A Quick Guide to Taking a Day Trip from Belize to Guatemala

In December of 2017, my husband and I took a 2-week trip to Belize. We decided to spend a week traveling and adventuring, then a week relaxing on the beach. Our first 5 days or so were spent in San Ignacio, in western Belize. It’s an amazing, cute little town and we had a fabulous time there. Since we were so close to Guatemala, we decided to take a day trip there. We picked Tikal, a Mayan historic site. Normally we like to strike out on our own, but for this we decided the best way to get the most out of a single day was to book a tour. Prior to leaving the US, we booked an all-inclusive day tour that picked us up from our Airbnb, drove us to the border, handled immigration, drove us to Tikal, gave us a native Guatemalan (who spoke perfect English) tour guide, lunch, and everything back. We booked with Belize Family Adventures through Viator, it cost $150USD per person, and it was worth it.

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We woke up before 7AM, crazy early for vacation. We dressed and packed a small backpack to share with some snacks for breakfast (neither of us are big breakfast people), water, phones, raincoats, and a camera. We were waiting outside of our Airbnb at 7:30AM for a van to pick us up and take us to the Belize/Guatemala border. There was another couple in the van who traveled with us all day.

We arrived at customs, which was a small building that was basically one room with several customs officers collecting the $40BZ ($20USD) exit fee and stamping passports with exit stamps. I’ve only crossed borders (excluding EU borders) on land twice, and that was the US/Canada border, where you aren’t required to get out of the vehicle. It was a new experience for me to cross on foot.

We paid our fees and exited the building on the other side…which wasn’t really Guatemala. We entered something of a no-man’s land. Our tour guide for the rest of the day met us in that no-man’s land. He collected all of our passports (!!!) and handled Guatemalan entry customs. The four of us (me, my husband, and the other couple, who were also American) sat awkwardly in the van, and I know I personally considered the possibility of this guy running off with our passports and leaving us stranded in Guatemala. But no, he brought them back, handed them out and we were on our way.

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Our guide was awesome. The whole ride from the border to Tikal he told us cool facts about Guatemala: the people and culture, Mayan history and culture, the geography, the wildlife, you name it. And it didn’t feel like a Discovery Channel documentary: the guy was funny and informative.

Tikal was about 2 hours from the border. On the way there we got to enjoy the true natural beauty of the country.  Guatemala is one of the most stunning, lush, green countries I’ve visited.  Tikal is located about 20-30 minutes inside a National park. Our guide took care of all of the fees and stuff and we all got wristbands that said “extranjero” or “foreigner.”

The ruins are mostly spaced out throughout the park. We had to walk through a lot of forest to get to each building or temple. Not all of the ruins have been restored. You can read more about the ruins in my Tikal photo dump.

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After we walked through and saw most of the ruins (and climbed a lot of them; my legs were sore for days!), we had to head out of the park quickly. On the way out we did stop to see some howler monkeys! It was the first time I’d seen a monkey in the wild.

We made our way out of the park and back to the van. Part of our tour package was lunch, which was late, but good. Honestly a little disappointing because it felt like it was catering to American tourists and not super authentic.  Our tour took us back to the border, through customs, and all the way back to our Airbnb in time for a late supper.

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All-in-all, it was a great trip.  I’d definitely recommend a tour to any first-time visitors to Guatemala: I think we were able to make the most of our short visit by cutting out worry about logistics.  We also got so much more out of the trip by having a local guide.

Have you visited Guatemala?  What about Tikal?  Did you use a tour company or strike out on your own?  Tell us about it in the comments below.  Share this post via Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you sign up with my link you will receive a $20 credit to Airbnb.

 

Destination: Oslo, Norway

Oslo: A quick look

Language: Norwegian, English spoken fluently by most people

Currency: Norwegian Krone

Drinking Age: Norway has a minimum purchase age of 18 for anything less than 22% ABV, and a minimum purchase age of 20 for anything 22% or higher

Public Transportation: Oslo has an intricate metro, tram, and bus system that makes moving around the city very easy

Passport: Yes, but US citizens can stay in Norway up to 90 days without requiring a visa.

Vaccines: Routine

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This post may contain affiliate links.

Before you leave:

Situated at the end of Oslofjorden in southeastern Norway, Oslo is the political and financial capital of the country. Founded as a city in 1040, it has gone through many different revisions and changes throughout history. In modern times, Oslo is a multicultural city that possesses a large sphere of influence throughout Europe and the world.

