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Showing posts with label travel tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel tips. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Still Be Stylish When You're a Budget Traveller

Those of us who like to travel on a budget know that just because we’re carrying backpacks and taking overnight buses doesn’t mean that we all like to wear gypsy pants or *shudder* the dreaded zip-away-cargo-pants-shorts combo.  

I personally view travel style as an extension of personal style, not its second class cousin. I usually stay away from “travel clothes” per se (with the exception of this awesome travel belt) because they’re too utilitarian for me. 

You know how you usually feel better when you look better? Just because you’re a backpacker or travelling on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your style. Here are four tips I swear by for looking put together on the road.

How to Still Be Stylish When You're a Budget Traveller


Capsule wardrobes are having their moment in blogland right now, but if you’ve ever packed remixable outfits for a trip then you know it’s the exact same concept. When packing for travel, especially if you’re only bringing carry-on, choose tops that match with all of your bottoms and never underestimate the power of dresses. I wrote a lot about this in my post about what to wear for backpacking Central America if you’re interested in reading more. The most important takeaway: make sure pieces are versatile so you can wear them for more than one type of scenario.


Based on the colours you chose in step one, pick a few accessories in complementary colours that will match the majority of your outfits. Simple pieces that coordinate with each other are a perfect way to look put together without putting in a lot of effort. A scarf in particular is the ultimate multitasking accessory, especially if you're travelling within conservative cultures.

For jewellery, I recommend bringing no more than one pair of earrings, a necklace, a funky ring, and a set of bangles. You can mix and match from day to day, plus it leaves lots of room should you pick up any more accessories on the road (which, duh, is bound to happen). 

Packing tips for backpackers: choose complementary accessories. More on


When you’re regularly on the move, it’s important to have clothing that dries quickly, washes easily, and isn’t too heavy or bulky. In hot and humid environments, the key for me was to have a few moisture-wicking pieces in my wardrobe rotation. They’re great for staples like leggings and tank tops and can often be worn again after they’ve been aired out.  


Why bring it if you don’t like it? When I pack for trips, I choose clothing that I enjoy wearing regularly because if I’m packing a capsule wardrobe I’m probably repeating pieces every few days. It’s important to have items that are flattering and make me feel good wearing them. And  how could I forget – travellers take a ton of photos! Do you really want to be wearing the aforementioned zip-away cargos in all of your pictures because they're the only pants you brought? Not unless you're my dad (sorry dad).  

How to not look like a backpacker when you're living out of a backpack
What are your secrets for not looking like a backpacker when you’re travelling long-term?

PS: My travel makeup essentials + a pre-travel planning checklist for anyone who's getting ready to pick up and go.
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How to not look like a backpacker when you're living out of a backpack

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Travel Route Through Central America Part II

Travel Route through Central America //

In case you missed Part I, catch up here!

As an independent traveller, the most daunting part of planning a trip for me always starts at the very beginning: narrowing down which countries I want to visit (spoiler alert: my wanderlist includes pretty much everywhere) and then figuring out which route I’m going to take. 

I’ve been asked a lot why I chose to backpack through Central America specifically when I could’ve travelled to anywhere else. My husband was open to going everywhere but Africa (he’s deployed to several countries there and doesn’t want to revisit right now). A safari is high on my list but maybe that’s something I’ll do on my own  Africa was off the list. I’ve been to Asia before and Europe can get really pricey. What about going down south? We were planning to drive from Canada to the States anyway to see family so it’d be a perfect base point. 

When we considered budget, timing, and proximity, travelling for a few months through Central America came out on top. Last week I talked about the first half of our backpacking route that started in Honduras then continued to Belize and Guatemala. Today I’m sharing part two which includes El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. I’m looking back on the route I planned vs. the route I actually took and sharing some advice I learned along the way.

