Special Joint Post: Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year from Di & Will

From Di:
The last day of this amazing year was spent relaxing, talking, swimming, making some decisions and dealing with a migraine that haunted me last couple days.

I can't forget how thankful I have to be for 2015. I'm exploding gratitude. This is a year I don't want to forget. A year where I faced a freedom I've never experienced before. A year full of challenges that I want to tell my grandchildren. A year that I ticked many boxes in my bucket list. I know how privileged I am. Thank you.

The first day of 2016 started with a little party, wishes, phone calls, raspberry jam in crackers and it will be packed with changes, some unknown, loads of love, peace, happiness and gratitude. Wishes.

I wish you all an extraordinary 2016, full of adventures, health, happiness, love and peace. And if you can, loads of traveling. Because there is something about traveling that can range from the trivial to the transcendental or from the unpleasant to the wonderful. Whatever it is, traveling will qualify for lifetime memories that get in your skin and in your body, forever.  May 2016 begin!

From Will:
As proper explorers, we set our selves in multiple journeys throughout the year. Some in search of love, of life, of fun, of adventure, of peace of mind, of body relaxation or even in search of nothing. Just to be on the move. Here's one of my favorites.

The Saint James Path /Caminho de São Tiago. Our first journey of the year and what an adventure it was! We walked 120km from Valença do Minho, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It was the hardest physical thing I ever done in my life and I'm extremely thankful to have done it with my girlfriend. We were always there for each other to carry the weight, to share our most intimate stories, to talk about the future and our expectations. To care for each other when health was an issue. It was a very symbolic journey because it represented the year ahead but also our life ahead as husband and wife. One week after we finished the journey, we got married. And for all that I'm grateful.

2015 was such an amazing year that I have no words to describe it. Actually, I would have too many words to do so, enough to write a small book. I'll continue writing my memories on this blog and maybe one day I'll print all posts and paste them together and call it a book. How could I ask for more than this year? I fell a bit ashamed to ask for such thing considering what we just lived. Am I worth the privilege and the blessing? I have done my part of the deal but the biggest was given to me by chance. But on this trip I learned to never be afraid to dream big and follow your heart. Old clichés, I know, but like so many others of the same kind, I can finally grasp the power of the true meaning that they carry. So, without any shame or fear,  I wish that 2016 will be an even better year for us and for you than 2015 was! And for all that I'm grateful.

Hiking with friends in Bariloche!

Salve Salve El Salvador

Many times in our travels we faced indecisions. Some big but mostly small. Who has never blocked with a menu in your hands facing fifty different choices for lunch while the waiter waits pen and paper in hand ready to take your order just to be sent away and come back in two more minutes? It's a trivial thing but too many choices and options can overwhelm us. Too many choices can even be a paradox! And this is actually one of most tiresome things about traveling long term. Well, we were facing another of those decision blockages and the topic was going to El Salvador. We wanted to go but were not sure. There were many options for us to get there, a long bus ride from Guatemala City, an expensive flight from Cancun. Where to stay so that the transport connections were easy. What to do once we were there. It usually takes us a couple of hours of research, looking for the details and trying out several scenarios to come up with a satisfying decision. Some times we have to set it aside and sleep over it, to let our subconscious think over it while we rest our conscious minds. We were in Cancun's Airport after coming back from Cuba and did a big price research for tickets to our possible destinations. In the end it was more economic to fly from Cancun to Guatemala City, spend a night there and take an early bus to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

El Salvador is the home country of a couple very good friends of ours so they gave us great tips on what to do and some contacts of friends to meet there. The country has famous beaches for surfing and Di and I wanted really badly to try some surf lessons. But the central american country is also famous for its violence and insecurity. If you do a quick Google search online on the country a torrent of nasty news and statistics can flood and wash off anyone's enthusiasm. Things get real while traveling around Central America and in El Salvador it was going to get as real as it could get. Can you feel the adrenaline rising?

