Alex In Wanderland http://www.alexinwanderland.com Working and playing around the world Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:40:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 Photo of the Week 216: Bonaire http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/03/photo-of-the-week-216-bonaire/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/03/photo-of-the-week-216-bonaire/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35900

Greetings from the Caribbean! As those of you following along on Instagram and Facebook know, I’ve spent the past week on the island of Bonaire, one of the world’s top dive destinations. This Dutch outpost, neighboring more developed neighbors Aruba and Curaçao, has been high on my bucket list for quite some time due to its unique shore diving and otherworldly desert topography. I couldn’t have asked for better partners-in-crime to tackle it with than the three girls I came with — longtime friends Kristin and Angie and their longtime friend (my new one!) Steph.

Our main focus was scuba and so we managed to squeeze in seven dives throughout the week. That still did leave a decent amount of time for some topside exploring, from yoga classes to cave snorkeling to sampling the island’s food scene. Bonaire is small and we ran all over it like over-caffeinated toddlers (or in my case, literally an over-caffeinated twenty-something) — so I got a great feel for it in just seven nights. But that doesn’t mean I’ve crossed it off the list. No, I have a hunch I’ll be back to Bonaire again.

But first, an important component of any dive trip — a few days decompressing. We just touched down in Aruba where we’re soaking up some sun before returning stateside, and I think it’s going to be a tough adjustment to go back to not waking up next to the ocean each morning! I’m so looking forward to bombarding you all with future posts about both these beautiful islands. But for now, here’s a little Bonaire teaser in the form of Photo of the Week!

Photo A

Traveling to BonaireColorful Kralendijk and Klein Bonaire

Photo B

Snorkeling in BonaireSnorkeling with Compass Bonaire

Photo C

Lac Bay BonaireExploring Lac Bay

Photo D

Flamingos in BonaireVenturing north with Road Runners

Photo E

Diving in BonaireWhy we came to Bonaire!

Photo F

Diving in BonaireA suspicious turtle says hello

Photo G

Diving in BonaireMore below the surface in Bonaire!

Which photo is your favorite? What are you most excited to read about from Bonaire?

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Hard To Belize: There’s So Much To Do in Caye Caulker http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/31/hard-to-belize-theres-so-much-to-do-in-caye-caulker/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/31/hard-to-belize-theres-so-much-to-do-in-caye-caulker/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=36447

“There’s not much to do on Caye Caulker.” I heard it over and over again while planning my family trip there, and have read it and heard it more since departing. People don’t say it as a complaint, just a characteristic of this tiny, charming little island. If you’re looking for action, convention Belize tourism wisdom seems to say, head to Ambergris Caye.

But I disagree. Yes, Caye Caulker is an appealing place in which to do nothing, or to do not much. Stroll the dirt-road Front Street. Dangle your feet in the water at The Split, Caye Caulker’s answer to its non-existent beaches. Rent a bike and meander around the side roads. It’s all a dream. But assuming you’re craving a little more adventure, that too can be found on Belize’s favorite backpacker island! And it won’t put you in the poorhouse either. While boat tours are pricey compared to other Central American activities, there’s plenty of free and reasonably priced things to do as well. Read on for seven of them.

Caye Caulker

Note: Caye Caulker is so small and street names so obsolete I’m not bothering to put directions in this post — just walk the main drag and ask anyone to point you where you’re going.

1. Stand Up Paddle Around The Island

The flat, shallow waters surrounding Caye Caulker were made for Stand Up Paddleboarding — though the current will give you a proper workout in some directions! We found just one place renting SUP boards, along with windsurfing gear and standard surf boards (you’d need to boat out to an area with waves for the latter).

The afternoon we went for a paddle, we literally carried our boards over to the west side of the island and then paddled up around the northern tip, through The Split, and right back up to the shop’s dock on the east side. The last bit was extremely tough, and the guys at the shop looked somewhat surprised we’d pulled it off. But it was a great workout, and a beautiful way to get out on the ocean.

Cost: We paid $15 each for a one hour rental. Tours and lessons also available!

Stand Up Paddling in Caye Caulker

Stand Up Paddling in Caye Caulker

Stand Up Paddling in Caye Caulker

2. Hang Out With Man’s Best Friend

The Caye Caulker Animal Shelter encourages tourists to explore the island with a leash in hand. Show up, grab a shelter pup, sign your name in a composition notebook, and you’re off with a new loyal companion.

The morning that Olivia and I showed up to walk dogs, we marveled at what a great job the shelter was doing with obviously limited resources. No steel cages here — these dogs are living large in an big outdoor “pet park” with loving long term volunteers on hand. And we couldn’t stop laughing at the sign welcoming dog walkers, the general gist of which was, “you literally cannot eff this up.” Don’t like the dog they gave you? That’s fine, try another. Want to come back after ten minutes? Thanks for coming! Need to bring the dog into a restaurant or shop? That’s probably cool. The dog runs away? No worries, they always come back.

We loved our little stroll and struck up plenty of conversations with locals and fellow tourists alike because of it. An awesome activity for animal lovers!

Cost: Totally free!

Caye Caulker Humane Society

Caye Caulker Humane Society

Caye Caulker Humane Society

Caye Caulker Humane Society

3. Take a Sunset Cruise

Is there anything like watching a sunset from the hull of a boat? A sunset cruise was high on our priority list, and we weren’t disappointed by the all-you-can-drink rum punch that came along with ours. Also on the menu was fresh ceviche and guacamole, served up by a smiling and friendly crew. It was the perfect kick-off to a big night out on the island. They’ll even give you a rum punch for the road.

We were lucky enough to catch the surreal blood moon lunar eclipse the night of our sail.

Cost: $35, including unlimited drinks

Caye Caulker Sunset Cruise

Caye Caulker Sunset Cruise

Caye Caulker Sunset Cruise

Caye Caulker Sunset Cruise

Caye Caulker Sunset Cruise

Caye Caulker Humane Society

Caye Caulker Sunset Cruise

4. Do Rooftop Yoga

RandOM Yoga offers the only formal yoga practice on Caye Caulker. Taught by a friendly expat, the classes take place several times a week on the roof of a nearby hotel. But first, the group meets on the porch of the instructor’s cute purple house, where she also sells her hand designed t-shirts and illustrated children’s books. The laid-back sunset class was one of the highlights of our time in Caye Caulker.

Cost: By donation.

Caye Caulker Yoga

Caye Caulker Yoga

Caye Caulker Yoga

5. Snorkel or Dive

Caye Caulker is a hotspot for divers from around the world, though considering the length of our stay and my sister’s non-scuba diving stance, I was more than happy to snorkel instead. Trips to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, are the most popular on the island, and are known as one of the best snorkeling day trips in Central America for good reason! Other boat trips go to manatee reserve, to shipwrecks, and to more secluded reefs. Read my full post about our day of snorkeling with manatees, turtles, stingrays and sharks here.

Cost: $70 for a full day trip including a full lunch and drinks

Caye Caulker Snorkeling

Caye Caulker Snorkeling

6. Hop to Ambergris Caye

Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye is the eternal debate of the Belize-bound traveler. These neighboring isles share dive and snorkel sites but differ greatly on land. I actually spent four days in Ambergris Caye after my sister left Caye Caulker — I anticipated I’d be feeling lonely after my family returned to the US and thought a change of scenery would help stave off the doldrums. Unfortunately I didn’t really love Ambergris Caye. While I enjoyed renting a bike and exploring more remote parts of the island, I found the capital of San Pedro charmless and concluded Caye Caulker was much more my scene.

That said, the islands are incredibly close and if you’re curious about comparing the two, each is an easy day trip from the other.

Cost: The ferry between the two islands is $9.50 each way

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye

7. Fly In or Out!

While technically this falls more under the transportation category than the activity one, we found the whole experience so fun I’d consider it somewhat of an entertainment expense.  Consider flying to or from Caye Caulker, and boating in the other direction. The views from the plane are fantastic, and the novelty of flying into Belize’s teeny municipal airports is well worth the price of admission. Later, in Honduras, I’d fly a terrifyingly old plane on a disorganized airline, an experience that made me appreciate how safe and well-run Maya Island Air seemed in comparison.

You might even get to ride shotgun. And, bonus! It will make saying goodbye to this beautiful island paradise a little bit easier. Bye bye, Belize.

Cost: Flights start at $40 one-way between Caye Caulker and Belize City’s municipal airport

Flying Maya Island Air

Flying Maya Island AirYup… that’s an airport

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Many thanks to Maya Island Air for providing me with complimentary flights within Belize.

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Final call!

Right now is the perfect time to kick off or up your blogging game. Why? Travel Blog Success and Bluehost Hosting are both on sale!

Travel Blog SuccessI rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that just celebrated its fourth anniversary. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now! And now’s definitely the time to buy, as the course price will increase starting in August.

Bonus: Recently, Travel Blog Success launched an exciting new videography course. When purchasing the two, you’ll receive 10% off the combined price, an incentive that you can add on top of the current sale discount.

Click here to receive 35% off all TBS memberships — a savings of $120 — no code needed! Sale ends Friday at 11:00 PM EST. Please note that I’m a proud affiliate of the program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. See you in the forums!