El Salvador ~ 4 days

I left off writing about my final day in Antigua, Guatemala before heading to El Salvador. Originally I’d hoped to make my way right across the country but the timing was too tight. I chose to skip Parque Nacional Los Volcanes and San Salvador in order to relax for a bit at a turtle sanctuary in El Cuco that I'd heard a lot of great things about. The beach there was amazingly empty during the week and great for beginner surfers (but not so great for paddleboarding).

Wanderlust on El Cuco Beach in El Salvador //

Instead of taking public transportation to cross borders for the 12+ hour trip, through a ton of TripAdvisor research I found a shuttle service going from Antigua to El Cuco. Conveniently they'd partnered with the sanctuary where I was planning to stay and my $50 bus ticket also included one free night's accommodation. Score!

When I was ready to leave El Cuco, I couldn't find a boat going onward to Potosi, Nicaragua, so I decided to take a simpler route with the shuttle company and go right into Leon, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua ~ 10 days

Don't be like me and arrive in a new city at night without having accommodations booked in advance! I arrived in Leon at 10 pm with a bus full of other backpackers who hadn't secured reservations yet. On one hand, at least I had a few new friends who were in the same position as me. On the other hand, there weren't enough beds for everyone.

We pulled up on a street that had four hostels in view and I raced into one to grab their last private room with a private bathroom. The next couple of days were spent making new friends, volcano boarding, exploring the strangest museum I've ever seen, and catching gorgeous views of the largest cathedral in Central America. 

Travel route through Central America //

From Leon I caught a ride to the airport in Managua and flew to Big Corn Island. Ferries were entirely unreliable when I was backpacking through so I splurged on a round-trip air ticket to get across Nicaragua to the Caribbean coast. Little Corn Island, where I ended up celebrating my birthday, is even farther from the mainland and thus harder to get to. 

On LCI, walking and wheelbarrows are the most common forms of transportation (yes, seriously  there aren’t any roads, far less cars). The boat ride out was absolutely terrifying and I legitimately thought we were going to capsize several times but by the grace of God I managed to make it alive. 

For the record, LCI was totally worth the trek. The water was crystal clear, diving was incredible, the beaches were quiet, and even the cockroaches didn't scare me away!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Updated: Backpacking Route Through Central America Part I

Backpacking Route Through Central America

This time last year I was knee-deep in planning our trip to Central America. I blogged about my route through the area and one year later it’s still my most popular post! I thought it was high time to write an update for any travellers who are trying to plan an itinerary and looking for some inspiration about where to go in Latin America.

This post is filled with details about the route I actually ended up taking, what I would keep the same or change, and some tidbits of information you'll find useful along the way.

(In case you’re curious, check out my original post about our backpacking route or you can skip ahead to Part II of this itinerary.)

The Background: My Travel Parameters

  • I backpacked to all seven countries in Central America (Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama)
  • Length of travel: for me, three months (my husband decided to leave early after seven weeks)
  • I chose to splurge on activities rather than luxurious accommodations, however...
  • We opted for private rooms/bathrooms whenever possible (this continued after my husband left. I’ve totally outgrown the dorm room thing). I thought this would cost about $25 USD per night but including fees, taxes, etc. it averaged out to more like $35 per night
  • I like museums, ruins, and volcanoes but I’m not obsessed with seeing, touring, or climbing them all
  • I stuck to public transportation for the most part, but there were times when it was simply easier to take a short flight or hire a shuttle service. I think the convenience combined with less stress and a more pleasant experience was worth paying extra.
  • Daily spending averaged about $35 per person per day. You could get by on much less, but we like to eat and drink, and fortunately could afford to spend more than the bare minimum
  • I’d describe my travel style as “the upper end of a budget traveller”

Backpacking Route Through Central America

Honduras ~ 1 month

Day one of our adventure: we flew into San Pedro Sula airport, took a bus to La Ceiba, and broke the bed in our hostel that night. The next morning we unexpectedly decided to fly instead of ferry to the island of Utila where we stayed for the next month.

