18 Months on the Road – Where to Next?

47 comments

International date lines are a funny thing. I left Seoul, Korea at 4pm on August 2nd and arrived in Austin, TX at 11:45pm the same day after 25 hours of travel. That in itself was confusing, but coupled with an ugly dose of jet lag and a heavy dollop of reverse culture shock, I was a bit of a zombie for days.

A twelve-hour time difference is a tough thing to shake and there are really only two choices: force yourself to stay awake and adapt to the local time (2-3 days of misery) or give in and take naps to survive (a week of waking up at 3am, unable to sleep). I chose the first option, and my friends kindly kept me heavily medicated on cheap margaritas and massive plates of Tex-Mex. I couldn’t really tell where the jet lag ended and the hangover began and I was perfectly okay with that.

Eventually the haze cleared and I found myself waking up in a comfortable bed (with sheets and pillows and everything!) and wondering where the hell I was. While taking a hot shower (in a tub, no less — I didn’t have to stand next to a toilet or anything), it hit me: Oh yeah… I’m home.

Home for Good?

Oh, hell no — I’m here for six weeks or so, then I’m heading south to Central America. It’s great catching up with friends and family, stuffing myself stupid at my favorite cafes and restaurants, visiting old haunts and finding new ones, but I can feel the itch already. The road calls.

The culture shock hasn’t been as profound as I feared. I certainly feel like a stranger here but I’m not catatonic, or curled up in a corner whimpering. Well, okay, there was that first visit to a supermarket, but that was justified: an entire aisle devoted to breakfast cereal? Seriously?

Sticker shock… now, that’s a different beast entirely. I spent a week in Korea visiting my brother, so the prices here weren’t a complete shock but damn it’s expensive. After five months of eating amazing Thai meals for a dollar and drinking sixty cent fruit smoothies, paying three bucks for a coffee just boggles my mind. I tried to haggle the price down but the cashier threatened to call the cops.

Where to Next?

I’d planned on heading into Mexico next but have a chance to travel with a friend, so we’re flying to Honduras the first week of October to kick around for three weeks or so.

After that I’ll move into Guatemala and make my way through Central America over the next nine months or so. Hopefully my two years of high school Spanish will kick in (I can currently only find the beer and the bathroom, usually in that order).

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging about Austin, which really is a great city if you like food, drink and live music. I’ll share my favorite spots and try to ferret out the bargains, places where you can eat or drink without going broke. I’ve managed to land here during the hottest summer on record, of course.

One travel skill I have not mastered is the art of traveling with the seasons: I was in SE Asia during the summer, then Northern India and Nepal in the winter and now this. It will be rainy season in Honduras when I land there, so you can’t say I’m not consistent.

Umm… what happened to the itinerary?

Well, a funny thing happened along the way — about 6-8 months into the trip I realized that this is what I want to do with my life. With that realization (and a commitment to making it happen), I no longer had to be any one place at a certain time. I’m not trying to pack 18 countries into 12 months of travel. I missed a ton of places in SE Asia –despite being there for over a year– but I’ll make it back eventually.

Had I followed my planned route, I would have arrived in Cairo the week of the uprising. I kind of wish I had and I’m kind of glad I didn’t, but a travel blogger without internet access is a fairly useless creature so I guess it was for the best. I’ll make it there yet. For now, Central and South America are calling my name.

Long-Term Plan?

There isn’t one. I don’t know where I’m going or how I’ll get there. I just want to travel until it isn’t fun anymore, seeing and experiencing as much as I can. There’s so much to explore that one lifetime really isn’t enough, especially when you get off to a late start, as I did.

When I started this site, I dreamed that it would eventually be self-financing and that I could make a living traveling, writing and taking photos. After a year and a half, it’s finally at that point — I can honestly say that I’m a professional travel blogger.

It feels good.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Patty August 26, 2011 at 1:51 am

I love reading your posts but this one particularly resonates with me. I always like to hear what peoples “coming home” reactions are, from culture shock to jetlag. Even being gone for 3 weeks somewhere foreign makes me appreciate my shower and clean sheets at home too! I’m always blue for a good couple of weeks after any trip, then I feel mellow and then the itch starts to creep. I’m excited that you’re starting to itch so that I can read more of your adventures to come. Also Wes, many congrats to you for making your dream come true. I’m truly inspired and hope to do something similiar one day!

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Patty August 26, 2011 at 1:51 am

I love reading your posts but this one particularly resonates with me. I always like to hear what peoples “coming home” reactions are, from culture shock to jetlag. Even being gone for 3 weeks somewhere foreign makes me appreciate my shower and clean sheets at home too! I’m always blue for a good couple of weeks after any trip, then I feel mellow and then the itch starts to creep. I’m excited that you’re starting to itch so that I can read more of your adventures to come. Also Wes, many congrats to you for making your dream come true. I’m truly inspired and hope to do something similar one day!

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Dyanne@TravelnLass August 26, 2011 at 1:52 am

“…Honduras…for three weeks…After that I’ll move into Guatemala…”

What? and just what? skip completely over sweet BELIZE???

