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The Things They Carried - Backpacking light

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(Anyone else a Tim O’Brien fan!?)
Living and traveling with a minimalist is not always easy, but let’s just say that I knew from the start—15 years ago now—that checked luggage was a non-starter with this guy.  To put things in perspective, his weekend bag doesn’t just fit in the overhead bin, but also under the seat in front of him. “If there is a washing machine where you’re traveling…”
Over the years we have adopted a packing routine:  I pack for me and the kids within a reasonable limit (still no checked bags EVER); he rolls his eyes and then we move on with our lives.  When we first started planning this trip his ideas were much different about how much we would bring, but I think the list below represents a good compromise.  Still, I’m sure that as soon as he actually sees all of the crap that he has been forced to carry there will be hell to pay.
Clothes wise, packing for 3 months—or a year for that matter—is generally the same as packing for a single week vacation.  In Toddoo-Min…

Here we go again…with 3 kiddoes

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A month ago, I randomly met an old friend of Todd’s who followed this blog in 2009/2010 when we traveled the world for 14 months.  Quite naturally she noted “aren’t you glad you took that big trip, because you can’t do that now with littles ones!”  Yet here we are, on a nearly 3 months-long trip across Europe with 3 children under the age of 6.   
When I tell people that I am taking the summer off to travel with my family the most common response I get is “wow, you are so fortunate that you can do that!”  However, I believe “fortunate” mischaracterizes our situation.  The truth is we are no more fortunate than any of our peers; but we do make a different set of choices:  primary, we choose to live and travel SIMPLY. 
And so I am restarting our blog to share our current journey in figuring out how to keep travel a major part of our lives - both financially, and with 3 little kids.  If nothing else, we hope that sharing these details both inspires people and removes the misconception that…

South Guatemala

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With just one week left before our flight home we headed back into Guatemala to finish off the southern part of the country. Semana Santa (holly week) was about to start and we heard that Antigua was the place to be for Good Friday - the climax of the event. This is the most popular event of the year and on countless suggestions we headed straight to Antigua to book a room for the following weekend. Our plan was to be in and out but by the time we got into Antigua I had developed a full blown cold and could hardly open my eyes. It took 2 days of full on recuperation before I was well enough to continue. In the mean time, Todd looked high and low for an available room. Most places were charging 4x the original price and after 11 months of hard core budget travel we were just too stubborn to pay up - even for the last weekend of our trip! But luck was on our side. After searching through 20 or so places Todd came across Hotel Arizona, a tiny guesthouse run by a young Mayan family. Not o…

El Salvador

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With all the hype surrounding the security of central american countries, we debated whether to visit El Salvador... for about a minute. One concrete lesson we have learned on this trip is that the best source for current info on any country is from travelers themselves. We first learned this lesson on our very first stop in 2009; we skipped Kenya on the advice of our State Department's website (and a flurry of poor press) and flew through Nairobi to begin our trip in Tanzania instead... and only to then discover there were loads of young European travelers pouring out of Kenya having had a great--and safe--visit. After that, we put a lot more effort toward seeking current travel information from travelers themselves.
The same held true for El Salvador. We were presented with numerous reasons for not attempting a visit, not least of which was the country's history of armed assault on locals and foreigners alike. Not without grounds, a reputation of this sort should give on…

Honduras

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Our first day in Honduras--like so many first days--was a test in patience and endurance. We woke early to catch a 5 a.m. collectivo (shared minivan) in the filthy port town of Puerto Barrios (Guatemala), where we had passed a sleepless night fending off a fleet of kamikaze mosquitoes. Tired, and a bit cranky from the start, things looked up quickly as we neared the Honduran border by way of countless thousands of acres of banana fields. I began a mental list of companies I recognized in the signs of each plantation we passed on the highway. Dole, it appeared, was by far the heavy in this region. Fun to know that the bananas we were seeing that morning would likely appear at our local grocer in the near future. We were joined in the van by a crowd of local workers being shuttled to their respective plantations. Crossing the "frontera" (border) was a cinch, as we didn't even have to get out of the van -the driver's assistant grabbed our passports and ran past t…

Border Posts

This provides an excellent opportunity for me to expand on a travel topic that is near and dear to my heart: border fees. When moving overland across borders, travelers are often required to pay some sort of border fee -think of it like the price of admission. These fees manifest in various forms, the most common being the visa fee, which can run anywhere from a few bucks to as much as $100, or even more. Often, countries will apply different amounts to travelers from different countries, depending on the ´normalcy´of their relationship. When traveling in Africa, most countries we entered charged us either nothing, or a very nominal amount for our tourist visas, while our counterparts from the U.K. got royally screwed to the tune of a hundy or more --a lot of folks still pissed off at Europeans over the whole African Colonization thing. In Tanzania, our visa fee (for which we had to apply in advance of our trip) was $100, basically a reciprocation of the amount the…

Guatemala - The North

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We decided to split Guatemala in two, tackling the northern interests first, then skipping into northern Honduras and later south to El Salvador before crossing back into Guatemala in the south to fill our final days before flying out of the capital. We left San Ignacio (Belize) in the morning, catching a local bus to the nearest town to the Guatemalan border, and walked the final three miles down a quiet road to the frontier. While we weren´t thrilled to pay Belize´s exit fee of around 20 bucks a person, I applaud the immigration officers´professionalism in collecting it, complete with an electronic receipt for our records. And the flow of the proceeds is monitored by an international development organization that makes sure the money gets to the right projects. As we mentioned in the last entry, Belizeans are really poor and need all the help they can get.

After negotiating a particularly corrupt border post on the Guatemalan side of the border, we hopped a collectivo (shared min…