The Inspiration Initiative – My Sources of Inspiration

Mount Fitz Roy Boots

The Inspiration Initiative: #InspireTravel

Recently EasyJet Holidays reached out to me and asked if I would help them launch a new project they’re calling the Inspiration Initiative.  I loved the idea and in turn I’ve put together the following inspiration initiative post. Join in and help to inspire travel by sharing your own holiday and travel inspirations.  You can find out more here.


In 1994 my Mom and Dad rented out our house, uprooted my younger brother and I, and loaded the family into an airplane bound for Europe. We spent the next 11 months exploring Europe by foot, plane, train, and automobile. All the while they taught me about history, culture, tolerance and curiosity while also providing for my academic basics. What’s more, after returning to the states and spending a year to re-adjust they did it again, this time in a 32 foot fifth-wheel trailer as part of a ’round-the-US year-long trip.

I knew what they were doing was amazing at the time but, it has only been as I’ve transitioned into adult hood that I’ve truly realized and come to appreciate the amount of planning, preparation, and inspired drive that went into these trips. As I’ve transitioned from a child to a man in my own right, they’ve smoothly gone from parent and guide to mentor and friend. They have not only inspired me, they have also laid the groundwork and foundations which drive me to seek out inspiration; which push me to identify and associate with people who challenge, inform, and empower me.


Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a child growing up in the 80s and early 90s the voyages of the USS Enterprise captivated me. The intro narrative, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before” fostered an intense desire in me to explore the world (and beyond). It drove me to look to the far horizon, to dream of visiting the stars, and to embrace a passion and belief in a better future. It not only inspired me to travel and to appreciate new cultures and the arts, it instilled in me the passion of a futurist – a dreamer with a strong desire to also be an enactor working to bring science fiction to life. To this day I still consider Captain Picard to be one of the more influential and inspirational role models in my life.


Despite being born in Colorado and raised in Arizona, a large part of my childhood was spent on the Mexican beaches of Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point). Some of my first brushes with adventure were as a diaper-wearing toddler bravely making my way across what at the time seemed to be giant sand dunes, all under the watchful eye of my parents. As the years passed I traded in my diaper for a swimsuit, bucket, and net while roaming further afield. With these in hand I spent hours upon end exploring the beach’s tide pools and further nurturing my sense of curiosity as I sought out new life, ecosystems and discoveries one tide pool at a time. I can’t name a specific year, as we’d spend at least one month out of each year camped on the beach, but it was a formative part of my childhood. To this day there’s something about the smell of fresh ocean air which captivates and invigorates me.


Preikestolen Norway – located along Norway’s southwestern fjords. This wonderful natural formation is unusual, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.  With a semi-strenuous 3.8km hike along a rustic, boulder-littered path you’ll have to work a bit to reach Preikestolen or the “Preacher’s Pulpit” as it is also commonly known.  The small uphill hike is well worth it.  In addition to being beautiful, the final destination is heart-stopping and sure to take your breath away.  The pulpit’s rock formation is a large square roughly 25 meters x 25 meters which protrudes from the cliff face over the picturesque Lysefjorden fjord below. The sheer face of the cliff drops off nearly 2,000 feet (604 meters) to the fjord and offers an incredible panoramic view of the Norwegian countryside and surrounding mountain range.  If the weather is cooperating, it’s also possible to sit at one of the corners or along the outward edge of the pulpit where tradition suggests either dangling your legs over the side into empty air or crawling forward on your belly to glance over the edge into the void.  As someone with a fear of heights, it was a rich experience pushing my comfort zone while soaking up the sheer majesty of the location.  It served to further re-enforce my passion for travel, adventure, and exploration while showcasing the wonder and magnificent beauty that the world holds for those willing to seek it out.  You can see my post from Preikestolen here, and a video from over the edge here.

Inspiration Initiative Nominees;

Travel Yourself
Pommie Travels
My Travel Thirst
Wild About Travel
The Planet D

I wish you all safe travels and inspiring adventures. 

Click here for more information on the EasyJet Holidays Inspiration Initiative

Diving In Feet First – 36 Traveling Boot Photos From Around the World

It’s Thanksgiving back home, probably my favorite holiday of the year.  It’s a holiday about people, about coming together, and about taking a moment to focus on all that is positive in our lives. The people, the opportunities, the friends, the family, and yes, even the challenges.  As I reflect on what I’m thankful for travel comes to mind as a major aspect of my life and a true blessing.  In honor of that, I’ve put together this photo post showcasing some of my favorite signature boot shots from around the world.  If you enjoy these shots, feel free to check out the complete album over on flickr.

