(This post was originally published on my personal blog, The Mad to Live, and has been republished on OMM)
I have £1k ($1,600 US) to spend however which way I want on an epic adventure of a lifetime. What do I do?
That’s the question I’ve been asked to answer for the Grand Adventure Challenge, and I have come up with the most amazing itinerary that I’ve stretched to the max.
I’m a microadventurer. Microadventures range from full-day to multi-day mini outdoor expeditions of a human-powered journey. They’re all about getting up, getting out, and testing the hell out of yourself. I started doing microadventures as my way of “traveling” when I’m not traveling …I skateboarded 30 miles in 12 hours from Boulder to Denver, Colorado once, and another time I did a 2-day, 50 mile walk along the Atlantic coast, just to name a few.
For my grand adventure of a lifetime, I’d take my homeland journeys and I’d create an epic series of 8 microadventures around South and Central America. I’m talking SUPing across lakes in Nicaragua, walking straight across entire countries, kayaking the circumference of islands! Epic Adventures!!!
Before I dive into those details, I’ll first explain my cost breakdown because you and I both know that it takes some cash to do these things. So, let’s see just how far I can stretch a grand. After that, I’ll go into a bit of detail about each of my 8 microadventures, how they’ll work, and what makes them so epic.
The Cost Breakdown:
How to do 8 microadventures over the course of 3 months with only £1k:
The plan is to do 1 microadventure a week, some of which will take 12 hours while others will take up to 4 days. This means I have about £325 pounds / $500 US dollars a month to stretch. That money will go towards:
- Keeping my belly full. Fortunately, I love street food and I have a stomach of steel!
- Buying myself a cold brew or two to drink at the end of a warm and beautiful day.
- A place to rest my head at night: Some nights I’ll do a hostel averaging $10/night, others I’ll use couchsurfing.org so I can stay with the locals or fellow expats. I also have a few family friends and fellow travel comrades living in various countries around Latin America I’ll be able to stay with.
- Buying magnets from each country I visit to add to my enormous collection displayed proudly on my kitchen fridge.
- Renting Or Bringing Gear: Kayaks, SUPs, and Bicycles are large items to carry around. Some I’ll be able to bring, others I’ll rent on the spot. One option is to rent a van while down there and bring all my own gear and equipment, the other option is to simply rent.
Fortunately, after these costs, doing microadventures are absolutely free. It doesn’t cost a dime to walk across a country from coast to coast, or to SUP across a lake, or to cycle across a desert. All I need for that is time, will-power, and a sense of adventure. After that, I’m set.
1. Nicaragua: Stand Up Paddle Board Across A Body of Water
Lake Nicaragua is the biggest lake in Central America. The plan is to take off at dawn on the western coast and SUP about 8 miles to the beautiful Ometepe Island. This 5 mile by 10 mile piece of land is made up of 2 volcanoes, one of which has a gorgeous lagoon resting at it’s peak. I’ll camp here on the first night, and spend a full day exploring the island by bike and foot. The hike up to the lagoon is only 6 miles and all I’ll need is a map and a pair of hiking boots for that. There’s both camping and a hostel on the island, and I can pay $3 for internet for the day to let me friends know I’m still alive after microadventure day 1!
In bed by 8PM, and the next day will be the real kicker. I’ll SUP about 25 miles to the eastern coastline for an expected duration of 12 hours. The beauty of SUPs is they are massive, and you’re able to strap all of your supplies (food, water, sunblock, white chocolate macadamia nut cliff bars – you know, the essentials) to the board.
I’ll arrive around 10 PM, and head straight for my hostel where I’ll spend £7 on a bed and a hot shower, and £3 on a gigantic cheeseburger and cold beer.
BREAK: Take a bus back over to the coastline of Nicaragua or the coastal lake town of Managua. Meet locals, laugh with hostel mates, and do some writing.
(image courtesy of: Jayne-Anne Ahmann)
2. Panama: Walk from Ocean to Ocean
Panama at its thinnest point is only about 25 miles wide, a walk that can be done in about 12 hours. The goal is to walk from one ocean, the Pacific, to another ocean, The Atlantic. And lucky me, there is a road that stretches from the city of Panama straight across the country alongside Soberania National Park to the small port town of Colon.
The only cost of this microadventure is water and food, and with small towns conveniently placed along my route I’ll have no trouble getting access to those things. After that, it’s just putting one foot in front of the other towards the beautiful Atlantic coast.
BREAK: Panama has some of the best surf spots in Central America. I’ll kick back for a few days for some dawn patrol surf session in the AM and reading and relaxing in the afternoon to heal up for the next microadventure.
(image courtesy of: Shab Madina)
3.) Chile (north): A Skate Trek along the Atacama Desert
The plan is to skate 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the town of Antofagasta, Chile to the Giant Hand in the Desert, a sculpture that stands 11 meters tall. It is gigantic, and it will be the ultimate and most well-deserved high five!
