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Saturday, November 17, 2007


Messing around on the interweb and I came across this.... We haven't been traveling internationally much much since our trip to Latin America. we've taken a couple of western US road trips though. The picture to the left was taken in Oregon this summer near Bend. So anyways, to the inspiration for this post....

Below are two maps of all the countries first me and then Raegan have visited. How lucky are we? Of course traveling is not about the tally. It's about experience. In a few months we're dusting off our passports and heading to Mexico City. It won't add any red to either of our maps. But for a few short days we will be able to listen, taste, smell, see, and experience life in one of the biggest cities in the world!

Jacob's map:


create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

Raegan's map:


create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

It is very telling that it has taken two months to write this conclusion to our blog. Coming home has been like getting swept away by a strong current. Things started piling up on day one and moved very fast. But I am finally sitting down to try and get a little bit of closure for this long great story.

Inspired by the time Jacob and I spent abroad in college we started talking about taking a year to travel four years ago. Four years is a long time to focus on making something happen. A long time to spend planning, saving, dreaming and doing. Sometimes it is hard to believe we already did it and are back again in California on the other side of things.

I think travel is a very validating experience. You get rid of the daily grind and get to step into a space where your main business is navigating a new place and drinking it in the best you can. I don't think I have ever felt as relaxed and focused as I did by the end of this year. I had tons of time to explore life without a lot of worry or mental and physical "busyness". With all that space left over I got real comfortable with myself and saw a little more clearly the core things that matter to me. I spent so much time just observing, being, and loving that new brain space.

I am fully aware that many people will never have the opportunity to do what we did this year. We were reminded everyday. So I feel incredibly lucky. I think to some travel can seem like a very self-indulgent endeavor but I don’t think that this time has been just about me. There is a ripple. It will help me be a better part of my community and better informed member of global society. It has enabled me to reflect on how I want to relate to and treat those around me. I thought a lot about what I think is right and what I am willing to say out loud is wrong. I thought about fairness and justice everyday while traveling. Having all that new space for observation and the chance to slow down allowed me to think about how I want to give back. I learned a lot about myself, but I also learned about history, culture, politics, language, economics and human nature.

In the end, traveling validates my experience in the world. It is easy to imagine a foreign place as this "other" that seems scary and distant. Before we left I had such a hard time imagining myself physically existing way down south because I had never been there. I just had to go on blind faith that my heart would still beat no matter where I am. What was it going to be like? Well, it is just like here with a twist. People talk, move, laugh, live. Take the bus from one place to another. Go out with their families. Go shopping. Enjoy beautiful places and restaurants and bars. Do the things we all do. For me, there is a lot of comfort and fascination in that. It makes me feel very small and I like that. Feeling small in a huge world lifts that all-about-me focus and helps me feel less anxious, less worried about my future, less estranged from my surroundings.

People keep asking us what our favorite places and experiences were. The best thing personally was having the space to just let the information and experience flow over and around me. It was also wonderful to travel with Jacob and be "in it" together. We had such a good time together and really figured out how to make it work. I felt very grateful to be sharing the experience with someone I trust and love. And of course the people we met on the way were amazing. I can not rave about them enough. They were the best part of our travels because we made so many connections. Talk about feeling hope for the world. The generosity we encountered and the sincere friendships we made will never be forgotten.

So to answer that million-dollar question, there are many favorite places. I made two lists here of favorite cities and favorite experiences in case you ever want to make your own trip someday.

