Browse Category by Travel
Travel

HELP FOR HONG KONG

My blog is not a political blog, it’s a travel blog. ZoomGoes.com acts as a journal, memory book, and reference for myself and my readers. I mention reference because I always try to make my posts as informative as possible; what steps did I take to accomplish ABC, how much did it cost, how to best recreate it for yourself, etc.

I typically only write new posts when I have a new adventure to share. This is a special exception. Lately, I’ve been reliving my time in Hong Kong over and over in my mind because of the events currently going on there. I largely think about how horrible it must be for the citizens.

Unlike many of my fellow Americans, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong. I’ve eaten the food, safely walked the streets, rode the bus, and even made friends. When my knee slipped out, I had to go to the hospital – a total cost of $84 USD for my visit, medications, and a brace. The kindness I experienced in Hong Kong has permanently given it a special place in my heart; my heart which breaks to see the citizens there being forced to go to these lengths just to get some simple freedoms. I wish there was something I could do….

Oh wait – there is! I have a voice, so I’m going to use it! No matter your level of familiarity with the current events in Hong Kong, I hope that in this post, you learn something about the people that reside there, why they are fighting so hard for what they believe in, and why they deserve to win. Then you can use your voice to help them, too.

The History between Hong Kong and China

Being right on the shore, Hong Kong is one of the largest trading hubs in Asia. Great Britain recognized this geographical advantage and leased Hong Kong from China from 1899 to 1997. As a Crown Colony, Hong Kong maintained a political model of the Westminster system (parliamentary government), offering freedom and prosperity to its citizens.

As the lease on Hong Kong ended, the citizens of Hong Kong had grown used to the ideals and lifestyle of the British and did not want to once again be under the strict regime of China. In 1984, a document called the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed that would allow Hong Kong to maintain its own economic and administrative systems independent from China through 2047; this set up is often referred to as “one country, two systems”. To China, Hong Kong is currently considered a special administrative region (SAR) that is granted a “high degree of autonomy”. Since the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong has established its own constitution, known as Basic Law. So far, the Basic Law has served them well despite China’s many attempts over the years to tighten its control over Hong Kong.

Why are Hong Kongers protesting?

The Hong Kong government is about to pass a bill that would allow China to extradite criminals (very loosely used in China) from Hong Kong back to the motherland. A lot of countries have arrangements like this between each other, so why is it being met with such resistance and passion?

A little context about life in China

China is currently governed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). While officially organized based on democratic centralism (meaning that political decisions are reached via a vote that binds the whole party), regular citizens of China are not able to create change for themselves through voting as we have here in the USA.

In fact, the CCP regime is incredibly oppressive in its effort to create well-managed citizens. Examples of policies are:

  • Restricted & censored access to the internet (aka knowledge)
  • A strict one-child per family rule
  • Restrictions on freedom of speech (“Our citizens are totally allowed to protest [but only in that abandoned park 50 miles from any other human where their voices will not be heard]!”)
  • Censoring of art
  • Profiling of citizens based on sexuality/religion/race
  • An execution policy for certain non-violent offenses (often political in nature)

Much like North Koreans who defect because they are seeking freedom, Chinese citizen flee to Hong Kong searching for a better life; one that is free from oppression, poverty, and wrongful persecution – a life where you can be free to live without fear. Hong Kong is trying to loosen China’s hold on them, not allow the grip to tighten – the passing of this bill would be a large step in the wrong direction.

Fun Fact: While ethnically Chinese, and physically located in China, many Hong Kongers do not consider themselves Chinese – especially the younger generations.

Cited from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48607723

How can I help?

Of all the places that I have traveled, Hong Kong has been the most open and welcoming. I feel that Hong Kongers have such a deep appreciation for their country that they are excited to share it with others. I know this post is a lot to read already, but I encourage you to read about these four special interactions I had with Hong Kongers during my visit and you will see a shining example of the people there – kind, considerate, and helpful. Protestors are even apologizing to tourists – how often do you see that?

