Archive for August 2015

Second year finances

Another year and another 10 countries behind us. How time flies!

For those interested, here’s how our budget worked out for the past year.  Actually, the numbers in the charts below cover nearly 14 months of expenses from 1 July 2014 through 28 Aug 2015.  

These numbers include everything we spent while on the road except our trip to the Galapagos, including our expenses shipping the van from Panama to Colombia. They also don’t include our home expenses such as our storage locker. Here’s how it breaks down by country:

Expenses_by_country

The per-country numbers don’t mean a whole lot. For example, Panama includes shipping the van, Peru includes new tires and batteries for the van, and Chile is where we happened to be when we paid for our health insurance for another year. Our time in Argentina includes a $700 refrigerator repair. So just because the expenses for a particular country are high doesn’t necessarily mean that country is expensive.

What I think is telling is the overall average of $94 per day. When people post the “how much should I budget” question to forums, the answer is often that $100 per day is a good ballpark figure. Our actual results support that. Based on how we travel, and the fact that there are three of us, I think two people traveling on $80/day is probably reasonable. If you have any must-see, big-ticket items on your bucket list (think Galapagos, Easter Island, or Antarctica) those are extra.

Here’s our budget by category:
Expenses_by_category

Feel free to post questions in the comments, and happy trip planning!

Worldschooling is not just for kids

There is talk in some travel circles about “worldschooling” or learning from the world around you.

These lessons often involve so much more than learning a foreign language, about the intricacies of a foreign culture or how to use a foreign currency correctly. We often like to pass on helpful tips to others so they too can benefit from what we have learned.

Thus here is one example of how worldschooling is not just for kids:

How to buy chili powder in the U.S.

  1. Go to the grocery store
  2. Find spice aisle
  3. Locate bottles of chili powder
  4. Choose one to put in your basket
  5. Go to the checkout line to pay for it
  6. Go home
  7. Start cooking

How to buy chili powder in Brazil

  1. Go to the grocery store
  2. Find spice aisle
  3. Search for bottles of chili powder 
  4. Realize that you don’t know how to translate “chili powder” into Portuguese
  5. Grab smart phone (hopefully you already have a SIM card and data plan for Brazil)
  6. Use an app to translate it
  7. Realize that the app doesn’t really translate the words correctly
  8. Look again at the shelves
  9. Realize that the store probably doesn’t carry chili powder anyway (since it’s a special blend and not part of the local culture)
  10. Debate whether to cook something different that doesn’t require it
  11. Decide to use smart phone to see if there is an easy substitute for chili powder 
  12. Find a simple recipe on the Internet for chili powder that uses 5 easily obtainable ingredients (paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin and garlic powder)
  13. Use translation app to find the Portuguese word for each of these spices
  14. Search the shelves for each of the spices
  15. Locate all the spices except for garlic powder
  16. Find garlic flakes instead of garlic powder
  17. Put each of these spices in your basket
  18. Go to the register to pay for them
  19. Go home (in our case, back to our AirBnb rental apartment)
  20. Get a bowl and a spoon out
  21. Measure out all the ingredients
  22. Use a mortar and pestle to grind up the garlic flakes into powder
  23. Mix all the ingredients
  24. Pour into your empty chili powder bottle (whose factory label helpfully lists “spices” and “salt” as the ingredients)
  25. Decide to mix up enough batches of the chili powder recipe to fill the bottle (so as not to waste ingredients and to have more chili powder for next time)
  26. Clean up your mess
  27. Start cooking!

Guess how I spent my afternoon? 😀

  

Two Amazing Weeks in Brazil

After leaving the Pantanal we drove 900 kms to the town of Atibaia near the city of São Paulo. It took us two full days to make the drive through the agricultural heartland of Brazil. There are no campgrounds along that route, but there are truck stops (called “Postos”) that offer all of the services provided by their American counterparts. We spent two nights at postos during our journey, and got lots of looks from the Brazilian truck drivers staying there.

We first met (and last saw) Robert and Grace more than 10 years ago when our paths crossed in Malawi. We only spent one night with them all those years ago, but we’ve kept in contact, and visiting them was one of the things we had to do during our travels in South America.

We were so young then!

We were so young then!

Rob and Grace welcomed us to their beautiful home and spent the weekend showing us around the area.

Rob and Grace welcomed us to their beautiful home and spent the weekend showing us around the area.

They took us to a restaurant near their house for traditional Brazilian feijoada, a rich stew based on black beans.

They took us to a restaurant near their house for traditional Brazilian feijoada, a rich stew based on black beans.

Robert cooked a us lots of great food at the house too, including this BBQ at which Quinn discovered that he loves chicken hearts!

Robert cooked a us lots of great food at the house too, including this BBQ at which Quinn discovered that he loves chicken hearts!

We drove to a mountaintop near their house where we got to watch hang gliders launching into the sky.

We drove to a mountaintop near their house where we got to watch hang gliders launching into the sky.

Quinn spent some quality train time with his electric train set.

Quinn spent some quality train time with his electric train set.