Where to go in Central America: Utila, Honduras
An unexpected expense but a very cool experience
We chose to spend so much time in Utila because we wanted to get our open water certifications and have ample time to dive (where it’s ⅓ of the price compared to Belize!). I half-jokingly refer to that first chunk of our trip as “our vacation.” We stayed in a charming guesthouse, we read all the time, and were really comfortable. The rest of my trip throughout Latin America moved at a much faster pace, which is good because I got to experience a lot, but it wasn’t as relaxing.

At the time, I was ready to move on after two weeks, but looking back on that first month I can’t deny it felt great to slow down and adjust to life on the island. Regardless of your style and how fast you like to travel, Utila is worth staying at for more than just three days. A lot of backpackers get their diving certifications here and immediately bounce but I'd recommend hanging out for a bit longer. While you're here, stuff your face with as many baleadas as you can because they're delicious, inexpensive, and you'll be hard pressed to find them outside of Honduras!

Sunset over Utila Bay
I miss these wicked sunsets from our dock overlooking Utila Bay. This photo hasn't been edited at all. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Choose the Perfect Travel Purse

I think all of us ladies can agree that when we’re packing for a trip, whether it’s sightseeing in the city or backpacking abroad, it’s important to choose a travel purse that’s secure yet versatile. Unless you don’t mind paying extra checked luggage fees or carting around 50 pounds on your back, space is limited and you don’t have the luxury of bringing several different types of bags to match various outfits.

Travel purses are unique because they need to be way more functional, secure, and durable than our everyday bags. The sleek clutch that’s your go-to for bar hopping or the gorgeous camel tote that you love for running errands? Yup, you guessed it – they’re not going to cut it on the road (especially when you’re travelling in developing countries or visiting busy and touristy areas).

My travel style has evolved over the past year and now I’m a strong advocate for a capsule wardrobe. This means that I plan out what to pack in advance and choose remixable pieces so that I can maximize my total number of outfits (my rule is that each item must coordinate with at least two other pieces). When I packed for Central America I opted for a neutral palette of black, white, and tan and chose to accessorize with complementary pops of colour in the accessories. 

Now that I’ve got more than a few international trips under my belt, I want to share four of my tried and true tips to help you choose the perfect travel purse:

How to Choose the Perfect Travel Purse via


Though it may sound obvious, I’m going to list my most important tip first – a good travel purse needs to have a zipper at the top! It’s much too easy to reach inside a tote bag unnoticed as compared to unzipping a purse. Choosing a purse with at least one solid zipper helps to deter pick-pocketers and keeps your valuables safe.  


I tend to gravitate towards crossbody purses in general but they’re particularly essential when you’re travelling. The liberty of being hands-free is so important when sightseeing, especially if you’re like me and love taking photos. Crossbody purses make it much harder for thieves to swipe and run (like that time my bag was stolen at the beach). Pacsafe even makes slash-proof straps that offer the ultimate peace of mind for those who are concerned about safety. 


Travel is messy. Liquids spill, food crumbles, and sometimes there’s just no avoiding it – your bag is going to sit on the floor. A perfect travel purse is one that’s durable and easy to clean. Nylon, microfiber, and leather are popular options with the latter being my favourite due to its versatility. I personally stay away from canvas as I find it easy to stain and discolour.

Purses for travel with crossbody straps
My sister and I with our purses in Belize 
Exploring Nashville, TN
Exploring downtown Nashville with a purse that's sturdy enough to carry my DSLR camera
How to Choose the Perfect Travel Purse
Taking a break from the heat in Music City

I think it’s crucial to organize your travel purse so that everything has a place and you’re not fumbling around in front of vendors when trying to pay for something. Call me paranoid but the indecision of pulling your purse inside out to search for that elusive item is a signal to snatchers that you’re vulnerable and flustered. It’s so much easier to organize your purse when you have multiple compartments and pockets. Bonus points, of course, if the compartments have zippers!