Seriously, I specialized in travel there for nearly 20 years, and it’s definitely worth a visit. Completely different than its neighbors – I especially recommend hanging out down south in Placencia – a fine beachside spot with handy forays into the jungle.

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wes August 26, 2011 at 3:01 am

Oh, I’m not planning on skipping it. I just don’t have a firm itinerary yet :)

Thanks for the tip!

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Mike Pugh August 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm

I second that vote for Belize. Lovely place, particularly San Ignacio to the west of the country.

Congrats on the pro blogger status, Wes! You’re one of the best.

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jaloola August 26, 2011 at 2:11 am

Go Go Wes!
I look forward to following you across the planet.
So pleased you’re making it work.

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Garrett August 26, 2011 at 2:37 am

Awesome Wes! I remember tracking you pre-takeoff.

That “revelation” is definitely recognizable. Congrats on the success you’ve achieved. I know it ain’t easy.

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Devon August 26, 2011 at 3:01 am

I look forward to continuing to follow your journey (and to reading a bit about Austin – a city I have yet to check out but definitely want to) – long-term plans are overrated :-) Congrats on your blogging success!

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Matthew Karsten August 26, 2011 at 3:08 am

Congratulations on turning pro! I’m excited to see what mischief you get yourself into in Central America. :)

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Matt August 26, 2011 at 3:12 am

In this post you describe exactly what I want to do in my “second” life. I realized a little too late that I am all about travel, and that’s what I wan to do. Unfortunately, life’s complexities that have piled up over 39 years is making that difficult. But I’m doing it in small steps. Congrats, and YOU DA MAN!

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Adam Baird August 26, 2011 at 3:45 am

Wes,

Amazing to hear that you’ve reached the point where the business is self-sustaining. Congratulations!

My only hope is that this means more ridiculous stories.

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wes August 27, 2011 at 12:01 am

Thanks, Adam

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Abby August 26, 2011 at 5:06 am

Thrilled to read about you in Austin! I lived there briefly. Congrats on committing to long-term travel… You’re definitely a natural.

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Sailor August 26, 2011 at 5:09 am

I am amused by the way people sometimes travel around the world non-stop and then travel again. I glad to see that you are enjoying every bit of it.

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Global Basecamps Ali August 26, 2011 at 5:38 am

Congrats on officially being a professional travel blogger! Loved reading this post…After living in China for years I still have a hard time paying $3 for a cup of coffee. haha Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming adventures.

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Erik August 26, 2011 at 5:47 am

Congrats on your success. People read what is good and you doing so well shows how good your content is!

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randy August 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Congrats buddy! Keep on keepin’ on!

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julie August 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Well, as far as world travel goes, Costa Rica is not really a must-see destination, and it is definitely not cheap, but you’ll have a free place to stay and a beachfront hammock to drink your beer in (sin pantalones, si te gusta). Hoping you stop by when you’re in the area/region/continent.

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wes August 27, 2011 at 12:00 am

Absolutely! Keep the beer on ice :)

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julie August 27, 2011 at 5:15 am

Will do. And lucky you, there is a new craft brewery in CR that is pretty great. Itchin’ to get back there actually, but first a quick visit to Rio! Have you read any good travel posts on Brazil? Looking for trip ideas.

Can’t wait for your visit!

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Shannon O'Donnell August 27, 2011 at 1:10 am

Yay! Wes has a new plan. Boo that it doesn’t include Asia again :(

Can’t wait to read about your misadventures down south. I heart Guatemala so I will bombard you with effusive emails professing my love for the country at that time. Also, gonna go diving in Hondoras?

Hugs! :)

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wes August 27, 2011 at 3:33 am

Still fantasizing about hitting Chiang Mai for Songkran :)

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Pirate63 August 27, 2011 at 4:01 am

Well done Wes,looking forward to some more crazy entries from another continent,perhaps you could do another update on your gear your traveling with,what you have changed and what you cant live without
Cheers Clive,keep safe

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Jasmine August 27, 2011 at 4:29 am

Haha that’s funny, when I went to Australia after being in SE Asia for a few months I was so shocked by the prices that I didn’t eat for the first day I was there.

Where are you going in Mexico? I’ll be there until the first week of November, in San Cristobal de las Casas, Oaxaca and Mexico City. Let me know if you wanna meet up.

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Emily in Chile August 27, 2011 at 8:37 am

Oh I’ve definitely been that person in the supermarket totally overwhelmed by the options when I’m back in the US.

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Jeff August 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

Funny, but as a fellow traveling Austinite (you can take the boy out of Austin but you can’t get Austin out of the boy) my first thought was, why on earth would you return in August! Still, I miss it.

As for your two-years of high school Spanish, the good news is that Central America is a great and super-cheap place to take classes. You can find good classes anywhere, but since you’re heading early to Guatemala, that’s a great choice. Antigua is the Spanish school capital but it may or may not be your cultural thing (you and 10,000 other gringos studying Spanish but speaking English all day). Lago de Atitlan is a paradise setting for classes and again, may or may not suit your tastes (if smoking a lot of weed and hanging with hippies sounds good, San Pedro is your place). If you want a more “authentic” daily life experience, head to the second largest city, Xela, which is actually quite nice. Or, mix it up and take some classes in each place. Great schools abound in all three places.