Favorite cities and towns in no particular order:

Valdivia, Chile
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cafayate, Argentina
El Bolson, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Itacare, Brasil
Sacred Valley, Peru
Arequipa, Peru
Sucre, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia
Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
Leon, Nicaragua
Panama City, Panama
Copan, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras
Antigua, Guatemala

Memorable things we did, experiences, places:

Goat barbeque and week we spent in the mountains at Las Animas (Chile)
Watching condors fly out of Colca Canyon (Peru)
Hiking the Inca Trail and visiting the porter village (Peru)
Spending time with my parents in the Sacred Valley (Peru)
Getting to know the community at Alta Gracia Farm (Domincan Republic)
Learning to love Bachata music (Dominican Republic)
Riding the gua gua up the mountain with twenty people (Dominican Republic)
Going to the wildest soccer match, Boca vs. River (Argentina)
Being invited home to our friends Ceci and Cristian's town to meet their families (Chivilcoy, Argentina)
Four day jeep trip in the Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
Learning to knit from many good Samaritans (South America)
Going to the neighborhood pasta shop (Buenos Aires)
Meeting all those fabulous third and fourth graders (Buenos Aires)
Trekking in Patagonia (Chile and Argentina)
Iguazu falls (Brasil and Argentina)
The beach (Anywhere)
Latin American markets but especially Masaya (Nicaragua)
That everything and anything can be sold (Latin America)
Christmas with both families (Coast Rica)
Finding out Honduras is a beautiful country
Riding the city buses in Panama City (Panama)
Watching monkeys on Ometepe Island (Nicaragua)
The amazing warm (yet snowy) welcome we got from friends on the East Coast (United States)
Fresh fruit juice
Argentinian barbecues
Brasilian music
Speaking lots of Spanish

I could go on and on but you get the idea. I can not say enough about how great it was to have this blog and get feedback from so many of you over the year. Thank you for reading it, taking an interest and being so supportive. We will definitely write one again the next time. Here’s to hoping there is a next time.
Chao, suerte Raegan

Last photos from Central America coming soon!

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

A week ago I hadn’t worn socks for weeks. Our time on the island of Roatan, about 50 miles off the coast of Honduras, was well spent. Raegan and I worked on our tans beside clear Caribbean waters by day and drank rum with folks from the islands, mon, by night. Today I am in a 4th floor apartment in the west-village, Manhattan. It is loud and it is cold and it is expensive and my skin is getting dryer and whiter by the second. What happened?

I’ll tell you….
Latin America is in my rearview. We finished off our trip with a visit to a Mayan ruin and a week on the beach. Were we sad to leave? Not really. The island was wonderful, relaxing, beautiful, and more, but our trip had run its course. As our date of departure neared, we felt more and more at ease with all that we had accomplished and with the fact that our trip would soon end. Rather than dreading the date we spent the closing days thinking over the last year and getting increasingly excited about our return home. We’d look at each other every once and a while and say, “I can’t believe we did it!” And we’d speculate about what it’d be like to, for the first time in a long time, spend time with people who know us. Now we know. And it’s nice, really nice.

Our trip home (to the US from the island) represented a new record for us: eight vehicles in one day. It went like this: taxi to airplane to airplane to bus to train to bus to airplane to the biggest SUV ever! Welcome to America.

As many of you know we chose to do an east coast swing before heading back to California. It’s been great. It’s allowed us a chance to see family and friends, and to take culture shock dose after dose. We started off in Herndon, Virginia, a suburb of D.C. with my cousin’s family, the Baylor’s. We couldn’t have had a softer landing pad. We relaxed, watched football, ate leftovers and were treated to a home-cooked meal. I scratched my head a little at our beloved game of football. But besides that, our only real culture-shock moment for the day was on our trip to the “new”, Wal-mart sized grocery store. When we walked in to the hangar-come-store, the woman behind us was so overwhelmed by what she saw, she gasped to her friend, “Oh my god,” who responded, “Isn’t it beautiful?” We too were impressed with the selection and quality of the fare on hand. So much so that were stood in the way of the shopping carts of others, jaws agape, paralyzed. We didn’t calm down until we were buckled in and watching a Gilligan’s Island episode on the DVD player in the back half of the SUV on the way home.

