[img] Pacaya Volcano Antigua Guatemala Great Escape 30 countries by 30

Great Escape Month One Review: January 2016

In Central America, El Salvador, Great Escape, Guatemala, Honduras by Katelyn2 Comments

Pacaya Volcano Antigua Guatemala Great Escape

The top of Pacaya Volcano at sunset outside of Antigua, Guatemala


January 19, 2016 will be the date I will remember the rest of my life. 

After years of working multiple jobs, cutting my expenses, and saving every penny that I could, I finally began my Great Escape on January 19, 2016.

I packed up my stuff, hugged my dog and my dad goodbye and hopped on the express bus down to Logan Airport in Boston to catch my flight to Guatemala City where I was beginning my first leg of my Great Escape.

I had 26 days in Central America to explore the colonial cities of Guatemala, hike through the highlands, work on my tan on the beach in El Salvador, and learn how to scuba dive in Honduras. I had a jam-packed tentative schedule and I was excited.

Central America is one of my favorites places in the world. I’ve been spending the past two years taking Spanish lessons to prep myself for my long-awaited return. And I could have used about 5 more years of lessons too! Someday I will learn enough Spanish to hold my own in the Latin world.

The first half of January was spent finishing up work projects and crossing items off my forever growing to-do list. Who knew that moving across the world required so many little tasks. The biggest stress I had before taking off was selling my car. I had enough money in the bank to cover the monthly loan payments, but I wanted to off load that sucker ASAP as every monthly payment would cut into my travel account. And obviously I wanted to spend that money on fun things like scuba diving, climbing the Eiffel Tower, and camel riding in Morocco.

Thankfully my father stepped in and bought it from me. The only downfall is that he is paying me in the difference between the sales value and car loan in monthly installments. After about $2,000 in dental bills I was really hoping to get a lump sum to help boost my savings account. Oh well, that’s life.

I’m a big fan of other bloggers who do monthly recaps of their travels so you’ll see regular posts like this on a monthly basis. I’m super behind on my travel posts, but over the next couple of months you’ll see a whole slew of new posts. I have posts from my Europe trip last June that I still need to write! However, stay tuned for Iceland and Mexico City in the coming weeks!

Where I’ve Been

  • 18 nights in Portland, Maine
  • 1 night in Guatemala City
  • 2 nights in Antigua, Guatemala
  • 4 nights in El Tunco, El Salvador
  • 2 nights in Copan Ruinas, Honduras
  • 4 nights in Utila, Honduras
Copan Ruinas Honduras Great Escape

Horseback riding in Copan Ruinas, Honduras

The Highlights

  • After years of saving and planning I finally left for my Great Escape on January 19, 2016! Prior to leaving so many people asked me if I was nervous. I generally waved it off by saying “no.” That’s a bit of a small lie. Of course I was nervous! I’m only human. My nervousness and anxiety for the future was heavily offset for my excitement of the future. I was returning to one of my favorite places in the world and I couldn’t wait to begin the next chapter of my life.
  • I hiked an active volcano and saw another erupt! Antigua is surrounded by three volcanos – Aqua, Acatenago, and Fuego. Fuego was erupting when I was in Antigua and it was an unreal site. I only wish that I had my tripod to get a good picture. After hearing reports from other travelers I wish I signed up for the overnight Acatenago hike as everyone had an up-close-and-personal view of the Fuego eruption. Alas, next time! However, I did hike nearby Pacaya Volcano at sunset.
  • I began my Open Water Diving certification course in Utila! I’ve been wanting to learn to dive for years now, but never had the opportunity. My main reason to return to Central America before moving to Australia was to learn to dive in Utila. The experience lived up to my expectations and then some! For some reason I’m always addicted to expensive sports – horseback riding, skiing, triathlons – and now diving. Goodbye savings account!

The Lowlights

  • Paying $2,000 in dental bills. The day before I left for Central America I paid a visit to my dentist for my crown. While I certainly glad to be pain free now, my wallet is hurting. I didn’t plan on shelling out thousands of dollars in medical bills, but that’s life. And that’s why you should always have an emergency fund.
  • Trying to work on crappy wifi in Central America. I’m now a full-time freelance writer and travel blogger. I make my money by working online. I need the internet to work. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that the wifi in most of Central America is crap. Trying to write an article for a client takes twice as long in Honduras than at home. And forget about trying to upload any photos to WordPress! Hence why I haven’t written in a while. But, that’s the price you pay for traveling in developing countries. You have beautiful scenery, friendly locals, and tropical fruit, but you don’t have the high speed internet like back home.

Monthly Income

My freelance writing business is still growing. I’m only taking on a few new clients at the moment while I’m on the move through Central America and Europe. When I hit the turf in Australia my goal is to grow my business and income. My 2016 professional goal is to earn on average at least $1,000 USD a month in writing/blogging/social media work. In January 2016 I earned about $1,356.00. Over half of that was a late payment from a client I had done work for in November. Thankfully after some strongly worded emails the payment finally came through just in time to pay for my PADI certificate courses.

Check out my article on Working Holiday Visas in Australia on World Nomads! Another big win for me in January.

Monthly Expenses

January was an expensive month with dental bills, insurance premiums, and last-minute travel items. For this month I’m only going to break down my expenses as far as on-the-ground traveling in Central America. If you really want a break down of my dental bills let me know! Donations welcomed! 🙂

  • World Nomad Travel Insurance for 90 Days – $295.00
  • Roundtrip Bus Ticket to Logan Airport – $49.00
  • Hostels – $75
  • Transportation (i.e., shuttles, buses, taxis) – $118
  • Food & Drinks – $154
  • Tours, Activities & Fun Things – $51
  • Other (i.e., tips, gifts, etc.) – $12

My first 13 days of travel cost me a whooping $410 or $31.53 per day. I certainly could have opted for chicken buses and cooked my own meals to save money, but I was short on time and “rich” with money so I chose to spend a bit more to cut down on my travel time. Plus, I was traveling with expensive electronic equipment that I need for my job so I’d rather spend a bit more for tourist shuttles then risk the local buses.

Favorite Photo of the Month

El Tunco El Salvador sunset Great Escape

One of the many epic sunsets in El Tunco, El Salvador

Goals for February

  • Complete my Advanced Open Water Dive Certification
  • Start planning my Euro adventures
  • Start blogging regularly again
  • Make at least $500 in writing

Books I Read in January

  • Bossypants by Tina Frey – I started and finished this book on the beach in El Salvador. It was a quick and interesting read, but I was left feeling a bit “meh” about it.
  • Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – This trilogy is totally meant for teens, but I love it! I’m not one for fantasy but these books are well written and a fun read. I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes out this year.
  • A Town Called Alice by Nevil Shute – This is one of my favorite books that I read in high school. With my upcoming move to Australia I knew it was only fitting that I read this classic novel.

Favorite Quote of the Month

“Buddy, Buddy. I’m out of air! Please share air. Please share air!”

  • If you’re a diver you probably get that. If not, I highly recommend getting your PADI certification through Underwater Visions in Utila. One of the instructors sings this to her class and now it’s forever stuck in my head.

Until next time, safe travels my friend!

Pacaya Volcano yoga Guatemala Great Escape

Feeling “rooted” on top of Pacaya Volcano



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