Mount Fitz Roy Boots

Mt. Fitz Roy near El Chalten, Argentina


Smoo Cliffs, Northern Scotland
Grand Canyon at Sunset - Boots
The Grand Canyon in Arizona, United States

Boots in Washington D.C.

The National Monument and Jefferson Monument in Washington D.C., United States

Caving in Budapest

Caving in Budapest, Hungary

Tierra del Fuego Boots

Penguins in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Copenhagen, The New Harbor, Denmark

Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark

Shark's Tooth Colorado Boots

Sharkstooth in the San Juan Mountains Colorado, United States

Tulum - Flip Flop Shot

Tulum Beach, Mexico


Loch Ness, Scotland

Arizona Desert - Boots

Painted Desert in Arizona, United States

Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley - Fin Shot

Swimming with Sharks, Belize

Mount Fitz Roy Boots

Patagonia, Argentina

Preikestolen, Norway

Preikestolen, Norway

Tikal - Boot Shot

Tikal Ruins, Guatemala

Bergen - The Old Warehouse District

Warehouse District in Bergen, Norway
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Stave Church, Oslo, Norway

Wooden Stave Church in Oslo, Norway
Iguazu Boots
Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Belize Barrier Reef - Foot Shot

Great Barrier Reef, Belize


The Old Fortress in Cadiz, Spain


Guejar in the Sierra Navadas Near Granada, Spain


Scottish Highlands, Scotland

Over the Edge - Preikestolen, Norway

Preikestolen, the Preacher’s Pulpit, Norway

Perito Moreno Boots

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Playa del Carmen - Sunrise Boot Shot

Sunrise at Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Tikal - Boot Shot

Mayan Pyramids in Tikal, Guatemala

Chichen Itza - Boots Shot

Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, Mexico

Shark's Tooth Colorado Boots

San Juan Mountains in Colorado, United States

Actun Tunichil Muknal - Boot Shot

Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize


Orkney Islands, Scotland

Perito Moreno Boots

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Norway - The Fjord

Waterfalls in the Fjords, Norway

Belize Barrier Reef - Foot Shot

En-route to Tobacco Caye, Belize

Bergen from Above, Norway

Bergen From Above, Norway

Tierra del Fuego Boots

Sunset in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

The world is a wonderful place and travel a spectacular gift.  If you’re already a veteran traveler, then I hope you’ll pause for a moment and reflect on all the gifts you’ve received from travel.  If you’re just gearing up for your first trip, then I encourage you to dive in and have to admit, I’m slightly jealous of the journal of self discovery, awe, adventure, and new experiences you’re about to undertake.   The majority of the photos in this post were taken on my Canon G11, though some shots were taken on my older Canon G6.

**This post was made possible in part by our travel partner Good 2 Go offering international travel insurance.

Five of My Favorite Travel Videos From Around the World

Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to travel to some pretty amazing places.  A few years ago I decided that photos alone were not cutting it.  So, I picked up a video camera and started shooting.  It’s been quite the learning experience and isn’t always easy.  It’s amazing the added challenges you face as a travel videographer – things like wind, moving objects and shaky hands – which just aren’t real issues when shooting travel photos on the go.  You can find all of my videos on my youtube channel.  But, now without further adieu I give you five of my favorite travel videos.

Number 1 – Argentina

Number 2 – Scandinavia

Number 3 – Central America

Number 4 – Mixed Locations

Number 5 – The Grand Canyon

The footage in the above shots was taken on a Canon Vixia HF200 and a FlipUltra with waterproof casing.

Have a favorite video which I didn’t include on this list? Tell me which one. I’d love to know! Personally, I’m a huge fan of my Argentina series in particular – though I’m only including the summary video in this post.

VirtualWayfarer and Alex Berger In The News

Tobacco Caye, Belize

Howdy all.  Three exciting updates to share with you all.  So far September has been a great month and included several exciting events!

The first of which is that the above photo which I shot in Belize back in December is today’s featured travel photo on BootsnAll Today via  The photo is one of several shots I’ve taken that have been featured as the photo of the day over the last 6 months or so.