Despite the obvious calm of the protestors, the Hong Kong police have used brutal methods to contain them including tear gas, water cannons, and eye-gouging. The danger to protestors now has now even elevated to non-protest areas such as the train. Currently, the Chinese military is convoying to Hong Kong and there is worry that this will turn into Tiananmen Square all over again.

Spread the word & call your representative

The protestor’s biggest asset right now is the media. Through the news, the cause and voice of Hong Kongers have a much greater reach. If you are sympathetic to the cause in Hong Kong, tell your friends about what is happening there. Share this article. Watch YouTube videos. Follow the news. Subscribe to /r/HongKong on Reddit – there are a million ways to raise awareness and each one of them could contribute to the future of a country.

If you’d like to do something more actionable, I encourage you to join me in calling your state representatives. Not sure who that is? I wasn’t either. You can find your House Representative(s) here and your Senator(s) here. Call them and tell them that you would like them to cosponsor the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

Let’s be the America that Hong Kong thinks we are – fighters for freedom.

Travel

Happy Eid!!

Today is the Muslim holiday Eid. It marks the end of Ramadan – the month of fasting. Tonight, Muslims all over the world will come celebrate; sharing toys, food, gifts, music and love. Whenever this time of year comes around, I always smile because of my own experience with Eid.

I had just checked into my hostel in Malaysia (a heavily Muslim country) and, literally guys, like 2 minutes I was in that room before the hostel manager was knocking on my door. She sat me down and explained that Ramadan was going on and how that would impact me.

If you’re not familiar with Ramadan, it is the 9th month of the Muslim year. For the WHOLE MONTH there is a strict fast from sunrise to sunset – only water or tea during daylight. If you didn’t catch the timing here, that’s the majority of May – that’s about 12 hrs a day of fasting!

I thought she was about to tell me something horrible – like all the restaurants are closed during daylight or that I too would need to fast. Not at all – instead, she educated me about the holiday so that I would be aware of what the majority of people around me would be experiencing – HUNGER!

I could see what she was getting at. Just like when you sit down to dinner with a friend, you don’t start eating before them – you wait for them to join you at the table and then you begin your meal. As such, I would need to make sure that I dined in at the restaurant or brought my food home to eat it in private.

My first few meals in Malaysia were, for lack of a better word, kind of awkward. I was always the only person dining. As suggested by my hostel manager, I dined in as to not be rude to people outside. Slowly, my food began to taste like guilt as it dawned on me that all these employees must be hungry too.

Then, one day I was on my way back to my hostel and I saw something straight out of Spirited Away. What was once an abandoned fairground was now bustling with smells, lights, activity and laughter. Of course, I had to check it out. Coming closer, I saw a sea of smiling faces filled with food – Eid had come!

When I approached, I was ushered into a small booth by three large, smiling women. They brought me over to a table upon which sat three clear barrels filled with tea. The tea had been brewed by placing flowers in it, and had taken on the color of the flower’s petals. They poured me a small paper cup of each and let me taste them – they were incredible! Still to this day I wish I had found a way to find out what flavors they were so I could have them here at home.

I spent the next hour going from booth to booth trying various roasted meats, curried rices, stewed vegetables. I was so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It was a lovely celebration that I’ve always remembered. Today especially – Happy Eid!!

Travel

I declined a free trip to Scotland to vacation at a retirement community.

A picture of the villages welcoming sign.

OK – before you go, “Zoom, you did what?! Gave up a FREE TRIP TO SCOTLAND?” I know, I know, believe me. When I wrote my thanks-but-no-thanks email I literally said, “I can’t believe I’m saying no to this opportunity, but…..” It was a really tough call guys, I mean really tough call. So, before I lose all credibility with my readers as an adventure guru, let me explain.

