The Easiest 39 Hours of Travel Ever – Flying to Southeast Asia

The Easiest 39 Hours of Travel Ever – Flying to Southeast Asia

We were so excited to escape Panama City, and more importantly, Central America, that I was thrilled to depart for almost 40 hours straight of travel.  In economy.  What was wrong with me?  I was flying to Southeast Asia! This was easily the craziest itinerary we ever have taken – it even beat the last minute Madrid-Frankfurt-Bangkok-Bali trip we took in 2010 to end our first RTW.  This itinerary was Panama City-Miami-Zurich-Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur – a total of 34 hours and 47 minutes, according to United. Layover in Miami We left the Sheraton Panama City at 8:30am Eastern Time.  We flew from Panama City to Miami (3 hours), where we had a 4+ hour layover.  We were sprung from the airport for a few hours, to have drinks with our friends Bob and Steve.  It was a welcome respite, although we felt rushed back at the airport after they dropped us off.  We tried to make our way through a painfully slow security line only 45 minutes before our flight, while both of us had bladders filled with pitchers of beer.  It was also time for me to start transitioning from my reflex Spanish speak.  As we arrived at the top of the security line I thought to myself how do I request the premier security line in Spanish? I remembered I was safely back in the good ‘ol USA and there was no need to speak Spanish. Then, the TSA lady asked me for my boarding pass – in Spanish.  That was when I realized the default language at MIA seemed to be Spanish.  I was desperate, at that...
We Have Strayed – RTW Problems

We Have Strayed – RTW Problems

I realized what it was.  It’s not entirely our fault – some fault lies with Central America.  But, we strayed from our core travel philosophy, even if I did not have one clearly identified before now. We generally consider ourselves indie travelers.  I always felt that we were travelers to the extreme.  Perhaps we were less than we thought.  Central America put us in our places.  Real quick.  These are round the world, or RTW problems. Straying From Our Philosophy While in Central America we struggled.  The transportation was less than easy, but more than that we felt a great deal of discomfort there, more than normal.    We love street food, but in Central America we shied away.  I am not sure why.  It was a gut reaction that it was not safe, not clean.  Perhaps this was an unwarranted reaction, but it was there nonetheless.   We met locals in Antigua, Guatemala who showed us something unique – a Michelada and ceviche on the street.  We would never have found it on our own.  That was our last truly unique experience.  After that, we were hesitant. Sick. Distraught.  Eaten alive. Stressed out.  We did not sign up for this life. But, what life did we sign up for?  We did not sign onto life at the Marriott. We look for travel that is more interesting and interactive than that.  We were staying at cheap places, but were pretty miserable.  We experienced a larger misery per dollar spent in Central America than ever in Asia.  In Southeast Asia it is possible to get a double, private room with...
Traveling Central America – Facts and Fictions

Traveling Central America – Facts and Fictions

Americans have been traveling Central America, in large numbers, for decades – they move there just as frequent.  I am just not sure why.  I do not understand the draw.  I guess it is easy to learn the language, it is in the same hemisphere, and a quick flight back home.  And, I have been told, it is easy to score pot – that might be a big selling point for folks. Other than that, I am not sure why people are so fascinated.  In our 2+ months traveling Central America, we had a handful of good experiences.  But, it did not live up to expectations.  Central America travel is hard. At the end of our trip I reviewed our tour book, Rough Guide, once again. I also took a look at what Lonely Planet had to say.  I came across several claims about traveling Central America – some fact and some fiction – so I thought it would be a good time to take a moment and provide some closing thoughts on Central America. Facts on Traveling Central America “Traveling by chicken bus is an economical and unforgettable experience.”   This is true – it is cheap, sometimes as little as $.50 for an hour ride.  It is also unforgettable – it’s hot, sweaty, cramped, dusty, and noisy.  My butt will never forget the lack of cushion on those old school bus seats as we bumped across the Guatemalan countryside.  “The [chicken buses] stop on demand, wherever passengers ask to get off or people flag down passing services.  Sometimes it can seem like you’re stopping every thirty metres.”  This is...
Traveling in Panama – Central America Strikes Back

