Mexico and Guatemala Travel Route

It has been nearly four and a half months that I have been in Latin America so I think it's about time I give an overview of where I have been thus far! I'll go ahead and tell you, yes your'e seeing that correctly, almost five months and I've "only" been to two countries. Actually, I am writing this from Colombia so we can say three. Anyhow, I had no time constriction and no set plan so I was free to visit where I liked when I liked, and to be honest I fell in love with Mexico so I spent close to four months there.

Below is a map of the places I've visited since November 2017, the day I started this trip. The sporadic pins are places I visited when Mexico City was my home base for two months, as well as places I went when my mom came to visit. After I left Mexico City for good you can follow my trail and where I stopped (indicated by the lettered points).

Mexico City

There is something about Mexico City that has made it the most special place I have yet to visit on this trip. It may be because of the city itself, the people I met, the amount of time I stayed, the fact that it was my first stop, or most likely a combination of all of the above. The culture is so vibrant, the food amazing, the nightlife exciting. Overall, it's a city with a soul and a pulse you can feel.

Puebla

Puebla is a two hours bus ride from Mexico City, making for a doable day trip. The first time I went I was stunned by the beautiful colorful buildings, because to be honest as much as I love Mexico City it is not a particularly beautiful city. So when leaving Mexico City for the first time after a month of being there Puebla's beauty really impressed.

Guanajuato

Guanajuato was the first place my mom and I stopped on our ten day road trip. We hand a wonderful Air BnB with a rooftop where we spent most evenings. We ate incredibly well and enjoyed many leisurely strolls through the colorful streets.

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel is another beautiful colonial city, but feels much more touristic, and less authentic than Guanajuato. The weekend we were there happened to be a huge celebration for a famous revolutionist who helped Mexico gain its independence from spain. At night we sat amongst hundreds of locals and tourists listening to a very large live orchestra preform on stage.

Monarch Butterfly Reserve

Having the opportunity to see this biological phenomenons has been one of the most unique and memorable experiences I've had. You can read about it in detail in this post I wrote which was also featured on Lonely Planet.

Puerto Escondido

I spent three blissful weeks in this Pacific paradise. Most days would start by laying on the beach and reading a book, followed by an afternoon playing volleyball in the pool, and the evenings spent watching the sunset at the beach or on the rooftop. One the most memorable experiences was when six of us went sport fishing fifteen miles offshore and caught a monstrous fourteen kilo mahi that our guide filleted for us to take home. That night we prepared a massive feast with our catch of the day.

Oaxaca City

As far a cities go (not including Mexico City) Oaxaca may be my favorite from what comparable cities I've seen in Mexico and Guatemala. The city is full of activity, but not just for tourists, the climate is wonderful, but most of all the food is absolutely incredible.

San Cristobal de las Casas

I had heard a lot of good things about San Cristobal since the beginning of my trip, and don't get me wrong, it's very pretty, however it was not my favorite. It is a relatively small city that felt overwhelmingly touristic. It was still a pretty town in the mountains to discover for a day or two. 

Palenque

From San Cristobal I took a one night excursion to see the ruins of Palenque. We stayed in the coolest little jungle village and listened to the howler monkeys while eating and drinking in a candlelit outdoor restaurant.

Xela

From San Cristobal, I crossed the border into Guatemala. After a twelve hour bus ride I made it to Xela, where I would be studying Spanish and living with a host family for two week. During my time here I also climbed Central America's tallest peak!

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is an incredible lake surrounded by volcanoes. My two nights here were spent camping in tipi like tents, cliff jumping, and laying on the dock admiring the spectacular views.

Antigua

Antigua is a stunning city. Extremely clean, well landscaped, and surrounded by breathtaking mountains and a volcano! I was there during Semana Santa, holy week leading up to Easter. I had the best coffee of my trip here and watched my first soccer match at the local stadium. It was so fun to be amongst locals as they wildly cheer for their team!

