1 if by land, 2 if by sea, 3 if by air, 4 if a combination of all these modes of transportation

Our ticket to Medellin, Colombia is a one-way ticket.  We want to travel overland throughout all of South America for one year after arriving.  The plan is to end up in Venezuela or all the way back in Colombia again in October 2012 to end the adventure.

Then how are we going to get home?

We have two options:

The Boring Option:  Buy a one-way flight ticket back to the states from Venezuela or Colombia.  Lame.

The Fun Option:  Continue the traveling over land and sea!  A little geography for you–there is a small section of rainforest connecting Colombia and Panama (South America and Central America) called The Darien Gap.  According to Wikipedia (which is not always reliable, I know) “The Darien Gap is a large swath of undeveloped swampland and forest separating Panama‘s Darién Province in Central America fromColombia in South America. It measures just over 160 km (99 mi) long and about 50 km (31 mi) wide. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive, and the environmental toll is steep. Political consensus in favor of road construction has not emerged, and consequently there is no road connection through the Darién Gap connecting North/Central America with South America. It is therefore the missing link of the Pan-American Highway.”  While some brave/idiotic souls have successfully trekked through the Darien by jeep or on foot, every source I’ve ever read strongly advises travelers NOT to attempt it.  Not only is there no road, making it a long, hot, and difficult trek, but the geography, isolation and lawlessness of the area makes it a perfect passage for drug traffickers, guerilla groups, and other unsavory characters.  Basically, you’re just asking to be kidnapped or killed if you enter the area.  Not to be melodramatic, but you’d have to have a death wish to go there.  NO ONE DOES IT.

So, those problems make getting back to the US entirely overland impossible.  But what you CAN do is take a BOAT from Colombia to Panama!  Although there’s no commercial service, it is apparently very common for travelers to catch rides on private sailboats going from Cartagena, Colombia to Portabelo, Panama.  The trip takes 4-5 days, and you usually get to stop at some paradise-like beaches in the San Blas islands on the way.  As someone who’s never been sailing for more than a few hours, that trip just sounds like such an adventure!  The cost for the passage is usually around $300 per person.  Then, once we arrive in Panama, we can easily take buses all the way through Central America to arrive back in the US, and see more beautiful and new places along the way!  Zach calculated the estimated cost of bussing it all the way back to Texas from Panama to be about $400. So, with the $300 boat ride and the $400 busses, that fits perfectly into our $700 return trip budget.  What that doesn’t include, however, is money for food and accommodations all through Central America.  What it will come down to is whether or not we have enough extra money to afford those living expenses while extending our trip through Central America.  If we’ve got the money, we’ve got the time!

Obviously, I’m all for the FUN way to get back!  It’s a long way off, but I’m definitely planning to try to live a little under-budget all through South America so that we can afford to add Central America on to the end!  Let’s hope it can happen!

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Clarifying Our Goals

It recently came to my attention that despite all the blogging we’ve done, the main goals of our trip/documentary are still kind of unclear.  That’s a problem!  Despite the fact that our trip is largely unplanned as far as day-to-day specifics, we need to have a solid overall purpose.  So I forced myself to sit down and write out the three main elements of our project.  I hope this helps you understand the project more!  Here they are:

1. Volunteering:  WWOOFing is something that we are all very excited about.  I know it is agricultural volunteering vs. working mainly with people, BUT many of these farms are benefiting local communities in awesome ways (e.g. teaching sustainable agriculture to villagers, starting income-generating activities in their areas, and helping prevent environmental degradation (which is a HUGE problem in south america)).  WWOOFing is going to provide us an opportunity to help on organic farms, learn all about their methods so we can spread our knowledge, and get to know the local people.  As far as volunteering in orphanages and other places, we DEFINITELY plan to do that.  But from everything I’ve read, the easiest way is to just GO and find places that accept help once we’re there.  Many organizations that organize volunteers like this charge a huge overhead (which doesn’t go back to the community) and are merely cookie-cutter volunteer tourism which is very questionable as far as actual impact and sustainability.  I feel like these trips are a great way to start volunteering, but that I am past that now that I have more knowledge of global development.  We will have a more authentic experience by having our couchsurfing hosts and the locals we meet help us find smaller places we can volunteer (there are TONS of opportunities beyond those few that are big/rich enough to have an online presence in the U.S.).  So a huge part of our trip and the documentary will be about volunteering.

2.  Learning: In all my trips and volunteer experiences I have learned so much more than I have taught or contributed.  I have learned more than in my entire college career through traveling.  It is amazing.  We are going to learn a new language, new cultures, see new sights, learn how to survive in developing countries, learn new skills, learn about farming, etc. etc.  That’s why the trailer emphasizes our desire to learn more than the volunteering aspect.  I feel now that’s it’s actually naive and pretentious to assume that we will HELP SO MUCH and do SO MUCH GOOD, when in reality we will be the ones gaining so much knowledge.  The documentary will emphasize the power of travel as education and encourage others to travel.

3.  Self-discovery through travel: Do you remember your early 20s?  I don’t think it’s uncommon at our age to be slightly unsure of yourself, not sure of what path you want to take, questioning the status quo and struggling to realize WHO YOU ARE.  Is that a bunch of psychobabble or do you remember feeling like that?  Well, we think that travel is a great way to experience the world and help define who you are and what you want to do in life.  As Melissa says in the trailer “The 3 of us really want to DO something; we don’t feel satisfied with the idea of graduating college and starting a career in America right away.”  So if we don’t feel satisfied doing that and we have the opportunity to do something different, why wouldn’t we?  I count my blessings every day that I am in a position with no debt and nothing holding me here and that I am ABLE to do this.  I think God wants us to follow our dreams, rather than stick with what “most people” do just because it is normal.  We expect to learn a lot about ourselves and the documentary will tell the story of our psychological journeys of self-discovery, as well as our physical journey.

I know that these goals still sound a little vague, but it’s impossible to really plan such a long adventure down to the details!  We are so excited to see what happens as we go with these goals in mind!

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