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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

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I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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June 2003 to June 2004

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March 2002 to April 2003

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(see all 3 book)

Learning Spanish Immersion at Casa Mexicana in Guanajuato, Mexico
(June 17 to July 6,  2002)

Picking the right city and school to learn Spanish was a long process.  I spent hours researching, talking to people, and just shopping around.   I have written the following page in hopes that it saves you time and money. (See Also Online Spanish Flash Cards)

Learning Spanish is very important to us.  We plan on cycling two or more years in Spanish speaking countries.  From the bike it is easy to observe Latin Americans in their daily lives.  Traveling by bicycle also provides countless opportunities to sit down and talk to the locals.  We quickly learned some of the regular questions and how to answer them. Where are you from?  Where are you going? How many kilometers do you ride each day? This is fine for small talk but when I asked about NAFTA or president Vicente Fox we could not keep up with their responses.  They also had many deeper questions for us that they tried to ask but the language barrier just made things frustrating for both parties.  If you just want to lay on the beach in one of Mexico's famous beach resorts, you do not need to learn to speak Spanish.  Most Mexicans, that tourists encounter, in those resorts speak a fair amount of English and the conversations you may have are often geared to finding ways of selling you something or your leaving a bigger tip.  If you plan on traveling into the interior, away from the pool side bar, and get to know the people and their ideas then you will want to learn to speak Spanish. 

I believe that it is a common misconception that just being in Mexico or otherwise immersed in Spanish is all that you need to learn the language.   This theory appears to be true for children who are developmentally learning language but once you get to adulthood you have to work at it.  Weeks before we attended Spanish school we were using the dictionary and other learning devises to learn as much as we could.  Before you travel I highly recommend some of the fantastic software titles that are currently available. We spent some quality time with Learn Spanish Now! 9.0 and Instant Immersion Spanish before we crossed the border.  These software titles are well worth the money and gave us a big head start on learning Spanish even before we left the United States border.  In both titles there is a very useful tool where your computer says a word and you repeat it into a microphone.  The software then tells you how well you pronounced the word with a scale and graphs.  No software or book can match an immersion school for teaching you to communicate with the locals. 

After spending hours on the internet researching the different cities that offer Spanish schools we picked Guanajuato.  It had several things going for it.   First, according to our Lonely Planet Mexico and Footprint Central America and Mexico 2003 guide books Guanajuato is the least expensive city in Mexico that offers Spanish Immersion classes.  Guanajuato is also high in the mountains and therefore has comfortable summer temperatures.  If you go do not forget a jacket because at this altitude it gets pleasantly chilly during summer nights.  Guanajuato is also the most northern colonial city that offers Spanish classes.  This is important for two reasons.  First this colonial city was built by the Spanish and it is very old, historic, and uniquely beautiful.  I can only imagine that such cities are common in Europe but nothing like it exists in North America.  Second, Guanajuato being the most northern city with Spanish Immersion makes it the closest to the USA.  This is an important fact if you are driving or taking the bus from the USA.  Since we were traveling by bicycle Guanajuato's northern location was important because we wanted to learn our Spanish as soon as possible.  

After choosing Guanajuato I wrote a form letter of sorts and sent it to all of the schools in town.  Several wrote back and we proceeded with a volley of correspondence until we narrowed it down to just a few.  Escuela Mexicana had several things going for it.

- Escuela Mexicana had the lowest prices.  This was a big factor to us given our tight budget.  A lot of schools charge the same for classes but the registration fee is much higher.  Escuela Mexicana also has no hidden cost.  The prices, that you will find on the internet, are the prices that you will be charged.  They keep their web site very current.

- Escuela Mexicana had the best location compared to the other schools.  Escuela Mexican in located near Guanajuato's lively and historic downtown area.  The Union Jardin, museums, and other important cultural attractions are just a short walk from the school and hotel/hostel.   We had spoke to several Spanish immersion school students who had been attending various other schools and they were upset with the locations of their schools.  They complained that they missed many of the fun and educational events in the downtown area because it was to far to walk.  If you have a car with you do not even think that you will find parking in the center of town. 

