As I swayed on my hammock, hearing the gentle waves of the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica, India seemed pretty far away. But I only had to traverse the crevices of my mind, to recall the solitude of the Himalayas, the serenity of the backwaters and my serendipitous encounters over the past year.
I had to pinch myself as my tiny 20-seater plane with an open cockpit, circled a lush mountainous island surrounded by the deep blue Atlantic Ocean. It looked a little like Isla Sonora from the Jurassic Park movies. The plane descended sharply as the hillocks parted to reveal a tiny airstrip, which ended just a few feet away from the ocean. The airport was only connected to the rest of the island by boat.
So this post goes out to all of you who dream of building a life of travel. If you are sitting on the fence about quitting your job, this is a plan for you in real dollars and cents (or should I say, in meagre rupees?):
I almost didn’t go to Honduras. I remember sitting in a cafe, skyping with my friend, trying to decide if we should travel there; it sounded beautiful, but also pretty damn scary. San Pedro Sula, the entry point into Honduras, is nicknamed the murder capital of the world. And Honduras itself, one of the most violent places on earth. A Tripadvisor forum advised people not to step out of their hotel on foot at any time of the day. Would we be risking our lives?! That afternoon, I sought shelter from a heavy downpour in the public basketball court of San Marcos La Laguna, my last stop in Guatemala (Read: My Impressions of Guatemala). I hadn’t played in years, and couldn’t resist the shy invite to join young Mayan boys and girls for an exciting, adrenalin-packed game – the things we can never imagine doing on the other side of the world! Resting my tired limbs, I got chatting with a young man who turned out to be the sports coach in these parts. When he asked where I would go next, …
It was almost midnight when I knocked on the door of a humble yellow house, hours after the tiny village of San Jose had tucked in. Below, lake Peten Itza glowed softly in the moonlight.
Last week in the Pico Bonito forest reserve of Honduras, I met Juan and Roberto of the indigenous Garifuna community. I was fascinated by their affection for the dense rainforest and the diverse life it harbored, but even more by their culture, an integral part of which involves celebrating death as a new beginning. When one of their own dies, there is no mourning at the funeral; instead the community gets together to play the upbeat Punta music, dance and make merry – One last celebration!
I was a bundle of nerves before I left NYC for Guatemala. I had read enough stories about how unsafe it was, hadn’t travelled solo in another country for a while, and Central America just felt like a world away. My fears were gradually alleviated when I landed here, realizing how laid back the locals are, and in some ways, how much more organized travelling here is than many developing countries I’ve been to.
I bring you this latest travel contest from my home in a pristine little village on the shores of Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala. I’m staying with a local village family that has adopted me as one of their own, and this morning, I joined them in making hand-rolled tortillas. Every time I land up in a place like this, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy a life of travel. And how much I wish it upon my readers – which is why I’m forever urging you to participate in exciting travel contests.
In my first tryst with Latin America, I’ve found myself joyfully lost amidst the cobblestoned streets and quaint colonial houses of Antigua in Guatemala. I feel like I’m still in a dream, as I gaze out at the surrounding volcanoes while lying on a hammock from the rooftop of my bohemian apartment. I’ve had conversations entirely in broken spanish, indulged in hand-rolled corn tortillas stuffed with frijoles (black beans), sipped some of the world’s finest coffee, marvelled at the colourful traditional dresses worn by many Mayan women, and well, quite simply fallen in love.
It’s easy to spend big money in the big apple. But if you’re like me, you probably want to indulge in some unusual cuisines and be on your way to Central America; I leave in 24 hours for Guatemala! In my three weeks in NYC, I’ve had my fair share of fun with tons of free things to do, free events and free activities to choose from. Take my list and go, and be kind to that wallet of yours: