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Month: July 2017

Surfs Up in Mexico

Surfs Up in Mexico

We never expected to make it to Mexico anytime soon, but when we found out our good friends were going to be in Sayulita for a week in March so we made it happen! To be honest with you, I am not sure if it was our favorite place. Don’t misunderstand me – Sayulita is a pretty cool little place, but for us it seemed as if everything in town was only there because of the mass number of American tourists there. It also didn’t help we were with a bunch of college kids on spring break. Our week was filled with tacos, beers, beaches and good friends and for me that was perfect.

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Cities Visited

Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta

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Things We Liked

Friends, tacos, cheap everything, nice beaches and relaxing for a while

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Things We Disliked

Getting sick and tourists everywhere (it was the most touristy place we had been in a while – which isn’t a terrible thing, but the town lacked some authenticity)

Friends in Mexico

We met our good friends, Eleni and Taylor, and it was incredible to be able to catch up with them. They will be moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Eleni’s residency soon (whoa, when did we get old enough for that?) and we are bummed they will not be in Denver anymore! Before they take off we decided to eat tacos, drink margaritas, and enjoy some sunshine in Mexico while celebrating their new adventures! Some of Eleni’s friends from Florida also came down and it was amazing to get to spend some time with Anna and Kyle as well. We all had a good time and we love nothing more than to see people we love while we are on the road!

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Montezuma’s Revenge

Everyone gets sick in Mexico. We have traveled the world for 7 months eating unknown food of questionable quality in just about every country we have been in. We have never had any problems anywhere – even in India where they say it is inevitable. We certainly were pretty confident that Mexico would be no problem for us. I admit that this was a bad assumption and we got the inevitable sickness most people get in Mexico. All six of us got sick at one point or another and unfortunately for me I was stuck in bed a solid 2.5 days unable to eat or drink anything. Scott did not feel quite right almost a week after we let Sayulita as well. Mexico won this round…

My view for 3 days
My view for 3 days

Mexican Food

I never knew that Mexican food is comfort food to me until we arrived in Mexico – I mean it really should have been no surprise for this girl who was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I felt so at home with tacos, burritos, and salsa everywhere. It was all super delicious and I will never get tired of $1-2 tacos!

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People here dig our new president

Surfing the Boogie

After surfing in Indonesia we have been itching to get back on a surfboard ever since. Eleni, Taylor, Scott and I decided to take a lesson from some Mexican guys on the beach – after a short on land portion we hit the waves. They help you figure out where to catch the waves and even give you a little push to help out. After an hour with these guys we were feeling really tired, but we were also pretty sure that we could replicate the process on our own since we were pretty good at catching the waves. Another wrong assumption – I am a terrible surfer and there is no way I am going to catch a wave without an instructor helping me through from start to finish. It was so much fun though and we were only slightly beat up afterwards.

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What we thought we looked like...
What we thought we looked like…
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What we really looked like

The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 8

Languages: Spanish (although English is widely used everywhere we went)

Currency: $1 USD = 20 Mexican Pesos

Number of Miles Traveled:  1,800 (including our flight from Miami)

Number of Miles Walked:  37 miles (average of 4.6 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  79,240 steps (average of about 9,905 per day)

Transportation Used: Bus, plane, and taxi

Type of Accommodations: Hotel and Airbnb apartment

Number of Beds: 2

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Just a Taste of the US of A

Just a Taste of the US of A

We decided to head to Mexico to meet up with friends! Upon looking for plane tickets to get to Mexico we realized that getting to and from Mexico from anywhere in South or Central America was going to be really expensive. It was WAY cheaper to go to Mexico from the United States…so that is just what we decided to do!

We passed through Miami, Florida for 4 nights to stay with Scott’s grandfather, Pops. It was amazing to be able to spend some time with him, watch some movies, go clothes shopping, and ship some things home. We always thought we would end our trip flying through Miami for a few days to Pops, but we decided to push this visit up a month to see him on our way to Mexico!

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After our week in Mexico, we headed back to the USA for another brief visit…this time to Houston, Texas for 4 nights to see both my grandmothers, my parents, my brother’s family (including our 3 year old niece), and my aunts/uncles. This was a bonus visit I never expected to happen on this trip and it was amazing to be able to see some family on our last leg of our trip!

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This blog post was terribly hard for me to write and isn’t the most exciting. I have become used to writing about our times in foreign lands seeing places I have always dreamed about, but this post is much, much harder. These two mini-trips back into the US have been very special to us both though and I am so thankful our travels led us back “home” for a little while.