- After asking other Spanish students on the street who had been in town several weeks we learned about various other schools.  They had some complaints such as cost and location.

Escuela Mexicana was very flexible in meeting our needs.  You can just show up and start on any day of the week but they prefer Monday.  If you prefer to arrange things ahead of time they have a very convenient web site with all the forms online.  They will give you a short placement test in order to determine your individual level.   Next they place you in the appropriate small (five or less) class.  You can rearrange your schedule every week if you like.  The courses were fun and individually paced to meet our needs.  The teachers were mostly graduate students at the University of Guanajuato.

LODGING

Our budget was $30 (not each but total) a day for all of Mexico.  We were usually camping for free some nights and traveling through cheaper parts of this country.  We could live like kings on this budget.  Although Guanajuato is less expensive than any other city that offers Spanish school, it is not as cheap as the rural parts.  There has to be an abundance of foreigners to have Spanish schools.  So, our budget was very tight in Guanajuato and we had to find cheap lodging or we would not be able to stay longer than a week.  We first found a very run down hotel that we nicknamed  "the Dungeon" because it was so dark inside.  It had no outside windows or ventilation.  You have to remember that most buildings in this colonial city are between 500 and 600 years old.  It had lots of bugs and the light switch would shock you if you touched it wrong.  I got shocked several times and Cindie just does not like bugs.  We wanted something different but within our budget.

Casa Mexicana (in the same building as the school) also has lodging that they refer to as a dorm.  I do not think of Casa Mexicana as a  dorm. It is much nicer than the dorm room that many North Americans experience in college.   It is more of a combination hotel and hostel. (travelers hotel)  The rooms are clean and have windows and doors that open to a pleasant outdoor courtyard.   Although it is not particularly hot in Guanajuato, even in the summer, adequate ventilation is always important for sleeping.  The rooms vary in size from apartments with kitchens, private bathrooms, and satellite television to more basic rooms that all have desks and closets with clean shared bathrooms and a fully functional shared kitchen.  

 The school will happily arrange lodging with Mexican families called Home stays.  We did not do this but the people that we talked to were very happy with the arrangements.   After hearing people describe their Home stays. it seemed to be very pleasant and an especially good deal if you are traveling with small children.  We heard that the Mexican families will watch your children while you have time alone to explore the city or just relax.  Another bonus to a home stay is that you can request to be placed with a Mexican families who has children the same age as yours.  The children can play together and learn language and culture together.   

You can check out Escuela Mexicana's great language school at Escuela Mexicana

(See Also Online Spanish Flash Cards)

 

INDEX #1: North and Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present


(see all 3 book)

(Before March 30, 2002)
Life in Prescott Arizona, USA

Cindie's Daily Journals
Life in Prescott Arizona

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Good bye Letter

Other essays by Tim
About Us
Our Bicycle Wedding
Riding In Prescott
Hiking in Arizona
Favorite Bike Movies
The Great Zorr Dog
Life in a $500 RV
The Plan
Good bye Letter

 

(March 30 - May 12, 2002)
The State of Arizona, USA
Prescott to Douglas, Arizona

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Journal in Arizona, USA

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Our first week Down the Road!
Enjoying Arizona
Heading into Mexico

Other essays by Tim
The Day We Left
Lost Dutchman Mine
Ghost Towns
Tombstone
Chiricahua National Monument
Portal Arizona
Backpacking in the Chiricahua Mountains
Apache Wars

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page for Arizona Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Pictures from the first day
- Arizona Photo Page #1 Prescott AZ - Tucson AZ
- Lost Dutchman State Park
- Arizona Photo Page #2 Tucson AZ - Tombstone AZ
- San Xavier Mission
- Arizona Photo Page #3 Tombstone AZ to Portal AZ 
- Tombstone Arizona
- Ghost Towns in Arizona 
- Chiricahua National Monument
- Portal Arizona
- Chiricahua Wilderness Area Backpack (Trek)

 

(May 13 - 31, 2002)
The States of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico
Agua Prieta to Cuauhtemoc, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Greetings from Mexico!

