A week is left until my flight for a wonder land. Three days ago, I decided to take a long term journey to a place I had never been or heard much of. There isn’t much explanation on why to the Central America. I am leaving only because I have done so many things in my 20s, and yet believe that there are tons more to do, see, and feel.
April 14, 2004, Mexico City, Mexico
I made some calls to friends at Incheon Airport before the departure, saying byes and asking for good luck. Everyone said that I am a betrayer for not voting in General Election 2004 which is to be held tomorrow. I have traveled more than fifteen hours to get to Mexico from Seoul, but I am still the same day I left. It is the 14th of April.
April 27, 2004, Palenque, Mexico
For around two weeks, I traveled very well without a guide book. Before the journey I purchased a brand new tour guide on the Central America. But I had to face a cruel reality - Geographically, Mexico is not a part of the Central America.
Mexico was huge. Most of all my intercity journeys took eight hours at least. The longest, from Mazunte (a small Pacific Coast village) to San Cristobal de las Casas (a home for tourists) took 17 hours direct.
I am sure that I couldn’t have made such trips without fellow backpackers. Even though we were all from different parts of the world, we could get along so quickly and easily because we had the same goal - to learn new things and people.
Tomorrow, I am going to cross the border to Guatemala. Am I nervous? Yes, I am. Could I see drug dealers like I saw in the Hollywood movies? You never know.
May 6, 2004, Quetzaltenango (Zela), Guatemala
I suddenly have realized that my stomachache is gone. I was sick for a couple of days because had lately eaten more bread than a Korean can handle. I guess my body is getting used to tacos, tortillas and pan (bread). The food here is much better than the ones I had in Europe. I am sure that Koreans will love these Mexican and Guatemalan dishes for being spicy and rich in flavor.
I have decided to stay here for a while to have some Spanish lessons. The difference between Spanish ‘literate’ and ‘illiterate’ is on only two alphabets. You can do it.
May 31, 2004, Island Utila, Honduras
It is my first day at Caribbean Coast. Now I can proudly say to my friends that I have been to the real Caribbean beach even though I still haven’t visited Caribbean Bay (a famous water park in Korea). Before coming here, I thought that this place would be a perfect setting to practice my mum Spanish and learn to scuba dive.
Unfortunately, I was only half right. The indigenous people spoke a strange language which sounded similar to English, but with the weirdest accent.
I couldn’t figure out what they were saying. My guidebook says this is called a Garifuna Culture which is influenced by English speaking descendants of African and British settlers during the British colonial time. Hmm... Interesting!
June 21, 2004, Isla Roatan, Honduras
I am about to say good bye to Chan’s Bride (a coral looking like a bride with a bouquet - I found and named it). After taking two courses of scuba diving and a bicycle hike to Pumpkin Hill, I have become as dark as the locals.
To get to the mainland I have to take a two hour ferry ride, which I am not afraid of, but I am a bit worried about my next journey to Nicaragua. It could be much nicer to bring some friends here with me, but everyone had different routes of their own.
I guess this is the time to make a promise to see them later. By the way, I read a sign saying Island Utila was the very place where the famous Robinson Crusoe has landed after drifting. Cool~!
June 29, 2004, Leon, Nicaragua
My 75L backpack is almost filled with newly bought cigars, hammock, and rum. These three items are the must-buy-in-Nicaragua. During my journey rum became my favourite liquor. I can’t explain the exact taste in letters.
But if I had to explain, I would say it’s somewhat sticky and sweet. Nicaragua is one of the hottest country in the Central America. You sweat all day long and drink rum all night long here. That is what Nicaragua is all about. (In my narrow and spoiled point of view)
July 30, 2004, Quetzaltenango (Zela), Guatemala
I can’t stop falling in love with Salsa dancing.
As I learn more about the Latin culture, I tend to share more time on learning and practicing Salsa. Every Wednesday is a Salsa night in this town. Even though Salsa is danced in pairs, I never have to worry about getting a partner. Because luckly, I am the only guy willing to dance among the Spanish schoolmates.
If you know how to step, the music gets more passionate and your life gets more exciting. I should consider living here if I can’t stop dancing for a second.
August 10, 2004, Seoul, Korea
Finally, I got home. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I started feeling people’s stare at my four month-long beard. Everything was the same as the time I had left in April.
Perhaps, the only difference was found in my mind. The pressure to get a job as a college senior was still there but somewhat changed to me. You never know the power of backpack traveling unless you actually hit the road.