First stop, San Salvador! Big messy capital city like many others. Nothing special about the city itself. There were only a few scratched gems to be savored: the most chaotic and messy city center that I've seen in Central America, comparable to South-East Asian countries. It was so terrible that it deserves this special mention because it set the bar a little lower so that is that. I also bought a stolen BlackBerry Z10 from the street market so I could do some app development. Hey, I didn't know it was stolen! There are tons of stands selling old used phones, I was genuinely fooled. On the positive side, still on the hell-center, Iglesia El Rosario an exquisite church, disappointingly ugly from the outset but with one the coolest interpretations of the Passion of Christ I've ever seen and colorful windows. Also great was the hostel we stayed in with a great kitchen so we took advantage of it and cooked our own dinner most nights. Seriously … this was a big highlight! Nothing like cooking your own simple meal after months of just eating in restaurants and cafés. It was a quite relaxing stay. And to top it all, we met with the sister of our good friend! She and her boyfriend took us to see the big volcano close to the city and to some awesome restaurants. We finished the night with a nice dinner in a small typical neighborhood. Having local company is great for going to the sweet special spots in a city, what to eat, the local stories and their personal thoughts on their environment. They even took us to eat Pupusas, a typical dish from Central America, which was delicious. Thanks a lot Celina, Paulina and Eugenio. Next, we headed to the beach.

Doing my thing at the El Salvador Monument

Swarms of pigeons on old City Center Square!

At the crater of the Boquerón volcano crater with our local friends

The genuine church El Rosario

The city's coat of arms

Plaza Futura, a modern complex of offices, square and entertainment
After a three hour long trip on chicken buses full of people and other miscellaneous cargo we arrived at El Tunco, a beautiful beach and surfer's village, very touristic and specially popular with Israelis. Tiny and unapologetically quiet. I could feel time passing by lazily, the breeze gently blowing and the sun slowly warming up everything. Just the waves seemed out of sync with the vibe of the place since they were vigorous and frequent. The beach in El Tunco was unique to me because it had many many loose rocks, rounded and smooth by the constant grinding. You could hear the grumbling sound of hundreds of rocks rolling around whenever a wave hit the sand. Uber relaxing sound the harmony between rock, water and sand.
The big volcanic rock formation at El Tunco beach
The rocks and waves forming sound in perfect harmony

One really early morning we started our first surfing class. Our excitement fueled our motivation but we were not really prepared for the intensity of the sport. In theory basic surfing is really simple. It takes only 5 minutes on the sand to learn all the basics of it! Now just do it on the water at the right time. I think I've never felt so out of shape in my whole life. Just paddling to the good spot was exhausting. Finding your balance on the board, and mind you it was a huge board for beginners, requires a lot of energy and some leather skin on the knees is a good bonus. After 45 minutes of intense exercise, a few glasses of salt water drunken, some rock bumping and half a wave surfed we were done. Completely done! So yeah … mission accomplished! It was hard but a lot of fun too. We headed to Playa San Blas, an even smaller surfer town close by, to continue with our training and some hardcore chilling. All my muscles were aching after surfing.

Surf class about to start. Quite easy and simple... on the sand

Exhausted smiles after the surf class :)

Out of the few places to stay in San Blas one really struck a chord in our hearts: Surf Strong. A nonprofit full surf school and hostel. It provides with free surfing classes for local kids. A personal project of Sarah, an inspiring young woman from US, and Jerson, a local surfer and entrepreneur. We stayed there a couple of days, mingled with other travelers and helped the staff with some shores, we joined the local kids surfing class and even appeared on the local TV News as they were filming a short feature of the school. These days we learned so much with Sarah and the school. How simple things are so hard to accomplish even when you're trying to do good for free, not seeking any profit. How people with a dream and a strong will can overcome any barrier, personal one or bureaucratic. Most of all, how the most beautiful happiness are the few ones found in the middle of a battle to fulfill ones dreams. Specially when it's about giving other happiness. 

But not everything were perfumed roses. The hostel was pretty basic, recommended for the hardened traveler. For instance, during the six months of the dry season all they have is brackish water. So taking a shower is salty also brushing your teeth. They do buy gallons of filtered water used exclusively for cooking and drinking. No private rooms yet and bathrooms were just usable. Like I said, for the hardened traveler. But I guarantee you, the experience you'll get is extremely rewarding. Make sure to make the most of it and volunteer for a few days or weeks. Sarah regularly needs an extra hand so don't be shy.

More surf practice. This time it was much easier!

Local community kids getting ready for class

Local TV crew filming the action

Sarah, the founder, loves what she does and she's awesome!

We only stayed a week in El Salvador and we got more than what we wanted. Definitely it had many more wonderful things to offer but we couldn't enjoy them. And all that danger that the news covered? Well, we definitely saw a lot of dodgy places and people. We took a lot of precaution and thankfully nothing bad happened to us. So if you want to visit the country just be careful and keep your eyes open, specially in the old city center of San Salvador, that most probably nothing will bad happen to you. 

We gathered our memories, pictures and feelings – all the good and the bad – and waved good bye. Digesting all these intense experience reminded us of how worthy it is to be living our dream. To that I invite to you to raise your glass and cheers!

Where are you now? Where have you been?

We had a lot of people asking us the same questions, over and over again.
Where are you? Where were you before Philippines? What's next? 

I don't blame you at all - I would have done exactly the same. We had a sort of fixed route between February and July but we changed it many many but so many times that yes it's confusing, even for me. This post is supposed to help everyone.

In order to help and influence other travelers but mainly to keep track of our own trip, we have been using a travel planner tool called Goosit.

Goosit in Halong Bay

Focused in the backpackers niche but not restrict, in its essence Goosit will help you plan a trip by offering you suggestions on what to do and showing you how to get there, by estimating the total costs of your trip and my favorite part is the fact that Goosit allows you to invite friends to participate in the planning! Are you curious to know how Goosit works? Watch this helpful video!

If you enjoy stats as much as I do, I'm sure you will also have fun with the information that Goosit compiles for you such as your costs per country, how many cities you have visit and how many Km you have travelled so far.

Are you curious to know where we have been in Asia? Check out our 3.0 Asia plan.
Are you curious to know what we did when we moved to the Americas? Check the 3.0 North And Central Americas and the current the SurAmerican plan.

As I write this post we are preparing to move on and continue exploring South America so our plan is not a real plan, or at least in the real term of a plan. Our plan is more of an unfinished book, that is constantly changing and in the writings.

I follow a blogger, an ex-lawyer, that quit her job to travel 7 years ago. Yes, Jodi is currently traveling for astonishing 7 YEARS! I have no intentions of doing that, (relax mom!!!) but I recently found this post where she talks about her ride and how she feels about the "What's next?" question.
I couldn't relate more.

"When people ask me what’s next I usually say “I don’t know”. Because I don’t. 
Because we rarely do anyhow, but when we choose a life that is so flexible, we know even less. All we have instead is the bag that is with us, the shoes on our feet, and the brainpower that pushes us to be what we want to be."
Legal Nomads, April 2015

Happy Goosit planning, everyone!

Venezuela was So Much

Last month was my Dad's 64th anniversary. “Ah wait, What? 64?”, I asked myself - ten times. I mentally subtracted the years and the age difference of my parents – multiple times. When I spoke with him, he told me joking “I’m turning 46, what do you mean?”. Yes, I'm not confused he is really 64. Even though my Dad is not travelling with us, he has been an important piece of this puzzle, of my travels, of my adventurous blood. He is the reason of my appreciation for the ones who leave everything behind and go, hunting for more. He is the reason why we went to Venezuela during our round the world trip.
When he was 14, 1951+14, his Mother and 6 brothers left a tiny little place in Portugal and joined his patriarch in Venezuela. He left Portugal illegally and after 10 days on a boat journey they arrived in Caracas. Back in the times the main motivation for immigration was already economic, adding up, a deep and long dictatorship and an imminent military service for the portuguese colonial war.