I can skate about 30 miles in 1 day, so for this microadventure I’ll skate 25 miles, camp in the desert, and skate the remaining 20 miles the next day. I already have a longboard made for long distance skating and camping gear, so all I need to worry about is having enough water in my pack to get me from A to B. The Atacama is said to be the driest place on earth, so it’s certainly not the kind of place you want to run out of water!
BREAK: I’ll head back to the small city of Antofagasta and meander it’s beautiful coastal streets for a few days sipping coffee and practicing my Spanish.
(Image courtesy of: Leonardo Del Prete)
4.) The Galapagos: Kayak The Circumference of an Island
Galapagos National Park has a circumference of about 80 miles. The plan is to kayak about 20 miles a day and then camp along its beautiful shores. There’s a chance I’ll need permits for this, but I’ll worry about that when the actual planning begins. The Galapagos Islands are known for having some of the most amazing landscapes and wildlife known to man. It’s like no other place on this earth.
BREAK: Spend the week on one of the islands teaching English in exchange for accommodation in the afternoon, and swimming with sea turtles in the morning.
(Photo courtesy of: Chad Chase)
5.) Venezuela: Canoe to the World’s Largest Waterfall
Angel Falls is the world’s highest water fall at 979 m (3,212 feet) and it can only be reached by plane or by river. This presents a perfect opportunity for a canoeing microadventure!
The plan is to canoe down the Carrao River and then embark on a short hike to the base of the falls. Fortunately, the Carrao River is very calm and it only takes about 4-5 miles from its starting point. I’ll spend the day skinny dipping with these magnificent falls as my backdrop.
BREAK: Relax in Canaima, a small village overlooking the waters of a tannin-rich lagoon. My next microadventure is going to be a tough one, and I’m going to need to conserve my energy.
(Image courtesy of: unknown)
6.) Peru: Mountain Bike Across the Sand Dunes of a Desert
The small coastal town of Pacaras known for its beautiful landscapes and wind surfing is about 35 miles from the city of Ica. There’s a road that takes you from both destinations that would be perfect to do by car in less than an hour, but why do that when I can go off trail and mountain bike the sand dunes in between?
BREAK: Relax in Paracas for a week and learn to wind surf while staying with family friends in the area. Meals, accommodation, cold beer are taken care of, though I will spend £10 to cook them an amazing dinner one evening as a sincere thank you.
(Image courtesy of: Miquel Milqito)
7.) Bolivia: Cycle Across Salt Flats
The salt flats of Bolivia offer some of the most creative, badass, and hilarious opportunities for photo taking. The plan is to cycle from Uyuni to the volcano fo Cerro Tunupa, which is about 50 miles apart. I’ll break this up into 2 days and spend the night camping in the breath-taking, and wide-open salt flats. This area offers the worlds largest salt flats at 10,582 square kilometers. It’s been on my bucket list for years, and I still kick myself in the butt for not having visited there when I studied abroad in Argentina during college.
BREAK: Take a bus over to Bolivia’s side of Lake Titicaca and spend a week lounging in a lake-side hostel and rope swinging into the water.
(Photo courtesy of: Miranda Daigle)
8.) Chile (south): A Place That Can’t Be Reached Without Climbing
Wheels simply can’t take you to Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. I’ll set out on a one-week backpacking microadventure. This is something I’ll do with a tour group as I’m not as comfortable with solo-backpacking for such an extensive amount of time. I’ll be budgeting a larger amount for this particular adventure, but I think it’s well worth it.
BREAK: It can’t be over can it?! It’s time to head out to my final destination…
(Image courtesy of: Julie Gosse)
The Final Week: Take It All In
Now it’s time to take a step back and think about all that I’ve done over the past 2.5 months. By now, I will have visited both South and Central America. I will have skateboarded through deserts, cycled across flatlands, walked across countries, SUPed the span of lakes, kayaked around an Island, and canoed a majestic river just to name a few. I will have experienced Nicaragua, Panama, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands.
“Now what?” you ask.
I think now it’s time head to one of my favorite cities in the world, Rio de Janeiro. I have a good friend volunteering there that I’d love to see, and know of a few too many stands on the beach that sell Caipirinhas. Did I mention I’m also a rock climber, and the mountains outside of Rio offer some of the most amazing climbing and bouldering in the world?
It’s true, I have a problem sitting still. I love to explore, I love to test myself, I love to see where I can go and how I can get there.
And now 3 months later, as I head home from the international airport outside of Rio after a week of reading The Alchemist on the beach and watching cute boys play soccer along the shoreline, I’ve just spent the best £1 Grand of my life. Ademas, yo puedo hablar español como si yo crecí hablándolo. (Furthermore, I can speak spanish as if I grew up speaking it.). And more than anything, I know I just did something amazing, and meaningful, and life-changing.
I’ll leave you with a few maps of the itineraries that will make up my Grand Adventure.