, somehow I missed it during my Leo DiCaprio phase.)
The Yacht Week finishes up here in Thailand on the 3rd, and then I head to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand for two weeks of (mostly) writing and work on this beloved blog! Then on the 19th I head to Vietnam for a month of wandering and noodle slurping. If you have ‘nam recommendations, send them my way!
Happy new year everyone!