Panama to Home

I have made it to Panama. I will be staying here until I return home next Friday. I was able to change my ticket and fly home from here for only $121. When I get back I will share more details of this trip. This trip was supposed to be much longer but when I am away I miss my GF and home. That should probably tell me something but I´m trying not to hear it.

Guatemala Update 2

This is just a quick note to update you on my new plans. I´ve decided I don´t want to spend a whole month in one place so I´m back on the road again. I´m going to Guatemala City today to buy a bus ticket from there to Panama City and back to Guatemala City again. The bus stops in the capital cities of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica and I can spend however many days I want there and resume my bus trip at a later date using the same ticket. The cost is only $243 round-trip which is a good deal. These buses are much nicer than a Greyhound bus. I´ll post another update when I have internet access and I know more about my future plans.

Guatemala Update 1

I have made it to Guatemala safely.  I started the trip by trying to sleep in the Miami airport overnight while waiting for my flight to Guatemala the next morning.  It was good to save the money a hotel would have cost and know from experience that I can sleep in the airport if I have to but I probably won´t do it again.  The lights are on in the airport all night and there are announcements every few minutes.  That combined with a hard floor made sleeping very difficult.  I probably slept an hour at most.  There were lots of other people there attempting to sleep but I don´t think most of them had any better luck than me.

When I arrived in Guatemala on Wednesday I was extremely tired.  I didn´t think to negotiate with the taxi driver before I took it to the bus station.  I probably overpaid a couple of bucks but not enough to worry about.  The bus was a little better than I remembered.  The bus used to stop everywhere and pick up more passengers.  Now they don´t do that because of bandits.  This made for a 3 1/2 hour bus ride rather than a 4 hour bus ride.  There were only 6 passengers on the bus and it was a Greyhound style bus.  The bus ticket was roughly $8 and the taxi to the bus station was $12.  I´m not sure how the bus company is making a profit but I´m guessing there are usually more passengers.

Once I arrived in Xela I got a hotel room for the night.  The hotel I remembered was only $4 a night back in 1996.  In 2009 it is still $4 a night.  This is a great bargain.  The rooms are small and you have a common bathroom but for the price it is a great deal.  The cleanliness was better than some hotels I´ve stayed at  in the States.

The next day I went to get my room for the month.  The place I wanted to stay at didn´t have any rooms available though.  I spent most of the day walking around the city looking for a place to live for the next month.  I decided on a hostel that charges about $100 a month.  I have a private room and share bathroom and kitchen facilities with the other guests.  This is the same setup as the place I wanted to stay at although the first place only charges $85 a month.  It is still a pretty good price though.  I spent one more night in the hotel and moved into the hostel this morning.

Now I need to go shopping and get some food.  I´ve been eating at fast food places like McDonalds and Pollo Campero so far.  Fast food costs about as much here as in the U.S.    It is strange that I could pay as much for a fast food meal as a hotel room.

I haven´t found internet service that I´m happy with yet.  The first place I went to had extremely slow computeres.  The next two places (including this one) I´ve gone to have had pop-ups on the computer all the time.  This makes me think the computers probably have viruses so I don´t want to do too much on them.  Hopefully, I can find a better internet place tomorrow and I will have another post then.

Guatemala Travel Plans

I will be leaving for Guatemala next week. I thought I would share my travel plans so far although they are subject to change. And like my AT plans they probably will change.

The return date for my plane ticket is at the end of November which would give me three months in Guatemala. I’m now unsure if I want to be gone that long. I’ll make up my mind after I’ve been there for a while. Changing my ticket will likely cost me more than the original cost of my ticket but maybe I’ll be able to find a good deal.

I plan to visit all the Central American countries on this trip. It looks like this can be done fairly cheaply by bus. I’m not sure if I want to spend some time in Guatemala first and then travel or travel first and then spend some time in Guatemala. Or maybe fit the travel in the middle of spending time in Guatemala.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Guatemala was to prove to myself that I could live on my online income if I were living in a low-cost country. Based on my past experience living in Guatemala I think this is entirely possible. When I’m traveling my expenses will be higher but when I’m just relaxing in Guatemala my monthly expenses should be very low. That is why I want to spend at least one month just staying put in Guatemala.