Similar to the rest of Scandinavia, Norway feels quite expensive to most people. Even when compared to Sweden and Denmark, Norway takes the spot as most expensive. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Oslo as fourth in the world for cost of living. That doesn’t mean you can’t get by on a budget! Check out our Stockholm post for tips on how to do it cheaply, as many of the same rules and tricks will apply.

We spent a total of about 4 days in Oslo, which was a good amount of time. For onward travel, the train system is very efficient and makes numerous trips to the other major cities. Although we were there in the fall, we actually think summer or winter would be the best time to go. In summer, the weather will be warmer and walking around outside will be nice and pleasant. In the wintertime, skiing and other winter activities become the main draw. Despite Oslo being a major metropolitan area, skiing and other outdoor activities are easily accessed just outside the city. Many ski resorts even have beginner classes if you don’t know how to ski, so here’s your chance to learn!

At The Globetrotting Scientist, we always recommend learning at least a few words in the local language, even if you can get by entirely in English (like you can in Norway). If nothing else, it shows an observance of the fact you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and you’re attempting to learn more about the culture and language. When Norwegians hear that you’re not a fluent speaker, they’re likely to switch to English, but it’s definitely worth trying! Norwegian is a pitch-accent language, so you really need to hear it to imitate it properly. Norwegian is also considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers (even easier than Spanish) to learn, so here’s your chance!

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Once You Get There:

Where to stay: Airbnb is rapidly gaining popularity in Oslo, but we stayed at Citybox. Citybox is a budget hotel right in the city center. By cutting away all of the excess associated with hotels, it feels like a cross between a hotel and a hostel. It’s definitely worth checking out if you prefer hotels, but don’t want to spend a fortune.

As with our Stockholm post, we recommend trying to limit how much you go out for food and drinks. In a place like Oslo, this can be hard because there’s so many good options! Kiwi is a good, budget grocery store to get most everyday food items. Vinmonopolet is the state run liquor stores in Norway, and you’ll have to go there to get anything stronger than 4.75% ABV. Both Kiwi and Vinmonopolet are easy to find throughout the city.

  1. Oslo Opera House

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    The Oslo Opera House is an architectural work of art. The building itself is beautiful and you can walk onto the slanted roof, from which you’ll see the stunning views of the city and the waterfront. Of course, you can also go inside and enjoy operas and plays, but unfortunately when we visited we did not have the time or funds to do so.

  2. Karl Johans Gate

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    Karl Johans Gate (Karl Johan’s Street) is the main pedestrian street in Oslo. It stretches from Oslo Central Station (Sentralstasjon) at one end, and runs to the Royal Palace (Slottet) on the other. There are many events that happen on or near Karl Johans Gate. It’s definitely worth an evening stroll, especially in the summertime, or shopping any time of year. If you’re there in May, try to catch the May 17th (Norwegian National Day) celebration on Karl Johans Gate.

  3. Oslo city hall

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    Oslo city hall is not just another government building. It’s essentially a museum that’s open to the public, where you can view government conference rooms, artifacts, and historical setups. You can even take tours. When we visited city hall, we got there not too long before closing, but I enjoyed it so much I went back on my own during our short trip.

  4. National theater

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    While we didn’t go inside, the outside of the building is cool. Located in central Oslo, it’s in a cool area too with lots of easy access to greenery. If you’re interested in seeing the inside, there are multiple tours done in both English and Norwegian. To see some Norwegian dramatic arts, there is also shows done fairly often. For a current list of shows and events, check out Oslo’s tourism site. 

  5. Walk around the water

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    When I first visit a new city, one of my favorite things to do is to spend a little time walking around. Norway in general, and Oslo specifically is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Walking along the waterfront or up and down the pedestrian streets is highly enjoyable. Aker Brygge, near central Oslo, is a good place to walk around and see the waterfront restaurants and coffee shops.

  6. Day trip to Lillehammer

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    The 1994 winter olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Luckily, it’s a short train ride from Oslo. If you visit in the winter, you can ski the slopes like an Olympian. We visited in the fall, so we were just able to walk around and take some photos. We spent a whole day in Lillehammer, which would be great if the weather was appropriate for skiing, but if you visit when there isn’t snow on the ground, I’d recommend a half-day trip, as there isn’t much else to do in Lillehammer. If you’re familiar with your Norwegian Netflix TV shows, you’ll see plenty of places from the show Lilyhammer!