BlueHostDouble Bonus: This week, Bluehost will be offering their hosting services at promotional prices as low as $3.49/month, exclusively for Alex in Wanderland readers. That’s up to 42% off their regular price!

Click here to receive an exclusive savings on all Bluehost hosting packages. Sale ends Friday. Please note that I’m also a proud affiliate of Bluehost and will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you.

And finally, my featured blogger program is going strong — nab one of the final spots for October or November now!

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The Great Escape: Month 46 Roundup http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/30/the-great-escape-month-46-roundup/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/30/the-great-escape-month-46-roundup/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35925

Month 46 was dedicated entirely to Guatemala, as I slowly worked my way from El Salvador toward the Belizean border. Guatemala was the last Central American country I had yet to visit, and probably one of the most anticipated arrivals. Perhaps that’s too much for a place to live up to, as I don’t gush about my time in Guatemala like I do my time in Nicaragua or El Salvador.

I moved far too quickly this month, most likely because I never found a place I loved enough to settle down in. But that just led to a further sense of discontent. As is my unfortunate nature, I fled at the slightest pulse of unpleasantness, preferring the distraction of movement to the true challenge of sitting still and examining the root cause. That said, the month was brimming with highlights, and when all was said and done I’d had the privileged of exploring a country I used to dreamily flip through guidebooks for — and that’s always a win.

Antigua, GuatemalaAntigua

Where I’ve Been

I visited five destinations in Month 46, which doesn’t seem so hectic, right?

• Thirteen days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Eight days at Lake Atitlán / Guatemala

• Three days in Monterrico / Guatemala

• One day in Guatemala City / Guatemala

• Four days in Flores / Guatemala

But in reality, I used Antigua as a home base and hopped around from there, plus broke my time at Lake Atitlan into three different towns. Hence, my month actually looked more like this — a tad more exhausting.

• Six days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Three days in Santa Cruz / Guatemala

• Three days in San Pedro / Guatemala

• Three days in San Marcos / Guatemala

• Five days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Three days in Monterrico / Guatemala

• One day in Guatemala City / Guatemala

• Two days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Four days in Flores / Guatemala

Atitlan, GuatemalaLake Atitlán

Highlights

• Crossing the border in Guatemala, and having officially visited every country in Central America! It was a fun little milestone, and I look forward to saying the same in Southeast Asia someday.

• Arriving in Antigua right into a high five from Luke, the most amazingly generous host ever. Luke and I met years ago on the blogging circuit and he’s one of my creative peers that I just truly respect. We’ve crossed paths everywhere from Denver to Toronto to Brooklyn and now to Antigua. He’s been in Guatemala on and off since 2008 and I can say with confidence that my time there would have been far more shallow were it not for him. I hope I can show him the same kindness in Koh Tao someday!

Roasting marshmallows over a volcano. It’s a cheap, easy activity that no visitor to Antigua should miss. Also a highlight? The lava earrings I bought there, my one beloved souvenir from Guatemala.

• Hanging with Antigua expats. Thanks to Luke, I was introduced to all kinds of amazing people, places, and events: Hobbitenango, the gorgeous hobbit-themed getaway on a mountain; live music all over town; a fundraiser stand up comedy show that poked fun at expat life; Mariachi or Muerto, a battle of the mariachi bands at Hobbitenango; a home-cooked dinner party; and his wonderful friends, who made all these moments fun and fiercely reminded me of my own community in Koh Tao. Again, in another life I would have passed through Antigua in a few days, but due to this connection I spent more than two weeks!

• Eating in Antigua. The salads at Pitaya. The painful trendiness of Tu Pina Tambien. The view at McDonald’s (seriously). The breads and cheeses and even macarons (!) at Metiz. Eating in Antigua was delicious!

• Staying at Iguana Perdida in Santa Cruz. Not often does budget accommodation stand out so significantly — often, it’s just a place to lay your head at night. But this lakefront compound was a destination in and of itself. I loved the communal dinners, the onsite dive shop, the free morning yoga, the warm staff of travelers and the eternal views out into the ocean. My own treehouse for $10!

• Getting so much writing and reading done. Something about the isolation and calming energy of Lake Atitlan allowed me to write and read more than ever. I worked on short stories and essays by day, and cozied up and read for my evening entertainment. I’d love to work more weeks like this into my travels, where I basically style a DIY writing retreat.

• Scuba diving at altitude. I love finding quirky dives wherever I go, and diving in a high-altitude lake in Guatemala certainly fits that bill. While I was bummed we had such poor diving conditions, the visibility didn’t affect the novelty of it all.

• Listening to a church-off in Santa Cruz. On afternoon, I finally dragged my bum off the lakefront and up the steep hill to the town of Santa Cruz. I quickly tuned into the fact that it was Sunday — and in this teeny tiny town, at least a dozen churches were competing for dominance of the airwaves. I’ll never forget that moment of standing at what felt like the top of the world, looking out over this beautiful lake, and listening to these competing hymns blasting from provincial pulpits. It was gorgeous!

• Lotus on the lake. I didn’t love San Marcos, but I did adore the morning yoga classes at Del Lago. It was among the most scenic places I’ve practiced!

• Meeting of the Mayans. I had one of my most interesting experiences in Guatemala in San Marcos. I was wandering the backroads of town looking for somewhere to eat, and stumbled into a dusty, empty family-run restaurant. The son of the woman cooking sat down to chat when I arrived and ended up joining me for my whole meal — where he told me about his work as a professor of Mayan theology at a nearby university and showed me the books he’d authored for sale on Amazon. He gave me a lot of insight into the tension between the tradition Mayan locals and the new age expat community that I was only able to wonder about prior. It was fascinating, and a good reminder that I sometimes should eat without wifi!

• Getting back to the beach. It felt so good to arrive in Monterrico! The previous month I’d spent all but four days at the ocean, and this month it was strangely reversed. My first two nights there I went running on the black sand beach at sunset and then came back to my hotel and swan laps in the pool, which I had all to myself at night. Doing backstroke under the stars — it was magical.

• Badass busing. I’d been taking mostly tourist shuttles on this trip as the routes I’d traveled would have required endless transfers and extra hours via public transit and these days, I mostly see time as money. But those shuttles do take some of the fun out of things, and so I was happy that twice this month I was able to work in journeys via Guatemala’s infamous chicken buses, basically retrofitted and brightly painted decommissioned American school buses that function as the country’s main source of public transit. My journeys from Monterrico to Guatemala City and Guatemala City to Antigua were both crowded, hectic, and sweaty (and one of them involved sharing a seat with a pulsing bag of live crabs) — and they were so much fun.

• Floating around Flores. This town could not have been sweeter, and was the perfect place for a low key last few days in Guatemala. I was mostly glued to my computer getting ready to take a week (mostly) off while my family was around, so I mostly explored through short walks to stretch my legs. But it couldn’t be a cuter town — especially San Telmo restaurant.

• Waking up with Tikal. While some of my fellow travelers could not have been more disrespectful (see lowlights below), hearing the jungle literally roar to life was a special moment. Other highlights from the day included seeing a huge diversity of wild animals, and hanging out with some local kids at the entrance to the park.

• One wild night. This month was a very tame one — very tame — but I did have one wild night out on St. Patrick’s Day. Going out with the whole hostel, dancing on bars, closing down bars, the whole bit. It was great fun, and it was also the first night I met…

• London Lawyer. After a failed fling in San Juan del Sur I was happy to avoid the distraction of a romantic interest for a while. But a month later, an innocent dorm room crush in Antigua turned into a sweet travel romance which eventually snowballed into a spontaneous trip to Bermuda. I had left Nicaragua feeling vaguely bitter about the previous situation, but I left Guatemala grinning about this one.

Atitlan, GuatemalaLake Atitlán

Lowlights and Lessons

• I quite simple did not love Antigua, or, overall, Guatemala — though my opinion has been softened with hindsight. Still, when you’re talking about a place as universally beloved as Guatemala, it’s tough to feel like you’re just not getting it.

• Remember when I wrote about leaving my laundry in El Salvador last month? Well, lucky for me a friend I’d met at Equilibrio was traveling right behind me and offered to bring it with her to Guatemala. There’s one shuttle a day from El Tunco to Antigua, leaving at 2pm and arriving around 8pm, and she was on it just two days after I was. We made plans to meet that evening so I could grab my laundry and we could grab dinner. But I didn’t hear from her until the next day, and she had a pretty good excuse for why: her shuttle had been hijacked by armed robbers. At around 7pm, just an hour outside Antigua, her bus was boarded by men with guns who drove the bus out to a field and tied everyone up in a clearing while they ransacked the bus. Thankfully, they left without harming anyone and after eventually untying each other and pushing the bus out of a ditch the group was able to get to law enforcement. But needless to say it was a harrowing experience — I was affected just hearing about it. Had I lingered just two days longer in El Salvador, that could have been me. That story, along with others I heard within days of arriving in Guatemala (like a couple who’d had their hotel room wiped clean while out for a walk and lost everything but the clothes they were wearing) and the fact that the expats I met were vigilant about not walking alone at night, left me feeling on edge, a feeling that is rather unfamiliar for me. I hesitated to write this because I dread a flood of “is Guatemala safe?!” questions — I’m not qualified to answer — but I can say anecdotally that there’s nowhere else in Central America I felt quite so uneasy.

