Welcome to my first blog post back after 18 months out. Way back then, in what seems like a previous life, I had finished up my stint leading tours in Central America and I was about to start my mammoth 171-day tour of South America. From Slothing Around Central America, to Slothing Around Latin America, this blog is evolving quickly like a well-reared Pokémon.
I’ve returned to this blog via the inspiring photos popping up in my Facebook Memories from last year. I had a job to blindly lead a group of tourists around 79 cities I had never been before (apart from my previous home, Buenos Aires). I had no days off for just under 6 months, I was sometimes working 20-hour days, but I was always on call for any tour or group issues anyway. I have never been more tired, or more stressed out, than over that tour. But I have also never felt more alive.
When events are changing rapidly all around you, it’s easy to live purely in the moment and not reflect on what you have achieved. Every day I wanted to see, or do, or learn something new. It’s a philosophy I’ve kept with me. I haven’t quite forgotten the small details of the people we met, the stories we heard, and the places we visited. It’s important to reflect on those memories from my previous life. As always, I hope you find them as entertaining as I do.
I was chosen to lead the ultimate tour of South America way back in September. Everything happened very quickly, and here I am, in a Quito hotel room, anticipating the start of ‘El Circuito’ tomorrow as we begin our expedition through 9 countries in 171 days. Not a bad cricket score that, 171-9…I think. To be honest I’m more of a fan of sports that don’t include breaks for tea and crumpets.
I digress. Apologies for the lack of recent activity on this blog, as I’ve had to do a fair amount of research to prepare. At least I got to pop back home to Dublin for the last month to see family and friends – a welcome but unexpected bonus! I was also delighted that The Irish Times published my follow-up article (link below) – I had originally pitched the title of the article as ‘Slothing Around Central America’, but no dice. Oh well.
Unfortunately the region in the title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer now, but I think I’ll keep it anyway. I will understandably be a lot busier on this new tour but I’ll still post updates when I have the time! In this part of the world, there’s always a good story yet to be told. While there may not be as many sloths south of the equator, rest assured that there will be at least one Irish eejit still slothing around.
I had to go and buy a local SIM card in each country here for use in my work phone, so when I first got over the border to Panama, I popped into the local Movistar shop in Bocas del Toro. The process involved the usual formality and nominal fee up until the point your man asked for my passport to register my details on the system.
Unfortunately, the dual Irish and English language confused him somewhat, as the Irish words were completely unrecognisable next to their English counterparts. After a few minutes of his best guesswork, he handed me my receipt bearing the name ‘Antony Michael Éireannach’ – as in, Irish for ‘Antony Irishman’. I hadn’t the heart to correct him.
But from then on I’ve introduced a few cúpla focal in the Irish language to locals and my groups around Central America. The poor guy in Panama must still be wondering what kind of made-up, leprechaun language that was on my passport. Amach!
Immigration officials can accept monetary tips for a more efficient service in certain Central American countries. Tipping creates a bidding war in border queues. Back in April on the Honduras to Nicaragua border my group’s passports were processed first, despite me being third in the queue, because I outbid my competitors ahead of me. It’s part of the dark arts of tour leading.
However other countries forbid this kind of incentive. A few weeks after that issue I had a problem on the Costa Rica to Panama border as a client did not have the necessary entry stamp into Costa Rica. Negotiation on borders, in Spanish, can be challenging, but I knew I couldn’t ‘tip’ Mr Immigration in Costa Rica, or else I’d probably end up in a cell. After much arguing (read pleading) we eventually all got through fine. You never stop learning in this job.
Back in February I was published in the ‘Generation Emigration’ section of ‘The Irish Times’ featuring my work as a tour leader in Central America, a region many people back home wouldn’t know a lot about. I saw the results of an online poll that showed 42% of respondents thought Nicaragua was located in Africa. Mad.
I hoped the article would inspire people to travel to these countries that seem a world away. It seems to have had at least one success anyway. A Roscommon man on tour recently told me he decided to travel to Central America after reading my article back then. Plus he happened to get me as tour leader. Such a small world!
I’ve been working as a tour leader around Central America for nearly 9 months now. Above is the map of the usual 7-week tour I run. It’s about time I chronicle the travel stories I’ve accumulated.
As I was brainstorming for this blog I tried to come up with snappy titles that would draw a prospective reader in. I decided on the current SACA title even though the verb ‘to sloth’ is somewhat made up. Plus my Autocorrect keeps changing it to “Clothing Around Central America”, a fashion blog which, given my lack of dress sense, would be a lot more boring. I can only hope the Oxford English Dictionary will soon recognise “slothing” as a legitimate verb.
All views, opinions and bad jokes are my own; most photos are borrowed from Facebook or Google Images. I’ll try my best to make sure all posts are, above all, entertaining, but personal details will be kept to a minimum. This is a public blog, after all. I hope you enjoy it!