Work was a priority. That's what he did when he arrived in Caracas. Surrounded by an environment of entrepreneurs, family businesses and hardworking he became his own boss at a young age. In one of his rare visits to Portugal he met my Mom, they collected a bag full of love-letters, exchanged across the ocean, and they got married in his late 20s, 1951+28, in Portugal. They decided they would live in Portugal and after wrapping up in Venezuela, my Dad returned. It was time to start all over again, 1951+32.
My dad used to tell us the stories, show us pictures of his favourite places, pictures of family but we never really understood what was it like to live and work in Venezuela all those years. My mom never went to Venezuela and until recently that was the case to me and my sister. Yes, my sister joined us this August in Caracas. We gladly can say we went, we saw it, we took pictures, we now understand it (him) a little better.
Few of the same-kind-blood, that first arrived in Venezuela even before my Grandfather, never came back to Portugal. When we arrived we were welcomed by a family-crew that made our time in Venezuela unforgettable. They were with us all the time, caring for us, protecting us, helping us making dreams come true. I can't even think how it would have been without them. Thank you, all of you! Thanks to the Miami-family, even far away, they did it again <3!

Caracas is located in a valley and it's hectic, noisy, polluted but fascinating. As it has always been to me. From the window of the 15th floor´s we could see Mount Avila, an imposing mountain that separates the city from the Caribbean Sea and shapes most of the city’s landscape. That same window presented us the packed streets, crowded highways and the uphill neighborhoods, one morning the echo of gun shots coming from those sides were clearly audible. From the same window, a little bit to the right, Chavez's banners were unwelcoming visible too. In our adventures in the city we walked through Quinta Crespo, my Dad´s old neighborhood. We hunted for the famous Ungria, the shop where his dry-cleaning business started. We gladly ate loads of arepas, typical corn-flour bread, and we poorly made them. The stories my sister and I heard all our life couldn't be more truthful. 
Venezuela is a beautiful country. With a unique and diverse nature, 40% of its territory is protected area, from beach to mountain, from rainforest to a (mini)desert. It also hosts the world's highest waterfall, Salto Angel in its extraordinary 978m high. Deep in Canaima's National Park it took us 12h bus ride from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz, 1h airplane to Canaima, 4h ride in a curiara (motorized canoe) and finally 1h hike to arrive in the most accessible part of the falls. Swimming in the small pool that forms below it was rewarding and hard to get to.

Don't be fooled by the beauty, Venezuela is unfortunately dangerous. One lives concerned, worried most of the time: your phone, your wallet, your clothes, your shoes, your life. As my father tells, around 1951+26 what was supposed to be a family weekend outside of Caracas' outskirts became an experience of survival. My Dad, his brother, uncle and cousin were robbed, kidnapped and their car hijacked. After hours of driving with no clear direction, the bandits dropped them in the middle of a pitch dark Venezuelan jungle. They thought they were going to be "shot and left to the crows", but no violence was used and they were just left behind, unharmed. Their next challenge was to find their way back, and walked for hours reaching eventually the closest pueblo, safely. Economically, the explosive and powerful country that my Dad once lived and spoke about is nowadays in imminent collapse. The economy is weak, drained, exhausted. International companies are retracting investment, (hyper)inflation is pushing small business owners to shut the door, the supermarkets lack basic products, the tourists come visit less and less. The current exchange rate is a total joke - in the black market 100 BsF, the largest country's bill, was worth 14cents of a dollar at the time. The legislative elections upcoming December (if they occur) are, to many, the last opportunity they have to hope for a change. Many, though, are already hopeless.
Venezuela is the beauty and the beast. The incredible extraordinary nature. The potential. The family history. The endurance and fear in the future. The absence of political sovereignty. The terrible economic vision and strategy. All so hard to balance and accept. Venezuela's dualities makes my chest hurt.
Eventually I realized with this trip, 1985+30, a deeper and important side of myself. With no intentions of doing so, all these years I've been ignoring a crucial side of my father's life. I realize now how influenced he was by the many years of that south american way-of-life. That Venezuela inspired his entrepreneurship and his family-business mindset. His constant fight for more and better, the ambitious and risky decisions he takes in nowadays, have been urged by many years of daring. It took me long to know the Venezuela from nowadays, by myself. But this Venezuela ignited my consciousness and respect. Now, I know (a little) better. I know that my Dad is aging, I know I'm greatly proud of his story and I'm so thankful of all he teaches me. I´m so intensively grateful.

