Hi there. This is Trinity. I’m one-half of 43BlueDoors, and resident (so to speak) editor, proof-reader, and occasional writer. Bonnie, the other half of 43BlueDoors, chief writer, editor-in-chief, and essentially my chief person, is taking a break from writing this week.
We are still working with the Dunamis Foundation working on odd jobs around the new property, painting, building the gate, doing small repairs, cleaning, and gardening. The cement needs to fully cure before we can finish painting the walls in the current property.
And Now On to the Blog Post
One year ago, Bonnie and I took a one-way flight to Central America, with the intention of traveling the world.
We’ve covered five countries so far in this trip. Five. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.
At this rate, it would take us almost 40 years to see all 195 countries, and we would be in our 80s by the time we’re done.
What a harrowing thought.
But this isn’t exactly what we set out to do. It’s not about setting foot on as many countries as we could. There’s a number of countries that I don’t foresee myself visiting.
In some cases, it was a question of safety. For example, we skipped Venezuela because of the situation over there. Which is a shame because we think it’s a beautiful country. Perhaps when the conditions improve we will visit that country.
We tried to go to Cuba, and it was going to be easier flying from Colombia compared to flying from the United States. But our credit cards would not work on the Wingo airline website. Maybe using a VPN may have gotten us around the issue. In the end, I don’t think we were that bent on going there. We didn’t feel too bad about skipping Cuba. And it turned out to be a good thing for us because we would have been in Cuba when hurricane Irma made landfall there.
As an objective secondary to seeing the world, we set out to find a place where we think we might settle down. As of now, Medellin, Colombia seems to fit the bill with its spring-like weather, excellent public transportation and infrastructure, very nice people, and low cost of living. But who knows if Medellin will still be like this by the time we decide to settle down years from now. It’s possible too that we may have changed by then, or at least our preferences. Or we may find another town that we like better. Still, even then, nothing is final.
Years from now we might just move around much slower than we do now and that would be our version of settling down.
Bonnie often tells me things that she would like to have in our eventual home. Elbow room to move around and a dishwasher to name a few. In the back of our minds, we believe that we will settle down at some point.
How Are We Doing
On our first year, we’ve managed to keep our spending low. Really low. I think that we started this adventure with a little bit of trepidation. Which should be understandable because for the first time in more than twenty years we didn’t have jobs and no permanent address. There is a natural tendency to keep a close watch on our finances. We hope our investment income will sustain us indefinitely, but nothing is certain.
Latin America is a very inexpensive destination. You can get by with little money. So it was a good choice to start this journey. We lived comfortably. We didn’t live like kings. I know it’s just a saying but it ’s an overrated concept, to me anyway. We lived the way we liked where we liked, spent our money wisely, and splurged (if you can call it that) on things that we enjoy, like scuba diving and paragliding, but never on luxury hotels or high-end restaurants. Living and eating like the locals was more interesting.
I think when we get to the other continents like Europe and Australia our spending will be higher. We may clench our teeth together (and other body parts that also clench) through these continents but it will be fun, and we’d be alright and it will all be worth it.
I’ve enjoyed learning Spanish, and it’s still a continuing effort. I’m at a conversational level but far from fluent. I think it is as vital as food, or attitude, or way of life when it comes to immersing into the culture of a country. Not essential to get by when traveling in a country, but it makes for a much better experience. I will probably try to learn another language when we get out of Latin America but I don’t think I will give it as much effort as I did learning Spanish. Many polyglots say that it gets easier learning another language once you already know a couple. I hope this is true.
Bonnie continues to use Fluenz and making decent progress. I’m a terrible teacher and whenever I try to teach her some Spanish we end up arguing. It’s one of those things married couples probably shouldn’t do, though I’m sure many couples manage to do it just fine.
Has it been everything I hoped it would be? Yes. I was talking to Tom, a friend from work, a week ago. He said, “Sunday must be your favorite, knowing you don’t have to work the next day.”
This is true, and also not true. I don’t miss that feeling at the end of Sunday when the football games are over (and the Steelers lost again), and I have Monday to look forward to. It’s great not having to go back to work on Monday. But then again, most days I don’t really know which day it is.
Bonnie has been so headstrong about keeping the blog current. It’s the one thing close to a recurring deadline that we go through every week. It’s the one thing that I don’t exactly look forward to, proofreading and wordsmithing a blog post. It reminds me of work. But in the end, I don’t mind doing it. It’s a great way to remember our journey and is a better souvenir than trinkets that would only weigh down our backpacks.
