Month six: Pretending to live in New York

Places visited: Washington DC, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), New York (New York!), Massachusetts (Boston)

I’m squishing Boston into this post, even though technically it happened in Month Seven.

Favourite things: Spy museum in DC, Eastern State Penitentiary, seeing Manhattan for the first time, meeting Tom at the airport, the High Line, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, cycling around Central Park

Worst things: My credit cards. Bane of the trip.

Modes of transport: Car, taxi, bike, ferry, bus, metro, plane!

Books read: A little house binge! Little Town on the Prairie, Those Golden Happy Years, The First Four Years. Also Dark Tower 4, 5 & 6, The Circle, A Walk in the Woods

Best/weirdest food: Knish! Love it. Also more exquisite ice cream flavours, pretzels, roasted vegetables (I was so pleased with this that as I sat eating it, watching Masterchef, I was smugly convinced that it would beat any of their creations).

Things lost:

Things bought: Books! Presents, deoderant, magazines

Injury/illness: Mild nausea, mild sunburn, stomach pain.

American restaurants/shops visited: Dunkin Doughnuts, Pats (philly cheese steak staple), Wendy’s

So that’s that! Although, not quite. I’ve got so much more to say about this trip, and there are a fair few more list – type posts in the pipeline. I’ve always enjoyed writing more reflective pieces than the typical ‘this was Place A and all the things I did there’ ones, and what better time to reflect than after half a year away from home?

Month five: Adventures in the deep South

This month was the first in a while where I heard ‘Why would you want to go there?!’ about some of my destinations. But visiting the American South was one of the parts of this trip I was most excited about, and it didn’t disapoint.

Some of these places I wanted to visit to get a taste of a different kind of life. The accent, music and food also contributed. Some I just booked tickets to based on recommendations from other travellers.

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I faced two big fears; navigating US roads, and doing stand up comedy. I met some wonderful people Couchsurfing.

Although I’ve loved a lot of it, this has also been one of the months I have found the hardest; I’ve felt emotionally fragile, and, at times, insubstantial.

Places visited: Texas (Austin, San Antonio), Louisiana (New Orleans), Mississippi (Jackson), Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville), North Carolina (Asheville), Georgia (Savannah), South Carolina (Charleston), Washington DC

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Modes of transport: Megabus, Greyhound, Amtrak, taxi, car, truck, bike (eeek!)

Favourite things: all of Austin, making friends in New Orleans, listening to bands in Nashville

Worst things: Struggling to find accommodation, camera lead finally giving up the ghost, that night where I may or may not have been sitting in a recent crime scene (homicide)

Books read: Dark Tower 2 & 3, The Long Winter, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Program

Illness and Injury: homesickness/stress, mosquito bites

Things I miss most: British sense of humour, drinking Pimms in beer gardens on sunny days, people getting excited about summer, road signs that actually make sense, COOKING

Items bought: New watch, books, soap, tynelol, headband, toothpaste, moisturiser

Items lost: My watch.  Having to carry my travel clock around in my pocket like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

Interesting/amazing food: The south was the first place I experienced truly good food in America. Until July I had been significantly underwhelmed.

I have tried catfish poboys, grits and delicious cornbread. Barbeque in Memphis, fried chicken the way its meant to be done. Great apple pie and a range of insane deserts. Coca cola cake. Birthday cake flavoured ice cream. Oh yes, that’s a thing. Sweet tea. So many sweet things. Breakfast all day.

I ate particularly well in Charleston, if anyone happens to be heading that way.

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American shops/ restaurants visited: Jack in the Box, Walmart (terrifying!!), Sonic (drive in diner), Trader Joes

Up next in my sixth and final month, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. I fly home on the 6th of September.

Month four: into the States

So this month I finally made it to the USA! I’m having an incredible time, and still have so much to see! I’m going to have to come back, there’s already a list of things and states I’ll visit in the future.

Places visited: Mexico (Oaxaca, Mexico City), California (Los Angeles,  San Francisco,  Yosemite), Nevada (Las Vegas), Arizona (Flagstaff, Tucson)

Modes of transport: Plane, metro, train, megabus, greyhound, taxi, car

Best things: Cycling around Oaxaca, Orange County, Berkeley, floating down the Merced river in Yosemite (actually all of Yosemite – it’s making the Best of the Whole Trip list), seeing the Grand Canyon

Worst things: First few days in Mexico. It says something that the worst I’ve experienced since coming to the USA is sore legs from too much walking and getting lost a couple of times!

Books read: The Friday Night Knitting Club, Black and Blue, Dune 2, The Gunslinger, Addition, The Corrections

Best thing I brought: finally used my spork, so it’ll have to be that

Things I’ve bought: Another T-shirt (but it’s really cool! From a local artist in Oaxaca), yellow pencil skirt from a thrift store, books (too many books, it’s starting to really weigh my backpack down), new toothbrush, shampoo, suncream, tablet (I gave in, it’s so hard to find internet here!), headphones. It’s a lot this month, hopefully I’ll have got over being able to buy nice things again soon.

