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Costa Rica

Costa Rica is wild!

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We have seen ‘exotic’ wildlife in every Central American country, but not in the abundance we had imagined – a few snakes in Mexico, the sea life in Belize, some howler monkeys in Guatemala, a few macaws in Honduras, a bunch of spider monkeys in Nicaragua.

This all changed once we crossed the border to Costa Rica – this country is wild! Our wildlife sightings increased instantly, and in every place we visited, the mountains of Monteverde, the beaches of the Caribbean or Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast, we spotted sloths, coatis, huge Golden Orb spiders, frogs, colorful crabs, snakes and bright Blue Morpho butterflies, tiny hummingbirds and huge iguanas.

Here is a selection of our favorite wildlife photos from our time in Costa Rica:

Monkey in Manuel AntonioThe monkeys in Manuel Antonio were the cheekiest in all of Costa Rica. They ignored the tourists…

and spent a lot of time just hanging around…

Monkeys playing in Manuel AntonioIn Manuel Antonio we also spotted some sloths sleeping high up in the trees:

Sloth sleeping in tree in Manuel Antonio… but in Monteverde we didn’t even need to search – one just lived across from our hostel in the trees by the road and used the electricity wires as a shortcut on the way home:

Sloth in Monteverde
Sloth MonteverdeIn Monteverde, we also ‘met’ a curious coati (anteater) in the woods:
Coati MonteverdeCosta Rica is also known for its great variety of butterflies, especially the Blue Morpho, but also colorful ones like this:
butterfly in monteverdeWe saw several snakes during our stay in Costa Rica – can you spot this tiny green snake in this picture?
Mini snake in Manuel AntonioThe crabs we saw in Cahuita on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast were the most colorful ones we’ve ever seen anywhere:

Blue crab in Cahuita
Coloured crab cahuita
crab in cahuitaNear the village of Manzanillo we saw hundreds of huge Golden Orb spiders sitting in their webs:
Spider web near ManzanilloIn Monteverde, the spiders were living in the ground – you will see lots of tarantula nests:

Tarantula in MonteverdeThis iguana enjoyed the views of the Pacific ocean:

Iguana by the ocean…while this big iguana hung out at the beach:

Iguana at the beach in Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is also a birdwatchers’ paradise, being home to rare species such as the blue crowned mot mot:
Mot mot in Monteverde… and countless hummingbirds:

Green hummingbird in Monteverde
Hummingbird monteverdeRaccoons might be less exotic, but still extremely cute!

racoon in Manuel AntonioClick through our Flickr slideshow for more animal pictures from Costa Rica:

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”GlobetrotterGirls” id=”72157626592683260/”]

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Cabinas El Pueblo in Santa Elena (Monteverde), Costa Rica

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the dingy, disappointing budget digs, there are as many budget accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves to show you how budget travel can be possible as well as enjoyable.

As one of Costa Rica’s top tourist destinations, Monteverde Cloud Forest has no shortage of accommodation, ranging from luxurious spa hotels to simple campsites.

High-end hotels are set deeper into the forest on the main road leading to the National Park while most of the budget accommodation is concentrated in the nearby town of Santa Elena, an easy 6km bus ride or enjoyable hike to the park. There are over 20 hotels to choose from in Santa Elena, and most fall within the same price range and offer similar amenities. When looking online beforehand, we instinctively chose Cabinas El Pueblo, which offers all the things we usually look for in a hotel: free wi-fi, private rooms, and a lounge area where we can work. We were definitely not disappointed.

In fact, from the time we arrived into Santa Elena we were pleasantly surprised at every turn. Stepping off the bus after a nine-hour ride from the heat of Manuel Antonio to the chilly mountain town, we were greeted by the friendly hotel owner, who knew our names and led us down to the hotel. Once our packs were stored in our clean and cosy double room, we were shown around the hotel, given a map of the area and all of the hiking and tour options were clearly explained to us so that when we left shortly after for dinner, we felt we had a handle on everything to see and do in Monteverde.

