19th of January 2016 was the date when me and my 40 liter backpack left Amsterdam and traded work life to travel life. This is one whole year ago, in this writing moment it's even a bit longer but that's because I haven't got around to do this post earlier. Some days I feel like I left yesterday and some days I feel like I've been gone forever. I had my ups and downs but the ups have definitive been more then the downs. Here's a small insight on the year that's been and what my "near future" plan is...
My trip as I call it started in Colombia and from there I made it over to Panama, I then took several buses up the rest of Central America through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and then finally in to Guatemala. Maybe I shouldn't mention Honduras, after all I only spent a night there! From Guatemala I made it over the boarder in to Mexico and made my way north. It was at this stage time to say good bye to Latin America were I had been for the last 27 weeks.
Had a short break traveling and stayed in Canada for three weeks, here I took a flight over to Asia which brought on a 19 hour time difference. Started in South Korea, from there I flew to the Philippines, followed by Thailand and then to Malaysia. From Malaysia I went back to Thailand just to return to the Philippines where I had my "year of traveling celebration". In total I had 29 weeks of erratic travel in Asia. For my "year of traveling celebration" I took an even more erratic decision and that was to return to Mexico...
Travel, accommodation, food, adventures, travel insurance, MacBook Air, camera and everything else that I spent money on this year is included in the money spent above. I probably could have done it cheaper but I still like to be somewhat comfortable and if I wanted to go diving or do any other activity then I done that despite cost. Would have hated to travel and say no to things just because being on a budget. Ok, I haven't stayed in any five star hotels the last year and I often slept in dorms but you kind of get used to that. You know that I like food and I certainly have eaten well this year. Again maybe not many flashy expensive restaurants but you can still find good eats on a cheaper budget. To add on that, I haven't cooked since July last year!
It was hard to pick top 3 best countries out of the 13 I visited on this trip. But when people ask then it's normally the below three countries that pops up in my head so guess these are my favorites. The countries are presented in no special order...
I already spent 6 weeks in Mexico but still I decided to purchase a flight from Asia and go all the way back. That is one big sign that I genuinely like this country. Ok, I've been to some shity places here as well, like Mazatlan and Palenque. Didn't care for those to places what so ever but the rest have been more then good! So what's so good about Mexico???
The Philippines, another country I left and came back to. This is a country build out of islands which makes it a bit harder to get around. But with patients, determination and time you can do it and it's well worth it. I spent a total of 6 weeks here but still I haven't seen all parts of the country. I said it in an earlier post but I always get in the mood of doing things when in the Philippines. Those things are diving, canyoning, hikes, snorkeling and more. There are so many options! This is the country who also introduced me to one of the best side dishes I've ever eaten, garlic rice. You have to try it! A big lazy plus in this country is that 99% of the population speaks very good English so never any problems language wise.
Lastly we have El Salvador & Nicaragua, yes I know that it makes four countries on the top 3 list but I just couldn't chose between this two countries.
I think that the reason why El Salvador is on the top 3 list is the fact that I didn't really have high expectations. Other travelers I spoke to before going mostly said it's not much to see and it's not safe. I on the other hand felt very safe when I was there. Ok this is the only time in my life were I've seen a man who been shot and killed on the street. On the positive side though, I didn't see the actual shooting I just saw the body. This was 20 minutes after entering the country and after this, I didn't witness any violence what so ever during the rest of my trip. The local people I met were all helpful and this is the only country were I had people walking me to places a few times after I asked for direction. El Salvador was great for hiking as well, normally done with guide and sometimes even armed guard but still cheap so not a bother. As soon as you enter the country you just amazed with how green it is, especially after spending a few weeks in Nicaragua which hardly have any forest left. Lastly I want to add that this is the only country this year were I never felt ripped off. Ok you normally only ripped off on a few cents here and there but I never felt that in El Salvador.
Nicaragua introduced me to the chicken buses and I do have a love hate relationship to this way of traveling. I sometimes make a bad joke that some people cut themselves to punish themselves, I on the other hand ride chicken buses... I believe this is the only vehicle except boat that I used during my month+ in Nicaragua. It's cheap, often crowded and it's uncomfortable, yet still rewarding when I manage to get from A to B after changing bus three times not having a clue on what bus goes where. Forces me to use my poor Spanish, speaking to the driver, the guy selling tickets and the locals. It also always feels like a gamble if you will get your bag back at the end or if someone else decided to pick it off the roof of the bus. The absolute highlight in Nicaragua was of course not the chicken buses but the Corn Islands. It took me forever to get there since I didn't give in to flying so I took the boat. Still so worth it, a true piece of paradise. Two other top places in Nicaragua is the surf town San Juan Del Sur and a place inland called Esteli. Both well worth a visit if ever in Nicaragua.
Moments I'm not found of is when I sit back and chill somewhere and all of the sudden someone comes up and happily greets me by my name and I just blankly look back with a stiff smile and I just don't have a clue who the person is. Of, course I don't say that I don't have a clue who it is, I just take my stiff smile and turn it in to a "oh hello you"!!! Then I try to figure out who this person is and in what place I met him/her earlier in the trip. Might sound rude but you meet so many people along the way that it's impossible to remember everyone.
Above are some of the people who have made my year traveling a year to remember. There are of course many more but I just can't fit all in and some I don't even have pictures of! So if you read this and you spent time in my excellent company but you not in any of the pictures, please don't feel left out :)
It's time to make the announcement that my travels are coming to an end. Ok, maybe not within a week or two but coming mid-March and I will be back in Amsterdam. There are three reason for this and they are as followed:
I decided that it was time for a career break. So handed in my notice to the company who I worked with for the last ten years. It's time to pack my bag and depart from Amsterdam which been my home town for the last 4.5 years. -"Amsterdam, it's not you it's me and I need a break!". Read more
WHERE AM I?