In my opinion, a perfect travel purse has all of the characteristics above, is versatile enough to go from day-to-night, and comes in a complementary colour to suit the majority of your travel capsule wardrobe. I've picked a few options below if you have an upcoming trip or happen to have your eye on a new bag that will transition perfectly into your travel style.

What are your must-haves when choosing a purse for travel and your day-to-day life?

Which purse should I pack for travel?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puerto Viejo: My Favourite Town in Central America

Si senorita, this boat will take you straight to the buses in Moin. Then the driver will show you the minibus to go directo to Puerto Viejo and you get there at 3.30. Solamente 40 dolares,” the hostel owner assured me.

“Okay, so boat to the bus stop, then directo right to Puerto Viejo?” I asked.

Si senorita,” he confirmed.

By this time I’d learned that directo does not mean 'direct bus' in Central America (if you’re looking for a bus that doesn’t stop along the way to your destination, you should be asking for an express which are quite hard to come by). Regardless, it was the best option, and because of my timing, the only option to get from the island of Tortuguero to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. At least I wouldn’t have to deal with taxis and transfers doing this by myself, I thought.

The next morning I woke up at eight, grabbed a quick breakfast, and set out on a three and a half hour boat ride down the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. I’d spent the day before exploring Tortuguero National Park but, to be honest, there isn’t much more to see on the island and I was ready to move on. 

Waterfront homes in Costa Rica
Homes on the water in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo: My Favourite Town in Central America

The beautiful canals of Tortuguero, Costa Rica
The beautiful canals connecting Tortuguero to mainland Costa Rica
The shuttle boat was surprisingly comfortable and I was so relieved to sit back, relax, and catch a little nap, especially after the disastrous ferry experiences I’d had earlier in Central America. Maybe this day of travel will go smoothly after all, I thought.

Yeah right. 

The confusion began once the ride ended. I felt a sense of panic rise within me as we pulled up to the dock and there weren’t any buses waiting. A handful of eager taxi drivers approached the boat and started hauling out bags. If I’ve learned anything throughout my travels it’s that nothing is for free. Call me cheap but I didn’t want to pay any “expected tips” so when random men started grabbing my pack I immediately snatched it back and waited for the boat driver to direct me to where I was supposed to go. 

Apparently there must’ve been some miscommunication because the driver had no idea what minibus I was talking about and, feeling anxious in the moment, my brain wasn’t pulling the Spanish vocabulary that I’d learned in Guatemala fast enough for me to communicate properly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Travel Goes Wrong

When you head out on new adventures around the world it’s inevitable that some things just won't go as planned. Occasionally, however, these unfortunate experiences at least make great travel stories. Remember when I told you about the time I got yelled and spit at in the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam or when I was at the beach in Panama and had all my things stolen from right out under me?  

Let’s put it this way: they were character building experiences. 

(We can always choose to look at the bright side, right?)

Today I’d like to introduce you to four travel bloggers who’ve had their fair share of horror stories on the road. These ladies have travelled all over the world and are here to share a few things they've learned along the way!

"When Life Throws Eggs At You..."
Holly from English Girl Canadian Man

Be prepared for a pretty dramatic tale of what can happen when travel goes wrong! Lost luggage, hotel mix ups, cockroaches, these things can be pretty frustrating. But what about when travel is just downright dangerous? Let me tell you, it can be – my sister was once shot at by guerrillas in Thailand!

Fortunately, I wasn’t shot at, but this wasn’t the safest situation I have ever been in.

In October 2011 I suffered the most awful break up so I decided to jet off to Rome to do some meditating, some eating, and some soul searching. Of course, I went alone!

All day long, I wandered around Rome drinking in the culture (and eating pizza) and sitting on walls gazing into space, considering life. Maybe it was no wonder, therefore, that certain information did not penetrate the bubble!

