Is Indefinite Travel in Central America Going to Work For Us?

All we’ve got is a one-way ticket to Costa Rica, a house-sit lined up for the first few months, and a lot of ideas.

It’s our first time travelling indefinitely. By indefinite travel, I mean travel which is open-ended, which continues until something either goes wrong – whether that’s running out of money, being kicked out of a country because of an expired tourist VISA, or running out of ideas – or something comes up, like just deciding we want to go home to our families.

Can we maintain indefinite travel in Central America on our tiny, changeable freelance salaries? The only way to find out is to go and try… If it all goes wrong, then it does. If it doesn’t, then super! Of course indefinite travel is risky and mostly down to chance, but there are a few things we’ve done to prepare.

Getting ready for indefinite travel in Central America...
Getting ready for indefinite travel in Central America…

Read and Research

It’s the same for all travel, if you want to make the most of your time away then know where you’re going. Type “Central America travel tips” into Google and you’re pretty much set. After Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor, a go-to top hit for nearly everything travel related is the very reliable travel blogger Nomadic Matt. To effectively read and research:

1) Memorise the average price of a taxi ride, a hostel/hotel room, a meal out, and a beer. This way, you can not only plan your budget and decide how much money to take with you initially, but you’ll also know if someone tries to rip you off straight away when you get there.

2) Scribble a list of places you’d like to go and things you want to do there. Mark them all onto a map so that at a glance you can see which activities are near to each other and which ones are totally off in the middle of nowhere. A visual like this helps you create a basic outline of a route. Usually you can identify a loop or a straight line.

3) Don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Not everything on a “Top 10 Things to do in Blah Blah” is going to be something you want to do, so don’t think you have to. Pick and choose what interests you, and if what you want to do isn’t on a Top 10, it doesn’t mean it’s a lame thing to do, it probably just means you’re awesome and alternative.

Lukes indefinite travel map of costa rica
Our hand-drawn map of Costa Rica, marking out the places we want to go.

Scour Some Central America Travel Blogs

There’s a travel blogger for every niche out there, but I always find the most useful bloggers to be ones who live in and blog on a specific country. My Tan Feet is an awesome one for Costa Rican travel. The Costa Rica Travel Blog has been really useful for general travel issues and De la Pura Vida has some good expat and English teaching advice.

Start Networking

Networking via the internet is a great way to find opportunities in another country, whether it’s volunteering, house-sitting, or a local hiking group.  Join some expat forums and Facebook groups and start asking questions. Costa Rica has four or five really good groups for this and it can be a good way to find opportunities. First-hand advice can also be invaluable on the road.

costa rica mask
A random Costan Rican mask.

Tell Facebook

I’m not fond of the whole social media thing and I also rarely want to tell everyone where I’m going or what I’m up to (ironically). However, as a traveller and travel blogger, it can be pretty essential. Last week, I told my Facebook world I was going to Costa Rica and likely heading to Nicaragua after.

I received a message from an old friend advising me not to get kidnapped in Nicaragua! I said not to worry, as I certainly didn’t intend on being kidnapped, but he did tell me a story about a friend of his who had all of her stuff stolen in Managua. He tipped me off on a few cool, exciting things too of course. It’s pretty likely that someone or other on your Facebook has been to wherever you’re going. Take the free information and ask for recommendations.

Costa Rica facebook Indefinite travel (2)
Join Facebook groups, talk to people, tell the world.

Have an Immediate Plan

A good way to lose all of your travel money is to not have an immediate plan for when you step off the plane. Being in a new country is daunting: taxi drivers are usually ready to scam any bewildered looking white face, accommodation can be crazy expensive if you don’t know where to look, and having a holiday attitude isn’t a good way to travel long-term. Try and have an address to get to for your first few nights.

What’s our plan? We have a house sit lined up for as soon as we arrive in Costa Rica, and this is, in fact, the sole reason that we chose to go straight to Costa Rica rather than anywhere else. Having a house sitting gig means accommodation isn’t a worry, you’ll likely have someone to introduce you to the local area, and you have time to explore at your own leisure without burning a hole in your pocket.

costa rica house sit indefinite travel
A photo sent to us of the view from our next house sit.

Practice your Spanish

Or, in our case, learn some Spanish. Before booking our one-way ticket, neither of us could speak any Spanish. Thanks to the amazing online world, we’ve both been learning Spanish for free. Getting a few key phrases down so that we can at least get by in the beginning, is a good start. Fortunately for me, Luke’s gotten pretty good.

Duolingo
Practicing Spanish on Duolingo, a good way to get started.