That concludes my journey through Mexico and Guatemala! I flew out of Guatemala City March 28 and arrived in Bogotá, where I will spend the next few weeks. After that, who knows! That's half the fun of traveling, complete freedom to go wherever you want whenever you want.

Hiking Central America's Highest Peak

Tajumulco, Central America's highest peak is actually a massive stratovolcano and is located in western Guatemala near the Mexican border. We left Xela for Tajumulco Friday afternoon with the plan of staying the night in a hotel near the trail head and starting the hike Saturday morning. We used Guatemala's public transport, widely known as chicken buses across Central America, to make the three hour journey. If you are not familiar with chicken buses they are retired American yellow school buses that have been seriously pimped out. They have a whole new paint job, LED lights displaying the destination, and plenty of stickers that read "Jesus es mi amigo"for good measure. If you ever felt like that the American school system inconsiderately packed you into a seat with two other school kids then imagine that scenario again but with three full grown adults to a seat and then an aisle overflowing with people and at least two butts smashed against you for TWO HOURS. Needless to say its uncomfortable, and you become an excellent contortionist, but it is a fun experience to experience at least once, but probably no more.

After one bus change and one flat tire, we were dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere. The only proof that there was a hotel around was from a TripAdvisor review I read, I could not find the hotel online. I had put a lot of faith in this one reviewer so he best not let us down! There was no hotel in sight where we got dropped off so we started walking downhill until we saw a sign for the hotel. From where we were standing, all the lights were off and the place looked completely abandoned. My heart sunk. I didn't have a plan B. However, as we got closer we saw one light on downstairs and the caretaker was out front and we were able to get a room no problem. We had a delicious dinner across the road and then were asleep by 9 o'clock.

 We started the break at 6AM just as the sun was coming up. It was breathtakingly beautiful watching the morning colors ascend around the mountains and the clouds fill in the valleys. Round trip, the hike was about eight or nine miles, however it took us four hours to walk the first 4 miles to the top. With the altitude and unceasing incline, I had to stop for breaks frequently. At the trailhead you are almost at 10,000ft in elevation and once at the top you've reached an elevation of 13,845ft. The most fit of people can get to the top in three hours.

I had heard of tourists being robbed on these volcano hikes in Guatemala, but I did not take the stories too seriously. There was a point on the hike up that I noticed a large group of 10-15 Guatemalan men with machetes catching up with me. I instantly thought back to the stories I head. I looked like an easy target with my expensive Canon camera slung across my body. However, once they caught up to me they quickly passed me and paid me no attention. Later on the trail I had the chance to talk to one of the men and they come up once a month to clean the trail of trash that inconsiderate hikers leave behind.

The top of that funny looking dome in the distance was our destination. It never felt like it was getting any closer until it was suddenly right in front of us.

During the hike up we could see other volcanoes in the distance. I you look closely you can even see one erupting!

The last half hour was a scramble up a mixture of rocks and boulders to get to the top of the dome. The hike was one of the hardest I've done, but like any hike it was worth it once we made it to the top, above the clouds and overlooking all of Guatemala.

We managed the hike quite fine without a guide. There were a couple points where we weren't sure which way the trail went, but as long as you stick to the dirt road until its end where a metal chain marks the end of the road you'll be fine.

The view from the top! An absolutely breathtaking hike that has inspired me to make climbing mountains and volcanoes something I do more of. 

Immersive Spanish Experience in Guatemala

There is no better way to learn a language than through complete immersion. You will learn from a native speaker and get to practice your newly acquired skills daily with the locals while still playing tourist. 

This is exactly what I did for two weeks in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

The morning of March 5th I was rudely awaken by my alarm at 5:30am. It was sadly time for me to leave Mexico and continue my journey south. I was leaving from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico and was headed for Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (also known as Xela). In total it was a twelve hour journey  by bus through the Chiapas mountains of Mexico and through the northern part of Guatemala.