Cabinas El Pueblo in fact doubles as a tour agency, and guests can book all tours and activities onsite: the Cloud Forest tours (including guides), horse back riding, night hikes, zip-lining, butterfly gardens. Prices are the same as through the agencies in town and Cabinas El Pueblo promise a full refund in case of cancellations. This is something that other tour agencies do not promise, apparently, which is made perhaps a little too clear on the signage throughout the hotel (see Room for Improvement below).

We immediately felt right home at the ‘cabinas’, which in Costa Rica usually means a guesthouse. Even basic accommodation in Costa Rica tends toward expensive, so the $20 double rooms seemed like quite a find. There are two clean shared bathrooms with hot showers on the bottom floor, which the five doubles share with a small three-bed dorm ($10 per person). The spacious private double rooms upstairs not only have en-suite bathrooms but also come equipped with a fridge for $35.

The living room has a TV and board games for guests, and the outdoor patio has hanging chair hammocks and a big table. The wi-fi works well both downstairs and upstairs, and those without a laptop can use the three computers upstairs in the office for free. As most visitors to Monteverde spend much of the day and also evenings out on hikes, the hotel stays quiet during the day, and evenings are also quiet as tuckered out guests head to bed relatively early. This peaceful environment and mountain fresh air was perfect to get work done as well – for the workoholics/digital nomads out there.

Cabinas El Pueblo is a three-minute walk from the town center, and the supermarket is even closer, which makes it so easy to find everything you need to cook up a meal or make sandwiches here in the well-equipped kitchen (see Stand Out Features below).

Stand Out Features

A clean & spacious kitchen
This kitchen is kept absolutely spotless and comes fully equipped with an electric kettle, coffee maker, toaster oven, toaster, two stoves and a fridge, which while pretty full, still fit all our items and was also clean.

Free coffee and tea all day
Cabinas El Pueblo not only provides a coffee maker but also delicious Monteverde coffee, and allows guests to put on a new pot anytime. Tea drinkers have an even better deal, thanks to the full selection of teas available, the best we have seen anywhere in Central America, with English breakfast tea, herbal tea, two different fruit teas and Earl Grey. Free milk for both is also provided.

Free Breakfast
Although several of the signs throughout the place say that breakfast is only free if you book a tour with the hostel, breakfast was included every day. Guests sign up for one of two breakfast options written on a whiteboard the evening before. Breakfast varies daily and always includes fresh fruit and either tea or coffee.

Free sloth sightings
There are a couple of sloth families living across the street from the hostel who are frequently seen moving along the electric wires that run alongside the street at night (sad, but true, and these animals are fascinating!). Sitting in the kitchen after spending a good part of a night hike spotting sloths, the owner excitedly ran in and ushered us all outside to watch the sloth make its way along the wires.

Room for improvement: Enough with the signs already

Until this point, everything at Cabinas El Pueblo seems to be set up to cater 100% to the needs of guests. However there was one point that needs massive improvement and is a serious pet peeve of ours. From the minute you walk into the hotel, you are bombarded by information as every available bit of wall space is plastered in signs. Not exactly the commanding military-like signs we’ve seen elsewhere which constantly screech NO in clipped commands, at Cabinas El Pueblo signs are long, drawn-out affairs in very jumbled English explaining everything from what guests are allowed to do, what they are not allowed to do, more information about the town, more information about your breakfast (commission made from booking with the hotel’s agency allows them to make breakfast free for everyone), and a few things we did not understand at all but think there may have been a fine involved for breaking the rule.

Overall

Cabinas El Pueblo is run by friendly & welcoming Ticos who clearly aim to run a clean, well-maintained hostel and keep guests happy. The  tour agency on-site makes info readily available, and the super-clean kitchen, comfortable beds and ample relaxation space makes the hotel a great spot to recharge your batteries for a few days.

The Sloth Backpackers Hostel right next door is run by the same family and comes with similar amenities (including sloth sightings!) should Cabinas El Pueblo be full.

Location: Down behind the supermarket and 50 meters up the road, but if you call ahead, you will be met at the bus stop upon arrival.
Price:
Double rooms with shared bath US$20, Doubles with en-suite bath US$35, dorms $10.
LGBT Friendly:
yes
Amenities:
Wi-fi, kitchen, terrace, lounge, TV, games, tour agency, great location
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes
Website:
www.cabinaselpueblo.com
Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Monteverde-Hostel-Cabinas-El-Pueblo/143773492965
Email:
[email protected]

If you found this post useful, check out the rest of our Hotel Tip of the Week series.

