I remember my first several months as a nomad, viscerally. I use the word “viscerally” because I can almost, now, feel the caustic taste of the anxiety that took over on most days. Honestly, most days.
At the time, I was so confused. That feeling took me by complete surprise. I had traveled solo a lot, and I was finally doing what I had long dreamt of doing.
But what I was feeling, I now realize, was the result of the systematic demolishment of every normalcy in my life — from how I showered and got dressed in the morning, to how my days progressed to where my food came from at night. My job had changed, my house had changed, my network had changed, my belongings had changed, my whole life had changed.
I had almost zero routine.
I had gone from a person who set the alarm before 5 a.m., hit the gym almost every day and scheduled life around a series of meetings, deadlines, happy hours and events to someone who had nowhere to be, no one to be with and was suddenly working in a job without any outside framework or direction.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably realize that I usually travel solo. That’s not an accident. I love being alone on the road for a multitude of reasons: I get to be totally selfish in my choices, I move at my own pace, I find I use my senses to better experience moments and I’m also more vulnerable (in a good way) to new interactions and friendships.
But the truth is, most of us travel with someone else — and I enjoy that, too. The trick, of course, is aligning your goals and desires with another (or multiple!) humans, a feat that isn’t always easy. Most of you have probably already realized that a great friend/partner/family member at home doesn’t necessarily equal a great travel partner away from it. Being in totally different settings from a normal existence — read: 24/7 interaction, bathroom-sharing, schedule-sharing — can test the closeness of and tolerance for any relationships.
So how do you have a stellar time with your bestie or your significant other without devolving into petty fights and frustration? Here are five of my favorite tips for having a swimming vaca —and still loving each other on the other side, as evidenced from my recent trip to New Orleans with my great gal pal Megan.
Shortly after I arrived in Gracias, Honduras last week and enthusiastically began posting photos of this beautiful colonial town brimming with red-tiled roofs and pristine, cafe-filled parks, someone on Instagram messaged me to ask a simple question:
Why was everything in Gracias so clean and well-kept and, well, so very different than where I had previously stayed, in Puerto Cortes?
My instinct was to say that like most places in this world, Honduras possesses range and dimension.
“Why are places in the US different from each other?” I countered. “Every place has variance.”
Tucked at the end of a peninsula on the Central coast of Belize, Placencia draws vacationers and retirees alike thanks to its tropical climate, prime beaches, laid-back vibe and English speakers.
The village won’t overload you with activities or bustle — part of its charm is that the Belizean adage “Go Slow” takes on a literal meaning here — but the longer you hang around, the more likely you’ll find there is more to this town than first strikes the eye, from the warmth of the intertwined local and expat communities to back streets that wind into the canals, revealing pockets of life not seen from the main stretch.
Like other tourist destinations in Central Belize, the prices are on the high end for Central America, a reality that should be evident at the first passing of shore-lining mansions and the celebrity-attracting Turtle Inn — a Francis Ford Coppola property that touts rooms for upwards of $500 USD a night. But just as there is luxury to be soaked up if you’re so inspired, there are deals to be found, too; and plenty to entertain for a week or more.
How does one pack for indefinitely? I have no idea. But I’m learning better by the week, and getting more sophisticated with each pitstop back in the U.S.
After my latest evaluation, I dumped a lot (goodbye water filter and second pair of jeans, among other things) while piling on a couple of pretty significant additions. (Um, yoga mat and full-standing tripod? OK SURE).
How’s this gonna work? I recorded this video as I test-packed my new load for the first time.
Since some people have commented on this glorious bronze glow I’ve obtained while traveling through Central America, I thought I’d share my beauty secrets for achieving radiance and staying glamorous while on the move.
Repeat at your own risk.
SECTION 1: BODY CARE
Shower (but not too much). One pervasive theory suggests that regularly bathing yourself with water and soap is a good way to, you know, remove sweat and dirt. But that theory doesn’t know sh*t about ice cold water lines, and cockroach-lined walls. So resort to this option only when you start to wonder who in the room smells so bad and then realize you’re the only person in the room. When the time comes, here is the proper protocol:
Do some jumping jacks. Maybe some pushups. You’re going to want to be sweating going in to this. Bonus: this will help keep you #lean and #fit.
Scream as you walk into the shower. This is akin to breathing out while lifting weights or biting down on something while digging out a splinter. You’re acknowledging that this is going to suck and you’re proactively dealing with it.
Find some 3-in-1 action. This is no place for multiple steps. This is a war zone. Forget the conditioner; forget the loofah full of body wash. You’ve got time for one substance — it doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be 3-in-1, it just is now. Slap it on, wash most of it off and get out.
Between all the visible parts of my job as a roaming writer and video producer, there is one element constantly in the background:
Planning and booking travel.
Living a life on the move requires me to constantly be thinking about where I came from and where I’m headed in addition to where I am in that moment.
I get a lot of questions about how I decide where to go and where to stay and what to do while I’m there, so I thought I’d share some of my process — that delicate balance of making a plan while staying open to major change — as well as some of what’s in store for me in the months ahead.
When I first announced my plans to head to Belize after several months in Guatemala, one of the first questions I got was whether I’d be able to have any “real” experiences in a county that elicits images of swaying palm trees, immaculate beaches and touristic experiences.
But although Belize — conveniently the only country in Central America whose official language is English — has a long coastline, one of the world’s best barrier reefs and vast supplies of clear, cerulean waters, it’s identity stretches far beyond the dispatches most often received.
My first glimpse of that reality came in San Ignacio — a little river town on the Western border that will live on as one of my favorite locales in my Central American travels thus far. Here, you’re only about 70 miles from the coast as the crow flies, but you’ll feel much farther away, surrounded by dirt roads, Mayan ruins — even within city limits — and a variety of cultural experiences. Walk down the main street and it will be immediately obvious that you’ve left Guatemala, even though you’re just over the border. Expect to smell curry, spice; you stop seeing much corn; that carbohydrate sustenance replaced plentifully by rice and beans. In addition to the expected Mayan and Hispanic influences, you’ll find a big population of Chinese, Asian Indians, Mennonite Germans and of course many of Creole backgrounds that lend great flavor and distinction to the food. You can hardly soak it up in a week, but I tried.
Ten minutes ago, I was at a cafe, having breakfast, when a couple of tourists collapsed down next to me on the bench-style seating. I immediately looked around. Was the place full? No? Why did they have to be so NEAR me then?
It didn’t help that one of the guys was tapping the table and intermittently humming sections of the song playing that wasn’t even close to accurate. (Really? You don’t even speak Spanish. There’s no chance you know this 1970s Puerto Rican ballad.)
But really, it wasn’t about this guy and his humming habits. It was more about the fact that it was morning and I had my computer and I was near the lake and feeling peaceful, and these are generally among the list of situations in which I want as little human contact as possible.
I needed to get out of there, to go somewhere where no one was looking at me or sitting near me or threatening to blurt out: “So, where ya from?” like I’m just dying to answer that question AGAIN at 9 a.m. on a Monday.
OK, OK, before you call me cold or anti-social, let me explain.