The Context

For the last three years, my parents and sister have been vacationing at a retirement community in Florida called “The Villages“. My mom first discovered The Villages when she sought out ‘golf cart communities’ online. My family has a long-time love affair with golf carts. We just love riding them and have owned several over the years. On my 16th birthday, my parents set up a golf-cart relay race for my party – lemme tell you, that was the coolest party in school…..oh, the glory days. 😛

Just as advertised, The Villages is a golf-cart-transit city. I say city because The Villages is its own municipality with a post-office, radio station, school system – the works. With all the fancy golf carts zipping around, it kinda reminds me of Burning Man mutant vehicles. Residents of The Villages have no need to ever leave – anything you could need or want is accessible on a golf cart!

Yes, this a golf cart.

This spring, I graduated with my associates degree in Web Development (thank you, thank you!). To celebrate that, of course I wanted to do some traveling! In a freak occurrence of destiny, my brother also happened to have off the first 10 days of May – clearly a family vacation was being called for. Since Florida is beautiful in May and my brother and I had never been to The Villages, it seemed the obvious choice. We rented a house with a pool and golf cart for [the month of] May and started the Hoffman Vacation Countdown.

The Temptation

Then I got a call – it was my boss.

B: “Would you like to go on an all-expense-paid trip to Scotland? Its from May 9-19, that’s all I know.”

*Shocked silence*

M: “Um… YEAHHHH I’D LIKE TO GO ON THAT!” (~Sorry family~)

B: “Ok, I’ll tell them. Someone should be in touch shortly.”

As excited as I was about what just happened, I dreaded telling my family. They hid their disappointment well and told me I’d be crazy not to go. Even though I knew they were right, something kept gnawing at me. Not many families – especially ones with grown kids living their own lives – get the opportunity to go on vacation and spend that kind of time together.

After the call, all I could do was wait to hear from “someone”. Finally, I was contacted. On the other end of the line was the professor of a geology class that includes a study abroad component. “Scotland is doing amazing things in peat and was chosen for this years destination,” she explains. “We had a young woman who had to drop out because of personal issues, but she’s already paid for the trip – we need someone to replace her.”

The Catch

As the old adage goes: “If something is too good to be true, it is.” As it turns out, there was a lot of strings attached to my offer of ‘free trip to Scotland’. While there would be no expense, I would have to pay the tuition for the class next semester as well as make up all the work that the rest of the students had done.

Additionally, there would be no personal time on the trip. The group had a full itinerary that we would need to be ‘strictly adhered to’. We wouldn’t be having any classroom hours or exams while we were abroad, but everyone was expected to give a presentation recapping what they learned in Scotland and how it related to what they learned in the course (that I would not have taken yet).

Because of my non-traditional path in higher education, I missed out on a lot of everything that younger me was looking forward to experiencing. Living in a dorm, meeting new people who would be my life-long friends, going to house parties, and – most of all – studying abroad.

Time to Choose

The rip of conflict within me was massive. I literally had to phone a friend – make that several friends – to talk it out.

After an intense weekend of talking it out and analyzing the options, I finally decided to pursue my original plan to travel with my family.

Why? Well, I think because I love them and have been realizing over the years just how fast time is going. Some day when I have kids, a vacation like this could probably never happen – but a trip to Scotland still could. Also, its summer and I want to enjoy myself and not be cramped with a bunch of strangers. Not that I can’t make friends, but there’s no need when I have my family…. LOVE YOU HOFFMANS <3 <3

Do I regret it?

With any big decision, regret is always lurking in the corner ready to visit after the choice is made. I knew that no matter what choice I made here, some form of regret would inevitably be my companion – at least for a little while.

But, I’m happy to say that I was wrong about that. This was 100% the correct decision and I am living regret free! Stay tuned to hear about just what is making this trip so great.

In my situation, what choice do you think you would have made? Tell me in a comment!

Travel

Spring Break Reset

This weekend marks the end of my spring break. To any student, that sounds like a sad time – but not for me, not this time. In fact, I’m in the mood to celebrate weekends and all the freedom and joy they bring!

