Sunday 5 June marked our 400th day on the road – it has been over a year now since we started traveling and while time has flown by, those first few days of nomadic freedom also seem a lifetime away from where we are now.
In the last 100 days since Day 300 we have visited six countries in what feels like two different worlds, first completing our quest to reach the southern point of Central America, which was followed by a trip back over the ocean to spend the spring in Europe.
Finishing up in Central America + Super Tweet-up
After traversing Costa Rica’s Nicoya peninsula and hitting Manuel Antonio, we spent time in the mountain town Santa Elena and visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest before soaking up the sun on the Caribbean beaches. We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Costa Rica’s ‘City of Flowers’, the city of Heredia, where I lived with a family during my study abroad year way back when. It was a trip down memory lane, and absolutely uplifting for me to be welcomed back with open arms by my very special Tico family.
In Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica we met up with Jaime, the Breakaway Backpacker, and formed a family. The three of us ended up traveling together so well, a truly perfect fit, and we stuck together for three weeks, all the way through the end of the Central America leg of our trip.
This was the very start of Jaime’s trip, and his newbie enthusiasm injected a dose of fresh inspiration into our travel spirit, made us remember all the reasons we set off to become digital nomads, and also to realize just what ‘seasoned’ travelers we have become in the last year.
During our time in Panama, we managed to organize a super tweet-up between us, Jaime, and Erin and Simon from Neverending Voyage on the main island of Bocas del Toro. It was great to hang with like-minded travel bloggers who play hard by day and blog hard by night (with several cans of Panamanian beer on hand, of course!)
We then moved on to the mainland, and fell in love with the Panama Canal and the old town district of Casco Viejo in Panama City. Thoughts that we might be insane to leave Latin America to head back to Europe crept into our minds (the plan had been to work our way all the way down to Argentina), but once we arrived to the five-week housesit in the Bavarian Alps, we knew we had made the right choice after all.
Springtime in Europe
The nine month slog spent chugging down through Mexico and Central America by local bus had really worn us out. The house in the Alps was completely off the grid, and while this meant collecting wood and making a fire each day for heat, and it also meant that we experienced an absolute peace and quiet that we had not had since our last house sit in Tucson, Arizona in June 2010. We rested, worked, climbed mountains, visited tiny Bavarian villages, ate loads of German food, and appreciated every hot shower and cold glass after cold glass of safe-to-drink tap water.
From Bavaria, the journey continued on to Tuscany, after we scored a short notice house-sit at a bed & breakfast. Not only has this always been a dream of us to house-sit a Tuscan B&B, but the timing worked out perfectly – starting the very next day after our Bavarian house-sit ended. We spent Easter and the first week of our stay in Italy in the hills above the northern Tuscan town of Borgo a Mozzano, followed by a few days of a true ‘Dolce Vita’ paradise at the Belmonte Vacanze resort near the famous medieval towns of San Gimignano and Siena in Southern Tuscany.
Reverse Culture Shock: Treated with Food
During the weeks we spent in Germany and Italy, we experienced ‘reverse culture shock’, seeing the familiar territory of Europe through an entirely different lens. We often shook our heads in disbelief at the stark contrast of Europe to Mexico and Central America. Churches and buildings constructed 500 or even 1,000 years ago still stand tall and in super condition throughout Europe, whereas even newer structures in Central America can be already be found in varying stages of decay and ruin. Speeding down a dirt road in the back of a pick-up truck is safe enough for even newborn babies in Latin America, yet in Europe it is illegal for passengers in the backseat of a car to ride without their seat belts fastened.
The cleanliness and order of Europe were, in a way, greatly appreciated, but on the other hand we miss the zest for life and simple happiness of the people we met in Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Panama. It took awhile to get used to complaints about the healthcare system, high prices or cuts in unemployment benefits in Europe, after witnessing the complete lack of such systems in certain Central American countries. It is amazing what you can take for granted until you have seen for your own eyes just how lucky you really are.
Although we miss Latin America (and are keen to start the South American leg of our journey), traveling in Europe has been just as exciting…and just as delicious, too!! On 30 April, we started our second year of travel in Italy – a wonderful place to celebrate our 1st anniversary as full-time travelers – and sampled countless pizzas, plates of pasta and scoops of gelato while exploring Tuscany. We already know that we will back for more.
Our first cruise and a tech time-out
A second short stint in Germany was squeezed in to see family and friends, and after flinging ourselves back and forth across the country, we met up with my parents for a few days in Spain followed by a week-long Mediterranean cruise.
We had no idea how we would feel about a cruise ship vacation, which is as different as possible from our ‘travel slow’ motto and budget travel lifestyle. It turns out, we loved the cruise! It felt great to spend a week exploring different European destinations with the convenience of sleeping in the same, very cozy, bed each night. We took advantage of having a gym, a sauna and steam room, delicious healthy food, a movie theater, even a library, all included in the price – which, while not dirt cheap, was a totally affordable rate for a week-long vacation.
Our time on the ship was a forced technology time-out, as internet rates on-board cost $35/hour (or wi-fi at $65/hour) and time in port/on land was reserved for exploring. In total, we were offline for 7 days, the longest since we began 400 days ago. It might be healthy to disconnect for a bit, but we rely one hundred per cent on the internet to complete our work, so this complete black-out isn’t something we will take part in again for some time.
The next 100 days
Refreshed and motivated after the tech-free week, we are ready to dig in and get back to doing what we do best: working hard and playing harder! Our next step was supposed to be the TBEX travel bloggers conference in Vancouver followed by a cross-Canada road-trip, but with the freedom we enjoy as digital nomads, we changed our minds and decided to stay in Europe for another three weeks to focus and finish up various freelance projects before heading to our next house-sit near Ottawa, Canada in July.
So, instead of exploring Canada for the next few weeks, we’re hunkering down in Lisbon, Portugal for the next three weeks! We couldn’t be more excited to discover the capital city as well as the beautiful beaches of the Portuguese coast – a truly unexpected but thrilling start to our next 100 days as digital nomads!
Here are the Tops & Flops of days 300 to 400.