  7. Akershus Fortress

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    Akershus Fortress is a fun part of Norwegian history. Originally built in the 1200’s, it has held numerous roles throughout history, including serving as the royal residence and as a prison. In modern times, it functions as a military base, but tourists are allowed to freely walk around much of the fortress during the day. This is also the location of Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, as well as a small museum commemorating the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II.

Oslo is a hidden gem in the European travel scene. It’s definitely worth a visit on your next trip around Northern Europe. From beautiful natural scenery to high culture in the Opera House, Oslo has something for you. If you liked this post, check out some of our other Destination guides for our favorite out-of-the-way backpacker destinations like Stockholm, Sweden, Pristina, Kosovo, Rishikesh, India, and San Ignacio, Belize.

About the authors:

David Anthony is a recent graduate of NC Central University’s School of Business. He is an avid traveler and an enthusiast of all things Scandinavia. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian and was co-organizer of a local Scandinavian meetup. He also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.

Allegra Anthony is who you know as the Globetrotting Scientist. She is a scientist at a small pharmaceutical company in NC. She has visited every Nordic country except Finland and is an avid traveler. She prides herself on being able to predict the outcome of sitcoms. She also enjoys reading, writing, and (very) amature photography.

A special thanks to pixabay.com and Allegra Anthony for providing the excellent photography in this post!

 

Destination: Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm: A quick look

Language: Swedish, English spoken fluently by most people

Currency: Swedish Krona

Drinking Age: 18 to purchase alcohol in a bar or restaurant and to purchase low strength beer at a grocery store. 20 to purchase wine and liquor at the government run “systembolaget.” Many bars and clubs will set a higher limit, usually 20 or 23.

Public Transportation: Stockholm has an excellent system of buses, metro stations, and even ferries that are used to travel around the city. If you plan to use public transportation often, purchase an unlimited access pass at T-centralen (central station). Here’s the website for Stockholm’s public transportation system (in English).

Passport: Yes, but US citizens can stay in Sweden up to 90 days without requiring a visa.

Vaccines: Routine

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This post may contain affiliate links.

Before you leave:

Being the capital of Sweden, Stockholm is the political and economic center of the country. Roughly two million people live in the metropolitan area, spread across the 14 island archipelago on the edge of the Baltic sea. The area known as Stockholm has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and it was founded as a city in the 1200’s. As such, there is plenty of history and culture in Stockholm.

Stockholm, and all of Sweden, can seem quite expensive when compared to much of Europe. To cut cost, try and stay in an AirBnb and buy your food at ICA (a grocery store similar to Aldi). I had a studio apartment for $37 a night, and purchased sandwich ingredients at the ICA down the street from me. Not exactly fancy, but it’ll do the job.

Go in the summertime. Seriously, don’t be me and go in mid January. If you don’t like cold wind, snow, and rare daylight, just plan to go in the middle of summer. Swedes love to be outside, so there’s a lot more going on in the summertime.

At The Globetrotting Scientist, we always recommend learning at least a few words in the local language, even if you can get by entirely in English (like you can in Sweden). If nothing else, it shows an observance of the fact you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and you’re attempting to learn more about the culture and language. When Swedes hear that you’re not a fluent speaker, they’re likely to switch to English, but it’s definitely worth trying! Swedish is a pitch-accent language, so you really need to hear it to imitate it properly.

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Once You Get There:

I can’t stress this enough, but if you’re trying to limit your spending, the easiest thing to do is to avoid restaurants and bars. I would recommend buying alcohol duty free before you enter the country (I bought a liter of vodka for around 10 euros in Munich) and shopping for food. Stockholm has a varied nightlife though, so I’ll give some recommendations below on where to go to meet people and make friends.

In contrast to above, bars are an easy way to meet Swedes. Swedes tend to open up a little easier when there’s alcohol involved. In fact, there’s a bit of a joke in Sweden that if a stranger smiles at you, they’re either American, insane, or drunk. Here’s your chance to make Swedish friends!

  1. Kungliga Slottet and Drottningholm Palacedrottningholm-palace-2419776_960_720

The Royal Palace is just plain cool. As the name implies, this is the royal palace of the Swedish monarchy. Inside the palace, there are several museums including the “museum of antiquities” and the Tre Kroner Museum. Like any proper palace, another common attraction is seeing the Royal Guards. Although pictures and such are fine, they are an actual military force, so follow any posted signs or instructions.