Second, if you’re a regular reader of MSNBC’s Travel Tips section you may have noted a familiar name. I was quoted in last Friday’s article by Christopher Elliott of, “Falling Into A Vacation Deal: Autumn is a perfect time to get away – and save money in the process“.   The entire article is well worth a read, however, I’ve included the following excerpt for your immediate review:

Speaking of dollars, off-season getaways can be considerably cheaper.

Where to go? For video blogger Alex Berger, it’s Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Two weeks’ vacation costs him between $2,000 and $3,000, including airfare. “Traveling during the off-season can be a huge money-saver,” he said. “Off season offers a significantly cheaper option for the budget-conscious. Less hassle and increased room availability, most of the time. Greater access to locals. Better insights into local culture and increased camaraderie among travelers.”

Lastly, as those of you familiar with Oktoberfest are well aware, it’s not only one heck of a party, but a party which actually starts in September! I had the pleasure of spending several days in Munich back in 2007 as part of my 3 month adventure across Europe and weighed in with advice in a recent article, “Oktoberfest 2010: A Holiday Worth Saving For“.  My advice and suggestions are scattered throughout the article so you’ll have to click on over to see what I had to say.

Eager for more original content?  Stay tuned.  I’ve got several great blogs in the works which will cover the Norwegian Fjords outside of Bergen and the ancient port city of Copenhagen.

Interested in picking my brain?  Feel free to reach out to me via twitter or by e-mail alex [@]

Autumn is a perfect time to get away – and save money in the process

20 Days in Central America for less than $2,500

Barrier Reef - Sailing Tour - Belize

One of the most common questions I receive from friends and readers alike is how do you afford it? The assumption is that a 16-20 day trip abroad must be terribly expensive.  People commonly expect the trip expense to be somewhere in the $5,000-$10,000 USD range.  Which, given the structure and cost associated with most of the vacations Americans take, isn’t unreasonable.  When I tell them that my average trip costs me less than $3,000 most people are surprised, and more than a few don’t initially believe me.

I recently wrote a post explaining how I’ve managed to save for/budget the ~$6,000 I need each year for two 16-20 day trips abroad in my blog post, “Tallying Up the Cost: How I Afford to Travel“.  My goal with this post is to share with you my real world application of the techniques I outlined previously.

A few things to keep in mind: I could have done this trip for several hundred dollars cheaper.  I splurged on food on a regular basis, opted for mid-tier budget accommodation, and took a number of tours which I could have done solo/on my own for half the price.  I was also traveling during Central America’s peak season (December/January) which resulted in a significantly more expensive flight ticket and increased prices for the tours I did.

Barrier Reef - Sailing Tour - Belize

What It Cost

A round trip ticket from Phoenix to Cancun with travel insurance:  $530 USD.

Total Credit Card expenses: $280.29.

Total ATM Cash Withdrawals: $1,461.99.

Misc. expenses (ATM Fees/Reserve USD): $87.

Total price: $2358.81 for everything.

Actun Tunichil Muknal - Mayan Cave

Evaluating the Real Cost

That’s not the end of the story.  It’s important to put that figure into context.  Keep in mind that I was gone for 20 days.  An extended period during which I would have had a number of basic expenses regardless of where I was located.

In a given day at home/work I spend at least $20 on food.  That means that my average food expense had I stayed at home would have been at least $400.   I also go through about 1 tank of gas a week at an average cost of about $40 per tank.  At nearly 3 weeks on the road, I would have spent around $100 on gas in total.  Then add a conservative projection of about $150 total for entertainment expenses (bars, movies, etc.).

The end result is about $650 in expenses that I would have spent anyway, had I been at home.

This drops the real added expense burden down well under $2,000 to about $1,710 for the trip.

Is it cheap? Not necessarily, but is it significantly cheaper than you were probably expecting?  Most definitely.  Is it doable for most people?  Most definitely, IF you’re willing to prioritize and set some money aside.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Comments?  Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet @AlexBerger.  I look forward to your thoughts!

This Beautiful World: 30 of My Favorite Travel Photos

The following are 30 of my favorite travel photos.  Shots were taken on PowerShot G series cameras (G6, or G11).  All are my original photos.  Please do not re-produce them without my consent. You can view more of my photography on flickr.