Next was D.C. and the inauguration really put a crimp on our plan to ignore the results of the election for as long as humanly possible. Tina also treated us to the comforts of home. In this case it was new toothbrushes, cheesy poofs, good beer, and a Neil Diamond CD. But most importantly, Tina asked us a gazillion questions about our trip. Whenever she saw our eyes glassing over, falling into a culture shock coma, she would ask us how we acquired dental floss along the way. Or she’d ask something trivial. All jokes aside, this question-asking tactic worked wonders. Besides being interviewed we also walked around the mall, but we kept tripping over sand bags and falling in bunkers. Besides it was damn cold. Off to Baltimore….

Paul and Amy kept the hospitality train rolling. We caught up with Tim, who cooked a mean curry, and Mike and had so much fun we started planning the next reunion. Raegan saw the city for the first time and really liked it. We met a certain Olympian. We ate in dinners, drank beers in dives and had a crab feast in a strip mall. Very Baltimore, very America. We had a great time there. Next to Phili.

Chris picked us up at the Greyhound station and took us on a tour of the city of brotherly love. The next day we ate a cheese steak in the early goings of a snowstorm and then hunkered down as the snow fell and fell. It was a far cry from turquoise waters, but whataya gonna do? The next afternoon we sat in a waiting room for our bus and listened to Cantonese pop music. Isn’t our country weird and wonderful? We took the Chinatown bus to NY, where I sit.

New York is amaizing. We’ve had a terrific time catching up with our old college pals, Allison, Nat, John, and Thaddeus, and we’ve been able to hang out with many other wonderful people. We ate oysters in a subway station and spent $13 on a sandwich at Katz’s deli. Wonderful and weird, weird and wonderful. As I write this it’s 10 degrees outside. We catch our plane in 6 hours and we’re California dreaming. Off to the Met.

I think we both have another blog or two in us so stay tuned. Oh, and more pictures are on the way.


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Sunday, January 16, 2005

We are back on home turf! We arrived late last night in Washington D.C. and are staying with Jacob's cousin. So nice to drink water from the tap! I can't believe how luxurious that feels. We just wanted to write a quick note that we aren't wrapping up the blog yet. We've still got a few weeks of travel here on the east coast to go. And we want to add a few last entries on our last few weeks in Honduras and thoughts on our trip as a whole, so don't stop checking in please. We also will be adding all of our photos of Central America.

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Happy 2005 everyone! What better time than now to apreciate 2004 and what it meant to us. A week from tomorrow Jacob and I will be back in the U.S.A. Hard to believe. I think it has probably gone faster for you who are reading this blog than for us. Jacob said he thinks this may well be the longest year of his life yet. I have to agree. That is not to say we haven't had a fabulous run and that 2004 isn't possibly the most memorable year of our lives, but it seems the more one physically moves the slower time goes. We've crossed a lot of miles this year and seen a lot of sights.

I want to thank everyone who reads this blog for being so supportive of us! It has meant loads having support and interest from our family and friends. I think this blog idea turned out to be invaluable. I am really glad we were able to share our experience so well. Part of what has made this year so memorable is the support from home, but also the wonderful folks we've met in so many countries. To all the travelers we met along the way who shared this experience with us, I hope you found a comfortable spot along the road to ring in the new year. Our doors are always open to you should you pass through California one day. To all the locals we've met: A todos que conocemos en el camino: son buena buena gente y no les olvidaremos nunca. Gracias por su bondad, hospitalidad y amistad. Muchos besos y Feliz 2005!

We spent the New Year in Antigua, Guatemala. The whole motivation for our chicken bus push across four countries in five days was to be in this place for Jan. 1, 2005. We are really glad we made it, couldn't have picked a better spot. We only spent one week in Guatemala, but I understand why so many of our friends have been captivated. Immediatly crossing the border we noticed that Guatemalans are really friendly people who like to joke and interact. The first hour there I was walking through a market and a man eating a taco turned to me with a big smile and said -Yum! We will need to go back there some day.

