San Ignacaio, Belize

December 23, 2017:

We all loaded into a van headed to Belize today. I was sad to have to say goodbye to Guatemala, as the visit was so short and there is so much more I wanted to show my family. We had a driver and a guide. Our guide spoke fluent English, and was very passionate about his country and history. He told us all about his mother, her passion for cooking, helping her open a small restaurant in Peten and how he grew up in the kitchen gaining an appreciation for local food. He told us about the Guatemalans who were moved to the area of Flores/Peten from the south and given land to turn into farms. We also  discussed the civil war. Guatemalans have never made any sort of amends after the war, they just changed the name of their guardia civil, and moved on as if nothing happened.  There was never any closure and it is still felt among the civilians.


El Peten- Guatemala

I once traveled to Guatemala for work in 1999 and managed to stay and explore the country just a bit.  I was staying in the town of Antigua, and fell in love with the cobblestone streets and the colonial buildings throughout the town. All of the one story houses were built around courtyards with small gardens and areas to sit outside. It thrilled me to walk to the center of town to take a coffee and walk around watching all of the Mayan women selling the fruits and vegetables as well as their handicrafts. I admired the volcano de Agua rising up in the distance and from any part of the town you could always see it looming in the background. I walked around for hours taking in as much as I could knowing my time was limited and I didn't know when I would make it back. I still have yet to make it back to Antigua.

Our room at the Jungle Lodge
I was able to take a trip to Lake Atitlan and spend time exploring the market of Chichicastenango. However, the one trip that really stuck with me was the experience I had in Tikal. I stayed in a small rustic hotel called The Jungle Lodge and booked a sunrise tour of the ruins for the following morning. The hotel only provided electricity for specific hours of the day and the rooms were basic, only cold water and twin beds (at least they had private bathrooms). I stayed two nights and after the first night, I woke up at 4am, met a guide at the hotel lobby and walked straight into the jungle for a sunrise tour of Tikal. There were no tickets needed, you didn't have to check in, you just walked straight into the jungle for about 45 minutes until reaching temple IV. We climbed a rickety wooden staircase (the original stairs on the temple were not in great shape) and sat right on top and waited for the sun to rise. As the sun rose the other temple tops came into view and the jungle came alive. Howler monkeys awoke with howls, toucans lined the trees tops, parrots flew in groups.  It was magical. I swore one day I would return with my now husband and family. I have and it was just as magical if not more now that I was able to share the experience with my family.

Arenal: Alajeula Region, Costa Rica

Arenal Adventure

December 25, 2014

We boarded our bus to head in land towards Arenal, a large active volcano located in the interior of Costa Rica. It was a nice drive, watching the the landscape change from arid to more forested. I love trying to soak in the feeling of Latin America, how people live, where they live, their houses, their daily routine. Trying to imagine what they are doing, getting food ready for almuerzo (lunch) or headed to work, It is a very different life than we live in the United States. More people living ruraly, smaller homes, more engaged with the outdoors. Then again they don't have the frigid winters like we have. That said, this was more of a trip to learn about the environment and different regions of Costa Rica, as opposed to a cultural immersion. It was my responsibility to draw my kids into the culture, through food, language and engagement the best I could. During all of the bus rides, our guide kept us engaged with information about the areas and then quizzing us for chocolates.

Costa Rica Pura Vida: Guanacaste

West Coast Costa Rica: A Group of 10

I love Costa Rica. I first went there in my early twenties with my parents and fell in love with their commitment to the environment and education as well as the "laid back" attitude of the country. Costa Rica has beautiful coasts and interior boasting wonderful wildlife, rainforests, mountains and beaches. I was fortunate enough to be able to return to Costa Rica for work and then with my now husband for a vacation. Costa Rica has remained relatively safe and has continued to be committed to the environment, education and tourism. I knew that returning, this time with my kids would re-kindle my love for the country and I was not wrong.

December 22, 2104

I typically do not like to take group tours when I travel. I'm more of a DIY traveler. Spending more hours than there are in a day pouring over websites of hotels, reviews places to eat and see in order to put together the perfect Family Five Adventure. However, this trip was my parents' idea and they were taking us. They wanted it to be easy so they booked a group tour with a company. 
A nice pro with going with a tour company is you don't have to do any work, it's all done for you, just sit back and let them take care of everything. Also, most meals are included, taking the stress out of trying to find the awesome places to eat. However, the cons are bus rides with people you don't know, tours with people you don't know, meals with people you don't know. Small talk: I don't love small talk; but I love to travel and I love Costa Rica, so I was excited to go. It was my family of five kids ages 9, 8 and 6 1/2 , my parents and my sister and her two kids ages 9 and 12 and the other 20+ individuals on this trip. We were traveling from the west coast of Costa Rica to the east coast in eight days total. We left a day early so the kids and parents could enjoy a relaxing day on the beach. We flew into Liberia, Costa Rica and were transferred to our first destination.g