One Month: Three Countries

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It started with our move back from Uganda at the end of 2013. We had a few months before we had to settle in and so we took the trip I had been dreaming about for years. One month in Central America, three countries, come what may. We had lodging booked in select locations and that was it. We strapped on our bags with no plans of what we’d do, who we’d meet or what we’d discover in these new places. Vamos!'

Dallas > Panama City > Managua. Nicaragua is a steamy country where the coffee is rich and dark, the beer is light and mercifully cold, the horse-pulled carts walk alongside the people and cars. New and old meld together here. We traveled the country by chicken bus, which (in our case) can be defined as: an old school bus from America, doused in color, bags on the racks on top and blaring Latin tunes so no one misses you coming. It’s that sort of crazy, comical thing that makes you feel alive when you travel. We wandered streets, cafes, churches, beaches, taking in all the color and flavor of this place. This place that is wide open with dramatic volcanoes and clear blue skies, slow traditional life and modern life intertwining, music coming from everywhere.


Managua > Panama City > Guatemala City. Guatemala is a country of massive, green volcanoes. Everywhere. It’s high in elevation, lush, warm in the daytime, cool in the evenings, full of corn tortillas and has the most rich, colorful and detailed textiles weaving culture I’ve ever seen. We started in Antigua, an impossibly beautiful colonial-style town that you can hardly believe actually exists. I kept hearing of town names associated with the textiles I was drawn to so we took o for a few days to explore the lake area. Lake Atitlan is one of most traditional areas of Guatemala, using natural dyes, back strap looms and brocade weaving patterns passed down from their ancestors. These traditional weaves are especially fascinating since each town in Guatemala has a distinct style and weave to their huipiles (shirts) and cortes (skirts). A huipil, the more detailed part of the out t, can take anywhere from three months to a year to complete and women only have two or three ever at one time. Although they are made in the general traditional design of their town, each piece is slightly different because it tells a distinct story about the woman. To her, it’s a therapeutic art form. It makes me wonder how much of my clothing, my accessories, my home decor tells that sort of story. This is where Ara Collective was born.

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Guatemala City > Mexico City. We have both lived in Mexico for work or school at one point so we made a point to steer away from what we knew and to head south. The northern and southern parts of Mexico are vastly different, in geographic landscape, food, music, culture and political attention. Southern Mexico is still quite remote, slower paced and rich in Mayan culture. We had one road to follow through the vast, mountainous state of Oaxaca as we headed to its highlands state capitol, Oaxaca City. It is an UNESCO world heritage site and full of extraordinary handmade textiles, ceramics and rugs-rugs-oh-the-rugs. The pace is slower in Oaxaca and while farmland is given to residents of this state, there are very few good roads, farming technology or money coming in and out to make much of their land. As in most third-world countries, the farther away people are to the capitol city the farther away they are from government attention, resulting in less money, assistance and development. We also saw this as we continued to the southern-most state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala and is one of the most beautiful land I’ve seening all of North America.

The driving part of our Mexico chapter was a delightful surprise of the month. There is such diversity in Mexico’s landscapes and weather, much like driving through the States. From our car windows, views changed by the hour — soft rolling hills, cactus-covered deserts, dramatic mountains and valleys, ranges for as far as the eye can see, clear blue lakes, rocky grasslands in white then orange then purple, jungles and swamps, cold and dry alpine forests, fog-covered passes, tropical lowlands in crazy bright greens.

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This is what I love about travel.

Travel is the book you haven’t read. It teaches you things you would have never dreamed. It let’s you in on a history, craft, flavor and lifestyle that you didn’t know existed. The world is rich beyond imagination, the talents people have are astounding and the sights are unfathomable.

traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. |

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Travel is a breath-taking experience, the kind that changes you. You’re still you and carry with you all those hopes, fears, ticks, past stories... but something shifts when you start seeing things differently. It changes the way you see what is worth letting go of and what is worth running after, what is possible and even maybe what you love.

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