There were warning signs – there were police vans EVERYWHERE, the Colosseum was closed and one man handed me a leaflet with the word ‘riot’ written on it.

As I make my way home to my hotel, I had to pass the Colosseum one last time, but it was impossible because there was a huge crowd of protestors wearing V for Vendetta masks. There was a lovely feeling in the air of people joining for a common cause, so I sat on a wall and videoed these people for a while. 

Suddenly, the old man on his bicycle to my right began shouting ‘fascists’ at the crowd and suddenly I was being pelted with eggs and glass bottles!

I fought my way home and as I did so, I saw burnt out and overturned vehicles. Every single bin alight. Buildings burning. Youths sitting in the broken glass windows of the banks having a cigarette. Effigies ripped from walls and smashed on the street. Graffiti everywhere. 

I finally got back to the hotel, where the manager asked, "You didn't go out wearing that did you?!" I was wearing a t shirt with a United States flag on it.

"I am surprised you made it back alive," he said.

When Travel Goes Wrong: Burnt cars in the Rome Riots in 2011
Aftermath of the Rome Riots in 2011
English Girl Canadian Man / Bloglovin / Twitter

"That Time in Sweden..."
Sammy from To The Days Like This

I’m sure every traveler has a horror story or ten and when I was tossing up ideas on mine, without batting an eye my friend said – "What about the time you had the runs in Finland?" First of all, it wasn’t Finland, it was Sweden and second of all – yeah, that’s a good one.

Monday, July 28, 2014

5 Tips for Backpacking Central America

5 Tips for Backpacking Central America

Today I'm so excited to guest post for Camila from The Things I Am Crazy For. Hop on over to Camila's blog to catch some dreamy beach photos and read about my five tips for backpacking Central America!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

3 Things I Wish I Would've Packed for Central America

It's hard to believe that I've already been in the United States for over a month. My tan has faded, rice and beans aren't part of my daily diet, and I haven't heard any Spanish around me except for the personal injury commercials that come on TV (let’s not even talk about how messed up that is).

As I look back on my trip and wonder how in the world it's already behind me, I want to share a few lessons that I learned the hard way. For anyone who's thinking of backpacking through Central America, here are three things I wish I would've packed for my trip:

3 things I wish I would've packed for Central America

1. A protective DSLR pouch. I normally keep my Nikon camera, two lenses, and photography accessories in my TheIt camera bag. While I love this bag and think it's beautiful, I think we can all agree it's not feasible for backpacking. For three months through Central America, I decided to travel with my photography gear in a waterproof bag. In order to save space and use items I was already planning to pack, I wrapped my camera and extra lens in a scarf and sarong for some added protection. This was a very Macguyver'd option that I would not recommend. I didn't even realize that padded DSLR pouches existed until I saw another traveller whip hers out and thought, “Wow that's a whole lot smarter than what I managed to pull together.”

2. The highest concentration of deet insect repellent available. I will acknowledge upfront that there are lots of purported disadvantages to using the chemical deet. As someone who's known to have la sangre dulce (sweet blood in Spanish), my husband and I joke that I'm his bug repellent, because as long as we're together I'm the one who's getting bit. When I was covered in 30+ bites and getting ravaged every day, the very last thing on my mind were the potential long term negative side effects of having deet seep into my bloodstream. All-natural oils and family friendly bug spray didn't make the cut. They didn't even come close to making the cut. Give me the poison! Kill all the mosquitoes and sand fleas! Those bugs were out of control.

