Alberta always sounded like nothing but oil fields and tall mountains until I flew out west one year to visit my sister. Much to my surprise, there is much more to this province than meets the eye. From desert cacti and dinosaur bones to bison, elk, and glacier lakes this province has it all. Here is a totally non-comprehensive list of some things to do while you’re there.
Part four of my introduction to travel continues as we grab a bus into El Salvador and take introductory surf lessons on a rocky beach in El Tunco. The bus ride is long and twists and winds through mountainous territory and dusty towns on the way to our destination. We pass cows wandering through the streets, small seaside restaurants and beautiful scenery while listening to a Spanish radio station that cuts in and out as we round curves in the road. When we finally arrive in the small town of El Tunco, it is late in the day and we try to find a hostel. There is one available for about $20 a night and we decide to take it despite the fact that it doesn’t have air conditioning. Big mistake. Our first night in El Salvador is very hot. Being that close to the ocean, the humidity is almost unbearable after the higher elevation found in Guatemala. I consider sleeping outside on a hammock but decide against it due to mosquitoes.
By now you’ve heard of the Canadian government’s decision to give Omar Khadr 10.5 million dollars and a formal apology from the government for his mistreatment in Guantanamo Bay and the government’s subsequent mishandling of his case. You’ve probably heard both sides of the debate. On one side, we hear the conservative appeal to reason and outrage over giving a convicted terrorist millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. On the other, we hear the more liberal appeal to empathy for a child soldier that was pushed into bomb making at an early age. You are probably expecting me to take a side in this debate, but instead I would like to give a different perspective.
Guatemala. The name had a mysterious ring to it and I pondered what might lie ahead as we drove down the bumpy dirt road from Belize to the border of Guatemala. The landscape instantly changed from flat sugar cane fields to mountainous jungle at the border, and I welcomed the change of scenery. I didn’t know it at the time, but the experiences I had there would become the inspiration for a novel, The Beginning of Knowledge.
I caught her totally off guard. The sun was setting behind the peaks of the Andes Mountains and the clouds caught the radiance of the dwindling daylight. One star appeared overhead followed shortly after by another. The Sound of Silence played in the distance via a speaker our guide had set up in his cabin. Looking into the distance we could just see the stone staircases of Machu Picchu before they faded into darkness, while the birds chirped a cheerful goodnight. We felt clean and refreshed after our first shower in days after hiking the Salkantay pass and tenting it on the trail. The Llaqtapata Lodge was a five star resort in comparison. She turned away to notice the stars. I got down on one knee and pulled out the custom ring that I smuggled into Peru in the bottom of my backpack.
Shortly after I turned 24 I started travelling. It should’ve been earlier, I know, but prior to this all I was really interested in was the occasional road trip or camping trip to some of the destinations within a few hours or days drive of my house. I got to know a few of the local sites, but I never really stepped outside of my comfort zone to experience something totally new until a buddy of mine invited me to fly down to Mexico to meet him for a backpacking trip through Central America. This post is a continuation of that story. See part one here.
We all start somewhere. Even the most experienced traveller amongst us has a first independent trip or a moment in time when they realized that travelling is really all they wanted to do. For me, it was Central America. I bought a one way ticket to Mexico to meet a buddy of mine and when I finally returned home I knew I was a different person. With Facebook sending me daily memories about this trip (it’s just past the four year anniversary since I left) I figured it was time to dig back through my journals and publish a few entries from that first time I left home. Here it is.
Here’s the thing. I’m from a small town. And like a lot of people from small towns, I have heard miniscule Trump-isms coming from the people around me my entire life. Some things are as innocent as “I’ve heard it’s really dangerous to travel to (insert any unknown country)" to overtly racist comments from your neighbour’s Uncle Bill that I probably shouldn’t repeat. I blame it on ignorance. See, it’s easy to fear something that you don’t understand. When you have a leader who plays on those fears and promises to protect you from the unknown evil in the world, it’s easy to support him.
A place of commerce and tourist traps juxtapositioned against the philosophy of Buddhism, Thailand has more ways of getting your money than the vendors on Khao San Road. That being said, you can vacation here fairly cheap if you know what to watch out for.
My first impression of Spain was Barcelona, a city like many others, yet different and enchanting at the same time. Gaudi architecture and new age graffiti clash and mesh like the independent Catalan nationals and their Spanish counterparts in a contentious battle over independence that has somehow been halted for an afternoon siesta and tapas. But it was not this city we came to see; our destination was an hour plane ride out into the Mediterranean Sea to the island of Mallorca. Here we rented a car and drove across the island to Artá, a small town not far from the northwest coast. We had previously made arrangements with our couch surfing host Gerard, and it was here where we were to meet him.
Jonathan Beam is a writer, traveller and real estate investor that is passionate about living a life that is totally on his terms!