When I arrived in Xela, I was dropped off at the language school I would be attending for the next two weeks, and was greeted by the director, a kind, eloquent woman named María. At this point I could speak only very broken Spanish (I had only every studied french in school) and the entire greeting was conducted in Spanish. I made out what I could and then waited for someone from my host family to meet me at the school and show me back to the home I’d be living in the next two weeks. Antonio, my host mom’s sixteen year old son, showed me the way home. He was very tall and fair skinned, looking considerably different from most Guatemalans. He was very friendly. He asked me many questions, and was patient and helpful as I attempted to respond in Spanish. The house was less than ten minutes from the school, making for an easy walkable commute each morning. That night I spoke with Antonio for hours and had dinner with the rest of the family (neither of which speak any english at all) before going to bed completely exhausted.

The next morning I started class and met Irina, my incredibly kind Spanish teacher. I would spend the next two weeks with her, Monday through Friday for five hours a day. I really enjoyed learning Spanish. It was extremely tiring and I would often be in bed by 9PM but it was rewarding to be able to use what I learned in class and be able to speak more with my host family. My days would start at 7AM with my host mom, Catalina, preparing breakfast for me before I left for class. Class would last from 8AM to 1PM with a short break in the middle. Afterwards, I would go home to lunch prepared by my host mom. 

The afternoons were usually spent walking around the city, going to a restaurant to watch soccer, or taking a coffee at a coffee shop. Xela itself isn’t the most picturesque city. It’s the second largest city in Guatemala, however it doesn’t feel like it. The homes and buildings are all one story and relatively small. The streets are very narrow, as are the sidewalks which are only wide enough for one person. Every time you are about to pass someone you have to turn sideways just so the both of you can fit. Although it’s not the nicest of cities I was still able to find my regular spots that I enjoyed visiting. One of the most incredible features of the city is the towering Volcano Santa Maria that overlooks the city. It resembles the sort of Volcano you’d draw as a kid, extremely steep and pointy. It was a magnificent site I never got tired of looking at. 

This experience allowed me to not only introduce me to another language, but it also gave me first hand experience into Guatemalan culture. Part of this cultural experience was eating like a local. My host mom cooked three meals a day every day for the whole family, including me. Most commonly we ate eggs, beans, and a lot of corn. I never knew all the ways one could consume this grain. I had corn tamales, corn on the cob, corn tortillas, corn flakes for breakfast, and even beverages made from corn! I quickly grew to love this plain tasting staple, especially accompanied with a fire roasted tomato sauce, eggs, and beans

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Besides Catalina and her son, Antonio, there were two others living in the home. A seventeen year old girl named Yacquelin from another town but studying in Xela and an older woman in her 70’s or 80’s who loved soccer and was constantly fighting back laughter as she spoke. The four of them treated me with such kindness that I felt right at home for the two weeks I lived with them.

It was sad to leave my host family when my two weeks came to an end. However, I had exciting plans to visit parts of Guatemala that I didn't see last time I was here. From Xela I went to Lake Atitlan and from the lake I went to the stunning colonial city of Antigua.

Oaxacan Cuisine: Top 9 Dishes to Try

When planning my visit to Oaxaca City I had one main attraction in mind- its food. Oaxaca is known for its unique cuisine, rich with traditional treats ranging from crunchy chapulines (grasshoppers) to seven different savory moles. You can find hints of Oaxacan style cuisine around Mexico, but its true roots lie in the beautifully rugged state of Oaxaca. I made it my mission to seek out the most traditional and tasty dishes. As adventurous as it sounds to find the best and most traditional food on the streets and in the market rather than in restaurants, I did not necessarily find that to be the case in Oaxaca City. Restaurants were not much more expensive than the vendors at the market, everything mentioned below cost less than 10 USD, and I found the quality and flavor to be far better. Keep reading to discover the 9 Oaxacan specialties you should not miss, as well as the best places to try them!

1. Tlayudas

Nicknamed the "Oaxacan Pizza", the tlayuda is a dried tortilla covered with a variety of meat, beans and vegetables. It's a delicious combination of crunchy tortilla, flavorful tasajo (thinly cut beef), avocado and crisp vegetables that will satisfy the heartiest of appetites. Head to El Popular to try one of their meat, veggie or mole tlayudas.