3. More US dolla bills. I don't necessarily mean saving more money before going travelling, rather, I mean having more cash stashed away in my bag. I'm not sure what happened on the road but as I travelled deeper into Central America I had more and more difficulty withdrawing money at ATMs. By the time I reached Costa Rica I was sweating because I was getting turned away from bank machines without being able to pull out any money from my Canadian account. I remember one day in particular when I got denied from five different banks. Here I was, by myself, with a machine telling me to contact my financial institution as the problem was on their end, and my bank saying there was no problem, why couldn't I pull out any cash? I came down to less than $40 too many times.

travel tip: hide your emergency money

I always have a secret stash of money on me when I travel. Have you seen this Chapstick trick? I also roll a bill or two into an empty pill bottle then tuck it into my hygiene bag like it's regular medication. In the past I've kept $50 in reserve, but after my most recent experience I'd increase that amount to $150 per person in hidden funds in the currency that takes you furthest – USD. It may seem like a lot of money to just carry around but if it's spread out amongst your things and not physically on your person I think it's worth the risk. It certainly beats arriving in a new country after dark without any cash and trying to find an ATM. Not that I've done that or anything.

So there you have it, the three items I wish I would've packed for Central America. What are some items you learned the hard way never to travel without?

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

2 Tickets on the Vomit Comet Express

How to travel from honduras to belize

After a month in Utila, Honduras, my husband and I indulged in many lazy daze on the bay (literally, that was the name of our guesthouse) interspersed with a daily snorkel session and walk through town.  Our stay on the island was coming to an end though, which meant a kick in the pants for our day-to-day pace of life.

How to Travel from Utila, Honduras to Placencia, Belize

On Sunday morning we started our two day trip from Utila, Honduras, to Placencia, Belize with our backpacks, bottles of water, and snacks for the day. At 5.45am we walked to the Utila Princess ferry dock to buy tickets for the 6.20am trip to mainland Honduras (by the way, the ferry has been relocated to the eastern part of Utila Town until Sept. 2014 while they are repairing the main dock). Each ticket comes with a complimentary tablet of anti-nausea medicine, which leaves little mystery as to why this ferry is affectionately nicknamed the Vomit Comet.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

10 Things You'll Learn When Visiting Utila


1. Sand flies are everywhere. Bring lots of deet-filled repellent and use it often.

2. Your social life will likely revolve around whichever dive shop you choose. We dove with Alton's Dive Center and I would definitely recommend them to others. I'll be writing a post about my experience learning to scuba dive so look out for that soon!

3. You'll hear lots about the Skid Row Challenge and you'll see the tank tops everywhere. What is the challenge, you ask? Skid Row is dirty little bar on the main strip that offers a free shirt if you pay 10 bucks to take four shots of moonshine-like liquor. The bar is small and dank with a rowdy and kind of tough crowd, but the challenge is notorious. So many people are sporting their tank tops on this island and I just don't get it. I'm reminded of Macklemore's lyrics in Thrift Shop -- "having the same shirt as six other people in this club is a hella don't." Plus, I already have enough clothing to carry as it is.

Photos of Skid Row's, Utila
Picture of Skid Row, courtesy of Trip Advisor
4. Nobody wears helmets. Ever. Also, it’s quite possible to fit five people on a motorcycle, scooter, or ATV. No big deal.

5. Things aren’t quite as cheap as you may have been expecting.

6. The ferry gets cancelled whenever the waves are deemed too rough, which seems to happen fairly regularly. We ended up flying over to the island because of bad weather (despite keeping our fingers crossed for the cheaper option!).

flying to utila honduras
Getting ready to fly to Utila on a single prop five seater plane
7. For a country that’s the #1 producer of bananas in the world, it’s surprisingly difficult to find bananas on the island of Utila! I'm kind of a banana snob as well and hate when there are any brown spots/bruises but have learned to put this aside if I want to keep fresh fruit in my diet.

8. Hondurans on the mainland speak Spanish, but locals of Utila actually grow up speaking English. Spanish isn’t taught until they reach grade school. Despite the fact that it’s English, I only understand about 60% of the dialect. The Utilan accent sounds similar to a Barbadian one.

9. There are very very few stop signs (suggestions, more like it) and no traffic lights on the island of Utila.

10. There aren’t any posted road names. I have a lot of the respect for the postal workers and food delivery men around here!


