The Trip So Far: Honest reflections from life on the road
Ok friends, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly! We have a tendency to wax poetic on instagram, showing only gorgeous waterfalls, deserted beaches, and smiling kids. What we don’t show are the cramped camper quarters, the laundry hanging from every available surface, and the epic meltdowns in restaurants. Get ready to hear about the gritty side of this trip!
So what is our existence like on the road? Well, like most of life, it’s a mix of good and bad. I often wonder what this trip would be like sans children; Chris and I joke that this is a grand tour of Mexico’s water parks and swimming pools. We haven’t stepped foot in a single museum or had a fancy dinner. In fact, we haven’t had an evening away from children since June 24, which frankly seems like an eternity. (We were spoiled in Seattle with nearby babysitting grandparents and relatives).
The longest I’ve been detached from any family member was when Ben joined a two hour kids camp at a hotel in Acapulco – we were all set to have him go for the entire week but they shut it down due to a lack of participants the day after we arrived. End result? One disappointed six year old and two crushed parents.
Frankly, we’re all a little tired of each other. 🙂
We’ve also made a few changes to our driving plan; we’ve found that the kids really need a few nights in a single location, rather than travelling a little bit every day. It’s only been when we’ve put down roots for three (or more) nights that we really hit our stride. This is going to prove challenging to our schedule as we had intended to travel to Argentina fairly quickly. Our eight month trip is quite brief when compared to overlanders that typically take 1-2 years.
This has meant that we’ve had to make some tough planning decisions: we’re going to skip the Yucatan and Belize* and make a quick beeline through Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Hopefully we’ll then be able to stockpile some extra nights for Costa Rica and Panama, where we’ll find some long-term campsites or airBNBs.
Uninterrupted sleep continues to be our single biggest challenge. Nights in the camper or on unfamiliar hotel beds makes for restless nights for the entire family.
I realized today that I’m mourning the change in plans, despite it being the best decision for our family. I’m the type of person that likes slow travel: stopping for every roadside waterfall and at every lookout (ideally with lots of informational signboards!) is my jam. I want to see everything. Most children, on the other hand, do not like to stop and smell the roses. They want to get to the hotel pool or build sand castles on the beach. Non-swimable waterfalls and pretty views hold zero interest. This is not a surprise, of course. We’ve been travelling on kid timelines since Ben was born six years ago and we knew that this trip was no exception. But I’m still struggling to reconcile the needs and wants of all the family members on this trip. Water parks are fun but a nice hike up to a mirador (lookout) would be pretty swell.
The worst part has been when we’ve been sick. We’ve all suffered from various ailments, most of them GI tract related, and we’ve discovered that the camper is no place to be when somebody is having intestinal difficulties. It’s simply too small and lacks any privacy whatsoever. All plans are immediately ditched in favor of a hotel bathroom with flush toilets. And that, my dears, is the ugly part of the trip thus far! I’ll spare you further details.
Despite our competing interests, no time apart, and occasional cases of Montezuma’s Revenge, we’re doing ok. Surprisingly ok. 🙂 Having Chris here as a full time parent has been an unimaginable luxury. The kids – Ben especially – are in heaven. Frankly I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this trip would become a reality and to be exploring it together as a family has been incredible. Our favorite days so far have included a nearly deserted water park (of course), collecting and reburying sea turtle eggs as part of a species reintroduction project, and paddling into a lagoon to spot wild crocodiles. Two nights ago we were sitting on a beach eating gelato while surfers attempted their luck on one of Mexico’s premier surf breaks. It has definitely been a wild and crazy adventure, that almost doesn’t feel quite real.
We’re preparing to enter Guatemala in the next few days, saying a fond farewell to Mexico. We plan to continue doing a mix of camping and hotel stays – although we’ve found hotels to be quite inexpensive the further south we travel. It’s nice to splurge on a decent bed and a few extra square meters of space.
I hope this post doesn’t come across as too complain-y. That wasn’t my intention at all. Instead I was hoping to balance the ‘this vacation is amazing, everything is perfect‘ perception with a honest dose of reality. Besides a perfect adventure would be boring – it’s the crazy mishaps that make for fond remembrances once the trip has reached its conclusion. Well, except for traveler’s diarrhea. That is never enjoyable – past or present.
We’re a bit behind on Mexico posts but we’ll get them up as the spotty wifi in hotels allows.
*By the way, if you’re looking for vacation suggestions: Belize is one of my all-time favorite places. It has everything: scuba diving and surfing on remote tropical islands, tubing through caves, and Mayan ruins in tropical jungles. I can’t wait to take the kids when they’re older. We’ve been twice, both times staying on an island owned by Slickrock Adventures. It’s my version of paradise. What would I also add? A week-long side trip into the Yucatan to visit the underground cenotes and some of Mexico’s famed beaches.