I will need to find something to occupy my time while I am in Guatemala. I’ve decided not to take my laptop since internet access is widely available and cheap. This will be a little inconvenient since I plan to do a lot of writing while I’m there and I’ll have to visit an internet cafe any time I want to write. I suppose I could just write longhand in my room and transcribe what I’ve written later but that seems like too much trouble. The fact that I have a hard time reading my own handwriting makes that even more of a pain. One way or another I will get some writing done. I’ve planned on doing a lot of writing this summer but I haven’t written very much. Once I am in Guatemala I won’t have any more excuses for putting it off.

Another reason for Guatemala is to lose weight. On my past trips to Guatemala I’ve lost 10 pounds a month without trying. This time I will be trying which will hopefully lead to even better results. I plan to exercise regularly. If I can rent a place with kitchen facilities I plan on preparing almost all of my meals. That should help keep my expenses down and help me lose weight.

My flight to Guatemala leaves Wednesday morning but my flight from Kansas City arrives Tuesday just before midnight. In a strange coincidence my best friend is also going to be staying in Miami at that time. I considered sharing a hotel room with him for the night. The problem is that there is no public transportation at the time I arrive and taking a taxi to the hotel would likely cost more than the hotel room. I can’t justify the cost and plan to just stay at the airport. According to Sleeping in Airports it should be doable.

I’ll let you know how it works after I arrive in Guatemala. My flight arrives in Guatemala at about noon but I have a 4-hour bus ride to my final destination of Xela so I probably won’t get online that day. I plan to have an update from Guatemala on Thursday. There will be a couple more posts before I leave also.

I’m Back from my Hike

I wasn’t enjoying the hike as much as I thought I would so I decided to cut it short and return home. There are a few things I’ve learned from this hike that will allow me to make changes for the future.

It is best to get in shape before starting a hike. Hiking will eventually get you in shape but being out of shape will make the first few weeks hiking unnecessarily uncomfortable.

August isn’t the best time for hiking. It is too hot and too buggy. Maybe if I had been hiking before that I would have gradually acclimated to the conditions like a boiling frog but just going from the couch in my air-conditioned house to the warm and muggy outdoors wasn’t a pleasant transformation.

Sometimes you have to spend more on gear. I bought a cheap tent and it would probably work well in the winter or early spring. In the summer thought it is just too hot because it doesn’t have a separate rain fly. There might be a cheap tent that would fit my needs but it is hard to find. For any future hikes I’m going to splurge and buy a tarptent. My rationalization for this is that if it keeps me out of staying in a hotel a couple to times it will pay for itself.

Sometimes cheaper gear works just as well or better than more expensive gear. I bought a Camelbak type bladder to use while hiking. I couldn’t stand the plastic taste of water from the bladder though. It also leaked when I didn’t tighten the tube connection to the bladder tight enough. A $1 Gatorade bottle worked as an adequate replacement to the bladder and didn’t have any leaks.
Another bonus to using the Gatorade bottle is that replacements can be bought in just about any town.

Referring to both the bladder and the tent you should test your equipment in the conditions that you are going to be using them. Doing that would have let me know the tent wouldn’t work and that I wouldn’t like the bladder.

I spent way too much on this trip. My budget for the entire hike was eclipsed in just the first few days and my trip total is about double what I had planned on spending for the entire hike. My budget probably wasn’t realistic for someone who hasn’t been hiking recently. I still think it is a feasible budget but I wasn’t able to resist staying in hotels on this trip. Maybe with a better tent and more time getting acclimated to being outdoors I could change that.

I did have success in getting home relatively cheap despite deciding to come home at the last minute. Airfares were too high since I would have only been booking a day or two before traveling. The train wasn’t a good option since I would have had to take a bus to a town with a train and then take a train to Chicago and then a different train to KC. That made taking a train almost as expensive as flying. Going home on the bus would have been the cheapest option at about $150. The trip would have taken a day and a half though. I’ve had unpleasant experiences on Greyhound in the past and will avoid taking any long trips on their buses if at all possible.

Renting a car one-way from Reading, PA to KC ended up being the cheapest option. Their rate was $87.99 a day but they wouldn’t let me reserve it for less than one day since the distance between Reading and KC is almost 1100 miles. I made the trip in about 20 hours though and they didn’t charge me for a second day. With insurance, taxes, fees, and gas my total cost was about $200. I think that was a decent deal for traveling on the spur of the moment.

I also learned that my readership quickly declines when I am not updating this blog. My daily visitors has fallen by about half. That does make sense thought that people would stop visiting if there is nothing new to read. I’m now going to work on getting that readership back up.