Sunrise in Playa del Carmen

1. Playa del Carmen, Mexico – Canon G11


2. Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Canon G6


3. Southern Crete, Greece – Canon G6


4. Glencoe Valley, Scotland – Canon G6

Barrier Reef - Sailing Tour - Belize

5. Tobacco Caye, Belize – Canon G11

The Bridge in Smoo Cave

6. Smoo Cave, Scotland – Canon G6

Dos Ojos, Mexico Cave Snorkeling

7. Dos Ojos, Mexico – Canon G11


8. Rob Roy’s Grave, Scotland – Canon G6

Plitvice Lakes - Croatia

9. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia – Canon G6


10. Edinburgh, Scotland – Canon G6

Breakfast Parrot

11. Flores, Guatemala – Canon G11

Coastal Village

12. North Western Coast, Scotland – Canon G6


13. San Marino, San Marino – Canon G6

Highland Road

14. Road to Orkney, Scotland – Canon G6

Tobacco Caye, Belize

15. Tobacco Caye, Belize – Canon G11

Scottish Highlands

16. Small Village, Scotland – Canon G6

Barrier Reef - Sailing Tour - Belize

17. Belize Barrier Reef, Belize – Canon G11

Germany: Bavaria - Neuschwanstein Castle

18. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany – Canon G6

Plitvice Lakes - Croatia

19. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia – Canon G6

Fijord Fronds

20. Northern Coast, Scotland – Canon G6

Germany: Bavaria - Oktoberfest

21. Oktoberfest, Germany – Canon G6

York, England

22. Cathedral, York, Scotland – Canon G6

Plitvice Lakes - Croatia

23. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia – Canon G6

Prague, Czech Republic

24. Prague, Czech Republic – Canon G6

Scottish Highlands

25. Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – Canon G6


26. Cathedral, Italy – Canon G6

Dubrovnik - Croatia

27. Dubrovnik, Croatia – Canon G6

Florence - Italy

28. Florence, Italy – Canon G6


29. Nafplio, Greece – Canon G6

Cinque Terra - Italy

30. Cinque Terre, Italy – Canon G6

The Ruins of Chichen Itza and A Grand Cenote

Ruins of Chichen Itza

Over a thousand years ago Mayan engineers laid down the plans for a mighty undertaking.  One that required precision, patience, insane amounts of manpower, and a shocking scientific knowledge about the world, solar system, and engineering.

Sunrise in Playa del Carmen

My morning started shortly after 7.  As the sun rose over the bay, I meandered my way along the main drag in Playa del Carmen.  I walked lazily, hoping to find something edible and affordable for breakfast, before connecting with the day-long bus tour to Chichen Itza and a large Cenote I’d booked the afternoon before.  I was curious and a bit anxious.  The all day tour was only $40 USD.  A fair bit less than a lot of the other competitors and dirt cheap for an all day tour.   Especially one that included the entrance to the ruins, a buffet lunch, and entrance to a large stabilized cenote/swimming area.

Sunrise in Playa del Carmen

The weather was incredible.  The remnants of the previous day’s storm were lazily clinging to life as the sun gently pushed its way towards apex.  All the while the Sun’s rays cut giant holes through the clouds, lancing giant golden rays towards the coast and into the water.  It was truly one of the most breathtaking sunrises I’ve seen in a very, very long time.  In many ways, it was the most majestic thing I’d see all day. Eventually I found my way back to a bench in front of the closed restaurant where I was schedule to meet my driver.  Ere long I noticed a few other travelers doing the same thing and struck up a conversation.  As it turned out, several of the women near by were traveling together and from the west coast.  The younger ones were in their late 20s/early 30s and were loads of fun.  We quickly exchanged stories and laughed as we anxiously tried to figure out what/where/how we would be finding our way to the bus. As it turned out, the ladies were actually scheduled with a different tour company, much to our collective disappointment.  My disappointment increased as I was led to the vehicle we’d be using: Unlike the van I’d been promised we’d be taking I was greeted by a 16 person mini bus.  Annoyed at the increased size, my frustration deepened as I realized that I’d also been lied to about the tour language.  I’d been told it was an English only tour, instead it quickly became obvious that the tour would be delivered in Spanish 2/3 of the time with the occasional English follow up.  Uncomfortable in my tiny seat, pissed off about being lied to and anything but happy about the Spanish historical video playing on the Van’s TV I settled in for the 2+ hour drive from Playa del Carmen to the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza.

