IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

This is a question my husband and I asked ourselves a lot in the year 2000.  We were recently married and always talked about taking an epic adventure to Bolivia.  It was going to be epic because we didn’t just want to fly to Bolivia — we wanted to get there by backpacking.

Bolivia is in the middle of South America and is a country that has a special place in my heart — both my parents are from there. To get there by land, we would have to travel through North America, Central America, and finally arrive in South America.

Some of the epic adventure was good, some could've been better, and some was the BEST.

Through it all, we learned some valuable travel lessons that I think you'll benefit from too.

Miriam riding a horse on her epic adventure!
Miriam and Mark smiling for a photo

The Good Parts

I loved planning this trip. Lucky for me, a lot had to be done.

Finances & Budgeting

First was the finances. My husband and I were both working at the time, and every Friday when we got our paycheques, we would go to the bank and convert some of our earnings into coins. 

We had a big piggy bank we would put all the loonies and toonies into. This was a special part of the planning because we enjoyed jiggling that piggy bank every chance we got, especially when one of us started doubting our decision. 

We would just jiggle that piggy bank and remember our epic adventure was just around the corner.

Saying Goodbye

Next was our jobs. Once we had enough money to go, we handed in our two weeks notice. I was called crazy for saying goodbye to a good, secure job at a bank just to go on some epic adventure. But I didn’t care. No matter what others said, my response stayed the same:

"If not now, then when?"

Research: How to Make Our Epic Adventure As Amazing as Possible

The other thing we did to plan was purchase two Lonely Planet books — one for Central America and the other for South America. These books became indispensable.

Whenever we wanted to know where to stay for the night, where to eat, or what to see, we would flip through the pages of those books and get our answers.

The Start of Our Epic Adventure

On September 30th, 2000, our epic adventure was set to begin. We grabbed our backpacks and were off.

It felt so GOOD to finally get on a bus and start heading South.

The Parts that Could've Been Better

Miriam and Mark next to a waterfall

When going on an adventure such as this, we knew we would encounter a certain level of danger.  We knew we had to be smart about how to carry our money. So, we bought a cool belt with a secret zipper on the inside where we could store our cash.

We rolled our $100 bills and put as much money as we could in that belt. I also bought a couple of padded bras. I took the extra padding off them and made a secret compartment with Velcro where I could carry money.

Although we took many precautions, we still got robbed in Guatemala.

We were staying at a dingy little hostel and one day, as we were out getting food, someone broke into our room and stole most of our valuables.

Our CD player and all our CDs were gone. The digital camera was gone. Anything that looked like it was worth something was gone.

But we were very happy to see that Mark’s belt and my bras got left behind!

Our epic adventure could have been better without this little setback, but we still had the resources to continue the trip and were grateful for that.

Miriam waving to the camera, wearing a big backpack
Miriam meets a llama on her epic adventure!

The Best Parts of Our Epic Adventure

Simply Being There

In each country we made sure to learn a bit about their culture and try the local food. For my husband, that included the local beer and coffee.

We enjoyed authentic tacos in Mexico, and I fell in love with El Salvador’s Pupusas.

We watched the locals make freshly squeezed orange juice for us on the streets, and we indulged in fresh fish from the local beach towns. 

Visiting & Learning

I also loved the many places we visited. Learning about the Mayans at the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala was a highlight for me.

We climbed a volcano in Nicaragua: Volcan Masaya. I felt like I was in Paradise in Costa Rica as Mark and I rode on horses to see magnificent waterfalls. We enjoyed learning the history behind the Panama Canal.

Of all the places we visited, my favourite was Machu Pichu. These ancient Inca Ruins set high in the mountains of Peru are truly majestic. I remember standing there, arms extended, breathing in the cool mountain air and trying to understand how a place so beautiful had been lost for centuries.

The Arrival in Bolivia

After all that travelling we arrived safely in Bolivia. My family welcomed us with a big party where we got to stretch our legs and do a lot of salsa dancing.

The Most Epic Conclusion to Our Epic Adventure

The absolute best part of our epic adventure was when I received an email from my previous employer at the bank. Even though we were still in Bolivia, they offered to hire me back and give me a promotion. 

38 days. 11 countries. 1 epic adventure.

No matter what your dream is, it's time to ask yourself this question:

If not now, then when?

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