I haven’t felt this way about weekends in a long time – two years to be exact. Until now, weekends meant working at the pizza place, doing my homework, catching up on chores that have been piling up, and other would-rather-be-doing-something-else-type of responsibilities. But hey, sometimes that’s life! I didn’t resent weekends, I just haven’t felt excited for them since I left Chicago – they were just another day for me.

The End Of An Era

March 1st marked the end of a season of my life – my casual college student era. I worked my last shift at the pizza place. Even though I’m excited to move on, the Pizza Dive was a big part of my life for the last few years and there is a definite lacking where it used to fill my time. My boss (and my apparent customer fan club) gave me the sweetest send off on Facebook.

March 1st also rang out the final homestretch of getting my associates degree. Only 8 weeks left and I’ll have finished something I never thought I’d be able to. Catching my breath over spring break, I’ve had a moment to process exactly where I am and how I’d like to proceed forward.

A New Direction

This semester I’ve been teaching at my local college. Note that I say ‘teaching’ loosely. In the strictest definition, I am teaching; but, I feel that calling myself a teacher is disrespectful to the ‘real’ teachers. The teachers who’ve worked so hard to get a degree in education and who, day-after-day, struggle with the pressure of shaping our youth into the next generation.

I, on the other hand, am college-age adults how to be a successful student, citizen, and self-advocate. This modality – called ‘supplemental instruction’ – seems like small peanuts next to that.

Small peanuts or not, I’ve been loving my time as an educator . In fact, dare I say, *begins to whisper* I think this role is going to bubble into something amazing over the next five years.

You might, right now, be reading the blog of the future Director of Supplemental Instruction at Sinclair College. In the upcoming fall semester, I’ll be working closely with faculty to expand the supplemental instruction program from the business department into the computer science department. We’re going to launch at Sinclair’s brand new, shiny campus.

Knowing the road that lay ahead, I’ve decided to invest all my eggs into this basket with the hope they will hatch into something wonderful. Spring break marked the kick off this new investment. This week, lesson plans were made, meetings were had, teaching aids reviewed – I’m actually excited for school to start again so I can jump in full force! But before that…

Celebrate these times, come on!

(^ that was a music reference for you youngies)

I had to celebrate – and I had to do it with the people and places I love. I spent the opening weekend of spring break in Chicago with my BFF who was also celebrating a big accomplishment; her art was accepted and to be displayed in an exhibit! Coordinating with her husband, I surprised her the day before opening night – guys, there were tears! The next two days were a whirlwind weekend of reunion, construction, snow, and sushi.

I admit, coming home from Chicago is always hard. I usually cry. This time though, I had something to look forward to about coming back. My brother and I, who don’t often get much time together, planned to drive down to Lexington, KY to visit a reputable all-you-can-eat sushi place called Happy Sushi (you know, since I didn’t have enough in Chicago). It was a bit of a trek, but man it was worth it! The time together was good, the sushi was great – and it energized me to have visited 4 states in two days!

Unwilling to give up my spring break gusto, my sister and I also made a trip up to Lima to eat at KewPee Hambugers – somewhere I hadn’t been to, or even thought of, in at least 10+ years. Popping into my head, I couldn’t resist another adventure – I have a whole weekend ahead of me before I put my wings away.

The End Grows Near

Two more days then its back to homework and 7:30 AM alarms. Even with the looming feeling of Monday around the corner, I’ve planned to make the most of my time before that. And, honestly, for the first time I’m not dreading the return from a break – I feel surprisingly peaceful. That’s saying something, and I think it says: I’m finally on the right track.

How do you relax & recharge when you get a break? Tell me in the comments – I could use the pro tips!