Other essays by Tim
The Problems with the Border Area Between Mexico and the USA
Paquime Ruins Casas Grandes, Mexico
Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Mexico #1 Photo Page   Agua Prieta to Zaragoza, Mexico
- Paquime Ruins - Casas Grandes, Mexico
- Mexico #2 Photo Page    Zaragoza to Col. Alvaro Obregon, Mexico
- The Mennonites of Chihuahua, Mexico
- Mexico #3 Photo Page 
- Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon Photo Page

 

(June 1 - July 17, 2002)
The States of Zacatecas and Guanajuato, Mexico
Zacatecas to Guanajuato, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Zacatecas and Guanajuato, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Hello Guanajuato
Adios Guanajuato

Other essays by Tim
One Fine Day Down The Road
Learning Spanish at Casa Mexicana in Guanajuato, Mexico
Cindie's Car Crash: a Mexican Experience Guanajuato, Mexico

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Zacatecas and Guanajuato Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Zacatecas, Mexico
- Central Mexico #1  Zacatecas to Ojuelos, Mexico
- One Fine Day Down The Road  State of Zacatecas, Mexico
- Central Mexico #2 Zacatecas to Guanajuato, Mexico
- Dolores Hidalgo, the Home of the Mexican War of Independence
- Guanajuato and the Mexican War of Independence
- Guanajuato, Mexico #1
- Guanajuato, Mexico #2
- Mineral Museum of the University of Guanajuato

 

(July 18 - Aug 22, 2002)
The State of Michoacan, Mexico
Guanajuato to Toluca, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The State of Michoacan, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
The Great Secret of Michoacan!
Toluca

Other essays by Tim
Into the Mist State of Michoacan, Mexico

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Michoacan, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Guanajuato to   Penjamillo, Mexico
- Penjamillo to Patzcuaro, Mexico
- Patzcuaro, Mexico
- Patzcuaro to Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, Mexico
- Morelia, Mexico
- Into the Mist Mexican highway 15
- Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, to Toluca, Mexico
- Toluca, Mexico
- The Velodrome in Toluca, Mexico

 

(Aug. 23 - Sept. 17, 2002)
The States of Mexico and Morelos, Mexico
Toluca to Amecameca, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Mexico and Morelos

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
So Close to Mexico City Yet So Far From Anything

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of The States of Mexico and Morelos, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Toluca to Chalma, Mexico
- Malinalco, Mexico
- Chalma to Amecameca, Mexico
- Cuernavaca, Mexico
- Amecameca
- September 16 Mexican Independence Day
- Various Extra Pictures

 

(September 18 - 27, 2002)
Mexico City Area
Including the ruins of Teotihuacan

Mexico City, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
Mexico City Area

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Six Months Down the Road

Other essays by Tim
Looking Deep Into the Eyes of a Thief Mexico City Metro (subway)
The Velodrome in Mexico City

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Mexico City Area Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Mexico City
- National Palace and Zocalo
- The Velodrome (bicycle track) in Mexico City
- The Ruins of Teotihuacan #1
- The Ruins of Teotihuacan #2
- Xochimilco
- Mexico City Zoo
- National Museum of Anthropology

 

(Oct.  12 - Nov. 8, 2002)
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Our Final Weeks in Mexico

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Museum La Venta and the Olmec Heads Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
- Villahermosa, Tabasco  to Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
- Palenque #1 Photo Picture Page
- Palenque #2 Photo Picture Page
- Misol-Ha Waterfall Chiapas, Mexico
- Agua Azul Chiapas, Mexico
- Tonina Mayan Ruins Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
- Mexico's Day of the Dead Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
- Ocosingo to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico

 

(Dec 2 - 15, 2002)
Guatemala #1: The Highlands
Quetzaltenango to Antigua

Cindie's Daily Journals
Guatemala #1 The Highlands

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Guatemala: Riding Through the Highlands

Guatemala: From Paradise to Despair

Other Pages Tim Made
Escuela de Idioma Español Utatlan, Spanish Immersion School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Guatemala #1 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- La Mesilla to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
- The Indigenous Highland Village of San Andreas Xecul
- Climbing the Volcano Santa Maria.
- Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
- Quetzaltenango to Antigua, Guatemala.
- San Pedro la Laguna Lago (Lake) Atitlan, Guatemala
- Lago (Lake) Atitlan Santa Cruz to San Marcos Hike
- More San Pedro Photos Photo Page

 

(Dec. 16, 2002 - Jan. 6, 2003)
Guatemala #2: Northeast Towards the Caribbean
Antigua to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala

Cindie's Daily Journals
Guatemala #2
: Heading Northeast Towards the Caribbean

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Antigua, Guatemala to the Sea

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Guatemala #2 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- The Colonial City of Antigua, Guatemala. #1
- The Historical City of Antigua, Guatemala. #2
- The Active Volcano Pacaya, Near Antigua
- Antigua to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
- The Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
- Livingston, Guatemala

 

(January 7 - 31, 2003)
Honduras
From the Guatemalan Border to the Nicaraguan Border

Cindie's Daily Journals
Honduras

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Honduras: From the Guatemalan Border to the Nicaraguan Border

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Honduras Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Honduras: The Border to Comayagua, Honduras
- Omoa, Honduras and Fortaleza de San Fernando de Omoa
- Parque Nacional Cero Azul Meambar, Honduras Page #1
- Parque Nacional Cero Azul Meambar, Honduras Page #2
- Comayagua to Tegucigalpa, Honduras
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras to the Border with Nicaragua
- Odds and Ends

 

(Feb. 1 - 19, 2003)
Nicaragua
From the Honduras Border to the Costa Rican Border

Cindie's Daily Journals
Nicaragua

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Nicaragua: Travels Through a Troubled Land

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Nicaragua Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Nicaragua: The Honduras border to Esteli, Nicaragua
- Esteli, Nicaragua:  the Stronghold of the Sandinista
- Esteli to Granada, Nicaragua
- Granada, Nicaragua #1
- Granada, Nicaragua #2
- Volcano Masaya - Near Managua, Nicaragua
- Granada, Nicaragua to the Costa Rican Border
- Isla / Island Ometepe, Lake Nicaragua
- Ernie, The Entertainer from Jamaica

 

(Feb. 21 - March 14, 2003)
Costa Rica #1
La Cruz to Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica

Cindie's Daily Journals
Costa Rica #1

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Costa Rica #1 (incomplete)

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #1 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Nicaraguan Border to Playa Tamarindo
- Liberia, Guancaste, Costa Rica.
- Playa Tamarindo
to Playa Samara
- Playa Samara to Playa Jaco
- Manuel Antonio National Park #1
- Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica #1
- Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica #2

 

(March 15 - April 10, 2003)
Costa Rica #2
Manual Antonio to Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Cindie's Daily Journals
Costa Rica #2

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Costa Rica #2 (incomplete)

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #2 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Parque National Manuel Antonio, #2
- City of Santa Elena and Monteverde
- Butterfly Garden, Santa Elena, Monteverde
- Finca Ecological, Monteverde
- Frog Pond (Ranario), Santa Elena
- Santa Elena, Cloud Forest, National Park
- Sky Walk, Suspension Bridge, Canopy Tour
- Sky Trek Zip Line, Canopy Tour
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

 

(April 12 - 17, 2003)
Panama
Panama City, Panama

Cindie's Daily Journals
Panama

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Panama (Incomplete)

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Panama Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Panama City #1
- Panama City #2
- Panama Canal

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

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