Places Visited

Aventura, Florida and Houston, Texas

Thoughts on Being “Home” in the USA

Wow, the US is expensive. We didn’t pay anything for accommodations while we visited, reward points paid for our rental cars, and we had some free meals and we still felt like we spent a lot of money. We are not used to going to target for some mini-shampoo containers and Cliff Bars and walking out with our wallets $40 lighter. We ordered sandwiches at the grocery store and spent $18 on sandwiches alone. We shipped three boxes home (clothing, souvenirs, a glass bowl given to us by Pops, and Scott’s old camera) and we paid $85 in shipping costs. The US is one of the most expensive places we have been on our travels and I think that we started to forget how much things really cost in the States.

The biggest shock upon returning back to the US is the size of everything and the amount of stuff. Grocery stores are incredibly large and there are 100 brands for everything. Heck, Target has TWO aisles that were just for laundry soap. Why is there so much of everything? We learned how little we could live with and to return and be surrounded by SO many things is overwhelming. Yes, I like options too – I nearly passed out I was so excited by the different types of yogurt I could purchase (although Noosa is always the right choice). At what point is it just too excessive?

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Florida

Our trip to visit Scott’s grandfather, Pops, flew by. We exchanged out our wardrobes with some fresh clothes, we ran errands, relaxed with a beautiful view, caught up with Pops, and ate some fantastic meals. Scott’s love for going to the movie theaters traces back to going to the movies with his grandparents – so that was high on the list of things to accomplish in Florida. The three of us settled on the movie, Hidden Figures, and it was a really great picture and I left feeling inspired (and wishing I was smart enough to be a rocket scientist). It was a fabulous way to spend a few days and we loved that Pops could be a part of our trip round’ the world.

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Houston

Our trip to Houston was supposed to be a fun trip to visit both of my grandmothers. It worked out that my parents were going to be in town (my Dad had a conference in San Antonio for a few days) and that I was going to be able to see my brother and my niece as well! A few days before our trip my Grandmother (my Mom’s Mom) had a minor heart attack and ended up in the ICU – every piece of good news was met with several pieces of bad news. It is heartbreaking when someone you love is sick and there is nothing that you can do about it. The quick trip to Houston turned into a well-timed one, as I could be there to visit my Grandmother in the hospital.

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I am not sure what to say about our time in Texas. We were able to see so many people that we love and that filled my heart to the brim. We also had to deal with the uncertainty and worries that are associated with hospital stays and it was really hard. We were able to spend a few days with my other Grandmother getting spoiled with great food, good conversation, and to feel some normalcy. I loved seeing her and being able to spend some time at her house. We were able to visit one of my aunt and uncle at the hospital and it was wonderful to see them. I was able to catch up with my cousin, Tara, and hear about her plans to move to Korea (update July 2017 — that is not happening, but she is in a immersive Korean language program at UCLA for the summer) while reminiscing about our time together there. We were able to see the pastor from my church growing up when he came to visit the hospital. We made it to Kingwood (where I grew up) on official business and we were able to catch up with great family friends, The Thieles. We were able to see my brother and my three-year-old niece (and give her some Mexican maracas so she can bother her parents with her new musical skills). We were able to visit my Uncle who was hospitalized a few months back and it was fantastic to see him recovering well and catch up with him.We were also able to spend some time with my childhood dog, Grace, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and isn’t really doing well. Nobody ever expected to have 17 years with her, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to our littlest member of the family.

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It didn’t feel right leaving when there was so much going on in Houston. It was the hardest goodbye for me and I haven’t cried so hard in a long time. Hell, I am still crying on the plane as I write this. My heart is so full from this visit, but it is also very heavy.

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The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 8 (not consecutively — we had a week in Mexico in between)

Languages: English

Currency: $1 USD = $ 1 USD

Number of Miles Traveled: 2,200 miles (including our flight from Mexico and Colombia)

Number of Miles Walked:  21 miles (average of 2.7 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  45,874 steps (average of about 5,734 per day)

Transportation Used: Car

Type of Accommodations: Staying with Family

Number of Beds: 4

July 2017 Update — My grandmother ended up passing away in April and it was really miserable being so far away from home. Grace, our longest standing dog member of the family, crossed the rainbow bridge in May. Unfortunately, life isn’t always beautiful scenery and good food. In an effort to make this a true account of our trip I want to include the shitty stuff too. Rest in peace Lena Ward — I will miss you so much.

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Colombia Recap

Colombia Recap

The soundtrack to Colombia is vibrant, loud, and catchy – there is music blaring from every shop, restaurant and around every corner. Fruit vendors selling mangos and pineapples litter the city. Seafood is abundant and you can buy ceviche almost anywhere. The vibe here is a mix of Caribbean and Latino. There was more poverty than I expected. To be honest, I am not sure if it was my favorite place in the world. I struggled to find the food scene past ceviche, arepas and fresh fish. Perhaps we didn’t dig deep enough into Colombia, as it is a big country and we really only spent time in Cartagena. The glimpses we did see were incredible and Colombian culture is animated and so dynamic. If I could redo our time in Colombia I would go to some other cities to try and get a better feel for this country.