2. Carnes Asadas

Extending off the main room of the Mercado 20 de Noviembre is the smoky meat hall where you can find glorious carnes asadas. Ten to fifteen meat vendors are displaying their raw cuts of pork and beef, and next to them, a wood burning grill being attended by a Oaxacan woman fanning and cooking the meats. As soon as you walk into the hall you hear waiters trying to attract customers by shouting, "señor, señor!" and "señora" or "señorita" at every passer-by. It is not a relaxing experience in the slightest, but an exciting experience to have nonetheless. Once you are finally persuaded to sit down at one of the booths, you are given the option of tasajo (thinly sliced beef), cecina (thinly sliced pork), cecina enchiladas, or chorizo. While your meat is being grilled, you have the option of purchasing tortillas and vegetables to accompany your grilled meat. I wrapped my tasajo in a warm tortilla and topped it with pico de gallo and guacamole. 

3. Huitlacoche

Also known as corn smut, huitlacoche is a type of fungus that grows on corn. It may not sound appealing, but its texture and subtle earthy taste is similar to mushrooms, making for a delicious addition to many Mexican dishes. I enjoyed it wrapped in thinly sliced pechuga (chicken breast) along with goat cheese in a flor de calabaza (squash blossom) sauce.

4. Conos de Flor de Jamaica

This snack involves fried wheat cones stuffed with hibiscus flower and served with guacamole. The hibiscus flower is commonly used to make a refreshing infused water, but it is equally as tasty to eat. The hibiscus is slightly tart, accompanied by a smoky chili flavor and guacamole. You can find it at La Biznaga.

5. Hierba Santa

Hierba santa is a large pungent tasting leaf boasting a flavor of several spices, most prominently anise or licorice, it is cooked and then often stuffed with other Oaxacan delicacies such as Oaxacan cheese, chile, or chapulines. You can find it at the market as well as at Los Danzantes, one of the finest restaurants in Oaxaca (pictured above).

6. Mole

Mole may well be Oaxaca's most famous dish, and rightfully so. It has one of the most dynamic flavor profiles of anything I've ever tasted. There are about seven types of moles, all varying in taste and color. 

Mole Negro

Mole negro has to be one of the most delicious sauces I've ever tasted. It's sweet, savory, and slightly bitter all at the same time. However, it can also be one of the most unpleasant and bitter things you ever taste if you get it from the wrong place. After a less than successful visit to the market I found the most divine mole negro at La Olla. It was a straightforward dish of chicken breast delicately resting in a shallow bowl of inky black mole, simple yet bursting with flavor, leaving you completely content. Be sure to order their agua de jamaica. It was the best I've had in Mexico.

Red Mole

Mole rojo has a similar base as mole negro, however it has less of the chocolate flavor and more of the spicy taste, imagine a variety of dried chiles like ancho chiles. It has a less-rich flavor and more of a sweet, tangy, and spicy dynamic flavor. I had mole rojo with the most tender and juicy pulled chicken from Los Danzantes. If you are to dine at one restaurant it has to be this one!

7. Chapulines

Now I'm not trying to say that grasshoppers are the most delicious food you can get in Oaxaca, but they are one of the most common and traditional so I couldn't leave them out. You'll find them all over, and you can eat them in a variety of ways. They are often served alongside mezcal as a bar snack, but I enjoyed them most with a quesadilla rather than straight down the hatch. They don't taste like anything too crazy, just a little crunchy and salty. Definitely worth a try while in Mexico! You'll be sure to impress your friends back home.

8. Mezcal

Even before arriving in Oaxaca, the homeland of mezcal, you'll notice it's a pretty big deal throughout Mexico. There are plenty of trendy mezcaleritas in Mexico City, serving just mezcal and mezcal cocktails. It has a distinct smoky aroma, and an alcohol content that can reach up to 55%. Like tequila, mezcal is made from agave, but from a different variety of agave. Its production techniques are also different from the ones used to make tequila, resulting in two very unique flavors. You can find it everywhere in Oaxaca City. 