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Polaroid of the week: Sunset over Playa Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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There’s been quite a few picture-perfect sunsets whenever we hit the Pacific coast – in California, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and now in Costa Rica. The sunset at the beach in Manuel Antonio was one of the most beautiful sunsets so far, and the onlooking crowd even applauded as the sun sank into the sea.

We can’t wait for all the exotic sunsets that await us, so please let us know – Where has your most beautiful sunset been?

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The Tops and Flops of 300 days of travel

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Last week we celebrated our ‘300 days of travel’ milestone and reflected on the last 100 days, which we spent in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Here’s where talk about the best and the worst things to happen to us in the last 100 days. It’s not all suntans and glamour (although, most of it actually was this time!)

Top travel moments

Hiking volcanoes
The Central American isthmus is located on what’s known as the Ring of Fire – a chain of volcanoes which stretches down the pacific side of each country. The volcanoes, some active and some dormant, can often be climbed, and in the last 100 days we climbed two volcanoes. First Dani conquered Pacaya, the popular active volcano outside of Antigua. She saw glowing lava and amazing views of other volcanoes after the intense climb.

Two countries later, in Leon, Nicaragua, the both of us climbed Cerro Negro volcano. Twice. In a row. We signed up to go Volcano Boarding with Quetzaltrekkers, a non-profit organization who offer two runs for $30. We took the ‘deal’, but didn’t realize that volcano boarding down twice would mean climbing up the steep black giant twice in the blazing ninety degree sun (35 Celcius). The heat, the climb, the speeding down a volcano on toboggans we schlepped up the volcano was an intense, but one-of-a-kind experience.

Going on vacation
This part might confuse those readers who think we are on a permanent vacation…but we took a week-long vacation during the last 100 days. Traveling and working full time can be exhausting, and especially after speeding through Eastern Guatemala and Honduras, we were in need of some rest and relaxation when we arrived to Leon, Nicaragua. So we went to a good old-fashioned travel agency and booked two hand-written tickets to the Corn Islands, off of Nicaragua’s Moskito Coast in the Caribbean. We spent a week on these tiny remote islands in the Caribbean, doing nothing but relaxing in a hammock, exploring the islands and swimming in the ocean (and worked a little bit, we have to admit, but really only a little…each day).
Cooking Indio Viejo with Doña Ana
While in Leon, we signed up to learn to cook a traditional Nicaraguan dish, Indio Viejo (veggie version minus the chicken). We went to the market and bought those strange ingredients we never know what they are for (little bags of red powder, for example, which turn out to perfectly flavor and color the dish we made). We learned next how to make tortillas at a very busy but basic tortilleria in Leon’s indigenous neighborhood before bringing the tortillas up the street to the welcoming Dona Aña’s house. We had a great time not only learning to prepare and cook the dish, but also spending quality time chatting away with her and her daughter while enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Favorite places

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
More than once we have proclaimed our love for Lake Atitlan, the most beautiful lake in Central America. We have see many of the lakes in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, but hands down, Lake Atitlan is the most beautiful and peaceful lake of all.

Leon, Nicaragua
Leon, Nicaragua is not only one of our favorite places in all of Central America, but on our trip so far. The second biggest city in Nicaragua after Managua, Leon has all the mod-cons you would expect from a city of nearly 200,000, but you could easily forget what century you are in when joining the Nicas in their circle of rocking chairs watching the sunset behind the constant stream of horse and buggy transportation galloping by.  The spirit of the Sandinista revolution still can be felt among the people and from the bullet holes in buildings, the murals around town, and the fact that this city has completely blocked out any big American fast food chains.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
A little town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast just over the border to Costa Rica, San Juan del Sur’s wide streets, clean well-constructed beach promenade, colorful little beach houses plus a mix of blonde-haired surfer boys and dark-skinned locals make San Juan del Sur feel like a Nicaraguan version of Venice Beach. Gringo ex-pats who love that California feelin’ have stayed to open several breakfast spots, restaurants and bars. The locally-owned, most seafood, eateries are geared toward Costa Rican weekend tourists. The vast beach in town is set within a large cove, which keeps waves to a minimum for easy dips into the water while sunbathing, and the string of beaches outside of San Juan are even more stunning with perfect surfing. The sunsets on all the beaches are heaven.
Samara Beach, Costa Rica
Looking back, we have spent time on quite a few beaches over the last 100 days – the Corn Islands off Nicaragua’s Caribbean, Poneloya and San Juan del Sur on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, and a stint on Honduras’ stretch of the Caribbean, but the best has been the beaches of Costa Rica. Our personal favorite, so far, is Samara Beach, located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. While the ex-pat community has moved in, the relaxed small village feeling remains. Samara beach is set in a picture perfect bay, with its sprawling white sand lined with palm trees stretching for miles so you can walk for hours. This is a great spot to play in the waves and to relax for a few days.