Antigua is a beautiful colonial city surrounded by volcanoes about a half hour outside of Guatemala city. It was packed with Guatemalans and travelers alike enjoying this gem of a city for the New Year. The plaza was lit up with white lights, streets were blocked off, bands were playing and there was no shortage of fireworks. We had a very good time. The only drawback was my wipe out on the way back to our hotel. We came around the corner to find about sixty boys in the middle of a full on fire works fight. It was chaos and hard to see anything because of the smoke. Jacob got hit in the chest with a bottle rocket and I decided to run. Well, the sidewalks in Antigua are old and choppy so I made it about five steps before falling chin first. Bruised my knees, scabbed my chin and chipped my front teeth. Luckily we've been hanging out with a dentist who has assured me my teeth are going to survive. It feels worse than it looks. A bit regrettable but unforgettable.

We came back to Honduras yesterday, our last border crossing if you don't count Miami. We'd had an amazingly lucky and good record, traveling an entire year without having anything stolen, not one centavo... until yesterday. The casualty... our discman. Actually, the irony of this all is that we have been robbed once before this year... our stuff in the garage at home in Oakland! But right now that is miles away and something we will face at a later date and I refer to our clean record AWAY from home.

It all happened on the chicken bus from Antigua to Guatemala City. We were taken on by a very swift two man/one woman team. They got it out of our backpack while it was sitting on Jacob's lap. We realized halfway through but by then it was gone, passed on to another member. When Jacob searched each of their bags he discovered they were all completly empty, they were just using them for cover and had stuffed our stuff somewhere else. We had no hope of getting it back but at least made a scene. We were bummed about the discman and more about almost squeaking by with a clean record but really, we are safe and it wasn't scary and we can live without that discman.

Hope you are all well and happy in 2005!


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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We've been slacking a bit on writing but guess what? You have two new entries! Please read Jacob's after this to hear about what we've been up to the past month.

I feel like we are skipping over an issue we mention often on this blog but deserves more attention and reflection than we have given it. This issue being the extreme poverty we see everyday in Central America. I think one of the reasons we forget to give attention to it is because, sadly, we are used to seeing it and maybe a bit de-sensitized. But after traveling on the bus for the past four days through four countries we've done a lot of looking out the window. We've had a lot of time to reflect as we've gone through the slums of capital cities and past endless rural shacks. So we thought it about time we dedicated a few words to this sad and injust reality.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in our hemisphere after Haiti and the rest of her neighbors don't fall too far behind. Everyday we pass houses made from cardboard and tin along the side of the road. The houses are tiny and barely provide shelter from the elements. And these are the houses along the main road, there are countless villages in the mountains or off main access points that I am sure look like the community we stayed near in the D. R. ... even more poor. Houses with dirt floors, no running water, no inside toilet, no security, no insulation and no guarantees.

There are many people who don't have enough to eat, or if they are eating lack nourshment. Many live entirely off the one crop they can grow in a small plot near their house. There are lots of children living in the street, many of them without shoes and begging for pocket change. They leave home for a number of complicated reasons, all of which are motivated by poverty. It is heartbreaking to see, something we don't have to see in the United States but exists for millions of kids across the world. Young children, some very young, living alone on the streets of these cities.

Infrastructure is lacking so roads are really bad and safety goes out the window. There are few state created dumps so there is trash everywhere. The nearest river becomes a dump, thus infecting the town water supply. These are just a few examples to set the scene. Any way you look it at it is just isn't right.

I think there are resources to go around, at least to make sure everyone in our world has proper shelter and nourishment. It just isn't right that northern Nicaragua coffee farmers starve because prices dropped drastically for raw product a few years ago but we continue to pay the same price if not more in the States for our latte and beans. Who is getting that extra profit? And what do they need it for? And not right when presidents of these people, their so called leaders embezzle international aid by the millions. Aleman used Hurrican Mitch funds, designated for people left homeless and starving to build a private air strip. What does he need that for? We see exploitation on so many levels. And just not right that some live with an over abundance of resources and others are barely surviving. What do we need it for?