After reluctant goodbyes, we left Atibaia. Rob and Grace had convinced us that we had to see Rio, and it didn’t disappoint. Even though we only spent 2 days in the city, we got a feeling for why it’s so well known around the world. We didn’t know of anywhere we could park the van in the city, so we went to a campground outside of town and braved the two hour bus ride to an Airbnb apartment we rented near Ipanema beach. We stayed in the apartment for two nights and saw as much as we could.

The first night in the city we rode a cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain for sunset and views of the city.

The first night in the city we rode a cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain for sunset and views of the city.

The two-stage cable car deposits you atop the sheer-faced Sugarloaf Mountain. For the more adventurous, you can rope up and climb.

The two-stage cable car deposits you atop the sheer-faced Sugarloaf Mountain. For the more adventurous, you can rope up and climb.

The view from the top makes it obvious why Rio is considered one of the world's most beautiful cities.

The view from the top makes it obvious why Rio is considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

The next day we went to the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. The views were equally stunning.

The next day we went to the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. The views were equally stunning.

I could have put in a picture of the statue, but I thought it would be more fun to capture some of the people taking pictures of themselves with the statue.

I could have put in a picture of the statue, but I thought it would be more fun to capture some of the people taking pictures of themselves with the statue.

Sand artists line the Rio beaches.

Sand artists line the Rio beaches.

Rio is still a big city, and although the beaches look nice, we were advised not to swim because of poor water quality.

Rio is still a big city, and although the beaches look nice, we were advised not to swim because of poor water quality.

On our way out of the city we met up again with Adventure Trio. Together we headed southwest along the Brazilian coastline, eventually landing in the tiny beach town of Trinidade. Two nights turned into four, and we had a great time playing on the beach and sharing meals.

The quiet beach at Trinidade was very relaxing after the hustle and bustle of Rio.

The quiet beach at Trinidade was very relaxing after the hustle and bustle of Rio.

Jack was like an older brother to Quinn, and they had a great time together.

Jack was like an older brother to Quinn, and they had a great time together.

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Our campsite on the beach

Our campsite on the beach

An evening jam session

An evening jam session

Time for lunch!

Time for lunch!

Getting towed around on the boogie board was Quinn's favorite pastime.

Getting towed around on the boogie board was Quinn’s favorite pastime.

Iguazu Falls and the Brazilian Pantanal

Iguazu falls straddles the border between Argentina and Brazil, and everyone told us that it was worthwhile to see both sides. So two days after we went to the Brazilian side, we decided to cross into Argentina to visit the falls from that side of the border. We booked transport in a minibus to avoid the hassle of completing import paperwork for the van.

As luck would have it, Adventure Trio showed up at the hostel we were staying at the day before we were to go and decided to come along.

For Quinn, the highlight of the day was the train between the park entrance and the falls.

For Quinn, the highlight of the day was the train between the park entrance and the falls.

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A walkway allowed us to walk across a kilometer of river to view the Devil's Throat, the heart of the falls.

A walkway allowed us to walk across a kilometer of river to view the Devil’s Throat, the heart of the falls.

The roar and power of the falls is difficult to capture in photos.

The roar and power the falls is difficult to capture in photos.

The park featured spectacular bird life.

The park featured spectacular bird life.

A rare photo of all three members of the Sparks clan.

A rare photo of all three members of the Sparks clan.

Another view of the falls

Another view of the falls

After leaving the falls we planned to visit the Pantanal region of Brazil. This remote area is unique in that it floods to a depth of up to 3 meters during the rainy season, leaving it mostly inaccessible except for the few all-season roads that run through the area. July is the dry season, making it more easily accessible. We stayed at Fazenda (ranch) Santa Clara and went on African-style wildlife drives and treks.

Quinn looking at macaws on the way to the Pantanal.

Quinn looking at macaws on the way to the Pantanal.

Even the all-season roads are somewhat primitive.

Even the all-season roads are somewhat primitive.

Parrots were everywhere.

Parrots were everywhere.

An anaconda had eaten a chicken and taken up residence in a local barn to digest its meal.

An anaconda had eaten a chicken and taken up residence in a local barn to digest its meal.

The bird life was spectacular.

The bird life was spectacular.

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Witt and Quinn relax during a boat trip along the Miranda River.

Witt and Quinn relax during a boat trip along the Miranda River.

A cormorant takes flight as the boat approaches.

A cormorant takes flight as the boat approaches.

Caymens were in abundance.

Caymens were in abundance.

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After leaving the Pantanal, we made a side trip to the touristy town of Bonita which is famous for its rivers of crystal clear water. We didn’t spend much time there, but we did find a couple of swimming holes to enjoy.

Witt tries out the zipline at one of the swimming holes.

Witt tries out the zipline at one of the swimming holes.

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On a slow morning Witt and Quinn use the Kelly Kettle to boil water for coffee.

On a slow morning Witt and Quinn use the Kelly Kettle to boil water for coffee.

We visited a sinkhole very similar to one we saw in Mexico. This one was home to beautiful macaws

We visited a sinkhole very similar to one we saw in Mexico. This one was home to beautiful macaws

Here’s a quick video of Itiapu Dam, Iguazu Falls, and Witt doing some ziplining. Enjoy!