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Greg August 27, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hey Wes, sounds like phase one was great, I have really enjoyed reading your posts and look forward to the next lot- hope the T shirt fits. Cheers to you and good luck Greg

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Raji August 27, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Hi Wes,

Glad to know that you know what you want and are doing that only !
Lucky you !!

I envy you. wish i cud also wander just like that……

i wish to be a bird in my next birth :))

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Mike August 27, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Go Wes go! Glad you’re having to deal with the ultimate in travelling woes, known as Tejas ;-)

If you really want to suffer, head up here to Kentucky and travel from west to east over a long weekend!

Glad you’re heading back out soon, I’d miss living vicariously thru you!

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Stephanie - The Travel Chica August 27, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I like your statement that you want to travel until it isn’t fun anymore. That’s the way to live :-)

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Lavanya August 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Hi Wes!
As an ardent fan of your blog, I’m glad to see this post so I know you’re still travelling :)
It had been a while since I saw an update here and was wondering what had happened. Glad to know you’re exploring new territories now.
Good luck on your new adventures!
Cheers,

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Lily August 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Just shows that anything is possible if you work hard and ‘want it’ enough. How about a post detailing how much time/work goes into keeping it going and the $$ coming. Your posts reflect the peaks and troughs of your travels, have you ever been close to giving it up? How did you get through the toughest moments? How do you deal with not being around family and friends at key moments? Anyway, many congratulations Wes, I am so glad the stories will be continuing and very much look forward to hearing about Austin.

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Amy August 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm

It’s great to know that going home after 18 months wasn’t too big of a shock. Looking forward to reading posts about what’s happening in Austin. We also hail from there (been away 18 months, too) and I’d love to see a post about all the new food trucks. Gourdough’s Donuts on South Lamar was our favorite before we left. Have a great time back home in Texas!

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Amy August 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Have you also tried Kebabalicious dowtown? Best. gyro. ever. and does pretty well in hangover prevention.

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wes August 29, 2011 at 12:19 am

ooh! Thanks for the tip. Phoenicia Bakery on S Lamar has a decent gyro and a great felafel as well…

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Doug August 30, 2011 at 7:17 am

Congratulations! Wish you all the luck.

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Scott August 31, 2011 at 7:55 am

Congrats on becoming a full-time blogger, you are one of many who I look at for inspiration, and I hope to join your “esteemed ranks” at some point in 2012!

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allison August 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Congrats on reaching your goal! It’s a great one to have, and I can’t imagine how satisfying it must be to get there.

I’m just starting to travel now, so it was helpful to read the post about the gear you take along. (Not that I’m fortunate enough to OWN most of that gear, but still!) I’m getting a kinda late start as well, but just traveling around the US for three weeks has given me the travel bug, and I’ve adapted my plans of traveling 5 months into “as long as I can finance it.”

Can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

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Theodora September 4, 2011 at 9:08 pm

It’s good to know you’re doing good — and you’re making the splogging thing work too… Honduras sounds great. We make a pitstop at “home” in December and I have varying levels of anxiety around it. But I think it will be fine and just another step on the journey of life…

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Cornelius Aesop September 9, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Sounds great, and I hope to find my way to making a living off of doing what I love, only time will tell especially since my start date won’t begin for 13 more months. Sigh. However, I can relate to crossing the international date line, after leaving Japan and spending 12 hours in the air I arrived the same day I departed, only it was 2 hours before I supposedly left. weird.

Only problem with this post is the picture..it should read “Beware” it makes it sound like a monkey zone is a bad thing.

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Micah September 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I know exactly what you mean about taking a “real” shower – been awhile for me as well! Ha. Awesome to hear you’ve made it into professional travel blogger status – it’s well deserved. Wishing you the best, Wes.

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Ryan Clark November 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

Congrats on making it! I think that is the dream of any serious traveler. Might I recommend the Southern Cone since you seem to be meandering your way south. There is some great sites in Argentina, Chile, and (my favorite)Uruguay(let me know if your in Montevideo). This area is really on it’s way up in the world(in other words get here before it is expensive). Love the blog! Big fan of the tell-it-how-it-is style.

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Hayley November 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Hi Wes congratulations on your success and living your dream. Any plans to get to Africa? I’m from south Africa and it’s an amazing country.
Reading your blog gets me reallllly excited for my upcoming trip.
All the best
Hayley

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wes November 28, 2011 at 1:02 am

Thanks, Hayley. Yes, I do hope to make it to Africa in the next couple of years. I just travel so slowly that it will take me awhile. And South Africa is top of the list :)

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Vivian January 26, 2012 at 6:08 am

Are you going to go further south of Central America? Like Chile/Argentina south?

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wes January 26, 2012 at 8:02 am

Yes, hoping to make it all the way to Argentina in the next 6-9 months.

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Stefania - the Italian Backpacker September 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Excellent travel blog and good writing too!
Stefania – the Italian Backpacker recently posted..Shining Greece: A PortraitMy Profile

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