We have been really saddened thinking about the recent Tsunami in Asia. Somehow this all relates to me. When life is so fragile that people are swept away without notice into the ocean by the thousands it leads me to feel strongly that we should help each other out. Help each other out so that our lives are better in the meantime. It is really daunting on an individual level. But I think it helps just to take a moment to think about it. Just to take a moment to think about how others in the world may be affected by what we choose to buy or how we spend our money. It is surprisingly hard to remember to do, and painful as well, but necessary. I think it is important to be aware of how our neighbors in other countries live. That is just a start, but I think just dedicating the time could lead to more change. We are all affected by choices made to harm the environment, or wage war, or use greed as a means of insuring poverty for some.

I am not writing this blog entry to try to inspire guilt. I don't think that is helpful, I think it paralizes. But I do think it is important to continue to be reminded and aware of the painful reality that many people in our world just don't have enough to get by. That is why we wanted to take more time to share with you what we see here everyday. Life IS fragile as we have seen this week. There IS enough to go around, we just need to find a better way of distributing it fairly. We need to be more creative. I feel like we should be able to do that. We should be able to say what is right and what is not.




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Happy Holidays! We’re back on the road and back on the blog after a hiatus. To those of you who check the site often: we’re terribly sorry for the delay. We’ll do our best to keep you updated in these last weeks of our trip. We’re going to be back, state-side by the middle of January and with so little time left we’re starting to reflect a great deal on our trip. We’ll be sharing some of those reflections in the coming weeks. No doubt they will be immensely profound. But for now I will bring you all up to date…

Raegan and I are in the cute colonial town of Ruinas de Copan, Honduras very near the Guatemalan border and also, you guessed it, the ruins of the Mayan city of Copan. We won’t be seeing the ruins this time around. We’ll be back through these parts in a few weeks. Today is a day of rest. We’ve spent the last three days on what is affectionately known as the chicken bus. Actually, we’ve ridden on several chicken buses and a good percentage of them earned their title. We’ve crossed nearly three countries in three days with these modified elementary school buses as our primary mode of transport. We could have made it three borders in four days if we had it in us to push the last 15 miles to the Guatemalan border today, but we just didn’t. We’re saddle sore from three days on these crowded and bumpy busses made to fit little children. My favorite ride was on the bus which was supposedly luxurious because they removed their old seats which can fit three across and replaced them with old airplane seats which fit two across. The only problem was that unlike the other buses, regardless of comfort, if you were taller than 5 foot 8 you simply couldn’t cram yourself in there. At least it was a problem for me.

But I must give the chicken buses credit where credit is due. They are remarkably efficient. In every city where we’ve caught them, when we were ready to go we walked to the market and there is one waiting. It doesn’t leave until it’s full, but that has never taken more than 10 or 15 minutes. Also, they’re incredibly cheap and very accommodating. They will pick you up and drop you off at any point along the route. Sometimes this can be absurd with one passenger getting picked up or dropped off 10 feet from another, but the driver and mate never bat an eye. This sometimes makes for a slower ride, but the drivers all think their Mario Andretti so they make up the time.

So where have these buses taken us? From Leon we headed to the lakeside city of Granada. This city really surprised us. We arrived with thoughts of revolution and war and found a beautiful and somewhat cosmopolitan city. We didn’t do much there. Our theory is that this is symptom of traveling for a long time. Exhibit A was our British friend who had a few months on us who we never saw far away from his hammock in the hostal. We did a little better, but were no strangers to the hammock. We spent one day swimming at a mountain lake and spent the night drinking beers and talking to a Nicaraguan (Nico) and a Costa Rican (Tico) about political corruption. They are experts on the subject. The last Nicaraguan president, Aleman is now in jail (horray!) because he stole about a quarter of the $200 million in Hurricane Mitch aide donated to his country, one of the poorest countries in the world. What an asshole. Costa Rica has Nicaragua beat (mostly because they have had a justice branch with teeth for longer) with their last three former presidents in jail for having sex with an assistant and lying about it. Just kidding, it was for stealing lots and lots money from the taxpayers.

