Wanderful

It’s no secret that I’m all about empowering women to travel (and especially solo). So when I came across Wanderful, I was immediately interested in being involved. From their site:

Wanderful is the world’s homesharing network and travel community for women, helping women travel safely and confidently through an online platform that connects them with their greatest asset – each other.

Writing Portfolio — Isabel K Thottam

Wanderful is a community of adventurous, independent women travelers that strive to connect with one another, get involved and live globally. Visit the sisterhood at sheswanderful.com.

And- I’m delighted to announce that I’m a new Wanderlust scholar! So excited to be a member of this awesome community, and looking forward to connecting with kickass women all over the world. They offer local chapters & meetups, homesharing, events & trips, and so much more.

All my ladies, check them out here.

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A Glimpse of Guatemala

February 27- March 2, 2020

Them: “Why would you want to go there?”

Me: “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t I?”

Them: “Well, isn’t it dangerous?”

That’s what I heard, almost every time I told somebody that I was traveling to Guatemala. And while it’s true that there is a high crime rate here, it should not stop you from seeing this incredible country!

But let’s be honest– I hear that reaction often, no matter the destination. As a young(ish) woman, going alone isn’t (or hasn’t always been) common.  But luckily, all the solo female travelers I know and have met are breaking that mold wide open, saying to hell with the stereotypes. Some do it to prove to others that they can, but a lot of us started traveling solo to prove it to ourselves that we could. And then we became hooked and never stopped.

Also, look at what’s happening here in my country! Terrible things can happen even at home. So anyway, back to Guatemala.

As always, do your research before visiting, (stay away from hot spots in Guatemala City), avoid traveling at night, make sure someone back home knows your location/itinerary, use licensed taxis & book transport in advance, do not carry expensive items, and be especially mindful of your belongings when out & about.

This was one of my weekend warrior travel adventures- a quick 3-4 days in the beautiful country.

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A peaceful afternoon reflection, Tanque La Unión.

I stayed in Antigua during the duration of my short trip, because it was 1. the most charming town, and 2. an easy departure point for a lot of popular day trips and other excursions. There are a lot of options for getting from the La Aurora International Airport to Antigua. For time and safety’s sake, I chose to pre-book a shuttle. There was one other woman on the shuttle, and we became quick friends. I’ll never forget both of our reactions when we first arrived in this quaint town.

You’ve probably seen the famous landmark, Santa Catalina Arch, shown below:

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Santa Catalina Archway was built in the 1800s and is a bright landmark in the town.

Cerro de la Cruz was a beautiful and totally manageable hike from the center of town. You can easily get there using your phone’s GPS, a map, or just following the signs. You have a clear view of the whole city and Volcán de Agua in front. Also, volcanoes Acatenango & Fuego will be to the side when you look out, so be sure to watch for frequent eruptions! Together, the volcano complex is known as La Horqueta.

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As far as food goes, Rincón Típico is hands down a great choice for delicious authentic food! Go early to get a spot. You’ll see women out front making tortillas. The serving size is plentiful, comes with a natural juice, and is budget-friendly.

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I don’t even have to tell you that the coffee and the chocolate from this country is just the bestttttttt. Some favorite cafes:

-Fernando’s Kaffee is delightful, with the owner’s spotlight-stealing friendly cat, Misha, who soaks in the sun

-Café La Parada, which isn’t as lovely on the inside, but has some great coffee!

-Antigua Brewing Company, because who doesn’t want to sit on a rooftop & enjoy some craft brews?

-Cafe No Se, perfect atmosphere for cocktails, great vibe & even better Mezcal

Make sure you check out a restaurant/bar with rooftop views (see photo 3, above), and try fresh mango which you can buy on nearly any street corner, and enjoy it while you people watch at Parque Central (photo 4).

Other captivating highlights include: Convento Capuchinas, Antigua Cathedral, Santo Domingo (look out for parrots!), and the ChocoMuseo!

For my day trips:

Pacaya Volcano: This was an early start, and you get the option to take a horse up if you’d like, but I chose to hike up with new friends: Susan from Australia, and Sohil & Hammad who live in Canada. It was a truly awesome group, and we watched the sun set against the lava flow & eruption clouds. Note: If you have more time, I’d definitely check out Acatenango Volcano and do an overnight tour/hike!

It’s amazing how fast that sun sinks, but isn’t it breathtaking at every point in the day/night?

Lake Atitlán & surrounding villages: I had a couple friends who stayed at the lake, and had I had more time, I probably would’ve done the same.

We visited San Pedro, San Juan, and Santiago. Our departure point was Panajachel. Be prepared for bold colored crafts, blue stretch of water as far as you can see, and sweeping views of Atitlán volcano. We all loved visiting here.