Most disappointing places

Omoa, Honduras
According to our 2009 guide book, Omoa is a cute little fishing village off the tourist track with perfect, deserted Caribbean beaches. Sounds right up our alley, and shortly after crossing the border from Guatemala, we arrived with high expectations. Beach? What beach? Due to construction of the oil and gas company nearby, the beaches in town were completely eroded, with water coming right up to the edge of beachside restaurants. Beaches outside of town down ‘lush, secluded paths’ actually wind through shady, litter-strewn neighborhoods. The beaches here are deserted, but this is due to the piles of garbage all over the beach. After a 10-minute rest and water re-fueling, we left without dunking so much as a toe in the water, back into town.
Granada, Nicaragua
Granada is almost always referred to as the prettiest town in Nicaragua – and its well-manicured town center, freshly painted cathedral and colonial houses are certainly the best maintained in the country. Taking all this in takes, at most, two hours – stroll through the park and up the Calle La Calzada restaurant strip, around some of the nicer hotels. Other than that, we couldn’t find anything special about Granada. Gone was the authentic charm of Leon, filled with passion and enjoyment of life. With everything in Granada geared at impressing tourists, we found tons of over-priced tourist traps, supersize tour groups and harassing, greedy street vendors. Had we known what to expect in Granada, we probably would have spent more time in Leon.
Montezuma, Costa Rica
The year is 1999 and Montezuma is a tiny hippie town at the very base of the Nicoya peninsula with roughly ten hotels, a string of beaches each totally different and equally beautiful, and an average visitor/local age of 25. Fast forward to 2011, and the hippie factor has doubled, but the old American geezers in socks and sandals factor has gone from 0 to in the dozens. There is a supermarket with German chocolate, American chips, Italian wine, even two different kinds of tofu. Hotels, of which there must now be 50, have room rates reaching well into the hundreds, and the once tranquil town is now choked with rental SUVs and 4x4s. The long walk along all the beaches is still gorgeous, and we had the best beach day swimming in the waves, but the bliss was bittersweet.

Travel recommendations

In addition to Samara, Leon and San Juan del Sur, we recommend the following places which we visited during our last 100 days:

Livingston, Guatemala

Only reachable by boat, Livingston is home to Guatemala’s Caribbean culture, a world away from the Maya culture prevalent throughout the rest of the country. Combined with a boat ride from Rio Dulce along a lush, animal filled jungle scenery, followed by impressive white cliffs of the Cueva de la Vaca gorge and finally reaching the estuary to the Caribbean sea Livingston makes a great trip, even though it doesn’t have any spectacular beaches (though there are some nicer beaches a half hour boat ride north of town).
Corn Islands, Nicaragua
If you are looking to combine an affordable Caribbean island vacation with a trip to an off-the-beaten track destination, the Corn Islands are the perfect place. Located about 70 km off Nicaraguan’s Caribbean coast, the two tiny islands of Big Corn and Little Corn offer endless, empty white-sand beaches, adequate snorkeling, hundreds of palm trees and friendly locals who hook you up with fresh coconuts or fish fresh out of the ocean.