Ruins of Chichen Itza

The city itself is thought to have become a regional power around 600 A.D.  For the next 400 years the city enjoyed varying degrees of power before eventually collapsing around 1,000 A.D. – though the site itself retained a significantly reduced population there after and is believe to have remained active for several hundred years, largely due to the large Cenotes. Upon our arrival we made our way down dirt pathways that were lined by local Mayan craft art supplemented by the usual tourist crap.  The sheer number of small table stands and vendors is a tribute to the immense draw Chichen Itza has as a tourist attraction. I recently read that Chichen Itza is Mexico’s second most popular/visited Archaeological site.   The site itself was fairly sterile.  Major buildings have been restored/stabilized, vegetation cleared, and grass planted in major areas. As we paused in front of the main pyramid, “El Castillo” our guide explained the incredible details of the pyramid’s construction and orientation.   The pyramid was built with painstaking attention detail so that every step, tier, and decoration had some sort of powerful meaning or purpose. The most impressive of which was the way the steps and edges of the pyramid aligned during the equinox twice a year.  Wikipedia explains the event, “On the Spring and Autumn equinox, at the rising and setting of the sun, the corner of the structure casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent – Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl – along the west side of the north staircase. On these two annual occasions, the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun’s movement to the serpent’s head at the base”. You can see the staircase sans shadows in the photo above.

Ruins of Chichen Itza

From the main pyramid we cut down and across towards the “La Iglesia” structure in the Las Monjas complex of buildings.  On the way we paused briefly at several small pyramids and temples before reaching a heavily decorated building, which had a number of powerfully carved decorates dedicated to/depicting the Mayan god of rain Chaac.

Ruins of Chichen Itza

From there it was on to the Observatory – another incredible piece of astrological/archeological mastery, before pausing briefly for a snack.  Then it was back to the main plaza by the primary pyramid – which, by the way, can no longer be climbed by the public.

Ruins of Chichen Itza

From there we explored several of the other smaller temples and archeological ruins, pausing to take in the impressive carvings and monster-like figures carved into the local stone.

Ruins of Chichen Itza

In addition to the site’s amazing archeological wonders, it’s also home to a plethora of unusual plant life.  The plant life creates a vibrant, often enthralling backdrop to the ancient Mayan wonders, and re-affirmed my respect for the Mayan’s resilience and ability to carve their way through thick jungle. In retrospect, I wish I’d seen Chichen Itza long before visiting Guatemala’s Tikal. While impressive in scale and scope I could not help but feel that Tikal dwarfed Chichen Itza in every way.  The pyramids were larger and more majestic, the jungle wilder, the ruin complex larger, the site itself less polished.  I had high expectations for Chichen Itza.  After all, the site has been selected as one of the “New Wonders of the World” and has drawn travelers, scholars and heads of state alike.  These expectations were somewhat disappointed.  That said, however, it truly is a wondrous place.  Just make sure you see it BEFORE you see Tikal.

Cenote Looking Up

From Chichen Itza it was back onto the bus for a brief trip down the street to a large cenote-turned water park.  The cavernous Cenote had been stabilized and reinforced, with a small, secondary tunnel carved into the side of the large cavernous area.  I quickly changed into my swimsuit, and began to make my way down through the cave/tunnel, pausing briefly at the two overlooks that opened up onto the sinkhole/cenote’s interior.

Mexican Cenote

The Cenote itself was incredible.  A large tubular sinkhole that stretched at least 100 feet down into the earth, before cutting into deep blue/green water, there was a small waterfall that cascaded down the sheer face of the cenote’s walls, before splashing across the water’s surface.  The whole area was surrounded by long vines, many of which stretched at least 100 feet from the surface, down into the cenote.