Bonnie likes to get up early to get her morning coffee. I like to stay in bed and sleep all morning if I could. I used to do this when I was younger on Saturday mornings. These days I can’t really do it anymore. It’s funny if you think of it. Sleeping-in should be effortless. I hear it’s old age. You can’t sleep in like you used to. Which makes me all the more thankful that we embarked on this journey when we did. In fact, a small part of me regrets not doing it sooner, though it doesn’t do much to dwell on things that can’t be changed, so it just bounces right out of my head like a gymnast bouncing off a trampoline.
When I finally get up, forced by hunger, or sometimes by my middle-aged bladder, I cook an onion and tomato omelet rolled up in a tortilla for both of us. Depending on the town, we may be able to include some mushrooms in there. It’s an easy and quick breakfast. Obviously, we’re talking about routine, which, especially when it comes to food, begs to be broken every so often. So we have pancakes, or a breakfast pastry, or oatmeal (but not for Bonnie, it makes her gag), or rice.
It still amuses me that Bonnie and many Americans are surprised that I eat rice for breakfast. I’m Filipino. It’s pretty common in Asia and parts of Latin America to have rice for breakfast.
I like to cook while Bonnie prefers to wash the dishes. What happens the rest of the day has no routine. Some things haven’t changed though. Bonnie still listens to audiobooks all the time while doing activities like painting or cleaning. I like to do a whole lot of nothing.
How We Fill Up Our Days
So what do we do on days when we are not sightseeing or visiting attractions? We research the next destinations. I like to figure out the accommodations, the public transportation, and other similar travel logistics. There’s a lot of helpful blogs out there and I thank all of them.
The gringo path through Latin America is a well-worn one. There is almost no original adventure to have. But the experience is authentic, whether you immerse yourself in the local culture, or you stay within the hermetically sealed expat areas of a town – it’s what you traveled to do, and it’s your choice.
I started reading books again. I chose to read the classics, now that the common excuse of not having enough time no longer applies to me. What are classics anyway, but old books that we all like to talk about but never really read, somebody famously said. Using the tiny 4-inch screen of my iPhone 5c, fast becoming a relic if not already, I read through classics like Crime and Punishment, Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, etc. (convenient use of et cetera here to make people think that I read a heck of a lot more than I really did).
I started reading Don Quixote but could not get past his stupid actions. It just got too annoying for me. I’m sure if I persevered it will turn out to be a good book but my inner squirrel made me toss the book. It made a loud digital thud when it hit the floor.
I started reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez because we were in Colombia. I liked it a lot. At least as far into the book as I got to read. At some point, I lost track of the characters’ names: José Arcadio Buendía, José Arcadio Buendía II, Aureliano Buendía, Aureliano José Buendía, Aureliano Segundo Buendía, José Arcadio III, José Arcadio Segundo Buendía, Aureliano II. On and on it goes through seven generations of imaginative nomenclature.
After all these false starts, I went back to reading Calvin and Hobbes in Spanish through gocomics.com.
Things I Haven’t Done for a Year
I haven’t worn a pair of jeans for a year. I usually wear a pair of shorts. Not cargo shorts, they’ve been out of style for more than two years now (yeah, get rid of them before even Goodwill refuses to accept them). I wear O’Neill hybrid shorts. They look like regular walking shorts but they’re great for swimming as well.
I haven’t owned a car or paid for car insurance for a year. There were moments when a car would have been useful but they were few and far between. I drove a vehicle in Costa Rica and Panama though, and even rode motorcycles in Nicaragua and Ecuador.
I haven’t walked on flat sidewalks for a year.
I haven’t hung out with my friends and family for a year. We’ve video-chatted with them or talked to them on the phone, but not in person. We have however met many new friends and wonderful people.
I haven’t ordered anything from Amazon for a year. Not for a lack of want. The shipping cost and associated fees to Latin America would be expensive and it would take a long time to arrive.
I haven’t been to Hope Community Church for a year. Fortunately, the messages are available on video at gethope.net.
I haven’t carried a wallet for a year. I just put cash in my secret pocket. One less thing that attracts thieves.
I haven’t had a Whopper for a year.
In Conclusion (finally!)
I just finished building a sliding driveway gate the other day. The thing is massive, five meters wide, and three and a half meters tall, and probably weighs 500 kilos. The gate is for the Dunamis Foundation compound. I worked with an Ecuadorian welder named Santiago. He spoke a strongly-accented Spanish, usually in a harsh whisper, like the way Steven Seagal speaks, if he spoke Spanish, only that Santiago is not so tall, and he wields an electrode. I had a hard time understanding him but with the help of Limber, the resident handyman and nicest guy ever, we managed.
Experiences like these are highlights of our travel for me. Building houses in Nicaragua, riding the chicken buses, subways, and other public transportation, meeting locals, celebrating unique holidays, scuba diving, playing chef, and hiking up to volcano craters. These are the memorable experiences that will remind me of our first year of travel.
And also that awful Shaky Shaky song by Daddy Yankee that was always blaring in the streets.