Traveling in Panama – Central America Strikes Back

We should have known that our last week in Central America, where we planned to see a canal and finally visit some islands on the east coast of Central America, would not be easy.  Boy, were we right.  Traveling in Panama was another example of Central America strikes back. Our goal was to spend a few nights in Panama City to see the canal, and then head out to the San Blas Islands.  After giving up on the Bay Islands in Honduras, and having to cancel our trip to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua, this was our last shot to experience some island bliss in this part of the world.  But, we should have known that traveling in Panama would not be as expected. Things Are Not As Expected Things went wrong as soon as we left immigration at the airport.  Our hostel was supposed to send someone to pick us up.  They forgot.  We called them and an hour later someone arrived.  When we got to the hostel, the owner did not even apologize for the delay.  Instead, she rushed through our questions about booking something for the San Blas and having laundry done.  She gave us the key and abruptly left.  Welcome to traveling in Panama. When we emerged from our room to find lunch, we realized the owner had locked us into the property – us and a few other tourists.  There was a padlock on the gate to the outside world and someone accidentally closed it.  The owner was the only one with a key, so we waited for her to return just to get lunch. ...
Cruising Across the Jungle – Costa Rica Zipline Tour

Cruising Across the Jungle – Costa Rica Zipline Tour

In complete opposition to our relaxed days at Bamboo Yoga Play, filled with yoga, fresh fruit, and happiness, we decided to hurl ourselves through the air at rapid speeds high above the tropical forest floors. In addition to seeing monkeys, iguanas, and sloths (all accomplished in Manuel Antonio), our one other requirement for the trip was to experience a Costa Rica zipline, or canopy tour, through the jungles.  There was just such a tour only a few kilometers from Domincal. We completed our first zipline adventure in Mendoza, Argentina in 2009.  It was the complete opposite of a Costa Rica zipline experience – at the base of the Andes Mountains, across dry desert landscape, and over one swiftly moving river.  This was tropical, green, and hot – it had been a while since I sweat that much.   Although at first I was nervous, the group before us included about a dozen retirees, and they all survived.  In addition, there was a French family in our group with 3 kids, the youngest was 7.  If the kids could do it, so could we. I was not sure what I was so nervous about.  The canopy tour was certainly fun, but I was not as scared as I was in Mendoza.  I was convinced the zip lines in Mendoza were longer and higher than these.  Perhaps it was because I could not see the floor of the forest below, like I could see the deathly, pointed, desert rocks in Argentina.  Regardless of the reason, this was a fun experience, with no fear whatsoever.  I would definitely do it again.  And, check one...
Inspiration, Bamboo Style, in Dominical Costa Rica

Inspiration, Bamboo Style, in Dominical Costa Rica

It was no secret that Central America was rough for us, between chicken buses, dusty border crossings, bug bites, and subpar food.  But, we stuck it out.  Until we arrived in Dominical Costa Rica. Decision Making in Dominical Costa Rica When we lived in Chicago, we made all of our important decisions over Cadillac margaritas and queso fundido at Mi Tierra on Belmont.  The sad thing was that the pitcher was enormous, came with 4 shots of Grand Marnier on the side, and we never actually ordered a meal – just molten cheese, chorizo, and some warm tortillas (that’s at least three food groups, and along with the lime in margarita, we hit four!).  We would drink too much, too quick, and make life changing decisions, such as, should I change law firms (decision: yes), or should we quit our jobs to travel the world (decision: yes). Decisions Under Duress  Now that we were on our way to being unemployed hippies in love with the world, we found ourselves making important life decisions in an entirely different way – overlooking a tropical jungle, a few minutes from a beach in Domincal Costa Rica, and entirely sober.   There were a few times during our trip through Central America where we both wanted to quit and hop a flight anywhere other than Central America.  Generally, these feelings came over us like a wave when we were tired, stressed, dirty from chicken buses, or vomitting from bad milk.  I did not want to make that kind of decision in haste, under duress, or under the influence.  I did not want to flee. When...
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