Like many European palaces and castles, there are rumors that Drottningholm Palace (the one where the royal family actually lives) is haunted. Several rumors and legends tell the story of various spirits, including a “gray man” and a “white woman.” Don’t worry though, Queen Silvia says the ghosts are friendly. 

2. Vasa Museum

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Being a city near the water, it makes sense that Stockholm would have an entire museum dedicated to a 17th century warship. In 1628, the Vasa sank on its maiden voyage, but that didn’t stop them from beautifully restoring this ship. It’s 130 SEK (about $15USD) to get in, and children under 18 get in for free. Tours are offered in both English and Swedish. It’s a fun place if you want to nerd out about Scandinavian nautical history.

3. Kungsträdgården

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This attraction definitely falls into the category of things that are better done in the summer. It’s a beautiful park that’s great for an afternoon stroll after walking around downtown Stockholm. In the wintertime there’s an ice skating rink, which I didn’t partake in (despite how hilarious that would’ve been for everyone involved). In the summertime, there are many concerts and events. Summertime is also when the trees come into bloom, and the warm weather and vibrant colors are a welcome end to the cold and gray winter.

4. Nightlife

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And where would a European capital be without a decent nightlife? Stockholm has a wide variety of clubs and bars, but I’ll list off a few unique places that are worth checking out just for their cool factor. Nightlife in Stockholm is broken up into two main areas: Stureplan, and Södermalm. Stureplan is right near the financial center, and subsequently is incredibly expensive. If you’re looking to splurge, hit up Stureplan. On the other hand, Södermalm is the trendier hipster neighborhood where things aren’t quite as bougie.

The Ice Bar is a cool place to visit. Conveniently located near T-centralen, Drinks are served in shot glasses made of ice, and there’s often an interior design theme that gives the place a unique feel and look. The interior is kept below freezing, because most of it is made of ice, so bring a jacket when you go! Kids are also welcome, as the bar serves non-alcoholic mocktails as well. Ice Bar definitely falls into the more expensive category, due to its unique atmosphere and tourist presence.

Aifur is ridiculous. Located in Gamla Stan, It’s a viking themed bar and restaurant that steers into every viking cliche and stereotype imaginable. There are horned helmets and wooden tables and viking decor. The menu includes mead and reindeer hearts. Airfur will be a bit expensive compared to other non tourist-y places, so keep that in mind if you’re on a budget. It feels goofy, but it’s fun in a tourist-y way. It’s definitely worth stopping in for some mead.

On the cheaper end of the spectrum, two bars come to mind. Restaurang Mosaik, located in Södermalm, has an “afterwork” special from 1-6PM where beers are 29 SEK (around $3USD). They also have seats that overlook the water, making this a nice evening place to grab drinks.

Bar 08 is also a solid contender, being far enough away from the touristy places to have a good mix of locals. Beers can be had at Bar 08 for as little as 25 SEK.

This is just a tiny list of all the options in Stockholm. As you can see, nightlife in Stockholm can go from unbelievably expensive to on par with what you’d pay in the US. Shop around, do your research, and you shouldn’t have a problem grabbing drinks on occasion. Many people will pregame before hitting the bars to save money, so this is where buying alcohol in a store cheaply will help.

5. Gamla Stan

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Gamla Stan, meaning Old City, is a fun place if you want to see old architecture. It has the cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, and old buildings that are always fun for a casual walk. Gamla stan also has the Nobel Museum, which has a lot of artifacts and information about the Nobel Prize, and Alfred Nobel. A fun activity in Gamla Stan is to try and find Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest alley in Stockholm which is only 90 centimeters wide at its narrowest point.

6. Stockholm Pass

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Pro tip if you like museums: Stockholm offers a Stockholm pass that gets you into many different attractions, museums, and tours. It can be a bit pricey, but if you’re into doing a lot of museums and tours when you travel, it can save you quite a bit of money. There’s even some suggested itineraries on their website.

There are so many things to do in Stockholm, I could just keep listing things indefinitely. Hopefully this post will help you get an idea of some of the more popular things to do in the city, and help you plan out a fun trip while minimizing cost. The Stockholm tourism website has a ton of info for planning a trip. If you want any more info on Stockholm or travelling in Sweden, ask us in the comments!  If you liked this post, check out some of our other Destination guides for our favorite out-of-the-way backpacker destinations like Oslo, NorwayPristina, Kosovo, Rishikesh, India, and San Ignacio, Belize.