Pack Light

Oh my gosh, I hate carrying stuff. It’s heavy and often useless. Packing light is an essential part of preparing for indefinite travel. If you know you’re going to be moving around (even if it’s in the distant future), then you can bet future you won’t want to be hauling around your kitchen sink. I know already that when we take a bus to Nicaragua after our house sit, there is absolutely no way I will want to be carrying excess weight.

But! Always take good shoes and a rain coat. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re going, these two things are mandatory. Aching feet and wet clothes do not make for a happy Charlie, or a happy anybody. Don’t make your life miserable.

packing light indefinite travel
Starting to pack my small suitcase and keeping it as light as possible.

 

Tell Your Bank Man You Need Dollars

Is there anything worse than getting to a place with empty pockets, whacking your card into an ATM and it refusing to give you some cash? In that scenario, you’re royally screwed. Tell your bank before to make sure your card doesn’t get rejected abroad.

Charlie CR Money
Some Costa Rica colones, ready to go…

Ready for indefinite travel? Me neither.

Even though all of the things on the list are checked off, indefinite travel isn’t something you can fully prepare for. Is indefinite travel in Central America going to work for us? I really don’t know. Maybe we’ll be back home after a few months, but maybe indefinite travel will be a success for us. We won’t know until we try.

If you’ve got any tips for making long-term travel a success, do let me know!

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

34 thoughts on “Is Indefinite Travel in Central America Going to Work For Us?

  1. My card got blocked four times in Central America, was an absolute nightmare to try and get it sorted!

    Your infinite travel plans sound spectacular, I wish you all the very best. I’m sure kidnapping won’t happen in Nicaragua, that’s where I met some of the most lovliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting; everyone there is so willing to help all for a smile. :)

    1. No way, what a nightmare! It didn’t get swallowed, did it? That would be the worst.

      Thanks! Don’t know whether it will work out, but going to risk it anyway haha… Super news on Nicaragua, I’m looking forward to it! :)

  2. I’m EXCITED to find this blog & will add it to the largest list of Costa Rica blogs at http://LivingLifeInCostaRica.blogspot.com

    LOVE all the hints!! I’d like to sometimes share your stories on my blog (usually just a few paragraphs & then a link to your site. Helps get your #s up as well!!) if that’s cool!

    Regarding Nicaragua, I’ve been going there on my Visa Runs for 5 years now – 4+ times a year! I spent over 3 months there last year & just returned from 5 weeks there. & I can tell you I feel WAYYYYY SAFER in Nicaragua than in Costa Rica!!!!!!!!! Just look at the houses – not many bars, barbed wire, massive walls, guarded communities. Heck, MANY people have their front door WIDE OPEN for people to just stop on by/come on in!!

    Criminals OFTEN get caught, arrested & put in jail – VERY DIFFERENT than the scene in CR!! Because of my blog that gets over 30,000 page views a month on it, I get LOTS of people sharing their stories & these days I can tell you 98% of the people in CR that have a crime committed against them don’t even bother reporting them feeling “Why bother” since RARELY does anything come from it let alone happens to the criminal here. Hence how CR can get such high rankings for “safety” – because the #s are NOT accurate!!!!!!

    I’m MUCH more concerned with crime statistics than murder stats since statistically murders so rarely happen!!

    Regarding getting kidnapped – LOTS more people get car jacked (& taken to atms usually) in CR than what we hear about in Nicaragua!! & the other types that get kidnapped – rare as they are – are often people with LOTS of $$$$ – not every day folk!! Did the person that shared the info on the kidnapping share any crime info on CR??????

    In ALL my travels I’ve never had a card blocked – when I did things PROPERLY!! By calling my back a few days before AND the day before or that I was leaving to give them the dates I’d be where I was going & I always added a few extra days on the end just in case because not everyone processes credit cards on the spot & I don’t want them to have problems.

    Here’s to a WONDERFUL new journey for you!!!!!

    1. Thanks for this very enthusiastic comment!! =D

      I’m excited to be added to the Costa Rica blog, thank you. And yes, you’re welcome to share my blog posts as long as there’s a link to my blog to read it :)

      I’m really looking forward to Nicaragua – well, I’m looking forward to everywhere! – but I hear great things from other travellers about it. Such a shame about the crime attitude in CR. Yes, I think that my friend really meant it as more as a mugging because the woman got in a taxi and it was then that she ended up in a bad situation having all of her things stolen. I don’t have lots of $$$s, so hopefully will avoid anything like that.

      My friend didn’t actually encounter any crime when he travelled CR, I don’t think.

      Thanks for all your stories on this! It was great to read!! :)

  3. Getting money from our US accounts was a big deal since we couldn’t set up an account in CR without residency. Set up a Charles Schwab account before you leave if you can – no ATM fees and a higher limit that you can withdraw. You can’t set it up once you’re out of the country. Enjoy your travels – we really liked CR and are off to Antigua, Guatemala next month!

