Friday, January 27, 2012

Alaska to Guatemala

Greetings everyone and welcome to the first post on my new blog. Many apologies for taking so long to get this up and running. As you will see, I've been pretty busy. 

2 bags and 2 jackets - I hope that's enough for a year away from home.

First things first, a short orientation (bare with me as I have readers with a wide range of computer skills). Near the top of the page you will see a bar with two choices. The first, "Home," is currently selected. The second, "Map," will take you to a map I will keep updated with my location, the places I've visited, and modes of transport. Hopefully I'll figure out how to get pictures linked on there in the future. If you click on any of the lines or points on the map it should show you a bit more information.

On the left side of the page you'll see a list of my blog posts. Since this is the first post, there's only one option, but in the future there will be more. Those links will be the quickest way to navigate after there are many posts.

All of the photos on this website can be clicked to access a larger version. Let me know if you have any problems viewing any of them as I'm still experimenting with this setup. 

At the bottom of each post there is a link that will allow you to add comments if you so desire. I really love feedback of all kinds. Be sure to use your name or I won't know who it's from. Also, keep in mind that your comments are public and there is wide audience reading these updates. If you have anything less public to say, just send me an email. I really enjoy hearing from you all while I'm gone, even if it's just mundane day to day things, it makes me feel like I'm still connected :)

Speaking of connected, there are a couple of ways you can stay in touch with me. Email is probably the best, most reliable option. You can also leave comments here or on facebook. A third, somewhat experimental option is my Google phone number: 720-213-6347. In theory, you can call or text me pretty much anywhere in the world with that number since it will forward to me depending on my location. If I don't answer, just leave a voice message and I'll call you back.

If you want to be notified when I post an update to this blog (and I know you do), either subscribe to the site using the link on the left, or subscribe to the RSS/Atom feed linked at the bottom of the page. I also have a list of people who want to be updated via email. Let me know if you want to be added to that list. 

Ok, on to the more interesting stuff .... 

Pretty much everything I own, packed into my car and ready for storage. 

I left Alaska for California the day after Thanksgiving. Though before I talk about California, I want to send a huge thanks to all of my Alaska friends who made the few weeks before I left really wonderful. It was great spending time with you all, I only wish I would have had more time to spend. Thanks for all of the advice, support, and help while I was preparing for this adventure. You all really know how to make a guy feel special.

Wonderful going away cake Liz and friends got for me. Thanks guys!

Going away party!
Amy on the infamous "chair-game" at Thanksgiving.
In California, I visited a friend from college who lives in Berkeley and made a couple new ones while I was there. Of course the move from snowy, dark, cold Alaska to sunny, warm California was wonderful, but the people in CA were what really made it a lot of fun. We talked about steady state economics, sustainable development, and other random topics for hours on end. I biked all over the cities and spent time just wandering around campus. We cooked wonderful meals with fresh produce and played lots of different games. It was a great first stop on my trip. It was really hard to leave, but I needed to make it home before Christmas and I planned to make a couple more stops along the way. 

Golden Gate bridge at night
Biked across the bridge one day. 

Lunch on the beach
Making calzones with Dimitri, Will, and Nicole

Will was not sharing the cheese.
Playing games on campus - slacklining and human obstacle course.
The Bay Bridge one foggy morning. 
Cooking with Lindsay!
From Berkeley, I took the Amtrak train 33 hours to Denver. The train was really great. It was a lot more relaxing than I expected and I even got almost a full night's sleep. The scenery through the Western US, across two mountain ranges, was spectacular. And once again, I made several new friends along the way :)

View from the train in CA
View from the train in CO.
In Colorado I also reconnected with some college friends. It was great to see so many people I hadn't seen in several years. The weather was gorgeous once again. I had a really great time looking around campus and enjoying the mountain vistas. We even got out for a day of climbing, a short hike, and a couple of runs. So much sunshine! And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the great meals we cooked while I was there. The only thing that has surpassed the meals thus far has been the warm welcomes I have received along the way. I'm a lucky guy!
Cooking with Jojo and Chad!
Out for a day of climbing with Brian, Mary, Adrienne, Jenn, and the amazing Buddy.

