This is my first ever month-in-review post! I’m hoping this new feature will be both fun and informative for you as readers AND will help me wrap my head around my experiences as a full-time adventurer – remembering the best (and worst!) of what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, exactly how much money I’ve spent and where (gulp!) and how the adventures stack up against each other.
The first part of October marked a massive change in my life as I put aside a great career in order to travel the world full-time, a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. After saving my money for over a year and planning, preparing and considering all the implications of a life of full-time travel for so long, I finally set off on October 5th for Mexico City.
It’s been a whirlwind month as I’ve slowly made my way south and then east to Playa del Carmen, where I spent time crossing off bucket list items like getting my PADI advanced scuba certification and diving in a cenote. On Saturday, I finished off the month by running my first ever half marathon in Merida, something that was difficult (read: fucking hard) but a great personal achievement.
I love the way traveling makes you feel like you’re making the most out of your time on this earth. This last month feels so dense with incredible experiences that it’s hard to believe it has only been 30 days since I first boarded that plane to Mexico City! I feel like I’ve truly lived more in the October than I did the entire rest of the year working full time. If that isn’t a testament to getting the hell off your couch and out into the world, I don’t know what is.
Here’s a look back at my adventures in October.
Countries Traveled To: 1
Places Traveled To: Mexico City, Teotihuacan, Puebla, Oaxaca, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Palenque, Merida, Chichen Itza and Playa del Carmen
Miles Traveled: 2472 miles (940 air miles + 1532 bus miles)
Money Spent: $3,264
I was surprised by how much I spent in my first month of full-time travel, but it makes sense. It’s one thing to write out a budget at home and another one to be on the road and easily swayed by a pricy night out with new friends! I learned that I definitely need to adjust my daily food and entertainment budget if I’m going to stretch my savings over the entire 15 months.
Luckily most of my expenses this month I paid for way in advance, while I was still getting a paycheck. I also have a feeling these numbers will go down as I slow my travel this month and don’t plan on many major expenses, besides some diving in Belize and a flight from Mexico to Guatemala.
My most expensive purchase this month was my Intrepid guided trip through Mexico, but since that included both accommodation and transportation, I’ve broken that initial cost ($945 – I got a fantastic deal because of my lovely friend Stacey!) into those two categories. And obviously, getting my advanced PADI certification and two additional cenote dives ($498) wasn’t cheap either, but that was a planned expense and I was prepared! Here is everything broken down:
This includes my $90/night room for 5 nights in Mexico City, which was a calculated splurge – because I booked it with Rocketmiles during a promotion, I received 12,000 American Airlines miles for that stay! That’s nearly enough for a one-way domestic flight. Not too shabby!
My cheapest accommodation was in Playa, where I paid about $13.50 a night for a bed in a hostel dorm. It was a clean and quiet hostel, and while I was apprehensive about my first stay in a dorm in over 10 years, I actually really loved it! The other people staying there were both kind and interesting, and I got over the initial awkwardness of sharing a room surprisingly quick. Plus it had free breakfast!
Travel Costs: $510
The flight from Dallas to Mexico City was the biggest expense in this category at $172 on Spirit, which includes paying for one checked bag. The rest is estimated bus fare from my Intrepid trip, a couple of cheap taxi rides and even cheaper subway rides in Mexico City (30 cents each way!) and my $20 bus ride from Playa to Merida.
This is definitely a category I expect to go down significantly. Because I was with a group tour, I ate at more restaurant meals than I was planning to. I love street food and I like seeking out tasty meals for a couple bucks, but I enjoyed the company of new friends so much that I went along to Carlos’ recommended restaurants every time, despite the price. Hanging out with all my new friends every night was definitely worth it, and nothing ever exceeded $20, even with drinks.
My cheapest meal was in Mexico City, where I got four tacos and a coke for about $2. What a steal!