9. Coffee & Chocolate

Oaxaca is known both for its coffee and its hot chocolate, so I thought what better way to try both than to order a mocha? It did not disappoint. It was a glorious marriage of two of the most decadent flavors. You can smell the richness of the chocolate as soon as the mug is placed in front of you. I'd recommend Café Brújula for their excellent coffee and pretty latte art.

The Monarchs of Macheros, Mexico

Every year, beginining in November, the entire North American monarch butterfly population, east of the rockies, migrates to one specific forest in the Mexican state of Michoacán until mid-March. Here is where they will spend winter until it becomes warm enough to return to northern Mexico, United States, and Canada.

There are four sanctuaries open to the public. My mom and I chose to visit the less touristic and harder to get to sanctuary, Cerro Pelón. Since we opted for the more rustic experience, we booked our hotel and butterfly tour through J&M's Butterly B&B in the tiny village of Macheros. J&M is the main and best way for you to  experience the millions of monarch butterflies at the Cerro Pelón sanctuary.  When you go on one of their tours you are supporting both the conservation of the butterflies and their environment as well as the economic development of the local people in a sustainable way.

J&M Butterfly B&B is the only form of accommodation in Macheros. Before the B&B was built tourists would have to take day trips from Mexico City or elsewhere, making for an exhausting day. With the establishment of a bed and breakfast, local villagers were given an additional source of income through ecotourism.

One restaurant has opened in the village to feed hungry tourists after a day's adventure in the mountains. Local farmers' horses are for hire to take tourists up the mountain a couple days a week as part of J&M's butterfly tour. During high season, J&M employs up to twenty people to help run the B&B and is able to compensate employees year round for their nonprofit thanks to the business the tours generate. With these sources of income locals now resort less to the illegal logging that was once a more common way to generate revenue, meaning that the monarch's habitat is now more protected from harmful deforestation. Even Internet connection didn't exist until the establishment of the B&B. Now J&M are able to subsidize Internet to the local school. The efforts of a few individuals to help foreigners experience the wonder of the monarch migration has led to countless benefits for their community and their neighboring monarch butterflies. 

The tour begins at 10am and lasts roughly until 3 or 4pm. You start by meeting your horse and handler a few minutes walk from the B&B. From there it's about an hour and a half ride up the mountain. The first hour I'm on my horse, very relaxed, taking in the beautiful surroundings. I admire the glimpses of towering peaks through the dense forest. The air has that crisp distinct mountain quality to it. After about an hour I'm brought to full alert as we start ascending the steep, narrow, and rocky path. And I'm thinking, "If this horse slips up once we are going to come crashing down and either I am going to be crushed by its massive body or my head is just going to crack open on one of these rocks." If my horse could read my mind she would have scoffed at my doubts in her ability because she could read the path like you and I read a children's book. The horses maneuvered expertly up the steepest last thirty minutes of the trail, avoiding boulders and keeping steady on loose rocks. One minute I was holding on for dear life and the next I felt my entire body exhale at the site of the open meadow with thousands of butterflies fluttering about. 

We dismounted our horses and they spent the next couple of hours bareback and grazing in the meadow as we too enjoyed the meadow and hiked up to see the butterfly colony. Besides the six tourists that came in our group, there were only three other tourists with their guides. It was the warmest part of the day so the butterflies left their trees to stretch their wings and search for water. In the wide open space of the meadow you can really get a feel for just how many monarchs there are. Thousands flying about, most flying in the wind streams by the thousands. It's so serene you can hear the flapping of their delicate wings, like tissue paper blowing in the wind.