• I was absolutely shocked by and unprepared for the cold — and the cobblestones — of Antigua. After six weeks in what felt like a sweaty swamp, I couldn’t believe I was freezing cold again. Antigua is indeed in the highlands and the weather there reminded me more of Cusco than of anywhere I’d been in Central America. In Lake Atitlan I basically went to bed every night at 9pm as it was the only place I felt warmth. Low 40s! If you are heading to Guatemala, pack boots and a sweater!

• I was allergic to Guatemala — my allergies were completely out of control the entire time I was there. I mean like, walking down the street and people asking me what was wrong because my face was red and puffing and oozing with various liquids kind of out of control. Antigua was the worst, but they were also acting up in Guatemala City and in Lake Atitlán but it might have been altitude related because once I was back down in the lowlands I finally had some relief.

• By the time I left Guatemala, I felt like I’d lost almost everything important that was once in my bag. My amazing Scandinavian headlamp, sentimentally gifted to me by an ex boyfriend? Gone. My beloved bedazzled eye mask? Bye bye. My favorite bikini? Left on the beaches of Monterrico. My Mophie Case? Who needs it! (Actually, I did.) And worst of all, my extremely expensive extremely critical backup hard drive, which I left hidden between my mattresses at Lake Atitlan after being paranoid about room robberies around the lake. Once I realized I’d left it, I did everything in my power to get it back — calls and emails to the hotel went unanswered, and my extremely sweet and generous friend Steffi took a boat from San Marcos all the way to San Pedro to ask in person for me, but no luck.

• Lesson learned in San Pedro: I would rather use a shower to wash my hands for three days then to remove a wolf spider from the sink of my private hostel room.

• I was kind of underwhelmed by San Marcos and San Pedro. I suppose I’m glad I checked them out, as I would have wondered otherwise. However, I wish instead I’d spent my time at Yoga Forest or at a local writer’s retreat (which I only saw the poster for on the final day, derp) instead!

• My most frustrating moment in Guatemala was the day I left the lake. I booked a shuttle from San Marcos back to Antigua, and waited with about fifteen other people at the designated spot the morning of departure. Two shuttles pulled up and started calling off names — everyone’s except mine. I kept showing my voucher (purchased, like they always are, from a random travel agency in town) and both bus drivers told me I wasn’t going with them. Chaos is a familiar old friend in these kinds of travel situations, so at this point I wasn’t alarmed. Finally, after much confusion, one of the bus drivers told me to get in, and off we went. About twenty minutes later, as we’d reached a desolate stretch of highway, the bus stopped and the driver hopped out and threw my bags off the bus onto the side of the road. “Wait here,” he said, ignoring my protests. Moments later I was choking on exhaust fumes and trying not to cry as I stood on the side of the road in rural Guatemala, completely alone aside from an outpost of rifle-toting municipal police. After a few moments of evaluating my options — there were few — I tried to approach the police to respectfully ask in Spanish to borrow their phone. I couldn’t understand them as they slipped into Quechuan, though their leering looks gave me a clue to their topic of conversation. I retreated back to my bags and checked my watch again. After twenty minutes had gone by, I approached the police with a different tactic — tears. Well, it wasn’t so much a tactic as it was I couldn’t not cry at this point. This time, the youngest one offered me his phone — if I paid twenty quetzales. I bitterly handed over the money and tried calling the number on my bus voucher. No answer. Back to my bags.Ten  minutes later I tried again, with my last twenty quetzales, and through both a language and poor cell service barrier tried to explain my situation. The line went dead. Back to my bags. In between each of these encounters was a very long-seeming stint of sitting on my bag in the sweltering heat, trying to decide if it would be safer to try to walk to the next town or hitchhike down the highway or maybe just lay down in the middle of the road and end it all! (The heat may have been getting to me.) Finally, finally, a full forty minutes after I was first dumped, a new minivan appeared. “Get in!” the driver said while snatching my voucher, as if annoyed at me for being late. Bewildered but relieved, I climbed in, only to find out that this van had originated in San Pedro, clear across the lake. What I can only imagine is that the travel agent who sold me my ticket had a friend/brother/cousin with a van leaving from San Pedro, and so he decided to sell me a ticket on that bus regardless of the fact that it made no sense whatsoever. The fun didn’t end there, either — when we arrived in Antigua, the driver refused to bring us to our hotels as promised and dumped us on the side of the road. While my fellow bus-goers grumbled, at that point I couldn’t have cared less, happy as I was to see civilization.

• My friends and I had a miscommunication about our time in Monterrico, and I was left cooling my heels there alone for longer than expected (had there been great wifi I might not have minded being stranded.) While we had a fantastic time once they arrived, it was frustrating to basically plan my entire month’s schedule around a long weekend that turned out to be more like 24 hours.

• I was SO wildly annoyed by my fellow tourists at Tikal. You can read my full rant here, but come on man — even a loudmouth like me knows there are moments when you need to zip it. Watching the sunrise from a sacred temple in which your guide asks you not to speak is one of them.

• Ah, freelancer life. This was the month where, with almost $10,000 due in outstanding invoices, I had to call my mom and ask her to put money in my accounts so I didn’t overdraw on them. I signed the first check that arrived straight over to her and paid her back in less than two weeks, but it was still an awful feeling and a first for me in almost four years of self-employment. That, along with scary low income levels, did not a pretty picture make.

Lols

• I love my fellow travelers, but occasionally I lose my patience for them. On my shuttle from Antigua to Atitlán, the driver tied all our bags to the roof of the van. It was a rainy morning and each time it started or stopped drizzling we’d pull over and haul the bags on or off the roof.  I’m surprised they don’t have a tarp, I remarked absentmindedly, thinking of all the dozens of shuttles I’ve taken that did. “This isn’t America, you know,” my Swiss seat mate chirped smugly, and continued on to a soliloquy of the horrors of being forced to travel next to someone carrying an entitled US passport. As if a piece of plastic sheeting were a rare exotic luxury and I’d just expressed shock that our minibus wasn’t outfitted with wifi and a latte dispenser. Aaaand that was the last human I electively spoke to for a week.

• This isn’t Guatemala specific, but Central America is truly the land of no hustle. Going to the ATM required endless doses of patience as each person took what felt like a lifetime within the booth. Like, what are they doing in there, composing a sonnet with the keypad? And buses. If they leave on time, great — they won’t arrive on time. Sometimes I’d look at the window and the driver would just standing around shooting the shit, like sorry, did you have another country you needed to be in? And don’t even get me started on the sidewalks. Should you have the audacity to walk a clip faster than drunk toddler, the people you leave in your dust will look behind you, bewildered, to see what must be chasing you. For this New Yorker, trying to slow down to Central America time was a constant and ever-amusing challenge.

• A first for me: slipping off an unattached toilet seat and literally falling into the toilet in Flores. My life is so glamorous it hurts sometimes!

Budget

I actually had an affordable month! Excluding my business expenses I spent $1,464 on a month in Guatemala. And good thing, because I had my worst month for income in years — but more on that in a minute.

My largest expense was, obviously, food — as usual I ate in places with healthy options and with wifi, which added up to $661. I spent just $235 on accommodation despite staying in mostly private rooms thanks to Luke’s generous hosting for much of my stay in Antigua. Entertainment clocked in at $174, including diving, volcano hiking, a night out for St. Patrick’s Day and a tour to Tikal. Miscellaneous, including toiletries, gifts, and a Sephora order my mom would bring down the next month totaled $143, while transportation came to $138. Finally, I spent $82 on spa treatments (two massages and a pedicure) and $31 on health and fitness (yoga and zumba classes).

Monterrico GuatemalaMonterrico

Work

I was actually on my computer working constantly, but in my case that doesn’t always translate directly to income. Month 45 was literally my worst month for earnings in over three years of blogging. (Spoiler alert: It was a temporary blip and I was back up to the big leagues the next month. Still, it emphasized the importance of saving!)

What little money I did make came from a small amount on blog ads and affiliates, and a bit of freelance writing and video work. In one small boon for the month, I sold (what I hope will be just my first) photo to National Geographic! The pay is meager, but the milestone is huge.

Health and Fitness

Fitness was more or less a fail for me in Guatemala. I walked a lot and did a ton of yoga in Antigua and Atitlán, and ran and swam in Monterrico, but I didn’t visit a gym once outside one half-hearted Zumba class (Guatemalan Zumba is not quite as spicy as Nicaraguan Zumba, I learned.) Luckily I was able to seek out some fairly healthy eating options, and with a few exceptions I drank very little alcohol throughout the month. Far from my worst month, but certainly not my best.

What’s Next

Two weeks in Belize before circling back into Guatemala once again!

Flores, GuatemalaFlores

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.

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Bloggers take note!

Right now is the perfect time to kick off or up your blogging game. Why? Travel Blog Success and Bluehost Hosting are both on sale!

Travel Blog SuccessI rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that just celebrated its fourth anniversary. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now! And now’s definitely the time to buy, as the course price will increase starting in August.

Bonus: Recently, Travel Blog Success launched an exciting new videography course. When purchasing the two, you’ll receive 10% off the combined price, an incentive that you can add on top of the current sale discount.

Click here to receive 35% off all TBS memberships — a savings of $120 — no code needed! Sale ends Friday at 11:00 PM EST. Please note that I’m a proud affiliate of the program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. See you in the forums!