About the author:
David Anthony is a recent graduate of NC Central University’s School of Business. He is an avid traveler and an enthusiast of all things Scandinavia. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian and was co-organizer of a local Scandinavian meetup. He also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.

A special thanks to pixabay.com and David Anthony for providing the excellent photography in this post!

Destination: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Rishikesh: A quick look

Language: Hindi

Currency: Indian Rupee

Drinking Age: 21 in Uttarakhand (the state), but alcohol is banned within the city itself

Public Transportation: Rishikesh is very walkable, but taxi and shuttle services are available downtown. The closest airport is in Haridwar, about 20 km away.

Passport: Yes, US citizens are also required to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival in India. For visits of fewer than 60 days, an electronic visa is the easiest and quickest to obtain

Vaccines: Routine, plus Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Malaria medication may also be necessary; visit your primary care physician prior to leaving your home country to receive vaccinations and recommendations for additional medications based on your specific trip itinerary.

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Before you leave:

Known as the “Valley of the Saints,” Rishikesh occupies the beginning of the Ganges river in the Himalayan foothills. In addition to being a very important area in Hinduism, Rishikesh is also a very popular spot for yoga and other spiritual education.

Remember that Rishikesh is a sacred city in Hinduism. Because of this, alcohol, drugs, and meat are banned in the city. Although alcohol and drugs are not hard to find if you know where to go, please be respectful of the culture, and do not use within Rishikesh.

Hostels are usually the best places to stay in Rishikesh. The one we stayed in was on top of the hill, which gave a wonderful view of the Ganges and the surrounding mountains. Many have AC, reliable Wifi, and breakfast included. In addition, a popular activity is studying yoga and mindfulness in an ashram, which often includes lodging.

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Once you get there:

Don’t be afraid of the street food. Classics like chaat, samosa, pav bhaji, and pani puri are all extremely cheap at street stalls. Be careful and ensure the food is hot, and you shouldn’t have any trouble. The best way to find the good stuff is to go with a local.

Use common sense to avoid scams. Scams are incredibly common in touristy parts of India, and Rishikesh is no different. Do some research beforehand on the most common ones and tips to avoid them.

  1. Beatles Ashram

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This is probably what Rishikesh is best known for in the United States. In 1968, the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh to study transcendental meditation. At the time called Maharishi’s International Academy of Meditation, it’s now simply known as “Beatles Ashram.” There is so much myth, legend, and controversy surrounding the Beatles in India that I can’t cover it all here. Everyone knows where Beatles Ashram is, and it’s definitely something to see when you’re in the area.

2. Trekking/Outdoor activities

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Rishikesh sits next to the Ganges river, and right at the foothills of the Himalaya. This puts you in the perfect spot to enjoy activities such as trekking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and plenty of nature tours. You can find guides for these activities at the guide services downtown.

3. Mussoorie Hill Station

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Okay, so this isn’t technically in Rishikesh, but it’s close enough you can do it from the city. Hill stations are small towns that sit atop high mountains, mostly to keep them cool in the summer. It’s a really nice experience looking down the steep mountains into the valleys.

4. Kunjapuri Devi Temple

Kunjapuri temple

Kunjapuri Devi sits high atop a mountain, about a half hour drive from Rishikesh. You can charter a car to take you up there for about 1800 rupees, so try to go as a group to split the cost. The view from the top is *amazing.* A popular activity is to make it up there early in order to see the sunrise. On a clear day, you can see as far as China and Nepal. Culturally, it is the temple to Sati, the wife of Shiva. The super abridged version of the story is that Sati ended her own life after her father humiliated Shiva. After this, her father carried her body throughout the Himalaya, and pieces of it fell throughout the mountains in 52 different places, known as Shakti Peethas. These Shakti Peethas are found throughout Nepal and India. Kunjapuri Devi is where Sati’s chest is believed to have fallen.

5. Neer Garh Waterfall

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This is a great place to go to get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful Indian nature. After a steep hike, you’re rewarded with beautiful views of the waterfall and surrounding mountains. The water here is nice and clean, and it’s a popular place to jump in and cool off. All in all, it’s a fun place to explore for the day.

6. Visit the temples and bridges

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There are *tons* of temples in Rishikesh. Far too many to name in a short blog article, but I’ll rapid fire off some names to get you started. For temples, the popular ones are Badrinath, Parmath Niketan, Neelkanth Mahadev, and Tera Manzil. Even though it’s not a temple, the Lakshman Jhula bridge is a fun thing to see. A long suspension bridge that connects the two banks of the Ganges, it’s a cool place to get photos of the city and river.