Travel

Be nice, work hard, travel free

I spent last weekend in Orlando, Florida working at Holiday Matsuri 2018. I learned I like free flights even more than regular flights, and beds in free hotel rooms are 2x as comfy. Free meals taste better, and a job where you get to hang out with nerds playing a very star-trek-esque game is no work at all. Topped off with a hot tub, breezy low 70* weather & a balcony and you’ve got yourself a recipe for one happy, happy Zoom. How did this magical experience come to be? Keep reading. 

Be nice

My mom has always been there for me with advice and direction. More often than not, her words of wisdom have taken me to incredible places – in this case, literally. The first rule ever instilled in me: 

“Be nice to everyone you meet – you never know who will be interviewing you for a job someday.” 

I think being nice comes easily to most people, right? But, when I meet new people, I make a conscious effort to be extra nice….because you never know who will pay for you to work at a comic-con! 

Work Hard

A little over 6 years ago, my best friend got married. Not only was it my first time attending a wedding, but I was the maid of honor to boot. Talk about God-I-Hope-I’m-Doing-This-Right. In sweeping serendipity (read as: luck), all of my duties as maid of honor went off without a hitch – bridesmaids made it to the bachelorette party, seating charts were drawn, centerpieces crafted, and the bride delivered in one piece to the alter (hey, I wasn’t in charge of the ring – don’t look at me for that). 

I have to tell you, this wedding almost killed me. In fact, if it wasn’t for Rick, it very well may have. 

Rick is my BFF’s brother-in-law. Before I knew this, I simply labeled him “awesome-coffee-helper-dude”. Throughout the wedding weekend, he would regularly check in with me and ask what I needed. The response was often a slightly strained “nine iced chai teas with 2 shots of espresso each (also known as a “dirty Oprah”) from Starbucks, stat!”

That weekend, Rick was there for me and my crew. Last weekend, I vowed to be there for him and his crew – as a Bridge Operator. 

Travel Free

Here’s the deal: if I worked 10 hours as a bridge operator at Holiday Matsuri, I would be compensated with:

  • A flight to Florida
  • A hotel room (with balcony) in the hotel the convention is in
  • A staff ticket to the convention – this got me access to all guest areas AND the staff lounge, home of free food and energy drinks
  • A $150 stipend

When asked if I knew anyone else who would be interested, I said “I know just the guy.” Enter Hayden, my previous traveling companion in Central America

If you’ve never heard of Artemis before, it’s a bridge simulation program. Like the bridge of any starship worth its warp, there are various stations to be manned by reliable crew members. Tactical, communications, engineering, science, and helm, are all crucial roles while exploring the galaxy. After viewing a tutorial video, players can choose their station, then collaborate with the other players to zip around the galaxy helping innocent civilians or studying space whales or whatever the captain says. 

Rick is a member of BridgeSimulators –  a business that contracts out the full Artemis experience for conventions, team building exercises, and other parties. Seriously, we had one slick set-up. Each manned station had a touch screen computer for the player, and the main viewer was projected onto a screen for the captain. 

My job was simple: make people want to come back. I helped with sign-ins, training new officers, and even got to play a bunch when someone stopped by but didn’t have a crew of their own (don’t fear going to a con alone, there are people there for you). When I wasn’t working, I was free to do as I pleased.

This is where this post gets hard for me – I could could write a solid novella about the entire weekend. So many amazing stories, people, feelings, costumes – on and on! I just had such a good time. Instead of hitting you with a wall of text, I’ll share my favorites. 

Celebration, Florida – Mickey’s hometown

The first night in Orlando, Hayden and I Ubered to a Golden Corral in a little town called Celebration (this was before we knew of the staff lounge). I rode with the windows down the whole time because, hello, Florida.

At first, it seemed just like any other Golden Corral. Then I noticed the number of dinner guests donning Mickey Mouse ears. I also noticed I was the only one noticing. I imagine in a town where Walt Disney is basically mayor, seeing a few ears here and there is probably totally normal. This is a classic example of why I like traveling – I love the little nuances that manifest themselves in people’s daily lives simply because of where they live.