Worst travel moments

Getting sick in the Honduran fishing village, Omoa
Omoa (see ‘Most disappointing places’ above) is so tiny, it doesn’t have a supermarket, or even a bank. It was a Sunday when Dani began to suffer the wrath of tourist sickness, which meant that if there was a pharmacy, it certainly wasn’t open on a Sunday. Plus, we were about to run out of money, already depleting our limited emergency supply of dollars. Luckily, after two days, Dani was able to take the bus, and we left for Copan, where we knew there would be a clinic, but it sucked being stuck in a place like Omoa when sick.

Bug bites
Bugs love me (Jess). You name it, and if it bites or stings, that bug is aimed at me and my ‘sweet blood’. In Granada, mosquitoes ate me, more specifically my legs, alive. The mosquitoes are so bad in this city on a lake that some of the restaurants keep Off! bug spray on hand for diners. During my time in the city, however, I would imagine incidence of bites for everyone else was at an all-time low as these little vampire sucked my blood exclusively. Especially after the Dengue incident in Guatemala, I am especially spiteful toward mosquitoes. Luckily I dodged dengue this time around, but the scars on my legs will long remain.

Top travel mishaps

Bad planning: Stranded in Tegucigalpa on New Year’s Day
On 1 January we packed our stuff and left the beautiful lake Yojoa at 9am in hopes of reaching Esteli, Nicaragua by nightfall. An ambitious journey, but doable in a day. Not on a Holi-day however. First we waited an hour on the side of a highway for a bus to take us to Tegucigulpa. From there, we jumped in a taxi to where the buses to the border leave – but not on holidays. After all the to-ing and fro-ing, and re-planning, and locals telling us without a doubt that we couldn’t make it before dark, we accepted our fate of spending the night in Central America’s least safe capital. The first budget option in our guide book was shut down and the second one may have been a by-the-hour type place. We ended up overpaying for a mid-range hotel and an over-priced pizza as we comfort-ate a Pizza Hut and waiting for trip to Nicaragua to start again in the morning. The next morning we headed out to grab a coffee and have a look around the city center, and Tegucigalpa turned out not to be as scary as we thought (aside from all the gun shots and subsequent police sirens all night).

Top food moments

Gallo Pinto
This dish of rice and beans, cooked together with peppers, onions and Salsa Lizano, is the typical dish of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is mostly eaten for breakfast but can also come with lunch or dinner. We both cannot get enough of it, no matter what time of day it is!

Baleadas
Baleadas are traditional Honduran food – a big flour tortilla, filled with eggs, refried beans, cream and sometimes avocado, it is usually eaten for breakfast and actually very similar to a breakfast burrito. Dani loved baleadas, but they didn’t do much for me.

Pizzeria Monna Lisa in Granada, Nicaragua
Spoiler alert: This is not street food, it’s not cheap, and it’s not even local. However, Monna Lisa serves the best pizza in all of Central America. Dani, in her love-induced post-pizza haze, would even go as far as saying the best pizza outside of Italy. The pizzas are thin crust with mouth-watering dough, baked in a real Italian stone oven. Monna Lisa also invented to-die-for dessert: Chocolate Calzones. Sure, they call it the Monna Lisa special or something, but it is pizza dough formed into a long parcel, filled with nearly an entire bar of melted chocolate and served with more chocolate sauce on top. Dani would have stayed in Granada just for this dish!

El Desayunazo in Leon, Nicaragua
This little breakfast place is a hot spot in Leon, especially at the weekends you have to come early to secure a table. Equally loved by locals, expats and tourists, El Desayunazo deserves the crown for Leon’s (or even Nicaragua’s) best breakfast place. You can choose between a large variety of Nica breakfasts (gallo pinto, eggs, cheese) and ‘Gringo’ breakfasts such as pancakes or waffles. And the best: bottomless coffee!

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Reflections: 300 days on the road

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300 days on the road… almost exactly 10 months of backpacking, or flashpacking, as it were. Looking back on Day 1 arriving in Las Vegas back in April to where we are now, we still can not believe how much life, experience, adventure – and work! – we have been able to squeeze into these 300 days. Although the distance covered takes up a tiny amount of space on a world map, the quality time we have spent in the 8 countries has given us a deep understanding of Central America, Mexico, and Southwestern USA.