Short-sleeves climbing in CO in December? Yes, please.
Also "yes, please" to Jenn's cookies any day.
Once again it was really hard to leave, but Christmas was fast approaching. I found a craigslist rideshare across Kanasas with someone heading toward Missouri, so I spent a couple days in Columbia visiting more friends - both from highschool, and the MASMC. Even though Columbia isn't far from where I grew up, I had never visited before. It's a fun college town, but once again, the best part was the old and new friends. 

Mizzu campus.

Hanging out with Chris and Amiee and their neighbors. 
Spending time with Melissa.
From Columbia, I rode to Springfield with a friend of a friend who was on her way to Branson. What luck :)  In Springfield I spent a few weeks visiting my family. Initially I thought I would only be there a short time, but after deliberating on my schedule, I decided to extend my stay to three weeks. Who knows when I'll have that much free time to spend with family again? Of course, time with family always has its ups and downs. Thankfully, this time was mostly ups. My cousins are all getting so big - college, girlfriends, engagement, moving to new places, etc, etc. The same goes for my niece, nephews, and little brother. They are getting to the ages where I feel like I can actually interact with them in more meaningful ways. Lots of things change when you only see your family once a year, and then again, some things are always the same.  Trips home tend to leave me with a mixture of feelings. It's good to be reminded every so often of where I started and (in some ways) how far I've come.

Christmas at Grandma's
My youngest nephew.
Me and part of my family.
Dad and step-mom.
Aunt, uncle, and cousins!
Christmas at home with my youngest brother.
Climbing with my niece and nephew.
I flew out of Springfield on Jan 14th and landed in Guatemala City later that night. (It was a bit odd having a full 12 hour day of travel without changing time zones.) The next morning the owner of the bed and breakfast took me and another language student o the bus and helped us buy our tickets for Quetzaltenango, aka Xela (pronounced shay-la). I was really grateful for her help; Guatemala can be a scary place and my language skills are in no way up to speed. I'm sure I could have figured it out, but it was much more comfortable having someone trustworthy there with us. In Xela, the director of the school met us at the bus stop and took us to our host-families. I walked in the door and was greeted by a smiling family whose English was no better than my Spanish. As I sat down to lunch with my new family (for at least the next few weeks) and realized that I could barely say "please" and "thank you" let alone "what's in this?" or "what time should I be home?" or "I don't know how that works" I knew I was in for an interesting adventure. ... unfortunately this post has gotten long enough, so you'll have to wait until the next post to find out about my first few weeks in Xela and how much progress I've had in the language school. And of course, I'll post more pictures.  

I hope you enjoyed the post. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the things I'm experiencing. Questions are more than welcome and I'll do what I can to get back to you with timely answers. 

I would also love to hear any thoughts or suggestions you have on the website layout, format, functions, etc. If there is anything that doesn't work or anything additional you think I should add, please let me know.


  1. I hope you enjoy your stay in Guatemala - you'll pick up the language in no time (just keep a notebook on you to write down new phrases and words and recipes and more).

    Also, thanks for keeping this blog; I look forward to keeping track of your travels.

  2. Loved your blog, pictures, etc. Looking forward to seeing pictures, comments, stories about your adventures there!! Aunt Karon (had to put anonymous because I didn't know what the rest of my choices were!!)

  3. Thanks, Thomas, for this wonderful blog. I will definitely following it. I love the picture of the GG bridge in mist - good job!

  4. I hope you manage to learn your Spanish better than I did my English :). Have a great time! The bridge in mist is indeed awesome :)

  5. That all looks like great fun. Thanks for the fun blog. It "warmed up" today to 7 degrees. It's time to go skiing! Enjoy all that warm weather and keep blogging.

  6. Love the blog Thomas! It was great to see you and I look forward to your wonderful pictures and hearing about your adventures!

  7. Thomas, It's so great to hear from you. Glad that your adventure is going well and gaining momentum.
    My IM says you've been gone from the office for 74 days!I can keep track of it for you if you like, ha,ha.
    If you miss Alaska right now - DON'T; it's 46 below here right now (Prudhoe)!
    Looking forward to reading your blogs.

    1. I am definitely not jealous of 46 below. It's down to about 35 during the night here, but warms up to around 65 or 75 during the day. I think about Prudhoe a lot because I keep telling people about the 2 months of now sun!

  8. Love your blog, will be following to keep up with your adventures,have a blast, you worked hard for it.lyl Mom