Cenote Jump

Once at the bottom, I jumped in and swam for a bit.  Pausing briefly to look up towards the surface.  All the while reveling in the natural beauty of the Cenote’s fern, moss and vine covered walls.  From there it was up a series of steps to a jump some 15-20 feet up.   Once there, after a momentary pause I launched myself out and into the dark green waters, dodging fish and hanging fines as I torpedoed down into the water.  As impressive as the Cenote was above water, our guide told us it stretched another 70 some odd meters below the surface. Truly an incredible place. From there it was back onto the bus for a tired nap and long drive home.  The following day I’d be piling onto a plane and making the short flight back to Arizona. The Yucatan is truly a wondrous place, one I hope you will all consider visiting.  It is home to amazing natural beauty, delightful food, amazing experiences, and a rich archeological history. On that note, this post is the final in my series on my December 2009 Central America trip.  Stay tuned for new posts, adventures and destinations.

Three Countries in 10 hours and New Years Celebrations

Flores, Guatemala

I didn’t sleep well.  I was nervous.  It was sometime around 4AM in the twilight hours of the last day of 2009. I had an early bus to catch, was traveling on a holiday, would spend time in 3 different countries over the next 10 hours, and had to sleep with my camera. Why the odd bedfellow?  In the absence of an alarm clock, watch, or other time keeping device – the internal clock on my Canon G11 was my sole time piece.  Luckily my internal clock held true, waking me a half hour or so before I needed to be up.

Sunset - Flores, Guatemala

I stretched, groaned at the odd noises one of the local birds was making, and then stumbled over to my locker.  A few brief minutes later I found a bench outside my dorm room and sat down, carefully making sure I had everything as I tied my shoes.  The sun had just begun to rise.  It was the start of a gloomy, but invigorating day.  The type that was made for travel – gloomy enough that you don’t feel like you’re missing something, but nice enough that downtime between buses etc. isn’t miserable.

From there it was down the uneven cobblestone streets to the waterfront where my Flores (Guatemala) -> Chetumal (Mexico) bus would pick me up at 7:30.  I confirmed my booking, then opted for a bit of breakfast at the small cafe next door.

Flores, Guatemala

As I sat down at one of the outside tables, I chuckled while making eye contact with a vibrantly colored, inquisitive parrot who was carefully perched (dare i say stranded) on top of the “Break Fast” sign.

There were a few of us out and about. All bleary eyed. All wishing we were still in bed. My food arrived, as did a bland black coffee just as there was a loud POP! Crackle! POP! From somewhere overhead.  Startled I looked over and up in time to see the large power pole begin to spark and smoke.  The two locals underneath it jumped back as I leapt out of my chair and got under the cover of the building, carefully eying the power line which stretched directly over the table i’d been sitting at.

The owner quickly grabbed a wooden broom, then ran around turning off all of the electronics as the power pole/line continued to smolder and throw off periodic sparks. Eventually it died down…just in time for the local who had previously been standing immediately under the pole to walk over and tentatively touch it.  Luckily, the danger appeared to have passed and with a wary eye I returned to my table, plowed through my food, paid my bill and made my way to the bus stop.

The bus ride itself wasn’t anything special.  A long trip with brief pauses ever hour or two.  Two quick stops – one at the Guatemala/Belize border and another at the Belize/Mexico border where we disembarked, paid a plethora of fees, then wandered aimlessly into the country.  The highlight, however, was a wonderful husband and wife who were traveling together. The husband was a scientist and professor at UNLV who shared a wealth of insights with me about climate change, recently discovered micro-organisms in extreme locations, and other like-kind scientific insights.  Our conversation was both fascinating and extremely informative which went a long way towards speeding up the trip.

Eventually we arrived at the Chetumal bus station, where we would book the second leg of our trip.  For me it was onto a 1st class bus for the 4 hour bus ride to Play del Carmen where I hoped my hostel reservation was waiting for me.  Unfortunately, the first bus was sold out, leaving an hour plus layover and adding to my anxiety.  Nervous about losing my reservation I found a tiny internet cafe in one of the Bus Station coffee shops, from which I sent a follow up/confirmation e-mail to my hostel.  “Please hold my spot, I am coming from Guatemala today! If everything goes according to plan I’ll be arriving sometime between 10-11:45”.

I was exhausted, smelled, and stressed. The last thing I wanted to do was spend New Years on a Mexican bus.  Luckily, the bus eventually appeared, was on time, and got me safely to Play del Carmen by 10:30PM.

Nervous about my reservation I made a B-line to the hostel and was relived to find that they’d received my e-mail right about the time they were debating giving the bed away.  I was in luck, they’d kept a bed set aside for me in one of the dorms. I’d made it before new years – and I was ready to celebrate.