From Granada we headed to the largest lake island in the world, Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. This is a magical place. The lake, the largest in Central America was created when North and South America joined. It has fish found nowhere else on earth: saltwater fish and sharks living in fresh water. And the island was created by two volcanoes with spilt lava filling in the space between them. Sound pretty? It is. The islanders live a slow agricultural life. They are poor and are remarkably nice. Supposedly this is because the civil war never came to the island. Whatever the reason, we spend our time on the island talking to the locals, chasing howler monkeys, watching pelicans fish, reading in hammocks and drinking beers during beautiful sunsets. It was tough, to leave that is.

Since, we spent Xmas week in lala land, otherwise known as Flamingo Beach, Costa Rica with our families. We were really happy to get the chance to spend time with our families. It was fun and was needed. It was also a nice and unexpected pre culture shock. We hope they enjoyed their time, too. When they left it was hard to say goodbye, and even harder to get back on the chicken bus.


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Sunday, December 05, 2004

We've been in Nicaragua for a week. For me, this is a trip back to the source, the source of most of my motivation and inspiration for travel: A two week trip to Leon, Nicaragua when I was fourteen. It was my first time out of the country (sorry, I don't count Canada here). It inspired me to learn another language, blew my mind, initiated motivation for thinking about the struggles of other people/nations/communities and led me back here a second time. We just spent four days in Leon looking up some of the people I knew when I was there the first time, and who later came to Minnesota when I was 17 to visit.

But to go back a bit. We spent four days in Panama City, that bizarre city which started to feel like home base our third time around. It is an interesting place with a fascinating mixture of old, new, ritzy, scuzzy, commercial hodge-podge and more. I think the symbol for Panama City has got to be the city bus. Privately owned and operated school buses that are painted with portraits of the owner's family, heroes and fantasies. Equipped with neon lights, strobes and a mega stereo system. Two more tid bits about Panama: people are incredibly friendly and it is a beautiful country -- well worth a visit.

We took a killer bus ride from Panama City to a town in the south of Nicaragua, crossing two borders. A 28 hour ordeal. True to form, Jacob got sick at an unlucky time (remember our first week traveling and the third day hiking the Inca Trail?) So when we got to the small beach town of San Juan del Sur he crashed and was miserable for about four more days. Poor guy.

After San Juan del Sur we headed north to Leon. Leon is a great city. It is filled with colonial churches, crumbling cavernous colonial houses with tall wooden ceilings, living rooms full of rocking chairs, revolutionary murals and thinking. The city was heavily involved in the Sandinista revolution and there is historical proof everywhere. It is quiet and safe and friendly. Time appears to stand still and the extreme heat means everything moves pretty slow. At night the sidewalk becomes living room and people pull their rocking chairs out to the street. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas in this country. Restaurants, houses and stores are covered in Christmas kitch.

We went to Leon hoping to honor the memory of my trip there thirteen years ago and hopefully find the family I stayed with and others I came to know from that trip and other later exchanges in high school. After almost giving up hope we met a stranger who knew where the office of the organization we were looking for was (Project Minnesota Leon) and kindly offered to drive us there. Another of those circumstances that force the traveler to believe in the good of the world. After a few more stops I finally found some of the people I was looking for. It is too complicated to explain here how I knew all of these people, so forgive me for a moment while I list their names for the others who know them as well. We saw Mardelis and her family, Rafael, Estrella and their children, Jairo and his family and Zoryada. They were fabulous and spent the next three days taking Jacob and I out to lunch, dinner, breakfast and to the beach.

A lot has changed, some of them were hard to recognize. They had photos of me when I was young that made us all laugh because I have changed more than I knew. It was also a totally new experience to be able to communicate in Spanish. What really hit home for me was how much that trip thirteen years ago impacted me. In some ways seeing these people again was confusing because a lot of time has passed and we don't have a lot in common. I felt such a strong connection with them at age 14 that doesn't exist anymore between us. But the inspiration to get out of my own backyard and learn from other life experiences besides my own as well as a belief in the power of human connection/understanding is what I was reminded of in Leon. The reasons why we travel, and I feel pretty lucky for it.

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