Where's the Gringo?

A (Very) Quick 2015 Recap and 2016 Outlook

2015 was a big year.

The US & Cuba started to open relations again.  Donald Trump called for a Muslim ban.  Selfie sticks were outlawed at Disney Land.

On a more personal note, 2015 was big for me too.  It was the year I decided to start this blog.

Not that that’s a big deal or anything, it was just hard as hell for me.  There are so many little technical difficulties to deal with!  If you would have asked me a little over a year ago to edit a WordPress child theme’s CSS, or troubleshoot a podcast RSS feed glitch I would have WUT?‘d you so hard.

But guess what’s even harder than starting a blog?  Maintaining it.

I’m having lots of trouble with the work/travel balance.  I have so much content piling up from previous travels, and every day brings even more.  I can’t seem to catch up.

That being said, I’m determined to figure out how to create more compelling content, and do so more efficiently without taking away from actually enjoying traveling in real life.

So I wanted to write a quick recap of some 2015 blog activity (10 days into the new year lol), and then detail what’s next for 2016.  Since launching last year in late March, the blog has had over 13,000 views from 126 countries.  

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That’s chump change to most websites, but it’s a start.  I just think it’s pretty cool when someone a place like French Polynesia hits my site!

A Few 2015 WTG? Blog Superlatives

Most liked/commented/shared post on social media:
Roadtrip USA:  9,000 miles, 17 states, $2,000, 1 summer
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You guys loved this post! Most of my followers are from the USA, and it showed me that Americans love reading about their own country!

Most popular post according to Google (without a doubt):
How Not to Use Couchsurfing:  Nymphos in Berlin
Scottish BBQ in Ediburgh with a group of Couchsurfers

This post is responsible for over half of all my website traffic, no joke. I had no idea so many people Googled stuff like “couchsurfing sex” and “traveling sex stories.” You dirty freaks you…

 

 

My personal favorite post:
Faces of Cuba 1 & Part 2
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I love meeting interesting people while on the road, and I realized while doing this post that I’m going to use this blog to tell their stories!

  
Post that still makes me laugh & cringe when I read it:
How to Get Punched in the Face in Barcelona
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Pro tip: Looking like this is a good start…

Posts that best model how I want to incorporate Spanish learning into Where’s the Gringo?:
Voices of Cuba: Life Under a Dictatorship (Part 1)
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I feel like podcasts in Spanish can be great practice for more advanced learners, plus they are a fantastic glimpse into local life and culture…

A Gringo at the Market in Atizapán de Zaragoza
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Videos with lots of Spanish vocabulary & sayings are better for beginners, and they’re lots of fun to make! Plan on more of these types of video posts coming your way!

 

Need to do more posts like:
The 10 Cheapest Countries I’ve Been To
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I should incorporate more tips into the blog about how to travel cheaply, maximize travel budgets, and choosing cheaper destinations

So What’s Next?

By the time y’all read this, we’ll have already scooped one of my best friends and his girlfriend from the Mexico City airport, and all 5 of us (my brother is here too) will be en route to Oaxaca, Mexico.  We have an epic 2 weeks ahead of us, driving down the Oaxacan coast, and into the Chiapas jungle.

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Google says 27 hours driving (1,084mi, 1745km). YIKES!

We’re going to be traveling at a quicker clip than I normally like to, but I want to squeeze in as many cool places as I can while I have my friend & brother.  Here are some highlights of Oaxaca that we’re going to revisit (all photos taken from last year’s trip)

Oaxaca City – the capital of Oaxaca state, what many consider to be the most culturally colorful state in all of Mexico.  Filled with beautiful architecture, indigenous flair & plenty of delicious cuisine.

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Monte Alban – mountaintop ruins of a 2,000 year old, ancient Zapotec city located right outside the city.

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Mazunte – our favorite secluded beach town on the Oaxacan coast.  There are prob. only a few hundred people who live here.

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Punta Cometa – the southernmost point of Mexico (except for Chiapas) that sticks out into the ocean like a giant finger pointing towards another unforgettable sunset every night.

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Zipolite – another chill beach town in Oaxaca that was discovered by wandering hippies in the 60’s, and has slowly grown in hippie fame ever since.

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We slept in these hammocks for 5 days – if they’re still there, you can bet we will again!

After we’re surfed & sunned out, we’re headed farther east into Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, filled with steamy jungles, mysterious Mayan ruins, thundering blue waterfalls, & imposing canyons.  I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve been drooling over the Google images for over a year now.  I’m most looking forward to:

Las Cascadas del Agua Azul (The Waterfalls of Blue Water)

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We’ll spend a few days swimming & kayaking in these heavenly waters.  Credit:  Info7.mx     

 

Cañon del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon)

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In some sections, the canyon walls shoot up over 3,000 feet from the canyon floor/river. My tent will be somewhere right….over…..there. Credit: Las Haditas

 

Palenque 

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An ancient Mayan city hidden deep in the jungle that’s been beckoning adventurers since the 7th century

To say that I’m ecstatic doesn’t quite capture it. 

