What I learnt in North America

So. After nearly three months the first leg of my round the world trip is over, and I’m nearly a quarter of the way through. So what have I learnt so far?

Beautiful San Miguel de Allende from above

Beautiful San Miguel de Allende from above

I’ve learnt I don’t need to do stuff every day. Sure, there’s always something to see, something to do, but trying to cram too much in is just exhausting, plus it’s like stuffing yourself with sweets – it gets a bit much after a while and you stop appreciating it. When I start to feel like that, I just take a day or two off and do very little. Hang out on a beach, or enjoying cooling off by the fan in my room. Or just catching up with my blog.

The best way to enjoy a city is to wander around for hours, taking it all in, and discovering cool buildings, interesting shops, and the best street food. In fact, most museums have been a disappointment and I only visit now if they’re free or have been highly recommended.

Guanajuato, my favourite city so far.

Guanajuato, my favourite city so far.

Churches all start to look the same after a while.

So do Spanish colonial buildings. Best to break it up a little with some outdoor activities.

Kayaking across Lake Atitlan

Kayaking across Lake Atitlan

On that note, it’s the outdoor activities that are increasingly becoming my favourites – whether it’s hiking along canyons or up volcanoes, mountain biking around the countryside or learning to dive, most of my happiest memories so far have taken place away from towns and cities.

Learning Spanish has been incredibly worthwhile. It’s really helped with making the basics of travel a million times easier, but more than that it’s allowed me to have far more conversations with locals than I have ever had previously. It’s actually made me slightly worried that the Asian leg of my experience won’t be quite the same, as their languages are far harder to pick up. Although I’m considering learning a bit of Indonesian, as apparently it’s relatively easy to pick up the basics.

Never trust a local of one country to comment on the safety of another. Mexicans told me to avoid Guatemala like the plague. Guatemalans told me the same about Mexico. I felt completely safe the whole time in both.

I’ve become a bit of a Mexico bore. I loved the country so much I can’t stop talking about it. I need to cut down on this as I’m aware that when I hear other travellers doing the same (especially when comparing one country to another) it can be bloody annoying.

I’m not a budget traveller. I suppose it was too much to expect after living on a good salary in London for so long and treating myself all the time, and it’s turned out that more often than not, I’ll go for the first class bus over the local ones (I convince myself I’m doing it for security reasons but I know deep down it’s for comfort). I’m a rubbish bargainer (I need to spend more time with Israelis. By common consent they are the experts in this area). And I splash out on nice meals a bit too often (especially in the countries that don’t have a good street food tradition). Er, and I probably like my beer a little *too* much. But hey, I’m on holiday.

Despite being very relaxed I still walk too quickly. I don’t think that will ever change.

I’m not as good a photographer as I’d like to be. Hopefully that will come with practice (and to be fair to myself, I have improved a lot already I think).

Probably my personal favourite photo so far

Probably my personal favourite photo so far

I am addicted to chili. Countries without a good selection of spicy condiments will not be popular with me.

Most of all, I’ve been very happy to realise that this kind of travel suits me. I’m feeling ridiculously relaxed and happy, and moreso every day. One thing that has surprised me is that a few people have commented on how nice my smile is. Yes, that’s partly because I had my tooth fixed before I left so I’m less self-conscious about it, but I think it’s mostly because I spend a lot of time grinning from ear to ear. Some have commented on how cheesy my grin looks in photos but I don’t care. I’m loving it.

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13 responses to “What I learnt in North America

  1. Thrilled to read all this and look forward to the next legs, wherever they will take you.

  2. We finally made it to Guanajuato 2 weeks ago for a wonderful 24 hours. I agree it is absolutely enchanting and we plan to return soon for a long weekend (next time i’m not going to bother driving will get the coach as it is quicker and will arrive less stressed!!).
    ps. i’ve always loved your smile

  3. Truly enjoyed reading this one. I am sure when you read it again after a few months, you’d be glad that you wrote.

    There are very few who analyze this well.
    Thanks.

  4. itsasmallworldafterallfamily

    It’s always interesting to stop and reflect on how it’s going. I agree with you about taking days off, it can make everything else seem more interesting and fresh. On my last RTW trip, I also gained an appreciation of outdoors stuff, having always lived in London and considered myself a city lover. I’m looking forward to spending lots of time outdoors on my next RTW trip.

  5. I think I’ve become a Colombia bore. :) Hell, I started a whole blog about it as an outlet! I don’t think I’m a budget traveler so much anymore, or at least I think I’ve graduated to flashpacker status between my 3-course French meals in Laos and the requirements of keeping a blog regularly updated.

    Looking forward to your next leg.

  6. This is the first post that I have read by you and I like it, especially like the picture of the boats as I’m a photographer in training as well.
    I can relate to the budget thing as I just arrived in Iguazu after an 18 hour bus ride in the Cama Ejectivo class which was just brilliant.. It can’t be compared at all to the chicken busses we took in Asia, can’t go back to that after this! :)

  7. Has it been 3 months already? Some good lessons learned. We’re still at the getting our feet wet stage but are already finding some of your observations to be true!!
    Cheers!

  8. I personally think the boat photo is still you’re best yet.. for a non SLR that is.

  9. Sounds good, keep it up.

  10. One thing I’ve learned is that locals are the first people to tell you how dangerous their own country is. I can’t tell you how many people in China were horrified at the idea of me travelling around alone… it is one of the safest places I’ve ever been. Same goes for lots of places.

    Nice post, enjoy the rest of your travels!

  11. I’ve travelled to most countries in Europe and i whole heartedly agree that churches DO all look the same once you’ve been to a few! Some of my mates disagree but it’s good to hear that i’m not alone in my opinion!

    • I´m quite looking forward to getting to Asia and seeing a few temples now, although I´m sure it won´t be long before I have the ame problem there…

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