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Cities Visited

Bogota (just in passing on an overnight layover) and Cartagena

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Things We Liked

Ceviche, limonada de coco (holy crap these are good), and beaches

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Things We Disliked

Hot weather, overall food scene, and expensive accommodations

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The Colors of Cartagena

The city of Cartagena is full of vibrant colors and beautiful architecture. The streets are really stunning and every corner you turn seems to be more and more beautiful. There was one problem though…the streets were complete chaos during the middle of the day with a lot of people, tourists and Colombians alike, street vendors, and cars. We much preferred the mornings and later at night when the streets clear out and the beauty of Cartagena can be seen more fully.

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Street Food, Dancing, and Trampoline Hopping

On Saturday night in Gemsmani, a neighborhood close to the center of the city, comes to life. The square was packed full of locals waiting for food at one of the street vendors, musicians, dancers, and kids playing on a giant trampoline that was brought to the square. We sat there for hours watching all of the action and eating all of the food. We ate hot dogs (perros calientes in Colombia are out of this world), arepas, meat on sticks, and ice cream popsicles. We loved this evening and it was our favorite thing we did in Colombia. Sometimes the Old City in Cartagena felt very touristy — we struggled to really get to the heart of the culture and people because of this. This night in Gemsmani felt almost completely opposite of the tourist center and you could feel the culture and life of the people in Cartagena.

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Beer & Laundry

We have really come to appreciate having access to a laundry machine. We have a very limited amount of clothing and clean laundry is sometimes hard to come by. When we arrived in Cartagena we knew that finding a place to do our laundry was a priority so we set out to do just that. There is a little place in Cartagena called Beer and Laundry — it is magical!

This is how it works: you bring your laundry and the lady who runs the store will wash, dry, and fold your laundry while you hang out and have a few beers. You can also order some food while you wait – pizza, beer, and laundry are a match made in heaven for a long-term traveler. You can also just drop of your clothes and pick them up later, but where is the fun in that? While we were waiting on our clothes to be finished we met a ton of people and loved swapping travel stories with them. Most of the people we met had been backpacking around South America for the past couple of months – it was particularly awesome to hear all about their experiences since we had to skip most of South America this time around. Sometimes it is the experiences that you least expect (like doing our laundry) to be the ones to create our favorite memories.

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Ceviche & Coconuts

The food scene in Cartagena was hard for us to figure out. What we did figure out pretty quickly is that ceviche is big in Cartagena and we LOVE it. If you aren’t familiar ceviche it is ……..When we order ceviche in the US it is $15 and served in a shot glass. It was wonderful to pay $10 and get a bowl of ceviche big enough for us to split at lunch. Our favorite ceviche was a fish, conch, and calamari mix in coconut milk from La Ceverceria, a place that Anthony Bourdain visited and put on our radar.

We ate ceviche on the beach from this cart and didn't die
We ate ceviche on the beach from this cart and didn’t die

Coconuts and coconut flavored everything are all over this city. My favorite is the limonada de coco and I think I sampled this delicious drink at almost every restaurant we visited. This coconut flavored lemonade tastes as good, or dare I say even better, than a pina colada. I love me a good pina colada, but damn…these things were incredible. You could say that I am obsessed and I am on a quest to make the perfect limonada de coco once I get back home.

Playa Blanca

There are beaches closer to Cartagena than Playa Blanca, but they are not nearly as nice. We took a shuttle to Playa Blanca to spend the day sitting along the crystal blue waters that make you have been transported to an island in the Caribbean. We spent the entire day lounging on beach chairs saying no to vendors trying to sell us massages, bracelets, hats, and sunglasses. We wish we would have spent a night or two staying here, but we already had a place in Cartagena.IMG_7702

It was a fabulous day…until we went to walk back to the shuttle. We could not find where we had entered the beach to get back to the last shuttle of the day. After asking around we found the way to the parking lot. There was no shuttle in the parking lot even though it was supposed to be leaving in 10 minutes! As we are panicking a bit a “helpful” taxi driver asked what we were looking for…and one conversation in broken Spanish later he told us that our shuttle had just left. Since we don’t trust anyone and something about the parking lot felt different we decided to run down the road a bit further. We found an identical parking lot with our shuttle about to leave in the parking lot! Whew.

The Stats 

Total Number of Nights: 7

Languages: Spanish

Currency: $1 USD = 2,957 Colombian Pesos

Number of Miles Traveled:  4,350 miles (including our flight from Argentina)

Number of Miles Walked:  36 miles (average of 6 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  76,387 steps (average of about 12,700 per day)

Transportation Used: Taxi, mini-bus (shuttle), Uber, and plane

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (2)

Number of Beds: 2DSC_0536

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