After admiring a sky full of butterflies we take the forty minute hike to the butterfly colony situated at 3,000 meters (roughly 10,000ft). This elevation is the elevation that all of the monarch colonies across the reserve are located. Nobody is certain why they have chosen these trees or how they are able to navigate back to them year after year. Millions of them are clustered on the tree limbs. At first it appears that they are just dead leaves but after a closer look you will see millions of monarchs in the surrounding trees weighing the limbs down by their sheer numbers. We sat in silence marveling at this biological phenomenon taking place right before our eyes. 

I devoured my packed lunch after reaching the meadow via maybe the steepest descent I've encountered. And it wasn't the last. We came up on horseback meaning we had to go back down. I was gripping onto the horn of the saddle, all of my muscles fully engaged the whole way down. I had a stupid grin on my face which was partly from the excitement and partly from sheer terror. Once again, my horse was a master navigator and thoughtfully maneuvered us down the precarious path. 

Once we returned to our starting point our horses were free to go home where they rolled around in the grass like a couple of puppies. As for us, we went back to the B&B and relaxed in a pair of adirondack chairs on the lawn until sunset. 

Road Tripping Mexico with Mom

Mexico often receives a bad reputation, especially if what you hear is coming from the U.S. When I decided to travel here by myself the majority of people were immediately concerned for my safety and did not quite understand the appeal of this wonderful country. Luckily I have an openminded and adventurous mother who encouraged me to visit Mexico and gave me plenty of ideas of where to go. It's been seven weeks since I've embarked on my travel adventures and my mom, who inspired the beginning of my travels in Mexico City, has now joined me for ten days traveling through Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve!

 


Mexico City

Before grabbing our rental car and hitting the road, we spent one night in Mexico City at the outstanding Red Tree House B&B in Condesa. I saw for myself the appeal of this hotel and why it is so highly praised. The staff is exceptionally friendly and are often interacting with guests. The inclusive evening happy hour encourages interactions between guests, creating a friendly and engaging atmosphere. I found my self seated by the fireplace with a glass of wine talking to several other guests throughout the evening as I waited for my mom to arrive. I was even invited to dinner by a very kind Canadian couple. A hotel that encourages this type of interaction between guests is rare but extremely special. I had the greatest time meeting other travelers and enjoying the marvelous space. It felt like luxury after being in a hostel for 7 weeks. If the atmosphere wasn't incredible enough, the breakfast was absolutely splendid, as you can see above.


Guanajuato

Our first full day in Guanajuato happened to also be my birthday. We had a large breakfast on our apartment's rooftop terrace in the morning sun. We spent at least an hour enjoying the space before exploring town. Guanajuato is a colorful colonial town with a notable silver mining history and today is a vibrant university town. The brightly colored buildings appear to be built almost on top of one another as they are situated one above another, climbing up the mountainsides. It is an extremely walkable town where you can see the highlights (Plaza de San Fernando, San Roque Square, Basilica de Nuestra Señora, and The University of Guanajuato ) in one full day. After seeing the sights we grabbed a bottle of wine to enjoy on the terrace only to discover our wine opener was a faulty one. After a half hour trying about ten different techniques we were able to open the bottle and enjoy a well deserved glass. We had the dinner at the highly rated Los Campos where my mom and I shared corn and jalapeño fritters to start and I had an ancho chile stuffed with braised pork in ancho salsa on a bed of creamy pearl barley with huitlacoche topped with grilled corn and nopal. I would recommend this place for its creative preparation of traditional Mexican ingredients. It was a great day and an excellent birthday that I was lucky enough to share with my mom.


Guanajuato

 

Our second full day was spent strolling through the city and relaxing in the Reforma Garden surrounded by mature, full trees. We waited until closer to sunset to take the funicular up for a gorgeous panoramic view of the city when the light was just right.