Rishikesh is a great place to get out of the Golden Triangle and see what the rest of northern India has to offer. It’s a great stepping off point to go deeper into the Himalaya, head west into Punjab, or as a weekend jaunt from Delhi. It’s a must see for anybody traveling around northern India.

Disclaimer: I am far from an expert in Indian culture and Hinduism, so I apologize if any cultural facts are incorrect. Let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Rishikesh, India.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Rishikesh? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Sources:
Beatles Ashram photo: http://www.haridwarrishikeshtourism.com/beatles-ashram-rishikesh.html

Rappelling in Rishikesh photo: https://www.thrillophilia.com/rappelling-in-rishikesh

Mussoorie Hill Station photo: https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/mussoorie.php

Rishikesh photo: http://industrips.com/rishikesh/

 

 

Photo Dump! Tikal, Guatemala.

Hello, Globetrotters!

My life is still balancing out; we found a car, but I’ve been sick all week, and found myself behind on homework.  I am working hard to bring you all great content in the coming months!

For this post I wanted to share with you photos from my recent trip to the historic site, Tikal, in Guatemala.  Located in a National park, Tikal is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, thought to have been called Yax Mutal by the Mayan people.   It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.  Learn more about our trip to Tikal in A Quick Guide to Taking a Day Trip from Belize to Guatemala.  Please enjoy my travel photos!

-The Globetrotting Scientist

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The ancient Mayans studied astronomy.  They calculated the position of the sun based on the time of year.  The celebrated the Fall and Spring Equinox and the Summer and Winter Solstice.

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They built some of their temples and monuments based on the position of the sun at certain times of year.

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They used some structures to observe the stars.

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Today we have an amazing view of the rain forest.

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The entire site made up a large city in ancient Mayan times.  It was abandoned when the Spanish conquistadors began their conquest of Latin America.

20171215_132418 Much of the city hasn’t been excavated, due to the risk of erosion and high cost of maintenance. However, the city center (pictured above and below) has been mostly restored.

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The city was built by hand, on the backs of the lower-class workers.

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They did not use pack animals, so every stone was carried by humans.

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The average life expectancy of a lower class Mayan was 25-30 years, due to the nature of this hard labor.

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Today many Guatemalans have incorporated their historical Mayan culture into Catholicism.  When we visited, many locals were gathering to celebrate.

Did you enjoy this post?  Have you visited Guatemala before?  What about Tikal?  Tell me about it in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

How I Moved to India for 2 Months with Only a Backpack

A big thank you to David Anthony for sharing his packing skills in this post. If you would like to learn more about packing light, check out my posts: 6 Tips for Packing Light,  A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip, and Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to).

“Ounces make pounds” is a phrase that’s often thrown around in an infantry platoon, often by your team leader when you start trying to pack another hokey gadget. Spend enough time carrying around your life on your back, and you get a first-hand feel for the consequences of not packing light. In so many aspects of life, overpacking causes grief for a number of reasons.

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This past summer, I completed the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in India. Besides goals like learn as much Urdu as possible and eat my own body weight in chaat, I had another specific goal: successfully survive and thrive in India for two months with only a 38L carry on sized backpack. To do that, I had to be very diligent in which clothing and gadgets I took. I didn’t skimp though. I had my computer, clothing for a week, a towel, business casual clothing, and space for souvenirs. Sure, I didn’t have eight pairs of shoes or a personalized bathrobe, but you don’t need that stuff to travel. Trust me.

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For clothing, the best advice I can give can be summed up in a few key points: make it interchangeable, bring lightweight stuff, and roll it up. Lay out all the clothing you plan to take with you. Now, close your eyes, mix it all up, and pull out a random shirt and a random pair of pants. If they don’t go together, your stuff isn’t interchangeable. This rule should apply for everything you bring. Every single thing should work with everything else. This will give you more options with less clothing. In India, I had about four button up shirts, two or three t shirts, four pairs of pants, and a single t shirt and shorts for working out. You’ll have to do laundry, but you probably do that about once a week anyway (right???). I also took a comfortable pair of running shoes I could use for walking around the city and a pair of flip flops (sandals are very common in India). The final tip for clothing is to roll it instead of folding. For my grunts out there, we all know the Ranger roll is superior to folding. The same applies to packing for travel. Linked is an instructional video about rolling clothing.