People Expressing Themselves

A rule I live by: if it involves a costume, count me in. The Renaissance Festival, Halloween parties, viewing party for Game of Thrones, comic-cons …anything. Fancy dress? Insanely loud outfit? Stare-grabbing top? Yes, please. Basically – an chance to break out of the imposed rules of day-to-day dress. Events that involve costumes provide us a rare chance to express ourselves through dress in a way we can’t normally. This is one of the reasons I love Burning Man so much.

My love for self-expression via funky fashion was probably driving my mates nuts as I admired everyone while muttering “Love her this, love his that, oh my god I just love …” [not so] under my breathe for three days straight – especially coming across guys in drag! They probably don’t get to rock their dresses too often and I was so happy to see them be able to in a safe environment.

Don’t worry, I too had my share of dress up. As a bridge operator, a sweet TOS uniform was a required part of the gig!

SUSHI

Did you really think you’d make it through this post without at least one call out for sushi? Ha! You knew it was coming – here it is.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’m a sushi addict. Whenever I go somewhere new, I always try and score a visit to an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi place just to check out the scene. Orlando was no different, but I didn’t think I’d be able to swing it this trip because of schedules and the location of the convention. Then, we’re walking in the hallway and Mia says, “I was thinking maybe for dinner we could go to this AYCE sushi place I found….”.

I legit freaked out a little bit – *grabs Mia in a full body wrap hug* “THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU, I’VE MISSED YOU OMG OMG!!!”

We went to A-Aki Sushi and it was amazing. The sushi, the appetizers, the dessert and the service – it was all fantastic. The price cramped our wallets a bit, but still, totally worth every cent.

Goodbyes

Nobody likes coming home to the cold, but that wasn’t the worst of it. For me, the hardest part was goodbye – I had such a wonderful time with my crew, my friends, my nerdy family…I can’t wait until we reunite again.

If you were to be offered a trip to work somewhere, where would you want to go, and what would you want to do?

Guatemala, Travel

Guatemala III: The Guatemalan Grind

Zoom hanging laundry on the clothesline
The best view I could use for while scrubbing undies

This is the third and final installment in the Guatemala series (recommended reading: Part 1 & Part 2).

The Routine

We all have our daily grind. Work, errands, chores, friends, school. No matter where I go in the world, the grind is the same. I did all those things in Guatemala, but the adventure is in the way you go about it.

In America, I sometimes feel we are consumed by productivity. How much can I get done, and how can I get it done in as little time as possible? (“Aaaaamen”, right?) When you’re done with one task, you approach the next in the same manner. Bring technology into the mix, and its almost required that you live a life of multitasking just to keep up. Personally, this constant GO-GO-GO mindset makes it hard to shift into ‘relax mode’.

As a kid, I sometimes felt that even vacation was an exercise in American productivity. “How hardcore can we vacation?” On Tuesday we are going to do this, this, and this. Wednesday we have to be here by this time, and out by this time to make it to this place with enough time to see that thing.

Burning Man was my first vacation where I made the plans. Which, as it turned out, the plan was to have no plan. I learned how to reach what us burners like to call “burning”.

“Are you burning yet?”

That blissful moment where the threads to real life snap and, no longer the puppet of the grind, you’re free to ….well, be free! The term doesn’t just apply at Burning Man, you can reach Burning status anywhere. For me, going abroad helps expedite this process because of the radical change in the routine. Yes, I’m still doing the grind, but the delivery of it is anything but routine.

Like doing laundry.

My Guatemalan Grind

No matter where you are in the world, there are things you’ll always need to do – right? We, as humans, have a basic grind we must all adhere to – laundry is the perfect example. For the first leg of the trip, Hayden and I operated out of his Scrubba wash bag. I was a bit adverse to using it…but I was wrong. This thing IS. AWESOME. And it’s fun too, which one doesn’t often get to say about doing laundry! Your put your clothes, water, and detergent in it then set it on the ground and give it a good massage. Voila!