What I should have brought: more travel wash! It hardly exists in the US

Injuries and illness: my first cold of the trip, cracked feet

American shops/restaurants/ diners visited: Safeway (!), Walgreens, Popeyes, Panda Express, Chicken and Waffles, Goodwill, Barneys, Macy’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Dairy Queen, Forever 21, In N Out, Target

Coming up in month five: music capital of the world, New Orleans, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Month three: the halfway point

I am officially halfway through, and about to say goodbye to Central America – a hotter, noisier, more playful kind of place than I ever imagined. I’m going to miss crazy travelling salesmen on buses, drivers honking hello at their friends, colourful markets and the patience of locals with my Spanish.

Places visited: Costa Rica (Cahuita, La Fortuna, Monteverde), Nicaragua (Isla Ometepe, Granada, Lagoa Ayopa, Leon), El Salvador, Honduras (Copan Ruinas, La Florida), Guatemala (Chiqimula, Flores, Tikal, Lanquin, Antigua, San Marcos la Laguna, Xela)

Currencies: Dollars, Cordobas, Lempiras, Quetzales

Time differences: -7 GMT all the way

Modes of transport: Taxi, tuk-tuk, car, shuttle bus, ferry, bicycle, jeep, chicken bus

Favourite things: Chicken buses! Travelling with Emily, the sloth sanctuary, rappelling down a waterfall, getting my hair cut, Leon, Antigua (a prettier, wider, easier Cusco), the lagoon inside La Fortuna volcano, Tikal ruins (very, very impressive), bat caves at Lanquin.

Worst things: Nicaraguan street harassment, Copan Ruinas town (spent the vast majority of my two days there crying), thinking I would have to spend an entire seven-plus hour bus journey stood up (a kind man gave me his seat after a few hours), Zephyr Lodge (abysmally run hostel in Lanquin, Guatemala).

That sounds like a lot on reflection, but I have really enjoyed my time here. It´s ridiculously beautiful, for one thing, and I´ve met some really nice people along the way. And it´s all a learning curve for future travels.

What I should have brought: Needle and thread, although patching can only go so far.

Items bought: T-shirt, earrings, foldable toothbrush, bag (to replace broken backpack), book

Items lost: Ipod. Although it was actually stolen, by another traveller.

Illness and injury: loss of appetite, bruised/broken (?) toe, scratches, mosquito bites, peeling skin, sunburn.

Books read: The Speed of Dark, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, On the Road to Rouen, The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Oryx and Crake.

Strange/ Interesting food: Chicken, rice and tortillas on the back of a very crowded, sweaty bus, or the same meal served in someone´s kitchen, by candlelight (no electricity), both eaten with my hands.

Best food: Rosemary chicken in Antigua, pancakes in Grenada at Kathy´s Waffle House. I did develop quite a taste for tortillas as well. Slightly concerned that I might be becoming addicted to Coca Cola.

Best hostels: Costa Rica Backpackers, Tortuga Balooda (Leon, Nicaragua)

Coming up in month four: I have ten days in Mexico before I fly into California. I am so excited and unexpectedly nervous. It´s going to be different.

Month two: Crossings

Month two has been wonderful. I’ve met many more travellers from all over the world, improved my Spanish and made an ocean crossing. I am still scared of bugs.

Places visited: Peru (Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lima), Colombia (Bogota, Cartagena), Panama (San Blas islands, Panama City, David, Alimarante, Bocas del Toros), Costa Rica (Puerto Viejo, Cahuita).

Currencies: Nueve Soles, Colombian Pesos, Dollars/Balboas, Colones.

Time differences: -5, -6, -7 GMT.

Modes of transport: Plane, taxi, car, bus, water taxi, sailboat, chicken bus

Favourite things: Spanish lessons in Cusco, the Inca Trail, stepping onto a deserted island, everything about Panama City, seeing a sloth.

Worst things: Colombian immigration, waking up in Bocas to a powercut in the sweltering heat.

What I should have brought: Litres of insect repellent.

Items bought: T-shirt, necklace, book, sundress.

Items lost: Pants. Very upsetting.

Books read: State of Wonder, Born to Run, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Thousand Splendid Suns, How to Travel the World on $30 a Day

Illnesses and injuries: Sunburn, seasickness, carsickness, general vomiting, scrathes, insect bites of all types.

Strange/ Interesting food: Lobster out of the shell, Dairy Queen

Best food: BBQ fish on an island with coconut rice, Jamaican jerk chicken

Coming up in month three…Costa Rica and its rainforests, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Expecting a lot of volcanoes and beaches!