BlueHostDouble Bonus: This week, Bluehost will be offering their hosting services at promotional prices as low as $3.49/month, exclusively for Alex in Wanderland readers. That’s up to 42% off their regular price!

Click here to receive an exclusive savings on all Bluehost hosting packages. Sale ends Friday. Please note that I’m also a proud affiliate of Bluehost and will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you.

And finally, my featured blogger program is going strong — nab one of the final spots for October or November now!

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I’m A Belizer: The Best Snorkeling in Central America http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/28/snorkeling-the-hol-chan-marine-reserve/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/28/snorkeling-the-hol-chan-marine-reserve/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35977

Before arriving in Caye Caulker, we had next to no plans on our agenda. While there’s plenty to do on the island (a post of all that we got up to on Caye Caulker is coming up soon), we figured we’d just wing it. But there was one thing I knew for sure we’d have to fit in somewhere — a snorkeling trip to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

EZ Boy Tours Belize

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tours

We’d originally planned to do the trip with the oft-hailed Ragamuffin Tours, but when we arrived to their beach front office we were met with pretty hilarious indifference. In their defense, it was Easter weekend. But when we tried to inquire about sunset cruises, we got a shrug and some hemming and hawing about whether they’d be running tours or not. What about day trips? Would there be one on either Saturday or Sunday? “Well,” the woman explained, exasperated at our stupidity in grasping very basic concepts, “if we made the staff work those days, they’d basically just be doing it because they had to.”

“Right,” Olivia replied. “Just like… all employment?” Luckily we found EZ Boy Tours, who was happily running tours all weekend.

EZ Boy Tours Belize

Getting on the boat was a slog with a big holiday weekend crowd and a distinct display of island time attitudes. But once we were moving, we were thrilled with our choice to spend the day on the water. Our captain, however, quickly seemed displeased when he did a headcount. Someone, it turned out, had gotten on the wrong boat. Someone who had signed up for a manatee tour. The captain seemed annoyed and exasperated as he tried to determine how this mistake had happened, but finally threw his hands in the air but much to our amusement declared, “Okay. We are going to see a manatee.”

I’ve swum with manatees in the wild once before, but I was still skeptical it was actually going to happen for us here. But lo and behold, soon we were dropping anchor and receiving orders from an excitable guide to get in the water immediately and stare at some rocks. Until, the rocks started moving…

Snorkeling with Manatees in Belize

Snorkeling with Manatees in Belize

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tours

Holy cow! We actually found manatees, out in the ocean! Though we couldn’t get anywhere near close to them, it was an exhilarating experience watching these gentle creates on the go. We could have turned around right then and there and returned to land and I would have been happy.

Thanks, guy who got on the wrong boat!

Snorkeling with Manatees in Belize

Not that anything could have followed that, really, but the rest of the snorkel site wasn’t super impressive — at least not compared to what we’d seen in Hopkins.

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tours

Our next stop is the one that Caye Caulker is famous for — Shark Ray Alley. Here, wild nurse sharks and stingrays are attracted to the boat by the allure of squid flung over the side by the crew, much to the delight of the squealing tourists on the deck.

Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tours

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

While some chose to stay onboard for this one, I couldn’t resist donning mask and fins to hop on in…

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize

Snorkeling with Stingrays in Belize

Snorkeling with Stingrays in Belize

Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tours

Tricky of a photography situation as this crowded and chum-filled scene was, it was a thrill to be up close and personal with the wild sharks and rays. I admit that in spite of knowing full well that nurse sharks are about as dangerous as my cocker spaniel, I shrieked into my snorkel a few times when one got too close!

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

Once the sharks were sated, we were back on the boat for a lunch of our own. We concluded that everything tastes better when you’re surrounded by turquoise waters.

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

EZ Boy Tours Belize

Eventually, we were back in the water for one last snorkel stop, The Hol Chan Marine Reserve itself. At this point I had to coax a sunbathing Olivia back into the water, and I was glad I did — it was by far the best stop of the day. While the site was extremely crowded, I’m assuming in part due to the holiday weekend, the fish were still far more abundant than humans. And this time, our group was broken into two groups and led by a guide who pointed our various fish and marine life. I resisted the urge to loudly shout the name of each fish right before he said it, not because I didn’t want to be a smarty pants but more because I’ve seen Open Water far too many times to risk being left behind by a pissed-off captain.

Caye Caulker Snorkeling Trip

EZ Boy Tours Belize

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker Snorkeling Trip

We even saw a lone nurse shark — one who’d clearly missed the memo about Shark Ray Alley — swim by.

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker Snorkeling Trip

But the best was yet to come. Right as we were reaching back to the boat, I smiled at the familiar site of a plodding turtle, soaring slowly through the sea. We’d officially hit the snorkeling superfecta — manatee, shark, stingray, turtle.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tours

Caye Caulker Snorkeling

On the way back to the island, our tourmates and we toasted to our good fortune as rum punches were handed all around. At $70, the day hadn’t been cheap, but it had been worth every penny. The staff at EZ Boy Tours was truly great. We did two tours with them, this one and a sunset cruise, and we were greeted back like family on the second. When I forgot something back at our rental as the tour was about to leave, one of the crew casually told me to grab his bike and borrow it to save time. And when we were leaving the boss asked me to rub his pregnant wife’s belly as local superstition says that getting a blue-eyed person to do so is what gives the baby azure eyes. Not sure it really works that way but I’m not a scientist so who knows. The point is, they made us feel like friends.

As we were watching the sun set back on Caye Caulker after our tour — still sipping the rum punches they’d poured us “for the road” — Olivia announced that she didn’t remember life before Belize. I laughed, but I got it. My family had only been there for nine days, but it was suddenly hard for me to imagine this trip before they’d arrived too. Even harder? Picturing it after Liv, the last to go, was gone. I didn’t want this trip to be over. But I do know it will live on — I’ll treasure these memories from Belize forever.

Caye Caulker Snorkeling Trip

Next up, my final post from Belize —
everything else we got up to on Caye Caulker!

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EZ Boy Tours did not pay or perk me to write this review — sponsored content will always be disclosed. All underwater photos in this post were taken with Canon PowerShot S100 and its Canon PowerShot S100 Underwater Housing. See a full list of my photography gear here.
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Travel Blog SuccessI rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that just celebrated its fourth anniversary. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now! And now’s definitely the time to buy, as the course price will increase starting in August.

Bonus: Recently, Travel Blog Success launched an exciting new videography course. When purchasing the two, you’ll receive 10% off the combined price, an incentive that you can add on top of the current sale discount.

Click here to receive 35% off all TBS memberships — a savings of $120 — no code needed! Sale ends Friday at 11:00 PM EST. Please note that I’m a proud affiliate of the program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. See you in the forums!

BlueHostDouble Bonus: This week, Bluehost will be offering their hosting services at promotional prices as low as $3.49/month, exclusively for Alex in Wanderland readers. That’s up to 42% off their regular price!

Click here to receive an exclusive savings on all Bluehost hosting packages. Sale ends Friday. Please note that I’m also a proud affiliate of Bluehost and will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you.

And finally, my featured blogger program is going strong — nab one of the final spots for October or November now!

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From Eyerolls to Armstands: How Yoga Won Me Over http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/27/yoga-and-travel/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/27/yoga-and-travel/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:50:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=36321

One of the things I love about blogging is it forces me to sit quietly and reflect on my travels; to aggressively over-analyze my trips, and to recognize changes in myself and my travel style over time. Upon reliving my recent five months in Central America, I’ve come to the undeniable conclusion that this trip was a turning point for yoga and me.

Yoga Travel

My motto used to be, “if you’re in control, you’re not moving fast enough,” but I think in a lot of ways I just loved that quote because it justified the chaos that was/is my day to day existence. I live life without an anchor, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What has shifted, however, is my shrug-your-shoulders acceptance that being a traveler, being an entrepreneur, and being a career creative means I need to live in mayhem.

Hence, my recent attempts to find more balance. Slowing down my travel itinerary. Delegating work I can hire out to others. Finding space in my days to prioritize my physical and mental fitness. And that’s where yoga comes in.

Finding the Mat

I was drawn to yoga originally because I’m hyper flexible and so I thought I’d kick its butt. Turns out balance and strength are the other two side of the yoga skills triangle, and both are areas I could use work in. So I reluctantly stayed on the mat. Overall, yoga was something I did occasionally, maybe once a week at my peak, in order to stretch out muscles that were tight from my other workouts and to find an hour to slip away into my thoughts. Yet I frequently left frustrated – the class was too long, we moved too slow, the instructor made us do that breathe-y thing with our nostrils, I rolled my two eyes too hard when someone started talking about their third one, I could have used that hour to work, someone forced me (!) to meditate, etc. The list went on.

I arrived in Central America determined to kick start my new zen-ish lifestyle, and yoga suddenly felt right. I was recovering from surgery physically, but more so mentally; trying to find my confidence again with new scars, and yoga along with my other workouts reminded me there was little my body couldn’t do. I was focusing heavily on my writing, and inspiration overflowed whenever I was in flow. I was traveling alone, and yoga introduced me to fantastic people. More than any other region I’ve visited, the gringo trail in Central America is a great place to throw together a self-styled health retreat. With very few exceptions, I attended classes in every destination I visited. From a treehouse in San Juan del Sur to a colonial garden in Granada, from the shadow of a Mayan ruin in San Ignacio to the shores of a Lake Atitlán in San Marcos, Central America is teeming with places to try yoga. In the same way that Muay Thai made me feel more connected to Thailand, practicing yoga made me feel more connected to Central America.