Scrubba wash bag
Scrubba wash bag

Then there’s the administrative things. Online banking, emails, the self-imposed blogging. There’s even video-game-esque aspects such as inventory management – living out of a backpack can be hard, ya’ll. Along with constant vigilance about your personal space, and bombarding over-stimulation, together these compose the ‘traveler’s grind’.

Once we moved into an apartment, I was burning. I developed a ‘vacation grind’ easily. My grind started with grounds – local ground coffee, that is. I wasn’t a coffee-addict before working at a hip start-up in Chicago which offered free coffee. As much as you wanted, whenever you wanted. Now I have it almost every morning, thanks Chicago! *shakes fist*

In Guatemala, it got dark around 6:30 – 7 pm with the sun rising around 5 am. A sleep schedule of 9:30-6 somehow became perfectly normal. Honestly, I loved it and kind of miss it. We were so far up the side of the mountain that all you could hear was the soft “bzzzzzz” of boat engines and the regular “Pana!” signaling the docked boat was leaving for the main city, Panajachel. With virtually no light pollution, the stars were always gleaming and beautifully visible.

After coffee came breakfast, which Hayden made most of the time. French toast, fresh fruit, freakin’ crepes! Sometimes we kept it simple (like on scuba class days), eating cereal with the strange 3% Guatemalan milk. I hope someday I get to eat another breakfast with such a breathtaking view.

The view from the kitchen of my apartment in Guatemala

After breakfast, it was time for the activity of the day.

Activities

  • Grocery shopping
  • Hiking
  • Media entertainment (games/movies)
  • Scuba Diving
  • Chores/cleaning
  • Exploring nearby villages
  • Dining
  • Cooking class

”Video game” was the activity of choice more than I care to admit for being in a place so wondrous. I told myself that it wasn’t so shameful to be wasting my break doing something I could do at home because I was playing Tropico. The world of Tropico has a lot of parallels with Guatemala. The bright colors, the architecture, the export industries – even the flora is similar. And look, my avatar is there!

Can you pick out which photos are from the video game?

Looks pretty similar right?! Even though I played through two Tropico campaigns, I still made time for plenty of other non-grind activities.

The Dry Time in the Rainy Season

Our trip took place during Central America’s rainy season (invierno). Mexico City lived up to exactly what we expected for the whole trip – being soaked the whole time we were there. Guatemala pleasantly surprised us. We found ourselves in the middle of a phenomenon called “canícula” – the dry time in the rainy season. The canícula is a few weeks in July or August where the weather is just splendid. Taking advantage of it, one day Hayden and I decided we would try to go find “the waterfall” using not much more than a hand drawn map.

We didn’t find the waterfall LOL! Still, we had a great time hiking in the jungle. There were a few uncomfortable parts – like spotting a pack of kids with machetes and a potentially topless woman – but overall we came home with a free workout, some ant bites, and a bit of a sunburn.

Me walking through the jungle around Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is home to several native villages settled on the shorelines of the lake. Only two of them are accessible by car (Panajachel and San Pedro). The others are accessed via water taxis. Each village has its own vibe. We didn’t visit all of them, but enjoyed the ones we did. San Marcos is very ‘third eye aware’. Lots of yoga, meditation, chakra energies, tarot readings and other metaphysical mysteries.

San Pedro was more of a backpacker’s area. Lots of fellow tourists and vagabonds. Typically windy Guatemalan roads lined with shops selling western food, trinkets, produce or fabrics.

Our favorite village though was our little Santa Cruz. <3

After the morning activity, it was time for a power nap and more administrative things. Since it got dark so early, dinner was usually around 6pm sharp. Rounding out the evening with several hands of cards (P.S Card decks in Mexico don’t include queens) and a few episodes of Archer, or a movie. The perfect ending to endless perfect days – my kind of grind.

Even though I’m settling back into my classic state-side grind, I’m already dreaming up the next adventure. Continental road trip, anyone?