Saturday, August 04, 2007

Rachel is Home After Two Months in Central America

Last night my 24-year-old daughter, but still daddy’s little girl, just returned safely from a two-month trek through Central America. She spent a month on a farm in Costa Rica growing organic peppers and shade-tree coffee, and then she toured Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. She and her friend Sydney, with little money, heavy backpacks, and a couple good guidebooks went where their inspiration took them. They had a wonderful and a challenging experience. They climbed active volcanoes, snorkeled in the Caribbean, ate new foods, visited the Mayan ruins at Copan, and met a native shaman. In Granada, Nicaragua she set in a central city park and enjoyed the stunning Spanish architecture, brightly- painted pastel-colored buildings, horse drawn carriages, and just watched the world drift by. And, she had to navigate bus schedules in a foreign language and do the day-to-day things one must do when doing independent travel and along the way met new people and had unplanned experiences, gained new insights, and made memories that will last a lifetime.

I was concerned about her safety when she told me she was thinking about making this trip. The region still has political unrest and anywhere where two young girls travel alone they are Vulnerable. But, I did not try to talk her out of it. We explored the State Departments web sites together and talked about where she might not want to go, and we talked about taking reasonable precautions. I told her that if she got sick, I would fly her home or if kidnapped, I would try to raise the ransom.

Once a person starts raising a family and working, it is difficult to take two months off and experience a foreign country. I would advise young people just getting out of college, or otherwise with few commitments: Do it now!

It you missed your opportunity to do it while in your youth, however, and only get two or three weeks of vacations a year, you can still have an adventure. With the advent of the Internet it is easier than ever to find cheap airline deals and plan your vacation. For many years, my future wife and I took a great vacation every year. We did it cheaply, staying at Ma and Pa pensions and used public "coach-fare" transportation. For the price of two weeks in Florida, you can see the capitals of Europe or exotic third world countries. Foreign travel does not have to be expensive. It is no longer for the privileged few.

Skip the expensive planned group tour, and just go off on your on and see the world. While the planned tour is better than sitting home watching the travel channel, it is not the same experience as traveling on your on. The planned tour may rush you from museum to Cathedral and show you lots of sites, but you are not going to get that experience of being invited by a local couple to share their picnic in the shadow of an ancient ruin, or spend an evening in a Turkish tea garden with someone who wants to get to know an American couple and wants to show you local hospitality. On the planned tour, you cannot decide, “I like this place; let’s stay another day.”

If you have ever wished you could see the world, don’t put it off. Just do it. And parents, go ahead and worry about your children, but encourage them to go for that big adventure while they can. I am proud of my daughter for having the courage to get out and see the world and now that she is home, I can stop worrying.

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  1. Well said, Rodney. donmoo

  2. Enjoyed reading about Rachel's adventure, and I echo your advice to young people to "do it now." My son traveled alone with a backback around Europe and Eastern Europe with very little money, not eating in restaurants, buying his food in little markets, and sharing wonderful conversations and an occasional meal with good-hearted locals. He got off a train late one night in Rome with a terrible sinus infection and just started walking. Two blocks from the train station, and across the street from a very large cathedral, he found an open pharmacy where the pharmacist gave him the antibiotics he needed to continue his remarkable journey. And yes, as a parent, you do worry (and read State Department updates every day), but life is meant to be lived, as my son often reminds me, and his experiences were invaluable.

  3. thanks dad. nicely said. honored i made your blog. but let me get this straight, you say you have stopped worrying about me? ha. little do you know, i'm planning my next trip!! much, much love. rach

  4. I wonder how you got so good. This is really a fascinating blog, lots of stuff that I can Get into. One thing I just want to say is that your Blog is so perfect!