Slowly I realized that my eyeroll reflex had softened, and rather than try to tune them out, I listened curiously when my teachers shared their philosophies. I craved the familiar flow of asanas (the snobby yoga word for postures), awaited the time away from all my screens (even when I run I have my iPhone, listening to music and tracking my mileage), and looked forward to the fresh feeling I had when I walked out of a class. I may have even let out an om or two here or there.

Yoga Blog

Yoga means different things to different people at different times. In the past, I saw it as a plain and simple workout for my body, and pose inspiration when courting Instagram likes in gorgeous locations. Today, I also see it as a resent button for my mind. I am still somewhat picky when it comes to classes. Anything over an hour makes me wince at sign up. Certain styles still aren’t my thing (I’m looking at you, kundalini) and I do occasionally feel a strong flare up of skepticism towards anything I classify too mystical or dippy. And, like all areas of my life, I still don’t take this one too seriously (I’ve been known to walk into a class with a Diet Coke can in hand and announce I may still be tipsy from the previous evening’s adventures.) But overall, my flexibility has increased tenfold – the flexibility required to keep an open mind.

What’s Next?

Now, trying new classes is a part of my travel routine. In the past few months I’ve taken SUP yoga in Bermuda, tried aerial yoga in Martha’s Vineyard, squeezed in a lunchtime class in a loft in Boston, took a live bluegrass-backed class at Bonnaroo, participated in a group Buti Yoga class on the beach in Brooklyn, and hunkered down for some straight up hot yoga in a no-frills strip mall studio in my hometown.

For now, I’m piecing together classes whenever and wherever they fit into my travels. When I return to Koh Tao in the fall, I plan try out a few new studios, keep an eye out for more intensive workshops and perhaps invest in some private classes to try to tackle some personally challenging poses. I’ve also started looking into yoga retreats and, dare I say it, even dreaming about someday attending a teacher training — and trying to think when that would fit into my budget and schedule. This training program in Hawaii caught my eye, as have a few in Bali.

Yoga on the Road

So Tell Me…

Do you practice yoga? Do you look for it when you travel? I want to hear all about it. Tell me what yoga blogs and Instagram accounts you follow. Tell me what yoga YouTube videos you do when you’re stuck in a hotel room. Tell me what yoga books you’ve read.  Tell me what amazing retreats you’ve been to, or perhaps even what teacher training you loved. I’ll see you in the comments.

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Aspiring bloggers, take note!

Right now is the perfect time to kick off or up your blogging game. Why? Travel Blog Success and Bluehost Hosting are both on sale!

Travel Blog SuccessI rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that just celebrated its fourth anniversary. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now! And now’s definitely the time to buy, as the course price will increase starting in August.

Bonus: Recently, Travel Blog Success launched an exciting new videography course. When purchasing the two, you’ll receive 10% off the combined price, an incentive that you can add on top of the current sale discount.

Click here to receive 35% off all TBS memberships — a savings of $120 — no code needed! Sale ends Friday at 11:00 PM EST. Please note that I’m a proud affiliate of the program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. See you in the forums!

BlueHostDouble Bonus: This week, Bluehost will be offering their hosting services at promotional prices as low as $3.49/month, exclusively for Alex in Wanderland readers. That’s up to 42% off their regular price!

Click here to receive an exclusive savings on all Bluehost hosting packages. Sale ends Friday. Please note that I’m also a proud affiliate of Bluehost and will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you.

And finally, my featured blogger program is going strong — nab one of the final spots for October or November now!

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Photo of the Week 215: New York http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/26/photo-of-the-week-215-new-york/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/26/photo-of-the-week-215-new-york/#comments Sun, 26 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35899

Happy Sunday! This morning, I woke up on the beautiful Caribbean island of Bonaire for the first time ever. I’m so excited to be exploring a new country… from above and below the water. But more on that in a minute.

I spent the past week upstate in Albany, preparing to leave on this trip. I was mostly busy hanging with Tucker, working out, and working — ie. tying up loose ends and preparing blog posts for while I’d be away. For the most part, I was on my laptop from the moment I woke up to long after the clock struck midnight. Hence, there wasn’t much time leftover for Photo of the Week-worthy activities. I did manage to sneak in a movie date with one of my good friends and both our moms, some crafting, and a few fun dinners with other hometown friends. But I didn’t take out any of my cameras once — hence, just sharing some quick iPhone snaps today. Not the most Instagram-able week I’ve ever had, but sometimes those are necessary — and even much appreciated. Life is simple when I’m up in Albany, and I’ve been craving that lately.

But fear not, I’ve got plenty of action coming at you this week as I wrap up my Belize coverage and we virtually swing back into Guatemala. And I can only imagine the colorful Caribbean goodness that next week’s Photo of the Week will bring! Can’t wait till then? Follow along on my Instagram for of-the-moment updates on all my Bonaire adventures.

Week 215

Hope you had a happy weekend wherever you’re reading from!

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Please Belize: Caye Caulker Calls http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/24/please-belize-caye-caulker-calls/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/24/please-belize-caye-caulker-calls/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35976

Hopkins was a salty playground. San Ignacio was a lush retreat. We certainly could have done Belize justice had our trip ended as we pulled away from the Ka’ana Resort. But we had one more region of this tiny Central American paradise to cover — the Cayes.

As teachers, my cousin and sister had over a week off for spring beak, and so we decided to tack one last destination onto our trip. We hemmed and hawed and eventually settled on Caye Caulker, a teeny tiny isle off the coast of Belize City known for being a backpacker’s paradise. We also briefly considered Ambergris Caye, Caulker’s larger, more developed, and more upscale older sister, but decided barefoot was more our speed.

With mama headed back stateside, this portion of the trip was just us kids. You know, assuming you consider three independent women in their twenties and thirties to be considered kids! Which we totally do. Hence our cackles of glee as we poked each other without fear of tattle-tailing. No more chaperones! Teachers gone untamed! Come on vacation, leave on probation! (Just kidding mom. We cried every day after you left.)

Caye Caulker Family Trip

Caye Caulker Family Trip

Under most circumstances, we probably would have just taken a boat over to Caye Caulker. But as we were dropping my mom off at the airport anyway, we decided to just hop a quick, fifteen minute Maya Island Air flight instead. The whole experience was hilarious, from the strict “no lobsters through the x-ray” sign at the gate to the security guard who chastised my sister for having liquid bug spray in her carry-on, but let her keep it anyway because, “[she’s] gonna need it.”

We’d barely started selfie-ing in the plane when we touched down at the hustling, bustling Caye Caulker Airport, which I think anyone would agree rivals LAX and JFK in terms of the traffic situation.

Flying to Caye Caulker

Flying to Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker Airport

Thankfully, we didn’t have to fight anyone in the madhouse of a taxi line — our chauffeur was awaiting us with the engine running!

Caye Caulker Taxi

Caye Caulker Air BnB

Here’s a tip if you’re planing a trip to Belize that happens to fall over Easter: Don’t. Just kidding, do, but maybe start looking for accommodation yesterday. We’d kind of vaguely planned to wing it for our last few days until a friend more clued into the Belizean national vacation habits laughed in my face and told me we’d be lucky to find a hammock to sleep in over that weekend on Caye Caulker. She was almost right — by the time I started looking, six weeks before our arrival, there were three places still available that were bookable online, and one sold out while I was in the checkout process. Other places with only phone numbers confirmed that they too had no vacancy. Thankfully, my Airbnb request went through and we found ourselves the proud temporary residents of a cute little two bedroom apartment for the weekend. This was my first time using Airbnb — previously I’ve always rented via Flipkey — and I saved $25 by using a friend’s referral link. You can do with your own bookings by using mine — click here!

The rental wouldn’t end up being without drama, but that’s a story for another time. This post is about the rainbow-sprinkle colored sweetness that is Caye Caulker. I love Central American Caribbean islands, from Bocas del Toro to the Bay Islands, and now to the Belizean Cayes. There is something sublime about their blend of beauty and culture and affordability.

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker

We spent three nights on Caye Caulker; the first was Good Friday and the last was Easter Sunday. Five miles long and less than five miles wide, it doesn’t take much to make an island this size feel crowded. The laid-back, chilled-out Caye Caulker I’d heard other backpackers describe was turned up for the weekend. While no alcohol is sold anywhere in Belize on Good Friday, they certainly make up for it the rest of the weekend.

Reggaeteon and soca music blasted from speakers bigger than the bedrooms in our rental apartment. Energetic people buzzed down Front Street. The dock at The Split, beachless Caye Caulker’s answer to a stretch of sand, was covered inch for inch with towels and sarongs of sunbathers. Within an hour of arrival, three different people warned us to get money from the ATMs, as surely they’d be empty by the next morning. Caye Caulker was sold out.

I’m sure to some this would be a nightmare — our yoga teacher all but personally apologized for the “chaos” — but after a week at ultra-relaxing luxury resorts, we enjoyed the lively atmosphere and were bemused by all the antics. Plus, it was still possible to slip away to quiet side streets.