The most recent 100 days starts way back in Guatemala, where we finished up a ten week stay – including a much longer stint at Lake Atitlan than we had intended. We also finally said goodbye to Antigua for good (well, for now) and experienced the relaxed vibe on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, worlds apart from the rest of the country.

After Livingston we spent a couple of weeks in Honduras, including Christmas and New Years. With the exception of Copan Ruinas, the very popular Maya ruins, we felt that we had the country to ourselves, as very few fellow travelers pass through there it seems. We enjoyed the country’s colonial towns of Gracias and Santa Rose, plus the well off-the-beaten track Lake Yojoa. It was here where we spent New Year’s Eve, with nobody but the owners of our hotel, their family, and the 377 different kinds of birds that live around the lake.

Then it was on to Nicaragua, which is Guatemala’s main contender as our favorite country in Central America. We spent six weeks here in January and February and would gladly have stayed longer. We fell in love with the city of Leon (click here our guest post on Suzyguese.com), boarded down a volcano, saw the first wild monkeys on our trip, and ticked the little known Corn Islands off our ‘1000 places to see before you die’ list. We snorkeled off of Little Corn island, and discovered that Belize is still by far the best snorkeling in Central America. We also learned that Honduras is still far from being a tourist-friendly destination whereas Costa Rica is almost an eco-Disneyland.

Costa Rica has been the most surprising country on our trip so far. I first came to the land of Pura Vida back in 1996, returned to live one year here from 1999-2000 and have made a few visits since. Although changes in Costa Rica were always evident, it has been shocking to see just how Americanized the country has become in recent years. My favorite beach in the world and former hippie paradise Montezuma has been overrun by the over 60s no-hablo-espanol crowd wearing socks and sandals. Manuel Antonio was even more of a tourist destination, but at least this area always has been. While you’re spoiled for choice in terms of activities here, and the quality of goods and services in Costa Rica are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of Central America, the high prices and influx of U.S. ex-pats and their imported US culture has completely altered the easy-going uber-eco-friendly country I fell in love with all those years ago.

Into the Swing of Things

The period of travel fatigue we felt at the 200 days mark seems forever ago, and we are now fully ‘acclimatized’ to the rhythm of balancing travel and work. Our travel skills (trip-planning, awareness, alertness) have massively improved, so that we managed not to have a single terrible travel experience in the past 100 days. As we write this post on our 300th day of travel, the digital nomad lifestyle is so fulfilling that we have no desire to stop and can not wait for the next 100 days.

Globetrottergirls.com – The Re-design

Our website developed the longer we were on the road, and we realized that in order to create a useful resource for budget travelers and tell our own story along the way, Globetrottergirls.com needed a re-design. The site has also become an additional income stream, and we needed a layout which was compatible for ads, as well as optimized for readers to share our posts and participate in conversation through a much better comment system.

Thankfully we found Bundled.co, run by Joanne and Jon, who as digital nomads themselves really understood our needs. We had mentioned using Peopleperhour to land remote gigs in order to support your work & travel habit, so we posted our ad there and could not have been happier with our decision. The pair was always available for us, got back to us quickly, and perfectly understood what we wanted. We can highly recommend them to any bloggers who are looking to re-design their site.

The site overhaul was easily the best decision we could have made, as our readership has been steadily growing, we have been able to begin the monetization process, and we have been contacted by countless readers who find our site useful and appreciate our tips, as well as new friends and business partners looking for collaborations on a few exciting travel projects. Watch this space for info on our most recent e-book contribution, coming soon.

Meeting fellow travel bloggers

Since setting off last year, we have met loads of travelers along the way, several of whom we ran in to again even two or three countries later along this Central American Gringo Trail.

However, our tweet-ups with fellow travel bloggers are the most memorable. We all share so much in common, combining a lifestyle of long-term travel and a lot of hard work. We have been lucky to meet up with two great bloggers in the travel community so far in Costa Rica.