roll-your-clothes

In India, I knew that I’d be spending most of my time in class. The city I was in was also not exactly known for its thrilling adventure, so I knew I would need something to keep me busy. For me, that was my phone and computer. On my phone, I kept the Amazon Kindle app, which had several books for reading while trying to adjust to the jet lag. For a computer, you want to take something lightweight and durable. I personally had a Chromebook. While big PCs and Macbooks are nice, they aren’t always light or easily replaceable. Chromebooks, being tied to your Google account, are a snap to replace if they break or are stolen. Simply log into a new computer with your Google account, and it will instantly start to backup your stuff. They’re also cheap. For my coders out there, it’s easy to install a custom Linux distro called GalliumOS on a Chromebook, really allowing you to unlock its potential. Light, durable, flexible, and easy to replace. No computer is perfect, but for those who are planning to travel light, the Chromebook is close.

chromebook.jpg

The fact that I was moving to India made things much simpler than if I was backpacking from city to city every few days. I could afford to spread out a bit and get comfortable. Knowing this, I intentionally packed very light in terms of toiletries. I really only took some travel sized items to use if I got stranded in an airport for the night. The best thing to do is buy most of your toiletries once you get to your destination. Not only will this save room in your bag, but exploring the shops is a great way to get to know a new city. I also only packed a small microfiber towel, and upon arrival in India, I bought a larger bath towel for everyday use. Many sundry items are also going to be cheaper abroad than they are in North America. If you’re concerned with having to throw it all away when you leave, look into donating them to an NGO or non-profit. My classmates and I gathered all of our unused toiletries as we were leaving the country and donated them, meaning there’s no issues with having to use up an entire bottle of shampoo before you leave.

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The principles for longer term stays are the same as the ones for short jaunts: be a fanatic about weight and space; always assess and reassess if you really need the things you’re packing; try to pack items that are as multipurpose as possible; and trim down the items you can buy once you’re in-country. It’s that simple. So get out there, start paring your stuff down, and enjoy the simplicity of lightweight travel!

Did you enjoy this post?  What are you hacks for packing light?  Share them in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon link in the body of this post and make purchases through it, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Shout-outs:
Microfiber towel link: http://amzn.to/2DCHvdv
Ranger roll video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq07hyTlrcU
Rolled clothing image: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/57992-Clothes-Storage-for-travel
Travel-sized toiletries photo: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/5-tips-to-travel-size-toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas/

 

A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition

So you just booked a trip to Europe. The plane lands on European soil in January. Hard, frozen, European soil. How do you pack? Do you have to lug around an extra suitcase for all your scarves, boots, and coats? NOPE. Just follow my tips and you can travel with only a backpack in any weather.

  • Wear your bulkiest clothes to the airport

    Warmchunkyclothes.png

    Your chunky boots, thick scarf, and big coat should be on your body, even if it’s a little warm when you’re traveling. It will save you a ton of space in your bag. Don’t try to pack 5 pairs of shoes either–throw in some shower shoes and be okay with the shoes on your feet.

  • A down jacket is more packable than a fleece one

    Coat

    For an all around insulation layer, I prefer a packable down jacket. It’s lighter and more packable than the standard fleece jacket everyone seems to take with them. The one I have weighs less than two pounds and packs up smaller than a football. Sure, there’s some fleece jackets out there that meet that criteria, but this jacket was less than $30 on Amazon. It’s a good all around insulating layer that I use traveling, hiking, climbing, etc.

  • Pack layers

    Layering

    When I traveled to Scandinavia in October a couple of years ago, I wore a coat and scarf over a sweater over a shirt to the airport. Layer up so that you are prepared for any weather instead of packing separate outfits for potential temperature fluctuations.

  • Stick to a color scheme

    ColorScheme.png

    This is a good general packing rule, but is especially important with winter clothing. Make sure you match your clothes to your coat and scarf and don’t pack anything that doesn’t fit in the theme. This means you’ll have many different outfit combinations to choose from.

Pretty simple, huh? For more general packing tips, check out this post, 6 tips for packing light and this one, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip. Good luck!

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Links:

Bulky clothes photo: https://goo.gl/images/qDZ5D8

Down jacket photo: https://goo.gl/images/yXZpsh

Layers photo: https://goo.gl/images/4oYvs6