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker

That said, we didn’t necessarily participate in those antics. We did have one fun night out but it started with a sunset booze cruise — more on that later — and so it was more of a sprint than a marathon, if you know what I’m saying. Going to Caye Caulker during Easter and trying to have a typical tourist experience may be like going to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and trying to do the same, but I think we still got a pretty good taste of what this little island is all about. Color. Community. Sunshine. Sunsets. Swinging over the sea. Jumping into the sea. Going slow.

“Go slow” is the official motto of Caye Caulker. Things were going pretty fast while we were there, but it’s still an island where bicycles replace mopeds. Golf carts supersede cars. Guesthouses reign over resorts. Roads aren’t paved, feet aren’t constrained to shoes, and “watching the sunset” is considered a respectable goal for the day’s accomplishments.

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker

Go slow? I wish time could have gone glacial. Then I wouldn’t have had to leave.

Caye Caulker Sunset

Stay tuned for more coverage from Caye Caulker! What’s your favorite place to go slow?

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Many thanks to Maya Island Air for providing me with complimentary flights within Belize.  Get $25 off your first Airbnb booking by clicking here.

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Don’t Stop Belizing : Xunantunich by Horseback and Half Lotus http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/23/xunantunich-horseback-and-yoga/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/23/xunantunich-horseback-and-yoga/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35974

My two weeks in Belize were filled to the brim with beautiful moments and memories. It was the kind of trip where, were it not for the day I’ll share in this very post, I’d have been hard pressed to pick a highlight. But when I think back to our big family trip, one experience stands out.

Xunantunich Belize

Clearly, we were pretty enamored with our home base in San Ignacio. We barely wanted to leave Ka’ana Resort! Yet we would have been pretty crazy not to take advantage of the resort’s prime location and pop next door — literally — to Xunantunich, one of Belize’s stunning Mayan ruins.

But we weren’t going to just be herded around the site in a big group tour (like, ahem, I had been at Tikal not long before). Nope. This day was going to be darn special. Ka’ana arranges some pretty fabulous excursions for their guests, and what we put together for our day at Xunantunich was nothing short of magical.

Starting, quite grandly, with a private yoga class at the base of a Mayan temple.

Yoga at Ka'ana

Yoga at Xunantunich

Yoga at a Mayan Ruin

I could barely believe that this was a real thing that we could do. Our instructor, a perky expat from Canada, had come bearing mats and a sunny disposition and stories from the yoga retreat she runs in Central Belize. While the class comes with a hefty price tag due to the need for pricey permits and a private instructor, I don’t think I’ve ever savasana-ed in such a special place.

The Mayans built in this place because there is a unique energy here, our instructor reminded us between warrior poses. And such, it was a privilege to practice there.

Yoga at Xunantunich

Yoga at Xunantunich

I just can’t gush more about how much I loved this! It really was one of those surreal experiences where I was just awash in gratitude over whatever crazy twists and turns life took to bring me right to that mat in that moment.

Feeling aglow, we waved goodbye to our instructor and were handed back over to our private tour guide from Ka’ana. Now that we’d soaked up all Xunantunich’s energy, it was time to give some back.

Xunantunich Belize

Xunantunich Private Tour

Our guide was the image of a hospitality school valedictorian as he led us slowly up the main temple, stopping frequently to give us a dose of history injected with humor, to point out an intricate carving, or to share a personal anecdote. When we reached the top, my eyes grew wide and I felt myself start to smile. There’s Guatemala, our guide said casually, pointing to a not-so-distant point in the endless jungle ahead.

When we’d first walked onto the site that morning, I’d been shocked by how small the grounds of the ruin were. But as we slowly edged our way around the top of the highest temple, one hundred and thirty feet above the ground, it clicked. This is why you come to Xunantunich.

It might be a small site. But it has some pretty big views.

Xunantunich Private Tour

Xunantunich Belize

Making our way to the smaller temples, we continued our cousin yoga-off, much to the amusement of the tour groups who’d begun to fill in the park.

After our class I’d been too bliss-ed out to think about practicalities, but in retrospect I’m pretty sure the special permitting required for our session allowed us into the site before the official opening time, because we didn’t see a single other soul while we were on the mat.

Yoga at a Mayan Ruin

Yoga at Xunantunich

Family Travel Belize

Our day could have ended there and it would have been fantastic. What a special morning! But there was more in store.

Xunantunich Private Tour

We were horseback riding away from those ruins! Well, Olivia and I were, anyway. We had a miscommunication about how many horses were going to be reserved, and so we split off into two pairs with my mom and Kirsten going ahead to our picnic lunch site, and Olivia and I arriving via horseback.

Our horseback guide took his cowboy shtick seriously — the man was wearing spurs! I’ve become a pretty bit of a riding enthusiast over the years whereas Olivia remains a tad more skeptical, so a big part of the saddling up process was psyching her up.

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

We didn’t go far before there was a break, however — leading the horses across the Mopan River on the hand-cranked ferry we’d taken to get there. We, of course, set aside this time to take silly selfies with our riding buddies.

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

While these photos are fairly idyllic, this wasn’t my favorite part of the day. I think I’ve just outgrown mane-to-tail rides, and our horseback guide wasn’t comfortable having us do anything but that. I guess it’s just hard to follow up the kind of horseback experience I had in Nicaragua with anything less!

But for a less experienced or picky rider, I think escorting oneself away from a Mayan ruin, across a river, and into a beautiful valley would be pretty thumbs up way to spend an hour.

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

Horseback Riding Xunantunich

But the scene we were about to ride up to? Be still my heart. When the concierge at Ka’ana said “picnic lunch” I pictured someone tossing us a few brown paper bags while we swatted flies in the midst of shadeless field. What I did not picture was this:

Private Picnic Ka'ana

Private Picnic Ka'ana

Um, yes, this would do! We dug into our beautifully prepared lunches (with nary a disposable container in site) and cheers-ed to our idyllic river-side setting, a meal prepared with love, and to each others’ company.

Private Picnic Ka'ana

Private Picnic Ka'ana

When we remarked on what a stunning day it had been and how lucky we’d been with the weather, our favorite waitress back at Ka’ana, Marissa, nodded enthusiastically. It had been drizzly throughout the week, and Marissa replied that she’d been praying the weather would be nice for us on that day. And she said it with such sincerity that it tugged at my heartstrings and just kind of summed up the experience we had with Belizean hospitality. So sweet and well-intentioned, and at least at Ka’ana, so impressively executed.

This was a day that blew me away. My inner yoga enthusiast got to go through a vinyasa flow at the base of an ancient ruin, my inner shutter bug got ample time to document gorgeous vistas, my inner animal lover got to hang with a sweet horse, and my inner lover of all things adorable squealed at the sight of a private picnic site so twee it could have graced the pages of a travel magazine.

It was one for the books — or in this case, for the blog.

Xunantunich Tour Ka'ana

Have you have a unique travel experience that stopped you in your tracks?
Tell me about it in the comments!

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Missed a post? Read all my Belize coverage here! Many thanks to Ka’ana Resort for hosting us and making our family trip so special. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

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The Great Escape: Month 45 Roundup http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/21/the-great-escape-month-45-roundup/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/21/the-great-escape-month-45-roundup/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35772

Note: I know there’s been plenty of recapping going on around these parts lately! I’m still fairly behind on my monthly roundups, but it is kind of fun to have a little blast from the past, no? Lots of juicy details inside!
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Month 45 was, quite simply, amazing. One of the overall happiest periods of my travels — and this from a month I had food poisoning! The key, I believe, was balance. Two breeze-by stops paired with two destinations I really settled into. Time with old friends mixed with a period of social solo travel mixed in with several important days of solitude. A healthy equilibrium of work and play.

And, it goes without saying, lots and lots and lots of sand. I fell crazy in love with both countries I covered this month — Nicaragua, which I spent almost a full month in after touching down at the end of Month 43, and El Salvador, where I blissed away two weeks at the beach.

San Juan del Sur TravelSan Juan del Sur

Where I’ve Been

• Fourteen days in San Juan del Sur / Nicaragua

• Four days in León / Nicaragua

• Ten days in El Cuco / El Salvador

• Four days in El Tunco / El Salvador

San Juan del Sur TravelSan Juan del Sur

Highlights

• Getting back to basics. My Central America trip started at the end of Month 44, and these first six weeks were just perfect. Apart from my time in El Cuco for the festival I had nothing locked in on my calendar before I arrived, and apart from one horseback riding adventure in San Juan del Sur I paid out of pocket for everything and didn’t arrange any other media comps. It felt wonderful to be so spontaneous and obligation-free, and that freedom allowed me to find a lovely balance of work and play. I skipped out on plenty of “must-see” destinations in both countries in order to focus on quality over quantity, and it felt refreshing. Even so, I do wish I could have pretty much doubled my time in each of my three Nicaragua destinations!

• Do you ever arrive somewhere and just feel like it was made for you? That’s how San Juan del Sur felt to me. My two weeks here were the longest unbroken time I spent in one destination in Central America, and they were an undoubted highlight of the entire trip. Amazing restaurants, a busting expat community, outlets for both my healthy (read: yoga obsessed) and hedonistic (read: party girl) impulses, and gorgeous sunsets over the sand every night of the week. It’s almost impossible to pick out certain moments and list them as individual highlights when the entire time there was more or less a blur of happy. I didn’t want to leave.