We stopped by Playa del Coco, where we had drinks with The Traveling Philosopher, Spencer Spellman, before we meeting up with Nomadic Matt on the Nicoya peninsula and traveling to Manuel Antonio together where we spent our days working, hiking and seeing who could get tanner faster. (Anyone care to guess who won…sorry, I’m gloating…)

In the next couple of weeks, we are hoping to have two more tweet-ups and we’re very excited for both. In Panama hopefully we will spend some time with Breakaway Backpacker, Jaime, before meeting up with Erin and Simon from NeverEndingVoyage (a fellow digital nomad couple who left England for good!), in Panama City before we hop on a plane to Munich.

Change of plans

Yes, that’s right….we’re headed to Europe in our next 100 days. While we originally thought we would move on to South America after Panama, our plans have changed rather unexpected. A huge advantage of this digital nomad deal is that there are no rules. We have no set itinerary, and we are free to change our plans whenever we’d like. A fantastic house-sit opportunity in German Alps came our way, and after 9 months straight of Central America travel, we were more than ready for a spontaneously refreshing change.

We will use the house in the Alps as a base to explore Newschwanstein Castle, go up on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, eat hundreds of pretzels, see some more of Austria and breathe in buckets of fresh spring air while hiking in the mountains. Oh, plus catch up on a million and one projects, ideas, and blog posts we have on our minds.

After our house-sit we’ll travel to Italy and Spain before returning to North America in June, when we are headed to Canada, we are doing another house-sit, and exploring Montreal, Toronto and the Canadian countryside. From there it’s New York City mid-August….and then our plans are not certain. Road trip through the U.S. South to New Orleans? Down the eastern Seaboard? Will we continue our journey through Latin America afterwards or go to Asia first? We don’t know! But then again, we don’t know if any of these plans are certain. If there is one thing we have learned in the past 100 days, is that we are free to be anywhere in the whole world the two of us would like to be!

Continue here for our tops and flops of our last 100 days on the road.

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Polaroid of the week: Spider monkey in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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One of the things we were most excited about for Costa Rica was the wildlife. Of all the countries in Central America, Costa Rica is where you can see the most mammals, birds and reptiles roaming freely through the forests.

So far, Manuel Antonio has been the best for monkey spotting! We spotted  this little guy on a quiet hike through a fairly deserted area of the national park. He had been involved in a playful ‘fight’ among five spider monkeys and was resting here (perhaps calculating his next move?)

There were plenty of other monkeys on the more populated paths – wowing the hordes of international tourists while joining raccoons in stealing food. Even outside the park, however, we managed to see monkeys, including one that hopped right down on the roof of our hostel, swinging on a chain right by where we were working.

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Goodbye 2010: Our year of travel in pictures

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An amazing year is coming to an end – our first as full-time travelers! Rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, check out our year in pictures, from the pre-trip ‘planning’ phase to the rather unexpected place where we are ringing in the New Year!

In January we made the semi-spontaneous decision to become digital nomads and to leave London, where we had been living since 2007.

In February, we packed up our apartment and Dani drove a few boxes to her hometown of Erfurt in Germany, where she stored our stuff and said goodbye to friends and family.

Jess did the same in March, home in chilly Chicago.

In April, we met again in Britain and spent one last ‘stay-cation’ in the seaside town of Brighton, before starting off the trip of a lifetime:

We started our adventure in Las Vegas, of all places…

…before heading to San Francisco up the Pacific Coast Highway in May, the first of many road trips to come.

June saw us exploring the Arizona desert during our Tucson house-sit, then the canyons (Antelope, Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon) in the north during one last road trip in the U.S.

We stopped in Los Angeles again in July…

…and from there we flew into Mexico City, where we started our Mexican adventure.

We spent August exploring Southern Mexico from Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast, San Cristobal, Palenque and the Yucatan.

In September we discovered the beautiful beaches of Belize

…and in October we began our two-month tour of Guatemala, which included Mayan villages, market towns, volcano climbing, the colonial town of Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

In November, we took a 2-week detour to El Salvador, where we found some rough Pacific beaches, hiked a volcano crater and visited colonial towns like  Suchitoto (pictured) and those on the Ruta de las Flores.

In December, we headed to Honduras, where we finished the ‘Maya trail’ by visiting the last of the series of Maya ruins at Copan. We’re ringing in the New Year at Lake Yojoa, before heading to Nicaragua to start of 2011!

Happy travels to all fellow travelers and happy New Year to all our readers out there!

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