Unfortunately, my friend & brother have to return in late January to oversee Tallulah Fest (don’t miss it if you’re a whitewater fanatic), at which point Gio and I will settle into some volunteer work.

Volunteering in Mexico

For those who may not know, my girlfriend and I are just now starting a 2+ year adventure down the Pan-American Highway.  One of our main objectives is to volunteer with worthwhile projects & plug into communities along the way.  So for, we have 2 more volunteer projects set up in southeastern Mexico:

  • Tutoring & teaching impoverished children from indigenous communities with an organization called Sueñinos in San Cristobal de las Casas.
  • Volunteering in a Salvation Army children’s home in Merida.

After returning home for a wedding in early April, I’ll be flying back to Cancun and will have 11 days to drive down the Yucatan Peninsula and leave the country.  Remember the $300 deposit I put down from Driving into Mexico: The Border Crossing?  I need to drive the car out of Mexico by April 17 to get that back.

The only other volunteer project that we have arranged in Central America is in El Salvador, so we’ll be freestyling until then.  Our general timeframe looks like (subject to change):

Belize: April 17-May 1
Guatemala:  May 2–Mid June
El Salvador:  Mid June–July 4
Honduras:  July 5–Mid August
Nicaragua: August 15ish–Mid October
Costa Rica:  October-Nov
Panama:  End of 2016

 

Apart from late May/early June when 2 more friends are flying in to travel Guatemala with us for a few weeks, our backseats are open!  Let me know if you want to join up for some roadtrip action, there are sure to be many more beautiful places like those pictured above that are just waiting to be discovered!

And finally, I want to thank everyone who followed & supported this blog in 2015!

I greatly appreciate when you guys take the time to read along, comment, and share Where’s the Gringo? content with others.  I really do want to create stuff that is useful and inspiring for people, so when you guys respond, it makes all that head banging against the keyboard worth it!

2016 is going to be a huge year.  It still hasn’t truly sunk in that I’m choosing a life on the road, and have no clue exactly how I’ll be spending my days, nor where I’m going to lay my head at night.

Daunting. 

All I have is a map and ideas, but I’m looking forward to the new experiences, culture, people & places that will come to define those countries for me.

Have a great year, and keep checking back as I do my best to share the entire journey with you here!

 

 

8 thoughts on “A (Very) Quick 2015 Recap and 2016 Outlook

  1. Cathleen Engish

    “Wow” is all I can say. What a world we live in, and we never see most of it. Thanks for sharing your journey- be safe driving down there . You need to read the book about the guy who walked across America- he and his dog- you would love it. Godspeed-

  2. Chandler Cargill

    Where are you going to be in El Salvador? With whom will you be volunteering your time and efforts?

    Love what you’re doing, Ford. I’m pulling for you and praying for you. Keep sharing both your own stories and those of the lives you encounter. It’s important work.

    God bless you.

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      We’ve made contact with an organization called IncaLink & also the CMA, but have nothing set in stone yet as our time frame is too fluid to confirm dates months in advance. We’re looking to be there around the end of June early July I estimate, & our open to hearing about more opportunities to spread the good Word! Thanks for reaching out!

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Thanks homie! Haven’t found much time to update this thing lately, but I’ll get around to it sooner or later. Hope you’re well!

  3. Paloma

    Hi! I would like to know how was your experience volunteering in Mexico. We are going to San Cristobal de las Casas and Merida, so any advice would be appreciated.

    Thank you!

    1. fordquarterman Post author

      Hey Paloma. San Cris is THE best place to volunteer. There are so many options to choose from it can be overwhelming. I would start by going by Junax – the center for volunteers. Think of a hostal, but with people staying for longer term (2 weeks–months at a time) and who are all in San Cris to volunteer. It’s an amazing community, and the administrators there will help connect you with the best volunteer projects according to your goals and time frame. Their website can be found here: https://junax.org.mx/. Also, check out Frayba Humans Rights center (http://www.frayba.org.mx/). They help set up opportunities within Zapatista communities to be human rights observers, and may be the most infamous project to get plugged into in the area. We did it for 2 weeks and it was unforgettable and eye-opening.

      As for Merida, we also volunteered there, but in The Salvation Army’s local branch. We helped with the children there for a week. Let me know if that interests you and I’ll pass along some details as well. Hope that helps!

      cheers,

      Ford

      1. Paloma

        Thank you so much for your reply! I will check out everything. It sounds like an amazing experience. Now that I read this I’m really looking forward to it.

        With all you said I think I’ll do it in San Cris, but if you could pass me some details about Merida, it would help in case we decide to do both.

        Thank you very much for sharing!! Love your posts!

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