• ….and yet, there was kind of one major highlight to my time in SJDS. Horseback riding at Rancho Chilamante — or more specifically, galloping down an abandoned Pacific Coast beach by horseback — was one of the most amazing natural highs of the life. And following it up with an impromptu booze cruise with my fellow cowgirls? Just out of this world.

• I don’t know if there are just like a lot of pheromones flying around in the air in San Juan del Sur or what, but I felt totally uncharacteristically boy crazy while I was there. I met up with expat surfers with man-buns I met on Tinder, I flirted with bartenders far too young for me, and I went on one memorable jogging date with a guy far too old for me. It was all crazy fun. (Except for when it wasn’t, but check the lowlights section for that. Also, since I know some have asked/been confused, when Beareded Bartender AKA Ian AKA the guy I was dating in Koh Tao realized we weren’t going to see each other for more than six months we naturally agreed to date other people in the interim. So date I did!)

• I didn’t go crazy for León — it was probably my least favorite destination of the month, which kind of speaks to what a great month it was considering I didn’t even come close to hating it and actually enjoyed all the activities I did there. I spent the majority of my four days in León cramming in last minute interneting before going fully offline, but I fit a lot into my time off, like volcano boarding, photography walks, and stumbling on a Picasso exhibit. The latter was the highlight of my short time in the city.

• While I didn’t want to leave Nicaragua when I did, it was really nice to have some anchors to plan my Central America trip around — Equilibrio was one of them. Getting out of a crammed minibus after a nine hour crossing from Nicaragua and into the arms of some of my closest friends from Brooklyn felt like coming home, even if it was to a place I’d never been. While the festival was only four days, I arrived about a week early, one of my best decisions of the trip. It was fantastic to get some quality time with my friends in before the madness started, and to get to experience El Cuco without any distractions. Surfing, stand up paddleboarding, and sunning by the pool were all distant memories by the time the festival really kicked off, so I’m so glad I had time for them beforehand.

• Watching both the sunrise and the sunset over the water from the same beach in El Cuco was surreal, and I’m grateful I was able to watch both many times over the course of the week.

• I was insanely intimidated to lead a writing workshop at the festival, but it ended up being a rush of adrenaline, inspiration, and fun. I’m going to keep an eye out for more writer’s workshops in my upcoming travels, either to participate in or to present my blogging experience at.

• How to sum up Equilibrio? All I can say it is was magical. From daily yoga to nightly dance sessions, Equilibrio hit the equilibrium it was named after.

• It’s such a small thing but something I was so appreciative of — my friends from New York carried down a few toiletry essentials for me when they arrived, and carried back some of my packing misfires when they departed. It was such a weight off my shoulders — literally!

• Ah El Tunco, still the sweetest beach town ever despite seriously the most ridiculous list of travel mishaps. One dirt road, a stylish yoga studio, a scenic beach, an amazing food scene, and a distinctly surfer vibe. What more could a girl ask for?

• There were recycling bins next to every public garbage can in El Tunco! There was also free water refills at my hostel. Both these facts made me disproportionately happy — I hope other small beach towns in Central America follow suit.

• I met so many fantastic people this month. From the cowgirls I went riding with to the hilarious couple I met on the San Juan del Sur catamaran (let’s just say they spent several years running a hip hop label in NYC, wrote a crime novel set in the rap industry, and are traveling the world off the royalties), from fellow blogger Kate to some awesome readers who said hi, from my old Brooklyn crew in El Salvador to the amazing new friends I made at Equilibrio, this month was brimming with beautiful humans. Solo travel: very rarely, in fact, solo.

Leon TravelLeón

Lowlights and Lessons

• I STILL can’t surf. I had thought I’d leave Central America confident enough to rent a board and catch a wave wherever I go. But San Juan del Sur wasn’t set up for me to grab an hour of practice a day before work (all the breaks are at the neighboring beaches, which require a shuttle to get to, hence it’s an all day affair unless you have your own ride), in El Cuco I was mostly distracted by festival stuff and in El Tunco I was busy having severe food poisoning. Excuses excuses! I really truly want to finally make this goal a priority one of these days.

• Power outages. Their frequency in San Juan del Sur did not mix well with my wifi-dependence and my disdain for the dark.

• One of those previously mentioned expat dates in San Juan del Sur kind of snowballed into a little fling, one that was fun at first but left me smarting by the time I hit the road again. The upside? It made for a fairly hilarious short story I hope to publish someday. Getting stood up at a bar called the Loose Moose is pretty tragic in reality, but pretty entertaining in retrelling. The downside? I was seriously ego-bruised by a man who believes in healing crystals. (And totally no offense if you believe in healing crystals, dear reader. But fair warning, I might snort passionfruit mojito out my nose mid-date depending on how you chose to deliver this information.) But all jokes aside, it never feels good to be treated disrespectfully by another human being, especially one you’ve become romantically entangled with, however briefly.

• Leaving San Juan del Sur was a mess. I was already in a fairly short-tempered mood the morning of my shuttle (see above) when I was informed that it was oversold and I was being issued a refund. I had a very out-of-proportion meltdown and ended up cry-Skyping my dad like any mature adult would do. In the end, I had already packed all my bags and checked out of my hostel and I had limited time in my next destination of León as it was, so instead of paying $25 for a shuttle I payed $68 for a private taxi. The upside being my taxi driver was a sweetheart and we had a nice chat in Spanglish and shared a hilarious lunch at Tip Top, Nicaragua’s answer to KFC. Would I rather have spent that $43 elsewhere? Yup. But travel happens, and sometimes you have to splurge for sanity.

• I thought the worst of the street harassment was behind me when I left Granada, but it actually reached another level in León one night. I was walking home from dinner when I heard a bicycle behind me. Suddenly I was alone on the previously busy street and my gut said something wasn’t right, but there was nothing I could do but walk faster. In seconds the bike was right beside me and I felt a man reaching out to grab me. I shouted in shock and started basically sprinting back towards my hostel as he veered off, laughing. I was alone again. But not for long. I literally felt chills when I heard the spokes clicking behind me once again — he’d circled the block to have a second go at me. This time I pushed back when he grabbed at me and offset his balance, leading to us having a physical scuffle on the side of the road while I screamed in Spanish. It all happened so fast I was left bewildered with my adrenaline spiking off the charts when he biked away.

The worst part? I was truly terrified, and while in retrospect I don’t think I was in actual danger — I think he wanted to rob me or get a rise out of me as opposed to say, kill me — in the moment I felt like an animal being stalked by a predator. The second worst part? In the aftermath I noticed there were three other travelers approaching from the other side of the road with their eyes averted, looking like they were trying to pretend they hadn’t seen what just happened. They didn’t so much as call out to ask if I was okay. And the third worst part? In the scuffle I lost my Clearly Filtered Water Bottle, a key piece of gear that I mourned the rest of the trip.

• I had a really frustrating day in León in which I literally traversed the city on foot in search of supposedly healthy meals on offer at CocinArte. I was so excited when I finally found the place, only to be told that I couldn’t be served due to the tour group that had just arrived. So minor in the grand scheme of things, so soul crushing when you’ve just wasted an hour sweltering through a polluted city in search of a salad.

• My Equilibrio roommates and I ended up spending a night in a really strange little town near the airport in El Salvador so that they’d be able to easily catch their flights the next morning. Wanting to spend more time with them, I tagged along, but it ended up being a pricey evening — my share of the weirdly abandoned hotel (which was under construction and thus a total mess) was more than a night in a hostel would have been, and I had to take a private taxi onward to El Tunco when they left as there was literally no public transportation available whatsoever. All that would have been fine, but once I arrived in El Tunco and saw how amazing it was, I wished we had all just grabbed a shuttle there from El Cuco and spent our final night together there. Alas, there was simply no way to know how much better a plan that would have been ahead of time. Hindsight is twenty twenty!

• I’ve had food poisoning before, but I really outdid myself in El Tunco — and based on one of the other girls getting sick too, I’m fairly sure I contracted it at the aforementioned airport hotel. I’m talking rolling around in the fetal position caked in sweat and vomit and emitting involuntary moans of misery. I hit a real low point when I went to rinse myself off in the middle of a sleepless night and cockroaches ran over my feet, and in my delirium I truly felt that they, the cockroaches, were mocking my condition. I spent about forty-eight hours in complete agony, wracked with anxiety over how I’d survive a car ride to the hospital in San Salvador. I don’t know if staying put was the wisest choice I’ve ever made, but alone I was too overwhelmed to consider any other course of action, and luckily I eventually started to keep water back down. By the time I left four days later I was starting to feel like myself again, if a slightly exhausted and dehydrated version.

• A series of travel tragedies struck in almost comic order in my last twelve hours in El Tunco. First, my beloved only pair of flip flops broke as I was headed out for the night, leaving me barefoot until the shops opened the next morning. Second, the ATM ate my bank card, leaving me with only my backup card for the rest of the trip. Third, I completely forget all my laundry at the laundromat and left the country without it. Yes, I LEFT THE COUNTRY WITHOUT MY LAUNDRY. Clearly you are reading the words of a true travel expert right here! About a week later, thanks to the amazing coordination of no fewer than three people, I managed to be reunited with my washing. But seriously, what. an. idiot. (And yes, this incident did inspire much of my love for the Scrubba.)