A really incredible experience was watching this woman wrap her hair. We were told to time how long it took her, and I did- under 2 minutes! Her hands were steady, her smile welcoming, and her story was amazing. Pictured on the Guatemalan centavo coin is Concepción Ramírez, a peace activist. Her portrait is referred to as the “woman of the choca.” Here I am pictured wearing a tocoyal. (They aren’t light- and I could never wrap this myself, so kudos, as usual, to these amazing women.)

As you can see, I squeezed as much as I could out of my time in Guatemala. I also couldn’t get to Tikal, which is one of the most famous ancient ruin sites. There is always more to see, slower travel to savor, and shared memories to make.

And, in the way that travel does,  it flirts with you. So this was just a little taste. I’m so grateful I went when I could because it was right before COVID-19 swept through our world and borders closed.

Until next time, stay craving adventure in whatever shape it takes, even if it’s keeping you grounded—

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Travel Blur: A Long Weekend in Liechtenstein & Portugal

SEPTEMBER 26-30, 2018

Looking back, 2018 was one of my craziest travel years to date. I’d just ended the last day of 2017 in Belize, spent a whirlwind long weekend in between Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden, a month later jetted off to Mexico with friends I’d met in Belize, spent two perfect weeks in June studying poetry in the heart of Dublin, Ireland, welcomed July in Colorado and ended it in Maine, spent my birthday in Puerto Rico, stepped back in time in Havana, Cuba in August, and that’s what brings me here: a slice of time from September to October when I was so lucky to visit two AMAZING countries: Liechtenstein and Portugal. (I ended the year by dipping into Panama City, Panama & then dipping my toes into the beaches of Curaçao, but that’s for another post.)

My friend Sarah, who I met through my friend & coworker Debra, was also a passionate traveler and was working and living in Europe at the time. We had talked about meeting up somewhere in the world, but it just felt like a far-off venture that probably wouldn’t work out.
Until, it did.
We both had been wanting to go to Portugal, and miraculously our schedules aligned! I took a couple days before arriving in Portugal to meet up with my friend Cathy, who I had met in my MFA program. Cathy lives in Liechtenstein with her family and had often told me of the gorgeous mountain views she saw on her early morning hikes, but experiencing it with her was another thing. Putting on our sweatshirts and shoes in the dark, we climbed up the hills, past farms and pastures, and watched the sun come over the town below.

While I was there, Cathy brought me to her son’s school to speak to the kids about poetry. I didn’t realize how nervous I would be- I have no clue how to be in front of middle schoolers, y’all. I know how important poetry is, and what it means to me, but how could I ever relate that to a group of eleven year olds? Regardless, I was so honored she had invited me.

Cathy took me to the Werdenberg Castle, showed me Vaduz and the art in Städtle, but my favorite place was her kitchen, right in the heart of her home with the big picture windows, sitting with a glass of white wine and laughing.

After our short time together, I caught a flight to meet up with Sarah, and we set out to see as much as possible in two of Portugal’s most beautiful cities, Lisbon and Porto.

We started out in Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and it did not disappoint!

Lisbon highlights:

Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge
Jerónimos monastery
Torre de Belém
pastéis de nata
Tram 28/funiculars
Mercado da Ribeira (market)
Alfama District (hill, old town)
Rossio Square/Pedro IV Square (peoplewatching, eating/drinking)
the Bairro Alto (nightlife)
the Padrão dos Descobrimentos
LX Factory
Check out all of the amazing street art, too!

OOH, we also took a day trip to Sintra/Pena Palace/Cascais, which is gorgeous and I would definitely recommend:

We packed a lot of fun into Lisbon, but nothing could prepare us for what the cobblestone streets of Portugal’s second largest city, (known for its port wine production) would lead us down…

We drank as much of the city in as we could ❤

Porto highlights:

The Cais da Ribeira/ Luís I Bridge
Clérigos Tower
Avenida dos Aliados
Graham’s Port Lodge
Teleférico de Gaia – Estação Cais de Gaia
Funicular dos Guindais
Croft Port
Muralha Primitiva
Pillory of Porto
Igreja dos Clérigos
Igreja do Carmo
Praça de Lisboa
São Bento Station (beautiful station from the 1800s)
Câmara Municipal do Porto (city hall)

Full transparency, there aren’t a ton of photos from Porto due to the many glasses of wine you see pictured above.

Some memories you can’t capture 🙂 I had the time of my life with Sarah and I’m SO glad it worked out for us to cross off a bucketlist destination together.

Portugal, you’re more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. Your landscape, architecture, seafood, and of course, wine, are still spinning in my head.

xoxo,

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