For this category, I included everything that wasn’t a necessary expense, which explains why the figure is high. My diving course and extra cenote dives came to $498 alone. The rest was made up of tours, entrance fees, and nights out at the bars (cough mezcal cough). I expect this to go down next month as well, but I try not to feel guilty about these costs – they are the reason I travel in the first place!
Although, I could have had a few less mezcals a night or two and I probably would have survived.
This includes laundry, toiletries, and any other necessary purchases on the road. Laundry has been really cheap – I paid $2 to have most of my clothes cleaned in Playa!
Favorite Place: Oaxaca
This city in Mexico is known for the production of it’s tasty chocolate, delicious cheese, and mesmerizing mezcal……so how could I not love Oaxaca? It’s colorful and surrounded by lovely hills and mountains, and the weather reminded me of LA. More than once while I was wandering through the city, I thought I could see myself living there sometime in the future. Why not?
Favorite Moment: Lucha Libre in Puebla
I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder than I did this night! Read my post about it if you don’t believe me.
Shittiest Moment: Getting sick in Oaxaca
During my few days in Oaxaca, I got a bit of a cold and even had a nasty fever for one night. I think it was a product of suddenly adding buckets of street tacos to my diet and too much mezcal. Luckily, I was smart and took it easy for a few days and was back on my feet in no time!
Funniest Moment: My rainy and hungover boat tour of Sumidero Canyon
One thing I did write about was the lovely day I spent wandering in San Cristóbal de las Casas and the heavy drinking and salsa dancing until 4am that followed. What I didn’t mention is the fact that I had booked a tour the following morning at 8am to Sumidero Canyon, about 40 minutes from town.
I woke up still quite drunk, looked out my window and saw rain pouring down by the bucketloads. I sent a WhatsApp message to our tour leader Carlos to ask if we were still going, thinking for sure it would be canceled. It wasn’t, he’d already asked the tour company. We would have to pay, even if we didn’t go. I wasn’t about to miss out on 300 pesos so I sucked it up, put on my rain jacket and stumbled onto the van with the 5 other people in my group that were doing the tour.
What ensued was a spectacularly awful boat tour of a canyon that we couldn’t see because of the rain and clouds. The first hour we were laughing hysterically because most of us were still drunk and the guide was speaking only in Spanish, so the group was relying on my horrible translations. Then it took a turn and we all felt sick. The rain was pelting us in the face as the boat raced through the canyon (or at least we’re told it was a canyon, we pretty much couldn’t see anything but mist). I almost threw up, one of our party desperately needed the baño and we finished the three hours on the boat soaked, miserable, and very much in need of a nap.
But, the entire thing was hilarious, and a day I’ll never forget!
Weirdest Moment: Eating termites in the jungle in Palenque.
I don’t think I would have believed you if a year ago, you told me I would be sticking my finger in a termite mound in the middle of the jungle in Mexico and then putting the termites directly into my mouth. But I did it. And in case you care, they taste more like carrots than pineapple.
Most Meaningful Moment: Getting to know my Intrepid group
Ok, this is sort of cheating because this actually constitutes several moments, but I LOVED meeting the 12 other people traveling with me on my Mexico Unplugged trip with Intrepid travel, along with our group leader, Carlos. Hailing from England, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Germany and Peru, each of these fantastic people had something unique to offer the group.
I loved listening to their stories, laughing with them, drinking mezcal with them and learning how to salsa (albeit badly) alongside them that one special night in San Cristóbal. I feel like I’ve made some lifelong friends and I look forward to meeting up with them again, even if it means on the other side of the world!
Coolest Person I Met: Gabriel, the Mayan jungle guide.
It’s not every day that you meet someone who spends their life leading people through a jungle barefoot, screeching like a howler monkey and crawling through Mayan ruins.
Best Thing I Ate: Camarones al Ajillo in Palenque.
This was a hard one! I’ve had so many incredible meals here in Mexico that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but this one won for so many reasons. Carlos took us to a seafood restaurant in Palenque called El Huachinango Feliz. He spent so long raving about it on the way there that I doubted it could live up to the hype.