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bienvenido a Honduras

“Bienvenido a Honduras!” the flight attendant greeted me as I stepped off the plane into San Pedro Sula Airport. A much warmer welcome than the last country I entered, I thought.

My husband and I made our way through customs and baggage claim without any issues, then as I picked up my backpack, I could feel the nerves start dancing in my stomach. I remembered what it was like every other time that I landed in a foreign country without family or friends to pick me up -- as soon as those automatic doors opened up, I’d been barraged my taxi drivers and money changers touting their services in my face. They could sense my innocence and see the overwhelmed expression on my face, and I felt like prey being pounced on.

I braced myself and put on an “I know where I’m going” type of expression as we approached the arrivals gate, but this time it was decidedly (fortunately) very different. Families lined up waiting to greet their loved ones and the hawkers stayed at bay. Matthew and I made our way to the food area to grab a bite to eat and something to drink, changed our currency at the airport bank, then went on a hunt for the Hedman Alas bus terminal that was attached somewhere to the building (for the record, there aren’t any signs directing you but go all the way to the left, past the car rental stands, and the HA office is tucked around the corner). I was sweating by the time we got there due to a combination of hauling my bags, nerves, lack of air conditioning, and the pressure of suddenly having to speak Spanish, and dropped in a satisfied heap once our tickets were finally in hand.

“Everything is going according to schedule,” I said with relief. “Now all we have to do is wait.” Within a half hour our bus arrived, and by that time we’d started chatting with a Canadian girl who’d just flown in from Roatan (one of the Bay Islands next to Utila, our final destination).

“I’ve been trying to get off the island for three days!” she said. “The weather has been so bad here the ferries have been cancelled. Eventually I just paid $70 for a flight.” 

I hope that’s not the case for us too, I thought. That’s $100 more than we planned on spending, and a hundred bucks takes you pretty far in Honduras. 

By this point it was about 1.45 pm, we hadn’t slept the night before, but we were excited and happy to be en route. We stared out the bus window during our short trip through the city of San Pedro Sula. Lots of stray dogs and trash lined the streets. There were no lines painted on the roads and cars, busses, and motorbikes alike weaved in and out of lanes. In the distance we saw hills covered in lush greenery with palm trees everywhere. The countryside reminded me of Trinidad and Jamaica, the Caribbean countries we'd recently visited.

On our way to La Ceiba via Instagram 
We pulled into the city’s main bus terminal, then after an hour’s wait boarded another bus that would take us to La Ceiba, where the next morning we hoped to take the ferry onwards to the island of Utila.  

We stayed at Hotel El Estadio in La Ceiba, and I was less than impressed with our surroundings and accommodations. On the taxi ride from the bus station we passed shops and restaurants that all had guards stationed out front, M14 rifles in hand. Don’t be stuck up, I chided myself. Things are obviously going to be at a different standard here. Just go with the flow. 

Matthew's a lot happier when he's the one holding the gun
It was about 7 pm and by that time the cold that I had picked up in Tennessee was at full force and all I wanted was a quick bite to eat and a full night’s sleep. “Finally we’re here!” M said with relief, crawling onto the bed. Not two seconds later… CRACK! He'd fallen into the corner and the bed was lodged at a precarious angle. 

“You did not just break the bed,” I sighed with exasperation. We looked at each other and smiled a what-can-you-do-smile, then I lifted the mattress while he crawled on the floor and attempted to put an undersized peg back into place. 

After waiting a very long time for overpriced food at Expatriates, we finally made our way back to the hotel around 10 pm. Matthew mildly electrocuted himself in the shower due to the exposed wire that (used to) attach the hot water heater to the shower head, but hey -- sometimes you need to live dangerously, right? :P

Wary of bed bugs, we pulled out our silk sleep liner and snuggled inside. 

