I always say that the beginning of a journey is full of difficulties and obstacles, hurdles that you have to overcome before the real joy of the adventure can start. And the start to our African journey has been no different, though it's also been peppered with moments of joy and beauty.
I haven't written a post in a while, but that's because we're back home in Chicago for a break before heading off to Africa, and life here has been pretty normal.
The regular American grind used to be our daily reality: waking up to the sound of the alarm, getting the coffee machine brewing before our eyes were properly opened, running from an air-conditioned building to an air-conditioned car, then coming home to turn on Wheel of Fortune or some other brain mush show until falling asleep. It's not a terrible existence, in fact, there's something very comforting and lovely about it. It's predictable, controlled, and best of all, here in Chicago, our friends and family are always close by, and weekends are spent visiting one another with good food and laughter.
If you can't see the video, you can find it here.
Since Panama was our last stop in Central America before heading into South America, and because Tim and I were so excited for the vast stretches of pure nature that South America had to offer, we may have not experienced Panama for what it’s worth. We rode through pretty quickly on the Pan-American highway and spent much of our time doing customs paperwork to get the bike into Colombia. In many ways, we were mentally checked out of Central America and already thinking about what was to come, and so for those reasons we did not take our time to appreciate Panama as we could have.
If you can't see the video, find it here.
Before visiting Costa Rica, I had high very hopes for it. This was due to the fact that a number of my college friends went there and came back raving about it, several of whom had life-changing experiences. Their stories of colorful reefs and thick rainforests, their pictures of sloths and parrots, and those smiles that lit up their faces every time they thought back on it, it all made me think that Costa Rica was a safe, clean paradise of ecological wonders in the Central American region.
But that was a while ago, and I also heard more recently from fellow travelers that Costa Rica has become insanely touristy, extrmely expensive, and so overrun with wealthy Americans, that some people I'd talked to actually left the country early.
So when Tim and I rode our motorcycle zig-zagging across Costa Rica, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to fall in love with it, or hate it.
By: Tim Notier
The border between Nicaragua and Honduras took a little longer than average, along with a dose of some of the hottest temperatures we had come by so far. All we needed was just a little patience, and I was continuously thankful that Marisa is fluent in Spanish.
When we cross borders throughout the Americas, the form always asks for my nationality. I have to ask myself: “What am I?" We are in the Americas, so American doesn't really specify where I am from. I think it is kind of ignorant to hijack an entire continent and say, “You know, I'm from the America where we play football with our hands."
So, I put down USA... but that's not right either. No one says, “I am England" or “I am South Africa." It is English, South African, Asian, or Irish and so on. I thought about writing down USAish or USAian, because I didn't want to write “A Citizen of the United States of America," but figured that would add to the confusion.
About ten years ago, I had a friend who said he visited Nicaragua while studying abroad at a university in Costa Rica. He only crossed the border into Nicaragua for a day or two, but when he told me this, I thought he must have either been the bravest, or stupidest, person in the world. Visions of communist jungle guerrillas trafficking cocaine flashed through my mind: men wearing green uniforms and fully equipped with both Kalashnikovs and machetes. I wondered why my friend would go to such a place and I remember thinking, “Good for you, but I wouldn’t go there.”
Of course, if I could go back in time and tell myself that not even a decade later I would be traversing this country by motorcycle for over a month, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. And Nicaragua turned out to be nothing like my imagined doomsday exaggerations. It is actually an incredible place full of friendly people, breathtaking views, and the most dangerous thing we encountered while there were its fire-breathing volcanoes.
By: Tim Notier
Our time in El Salvador and Honduras was short and brief, but we were able to absorb a taste of what it had to offer. Honestly, these two countries were on our “worry" list. Marisa had spent the last two years before our trip as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, and many of her students were refugees from these countries. We have always tried to avoid the rhetoric that Mexico and (enter “dangerous" country here) is not safe, especially when it comes from people who have only heard about place, and who have never actually been. But, hearing first-hand accounts of how life can be in these countries from children who have witnessed unimaginable horrors, shines a light of actual perspective.
Some of Marisa's old students asked her, “Why would you go to the country I fled?"
These kids’ lives have been put through so much terror and abuse that they made a long journey to escape the inhumanity of their homeland, and hoped for a better future in... Arkansas(?). Marisa was able to bond with them, and play an important role in their lives when they sometimes had no family in the States to turn to for support or attention, and she took their stories to heart.
Guatemala: a land of fire and water, of jungle and mountains, of colorful textiles that match the colorful fruit and parrots decorating the trees. It's an ancient land still steeped in its traditions, and a place where sometimes it feels as if time has stopped.
Having previously never thought too much about this tiny Central American country, I didn't quite know what to expect when I entered Belize. But as it turns out, Belize felt completely different from Mexico and its neighbors, and it surprised me in many ways.
As our time in Mexico has come to a close, we've reflected on both the magic and the misfortune that we've encountered during our two and half months there (mostly it was magical).
Highlights (and a few not-so-nice adventures) in chronological order -
San Felipe, Baja California
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