Turns out it did – huge, HUGE platters of fresh seafood for a fantastic price. Did I mention that the servings were huge? I ordered Camarones al Ajillo, or shrimp cooked with garlic and chili, and the plate came out with 39 SHRIMPS ON IT! They were so fresh, tasted amazing and completely hit the spot after our long travel day from San Cristóbal. All for less than $10 USD.
Biggest Accomplishment: Running a half-marathon & getting my PADI Advanced Open Water certification
I couldn’t choose between these two accomplishments because they both were so meaningful. First of all, I only went diving for the first time a little over a year ago in Honduras, and before that I always thought it was an enticing but scary activity that I’d never be able to do. Despite my fears, I quickly fell in love with it and wanted to learn more so that I could dive deeper and in more awesome settings, like on wrecks and in caverns. And now I can. And that feels fucking awesome.
As for the half marathon, well…..let’s just say I don’t love running quite as much. But, I do believe the best way to live an extraordinary life is to face your fears, do things that scare you and push yourself past what you think you’re capable of. For me, that was signing up to run 13 miles in Mexico on Halloween along with my friend Josh. And while I didn’t train much the month leading up to the race, I still managed to finish it, hobbling over the finish line in just over 3 hours. It was a tough physical and mental battle that I’m proud of fighting, because I never imagined I would have been able to do it a year ago.
My Favorite Photo: Feeling the power of Misol Ha Waterfall
One of my favorite moments ever was sitting in front of this waterfall and thinking about how much hard work it took for me to have the opportunity to be here on a Monday morning instead of sitting in an office somewhere. I knew I was doing something right!
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It’s been a good month for An Adventure A Week, and I am so so grateful! You guys have been engaged and interested, emailing me suggestions, commenting and asking questions in October alone more than the rest of the 2.5 years this blog has been around. Thank you so much!
My goal for the rest of the year is to develop a routine, posting regularly and learning what keeps you guys engaged (so any feedback is appreciated!). I’ve been focused specifically on improving my storytelling, using my newest adventures as inspiration.
I’m also working on developing some features that make my blog unique, like my Boozy Tuesdays posts and an upcoming series on dogs that I’m really excited about! The longer I’m on the road, the more creative I feel, so I’m hoping that there is a lot more in store for AAAW as I enter my second month of full-time travel.
This obviously isn’t a surprise. Eventually next year, I’m hoping to start seeking out freelance writing work, using my blog as an online portfolio of sorts. I also plan on looking for odd jobs here and there to supplement my travel funds to keep me on the road longer. But since I promised myself these first three months of just straight up exploring, that all will have to wait.
Here is what I read this month:
- Big Magic by Liz Gilbert – This is a fantastic book on creativity that I would recommend to anyone looking for some inspiration in their creative life! It was the perfect thing for me to read as I set off for a year of travel and creative pursuits all my own.
- Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac – I read this while in Mexico City, and I wasn’t thrilled by it. I love Jack, and On the Road is my all-time favorite book, but his beat poetry just isn’t my cup of tea.
- Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks – The author’s journal while visiting Oaxaca with a group of botany aficionados. Sounds really geeky, and it is, but I loved reading this while in the region because he visited nearly all the spots I did!
- Vagabonding by Rolf Potts – I read this in 2 days! Anyone interested in long-term travel should definitely read this book. It’s less of a how-to and more of just a collection of thoughts on living a life of travel. I loved it.
- Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by W.H. Davies – This is the autobiography of the poet from his years spent “tramping” North America and the UK in the 1800s. It’s a great read for the unique snapshot of life in America in the 19th century alone.
I also love getting recommendations, so comment below if you’ve read something recently that you liked!
I’ve just arrived in Caye Caulker, Belize, my 25th country! I’m super excited to chill, do some more diving, SUP, and catch up on some of my tales from Mexico here on the blog.
Cheers to more adventures in November for both you and me!