“Buenas noches,” I whispered sleepily. “Buenos nachos,” my husband replied.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Making My Pre-Travel Checklist

Pre Trip Planning Tips

I am a list girl through and through. As lots of change is soon to happen in my life (moving in two weeks and beginning our four month adventure in four weeks), the only way for me to keep track of everything I need to take care of is by writing to do lists. Do I write them all in one spot, like in a daily journal or something? No, of course not,
duh. How logical would that be to keep all my lists in one central location so I could find them when I need them? 

But lucky for me (and maybe other soon-to-be travellers who are thinking of what they need to organize before taking off on a multi-month backpacking trip), I wrote this blog post to keep all of my to do items in check.

Here’s my pre-travel checklist for what you need to take care of before leaving your apartment, backpacking for a few months, then moving to a new country.

  • Organize itinerary
  • Research and purchase travel-related gear
  • Make lists of what I intend to pack (clothing, beauty/hygiene essentials, first aid kit) (clearly in that order)
  • Test-drive packing and walking with a backpack filled with these items
  • Make copies of important docs and register with the government as a Canadian abroad
  • Research visa requirements, costs, and restrictions
  • Book accommodations for first couple of nights
  • Buy travel insurance (World Nomads stood out for us as the best option)
  • Learn local language (this is obviously extreme but at least learn the basic phrases)
  • Research which vaccinations are recommended for area(s) of travel (here's what I got for backpacking through Central America)
  • Book travel medical consultation (need to relatively know your route for the appointment)
  • Buy 6+ month supple of contacts 
  • Get prescriptions written out and filled in advance
  • cancel bills and services, give notice on apartment
  • update mailing address
  • sort through which items to trash, donate, and store
  • oh yeah. pack up all our junk
Personal / Misc.
  • gather friends’ and family’s addresses so we can send postcards
  • order business cards
  • sort out bank accounts and where to keep our savings
  • finalize online storage and how i’m going to back up my photos/articles

Do you have any other suggestions for soon-to-be-travellers? If you think of anything that’s missing from this list, there’s a good chance I haven’t done it yet so please share in the comments below!

Linking up with Karly Kim / Glossy Blonde / A Compass Rose.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our Backpacking Route Through Central America

where to backpack in central america
Original photo source
(UPDATE: Check out the revised route here!)

After months of thinking about travel and saving all our money, we're six weeks out from backpacking through Central America and I couldn't be more excited. I literally woke up this morning thinking about Little Corn Island in Nicaragua with a smile on my face. 

There's a lot of change going on in my life right now with finding new tenants, packing, painting, and moving out of our apartment. Thanks to my different schedule I've still been able to delve into planning the logistics of our trip, staying up late into the night until my neck cramps from being hunched over my travel research. Sometimes I get carried away and really go into the details, like finding out which bus companies offer which routes (Tica and Hedman Alas pop up frequently) and how much things cost ($5 USD for lunch or dinner is the norm). I can't help but feel the excitement build as our departure date grows nearer.

For my husband and I, this will be our first time travelling long-term together. We’ve had a bunch of conversations to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to travel style, budgeting, and the “feel” of the trip that we’re going for. I naturally like to be the planner so over the weekend I really got into our itinerary (which got the thumbs up from M).

Our Criteria

  • We want to travel to all seven countries in Central America (Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama)
  • Length of travel: 3 - 3.5 months. We’ll purchase our return tickets on the road and see how we feel
  • Even though we're backpacking and keeping to a budget, we’re still travelling as a couple and prefer private rooms when available
  • We’d rather splurge on our activities than luxurious accommodations
  • We’d prefer to support local guesthouses and companies
  • We like museums, ruins, and volcanoes but we’re not obsessed about seeing, touring, or climbing them all
  • We'll travel by bus and boat throughout the area
  • Accommodations average $25 USD per night for private room and hot water bathroom
  • Daily spending average $30 USD per person per day

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