• I’ve written before about my phobia of the dark, and it really hit me in unexpected ways in Central America, where the high cost of electricity means light is a luxury. The sun sets before six that time of year, and it seemed like whole cities would be plunged into blackness as the clock struck seven. Over the years I’ve gotten a better handle on this phobia and so while I wasn’t necessarily anxious, I was definitely agitated, and even bizarrely angered, by the situations where I couldn’t flip a switch and flood light my surroundings. I struggled with this mostly at Equilibrio, where the festival obviously carried on outside past 6:00pm, leaving us walking, eating, and carrying on conversations more or less with blindfolds on. The anger felt like a hangover to years spent paralytic with fear… like, hey darkness, I’m not afraid anymore, but I’m still pissed about all those years you scared me! We are so not cool! Here’s hoping this fades with time.

Lols

• Favorite snippet overheard at Equilibrio:

Girl 1, explaining a questionable decision she’d made: “But I was high on cacao at the time!”
Girl 2, skeptical: “So…. You’re blaming this on eating chocolate.”

El Cuco TravelEl Cuco

Budget

I had a pretty surprisingly lavish month. (But I’m starting to ask myself like literally when do I not.) Removing business expenses from the equation, I spent $2,372. My biggest expenditure, as usual, was food, which clocked in at $736. Next up was accommodation which ballooned up to $555 thanks to pricey digs in San Juan del Sur and then while I was recovering in El Tunco. Entertainment rang up to $453, miscellaneous clothes, gifts, and toiletries to $191, overland transport and border fees to $190, heath and fitness to $138 and spa and salon to $109 (I had my first haircut in a year!)

Aside from business expenses, my biggest individual splurges were the $150 Equilibrio ticket, an $80 catamaran ride in San Juan del Sur, $87 at an ophthalmologists in León (note to self: Central America is not the place to run out of contacts), the surprise $68 taxi, and a $60 shuttle to El Salvador.

I spent a bit more than I earned in Month 45, but the month prior had been hugely profitable and so it all came out in the wash (actually, averaging the two I still came out on top.) Ideally it would be nice to be spending less than $2,000 a month when I’m in these lower cost countries, but working on the road means I’m more likely to splurge on private rooms in hostels, eat in nice restaurants with wifi, and to think of time as money when weighing up whether to take an expensive direct tourist shuttle or spend a whole day taking a series of cheap local buses.

Work

Considering I took ten days almost completely offline — El Cuco had no wifi — and then spent four incapacitated by illness, it’s no surprise that I had a slow month for income. (In El Cuco I did manage to connect on my phone for an average of five to ten minutes a day to cull emails, and one afternoon walked to a resort that had wifi to answer the urgent ones on my laptop.) I was unable to work for the second half of it! The first half was mostly spent keeping my head above water in terms of getting content up on the blog in advance of going offline, tying up loose ends on the previous month’s projects, responding to comments, and answering urgent emails. I also invested a fair amount of time in a design project that frustratingly didn’t pan out. So, not a lot of time for wheeling and dealing.

Thankfully some Viator stuff, one fun freelance design project and a pittance in affiliate income and blog advertising kept me afloat.

Equilibrio TravelEquilibrio

Health and Fitness

I was incredibly fitness-focused in San Juan del Sur, going to yoga every other day and filling in runs, hikes, and gym sessions for the rest. In León I mostly got in exercise via daily walks through the city, though I missed being more physically active. Thankfully once in El Cuco I was back to jogging, fitness workshops and near-daily yoga sessions. I even managed to fit in one gentle yoga class in El Tunco while recovering from dehydration. While I drank a lot in San Juan del Sur and had my fair share of ice creams in El Salvador, overall I ate fairly healthily and felt good about what I was consuming — the only place I found it challenging to make good food choices was León.

While in El Cuco, I started a new thing in savasana – I’ve never really “got” meditation and often felt my mind was wandering in that pose when surrounded by silence. One of the teachers at Tortuga Verde, however, had a habit of playing John Lennon’s Imagine while we got into our final resting post. Now, this is going to sound a little woo woo for a girl who just made a crack about crystal healing, but something about that song had me visualizing hugging all the people closest to me, a little habit I now carry into every class. I start with my little sister, move to my mom and dad, and then just go through mentally embracing whichever of my nearest and dearest pop into my head and sending them a little love from wherever I might be in the world. I always walk out of a class smiling.

Next thing you know I might start om-ing instead of just stifling really intense giggles when I hear the person next to me reach a strange register!

What’s Next

Guatemala, Belize, and beyond.

El Tunco TravelEl Tunco

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

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Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.

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Photo of the Week 214: New York http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/20/photo-of-the-week-214-new-york/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/07/20/photo-of-the-week-214-new-york/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35898

This past week found me hopping between the two cities I call home in New York state — Albany and New York City. Both call me back in different ways and for different reasons. One thing I know for sure? It is great to have almost three weeks in which I’ve been able to bounce between them! New York City was wonderful but bordered on overwhelming, with a friend date (and sometimes two) every single day of the week. I played at Fort Tilden beach with my Equilibrio crew, I headed to the hospital to meet a dear friend’s new baby, I had dinner dates in Manhattan with two of my closest friends from high school, I had dinner dates in Brooklyn with a whole crew from college, I had drinks with an old friend from Koh Tao, I brunched with a new friend from a travel conference, and I itinerary-planned with my bestie for our upcoming jaunt to the Grand Canyon. Phew! Somewhere in between all that, I managed to squeeze in a full work week of blog projects. It was amazing to see everyone, yet yesterday, it also felt pretty great to arrive back in Albany and catch up with some quality time with no one but my favorite dog.

This upcoming weekend I’ll be dusting off my passport to head to not one but two new (well, new to me anyway!) Caribbean islands, Bonaire and Aruba. I haven’t been on a proper dive trip in ages and I couldn’t be more excited to blow bubbles with two of my favorite fellow bloggers Kristin and Angie. But there’s a lot of work to do before departure, and so this week I’ll be in lockdown while I prepare for takeoff. Fingers crossed for a productive week!

Photo A

Fort Tilden BeachPlaying on Fort Tilden Beach

Photo B

Yoga at Fort TildenYoga on the sand

Photo C

Restoration by Future ClearFire twirling by sunset

Photo D

Rusty Anchor AlbanyBack in Albany again

Which photo is your favorite?

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Featured Blogs

And now for something new!

Looking for new travel sites to ad to your reading roster? Searching for the perfect gift for the wanderluster in your life? Each month from here forward, I’ll be sharing an inspiring selection of travel blogs, travel projects and travel shops. Not only are these fellow entrepreneurs following their passions and creating beautiful content, they’re also supporting Alex in Wanderland by advertising in my sidebar this month — please support them back by checking out their sites and cheering them along

Introducing Alex in Wanderland’s featured bloggers for July and August!

This American couple packed up and moved across the pond to London, where they now spend their free time exploring in Britain and beyond. But that doesn’t mean Drive on The Left is limited to Europe – one peek at their destination page will show you they’ve been driving down all kinds of roads.

Why I Love This Blog: Their site is absolutely stunning – hands down one of the best designed travel blogs on the internet. And I’m not just saying that because we had the same designer!

Silvia is a duel citizen of the United States and Norway – and her international adventures don’t end there. She’s lived in seven countries and visited over seventy, and chronicles it all on her unabashedly girly travel blog, Heart My Backpack.

Why I Love This Blog: Those seventy countries include some that had me raising my eyebrows at first – she’s even backpacked through Iran! I love that Silvia makes me consider destinations I never thought I would have. From Oman to Uzbekistan, this fellow blondie has covered some serious ground.

Michelle and Angel are the duo behind Anywhere At Home, a travel blog focused on outdoor adventure. And it just so happens they took off on a major long-term trip through the US, Mexico, and beyond this weekend – head over to their site and wish them luck!

Why I Love This Blog: I adore Angel and Michelle’s focus on getting back to nature, from biking to camping and beyond. They write practical posts about adventure, from biking packing lists to a description of the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification.

Leah originally hails from the state of Washington, but since calling quits on conventional, she’s called everywhere from Thailand to Colombia home. The Mochilera Diaries, where she shares her journey, is heartfelt, curious, and addictively clickable.

Why I Love This Blog: Because Leah is a real life friend I met in a taxi cab in Arequipa, and every time I read one of her posts I’m reminded that she’s one of the smartest, funniest and most perceptive people I’ve met on my travels. I’ve featured her before!

Brooklyn-based illustrator and letterer Lauren Hom has created some incredibly fun and quirky projects, though none made me smile as big as 26 Letters 26,000 Miles. Lauren hopes to fund a year long journey by selling her sharply travel designed posters to fellow wander addicts. When you click over to her shop, I think you’ll agree she’s well on her way.

Why I Love This Shop: Because I get sent enough “fund my trip just because” campaigns to truly respect someone who is using their skills to make something beautiful and earn along the way.

Get Featured

Interested in becoming a featured blogger or shop? Read more here. Limited spots still remaining for September and October.

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