In a small mealstrom of activity I washed up quickly, deodorized, changed and made my way up to the hostel bar.  A couple of dollars later and with a beer in each hand I set to the task of making new friends.  I quickly fell in with a Dane and some Aussies. As the seconds ticked by we counted down,  drinks held in in the air:  10, 9, 8, 7 – whew I’d made it! – 6, 5, 4 – What an amazing year.  I’d kicked it off in the Plaza del Sol 12 months earlier in Spain and now I already found myself saying goodbye to 2009 on a different continent, with equally delightful people after a year of incredible adventure – 3, 2, 1…..and then the rooftop bar exploded with a roaring cheer.   Hugs and high fives were exchanged, glasses and beer bottles clanked together and as one, people from all over the world celebrated the start of a new year and a new adventure.

After another hour or so at the Hostel bar, a group of us formed up and set out to explore a few of the local clubs.  Before long we found one along the beach with an incredible view of the ocean and great music.   For the next few hours we danced, drank, socialized, and exchanged stories.  At 4AM I realized I was quickly approaching the 24 hour mark and that I was drained of every last ounce of energy I had.   I said by goodbyes and made my way back to the hostel where I crawled into my bunk, let out a great sigh and drifted towards sleep.

Unfortunately, I was in the top bunk located in the very corner of the room, immediately between two large windows. The good news was, that the sunrise was spectacular.  The bad news was, that between the sunlight and eventual heat coming off the windows I was awake and drenched in sweat by 8:30AM.  Hungover, I set out to walk the beach and get some fresh air. To my amusement and surprise the party was still raging at one of the beach clubs.  With more than a few people passed out along the beach in front, the bar itself was full of people dancing.  Many were still in evening dresses from the night before, though most had long since lost their shoes.  Most of the guys were in similar form, though almost all had long ago abandoned their shirts.

Beach New Years Day

As I strolled along the beach I paused and couldn’t help but laugh.  Immediately in front of the club, half buried in the sand a reveler was sound asleep.  Passer-bys had decorated the individual with beer bottles, sand breasts, and upended cups.  The only sign of life was a periodic roaring snore.

Eventually feeling refreshed I made my way back to the hostel where the Air Conditioning had kicked in.  I crawled back into bed for a quick nap.

By 1 I made my way to the rooftop common area, where I settled in with a large water and my book.  Before long Daniel and Jesse joined me.  We exchanged stories from the night before, and I quickly learned that after I’d left Jesse and Daniel had continued full force.  As it turned out, much to Daniel and my entertainment – Jesse was locked out of his room.  With nothing better to do, we opted to head down to a beach front bar for a lone drink as we recovered.

Play del Carmen

Before long we’d stumbled on the site of a week long rave/music festival that was operating 24/7.  Set up around a resort’s beach front pool the area was packed with people dancing, celebrating, and relaxing. The scene was an incredible chance to people watch and full of entertaining antics.  Before long, someone volunteered to grab the first round which obliterated any hope we’d had for a relaxing 1 beer afternoon.  As the part picked up steam we drank, danced, and met an entertaining mixture of locals, travelers, and vacationers.   In what seamed like the blink of an eye 1PM had turned into 6PM which had bled into 8PM.  Hungry we tore ourselves away from the party long enough to make our way back towards the hostel.  The walk there was amazing, mostly along the beach,  and under a full Blue Moon.  Once back to the hostel we picked up a few more people, changed quickly, then found a near by dollar taco stand.  The jokes were hilarious, offensive, and often told around a mouth full of taco and Pacifico.

With laughter and salsa induced tears streaming down our faces we eventually finished dinner, before striking out to find a nightclub.  The first attempt was a failure…apparently night clubs didn’t care for one of the Australian’s ball-bulge-spedoesque-swimsuit, which set off another round of jokes and laughter.   Making a scene as we ambled through the street – often laughing hysterically or making odd faces – we eventually found a club that welcomed us with open arms…and free drinks.  From there it was on to the Blue Parrot where we watched a fire show, danced, and laughed at each other mostly because  Daniel, Jesse and I had all begun to lose our voices and sounded ridiculous.

By 3 we’d all started to hit a wall and eventually opted to limp our way back to the hostel and turn in.  If New Years Eve/Day was any indication, 2010 will be one hell of a great year.