Sooner or later , that moment should arrive for most adult children: the startling realization that the father or mother aged. Lionel Shriver, So Much for That

Few words to Cuba

I've been trying to write about Cuba for a long time now without success. I'm not quite sure if it's because of the duality I felt while moving around but it has been very hard for me to express my feelings about the Caribbean Island. Perhaps it's because it was just so...Everything was just so different! The decay of beautiful buildings, the amount of people lining up for milk or bread, the highly educated people we met, the lack of opportunities they have, the buzzing street nightlife, the music, the rum, the beautiful blue sea, the many happy people and their smiles, the heatwave that never went away or the mini-tiny supermarkets with empty shelves.

I was blown away by the country but when was time to leave I found myself happy, deeply relief, that I was able to do so.

I feel puzzled. While I'm trying not to forget all I experienced and at the same time expressing it somehow, I decided to say less about Cuba and instead let the photos do the talking for me.


My favorite moment of the day was when the sun was about to set and everyone was coming outside. The chit-chat between neighbors, the vendors calling for some additional pesos, the kids playing barefoot. The street life in Havana was truly unique and inspiring! 
Paseo del Prado footballers
Classics in Havana
At the back, El Capitolio, currently under renovations.
Built 103 years after the Capitol in Washington, the Cuban building used to be the house of the Government until the 59´s Cuban revolution. As a fun fact, like our proud guide mentioned to us, El Capitolio´s dome is 3,7m (12feet) taller than the American version.
Due to decades without maintenance many buildings in Havana are decaying and deteriorating, as this one even though we found a city in reconstruction as a result of UNESCO´sponsored programs. Tourism and the increase of demanding tourists has been pointed as an important reason for the shift in mindset. 
From the 12 days we were in Cuba, we only stayed in Casas Particulares - private houses licensed to host tourists. This is Centro Havana, the neighborhood we stayed. A very convenient location, easy to walk anywhere.

La Bodeguita Del Medio is a very famous restaurant-bar in Old Havana.
Back in the 40´s this was the only bar that was not located in a street-corner and therefore it was named the bar in the middle by one the its many famous personalities/customers.

Old Havana packed with tourists and young artists. The former seeking a shade from the flaming sun and the later a small extra coin.
The '59 Revolution's leader respected and adored by all. 

With 72000 square meters the Plaza de la Revolución is surrounded by the National library and many government ministry buildings. This Che Guevara tribute is the Ministry of Interior building, where once he worked as a member of the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution, PURSC.

In Havana is still all about Revolution. Always. Maybe it will be forever.

Sunset in the Malecón, a seaside walk connecting Centro Havana and Old Havana. 
"Do you want to meet more Cubans? Just walk the Malecon in the evening, that's where we go for fun", told us our great guide Juan Carlos.
The view from our casa particular, a 17th floor apartment in Centro Havana. 
A city representing the country - fighting to open the doors and at the same time keep its identity. 

Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara and Varadero

Cienfuegos main square. A peaceful seaport city with beautiful historical buildings but little to do and see. 

Cuban Carnival in Trinidad.
The cobblestone streets, the colorful colonial buildings and the nature close by make Trinidad a charming city to stay for few days.
A steam engine train travels the distance between Trinidad and Valle dos Engenios almost everyday.
Havana looked like a paradise compared with the conditions some people lived in Trinidad´s countryside.
Los Ingenios Valley, the center of sugar production from the 18th century until late 19th.
We took the picture from the top of the Manaca Ignaza tower, after a 136 steps climb and a much needed rest.
The Manaca Ignaza tower was built to observe and control the slaves working in the sugarcane fields.
Santa Clara was an important base for the ´59 Revolution and there are many, many Revolution's points to visit across the city. This is Che Guevara's Monument and Mausoleum. 
Varadero is the Cancún of Cuba. Resorts, all inclusive deals, catamarans and yachts, luxurious villas and a lot of tourists.
Do not expect to see the real Cuba in Varadero but it worth to see the deep blue sea of the Caribbean.

I know that I still did some talking about Cuba, but I guess that´s it. Go and see it by yourself, I'm sure we can talk about it after.