San Miguel de Allende

We decided to stay only one night in San Miguel knowing that it was much more touristic than Guanajuato. However, before we could leave Guanajuato we had to the task of retrieving our license plate from the police. We received a parking ticket and to ensure you pay the fine the police remove your license plate which you then have to retrieve at the station. It wasn't immediately obvious that we were missing our plate. We saw that we had a ticket but it wasn't until later that we noticed the took the plate! Knowing the police station was difficult to find we took a cab to pay our ticket and retrieve our license plate. We got our plate back but then we had another problem...we didn't have our car for them to screw back on our license plate. We decided that at the first service station we saw we'd stop and see if they had a screw driver to reinstall the plate. Luckily we didn't have to even go that far, as soon as we drove the rental car out of the garage there was a young boy on the sidewalk, with a screw driver in hand, removing rims from tires. We stopped in the middle of the road, asked him if he could help us, and one minute later he had a few extra bucks and we had our license plate back on our car! 

 After and hour and a half drive through arid farmland dotted with cattle and cacti, we made it to San Miguel. There is a large number of retired Americans and Canadians who own property here so it feels less like an authentic Mexican town but the architecture is beautiful nonetheless. The uniformly warm toned buildings and their well kept state means just simply strolling the streets makes for an enjoyable afternoon. As the sun began to set, people came by the hundreds to gather by the Jardín Principal, in front of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, for a live orchestra performance honoring the revolutionist Ignacio Allende. The present moon hung overhead and 500 people seated in chairs and throughout the garden proudly listened to the music, often excitedly singing along if a Mexican favorite was played. It was a very special moment to witness Mexican patriotism and pride for their down as they celebrated their town's revolutionary hero that helped Mexico gain their independence. 


Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

From San Miguel we left for the butterfly reserve in the western state of Michoacan. Here is where the millions of monarch butterflies from all of North America migrate every winter. This is the world's largest monarch migration and the monarchs all come to this and only this location to spend winter. I didn't really know what I signed us up for when I decided we'd go to the lesser known part of the reserve, but it turned out to be one of the most adventurous experiences of my trip so far. It was not an experience for your average traveler. My mom braved conditions that people my age would not have. It started off with us almost getting lost at dark in the Sierra Madre mountains and in my head I was already planning the worse case scenario where we'd have to sleep in our car until the sun came up. Luckily it didn't come to that and the next morning we dove in to the next part of the adventure which included riding horseback for an hour and a half up the incredibly rough and steep mountain side to reach a meadow where thousands of butterflies fluttered past in waves. We stayed in a tiny town with only one restaurant and one B&B which organized the tour and is doing some incredible things for both the butterflies and the people that call these mountains home. I'll be writing about this beautiful and exhilarating experience in more detail because it really needs its own post to fully share just how enriching of a time it was. 


Teotihuacán

After two weeks in Mexico City, we finally made it to the Aztec site of Teotihuacán, one of the largest premodern cities to have existed. We spent the afternoon roving up and down temples and soaking in cherished sun rays.

A visit to Teotihuacán makes for a perfect day trip from Mexico City. Getting there is only a one hour bus ride from Mexico City's Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte. To purchase your bus tickets head towards Sala (Gate) 8 where you can get a round trip ticket for 100 pesos at the counter advertising destination Teotihuacán. Bring snacks because lunch options are scarce.

Exploring Eastern Canada

Three thousand miles, two weeks, one brother. This was our trip through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Québec at the end of October, 2017. We started from Jeremy's place in Bar Harbor, Maine and made our way to Canada's Bay of Fundy where we got our first glimpse of the amazing fall foliage that was to come. We camped in the national park for two nights where we stayed up playing cards and talking to other travelers around the campfire. We drove several hours to our next destination, Cape Breton National Park, Nova Scotia. Here is where the fall colors were truly breathtaking. We had an amazing breakfast at a local bakery, The Dancing Goat, before heading to Cape Breton National Park. Cape Breton had an incredible variety of trails and we were lucky enough to see the park in all sorts of light. We made our way to Québec city after just over a week's worth of rambling through national parks.

We strolled around the old city of Québec, tried the local poutine, and ate our weight in pastries. From Québec we continued our road trip down south stopping to see great friends in PA and NC before arriving home in SC. After it was all said and done this trip had it all, family, friends, and loads of adventure.