    1. Yes, we’ve told our UK accounts but who knows, it doesn’t always mean your card will work. We looked into setting up a Charles Schwab bank but we’re not eligible, because of our income and savings etc.

      Thank you, we will! Let me know what Guatemala is like! =)

      1. Try CapitalOne (online banking). They have been GREAT! No charges for ATM (which I use a LOT) and they have many other advantages over other “typical” banks. We’ve been so happy with them. Nice to see you are using Duolingo — we think it’s lots of fun. Have a wonderful visit and welcome to Costa Rica!!! I am putting a link to your blog on our blog: paulandmarilynretire.blogspot.com :)

  4. Best of luck on your new adventure!! The view at your housesit is amazing – what area is it in? We LOVED Costa Rica, such a great vibe and all kinds of things to do. Didn’t spend much time in Nicaragua, but I’m sure you’ll love that too. I’m excited for you. Pura vida!

    1. Thank you, Katie!! It’s in the mountains around San Jose, a place called Santiago de Puriscal. Aw, great! I’ll have to do a backsearch on your blog for some CR posts then :) Pura vida!

  5. Reading this excites me because I wish I could also do it. I will never cross it out in case it gets into my wish list. So, I will look forward for your posts. Happy Travels! Ü

    1. We’ve worked for a few years to get to this point where we are willing to try! and we are lucky not to have any dependents, or other responsibilities really. Maybe one day for you too! Thanks! =)

  6. How exciting. Just found your blog and will be following along! We’re just about to prematurely end our long-term trip through Central America as we realized it just wasn’t the area of the world for us. That being said, we’ve met a million other people who would be glad to stay on forever so that’s just us! Good luck in CR, and I’ll second the comments above rooting for Nicaragua!

    1. Thanks, Polly! That’s a shame, what led you think that it wasn’t the right area in the world for you? It’s our first day out here and we like it at the moment, though that’s easy on your first day of course. Where are you headed to now? :)

      1. At a very basic level, the heat and lack of infrastructure bothered me much more than I imagined it would. We’re also in the process of starting a few projects which just aren’t feasible in this part of the world. But it was a great experience we would have regretted it if we hadn’t tried.

        Hopefully it’ll work out better for you!

  7. Hey! Looks like I might have found your blog at just the right time, I’m looking forward to reading more about this indefinite trip.
    P.s. DuoLingo is where it’s at!

  8. So exciting! Don’t worry too much Charlie, just go with the flow and everything will work out, don’t plan too much and see what happens, this is my advice! ;)

        1. It’s going awesome, thanks Franca! Our house sit has incredible views, we get eggs from the neighbour and milk fresh from the cow, organic veg from the Farmer’s Market which is cheaper than the supermarket etc. We have 9 dogs to looks after though!! They always want to follow us on walks haha. Luke and I are pretty content here :)

          How’s travelling going for you both?

          1. Wow, 9 dogs sounds like heaven :) I’m so glad you are enjoying it and having goo time. We are both well, travelling in Spain at the moment, we arrived in Madrid yesterday :)

          2. Sometimes awesome, but sometimes noisy! It’s also difficult to go for a walk because all 9 of them want to follow us onto the road, which is really not okay. They’re great around the house though :)

            Sounds great! I’ve not been to Madrid… Will be reading along! My boyfriend Luke loves your blog too btw, but he’s not much a commenter :)

  9. I enjoyed this post so much!! I think you have everything important for a successful long-term travel – the right attitude. You are enthusiastic, interested and curious. That’s enough if you ask me. :-)

  10. This is so exciting! I had a good laugh at your last line there – ready for indefinite travel? Me neither. I can’t imagine having travel so open ended, although we have left without a return flight we have also always known that coming home would happen in a few months and have yet to make enough to support our travels through freelancing. Definitely going to follow along on your adventures – have a great time!

    1. Thanks, Calli! It’s pretty hard to imagine, even though we’ve started it actually! We’ve been really lucky as well to both secure enough freelance writing work to fund over travels too – if you keep slogging at it, it will work out.

      I’m always following your travel adventures too! :)

  11. Congrats on taking the first step to indefinite travel. I am sure it will be as rewarding as it is frightening. I love that the fact that you are going to try things that is not the norm – it is great to try things that are different and it will make the experience all the more special! Look forward to reading all about your adventures in Costa Rica!

    Constance

  12. There’s so many good tips here, a lot of things I have so far overlooked! Great idea memorising the average prices before you get to your destination. Thanks for sharing :)

  13. I love your attitude of “if we succeed, super and if we fail, at least we tried!” So many people are afraid to even try. It sounds like you have an excellent plan and are well prepared for this adventure. I wish you loads of luck!

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