A friend asked a funny question the other day. She wanted to know if we were bored on our trip. More specifically, she wanted to know if the kids were bored. This thought had never really occurred to me. But if you have kids, then you are no stranger to the “I’m booooooooored.” half moan half whine. And I can say that on more typical ‘vacations’ we have experienced boredom. But not this time. On actual ‘travel days’ there are so many logistical distractions that even an arduous and never ending bus trip can’t be classified as boring. Long, nerve wracking, sketchy, mysterious, stinky, enlightening, mind numbing, hot, sticky, tension filled, downright aggressive, sleepy, cramped, scary, etc….but never boring. Even after three months we were always on our proverbial toes and we’re constantly being amazed, shocked and awed. Central America is so diverse and culturally rich that we never experienced boredom. We also were aiming to always be learning, whether it was language, food, foreign money, history, politics, scuba, surf, customs, or unique religious practices. And then of course there is architecture, landscape, and local flora and fauna. See what I mean?
Believe it or not, kids have an innate desire to learn and grow and there is nothing in the world like foreign travel to foster that in a natural way, free of boredom. Their minds were always peaked. They were constantly doing math, which they claim to hate, with never ending calculations from dollars to quetzals to lempira. Lewis and Della are cut throat money managers and quickly figured out that they were being charged more because they were American and because they were kids, in certain instances. Do you think they stood for this? No, hell, they didn’t. And in Spanish, they would negotiate their fair price and change, sometimes with heat. We never helped them. Because learning and growing are personal. Della came out of a shop in Antigua and asked me, “Mom, how do I say “I appreciate your honesty.” in Spanish?” How do you teach math, ethics, language and grace all in one lesson to a child? Travel.
I do want to add that store owners are honest and are simply working with the very real fact that many, many American travelers are often too lazy to convert and properly assimilate to the local currency. My kids went to the tienda a few times with some kids from Wisconsin who were traveling in Guatemala for ten days with a tour group. They wouldn’t go to the trouble to convert currencies and would pay 1 US dollar for something that cost 1 Quetzal….effectively giving 10 times the value of the item and willingly creating a flawed system. It quickly becomes a cold, hard fact that money, for most Americans, is easily wasted. Don’t be that traveler.
We spent long stretches of time in a few places….Xela, Utila, Antigua, El Tunco. We met people. We made friends. Most places, the kids could do their own thing. They could run to the corner store, go swimming, snorkeling or boating. They could order their own meals and hang out with folks, play games, read, and watch movies. There were endless animals to be played with. Primarily and constantly, we were figuring out new cultures, languages, and customs. We were always learning, sometimes with intention but more often, covertly and under the radar. There was no room for boredom.
We usually stayed in hostels. We lived somewhat communally, which meant that there was always someone new to meet or hang out with. We met very few kids along the way, but the backpacker set is a lovely group of folks. They are young and vibrant and fun to hang out with. They were good to my kids. Hostels often plan events. We’d go to “movie night” or the kids would participate in “water games”. We never played beer pong, but it was amusing to watch, and the antithesis of boring!
Pictured above is a fun afternoon of water games at our dive hostel. Della loved Drip, Drip, Drop. You can figure it out from the photos! They built a water slide. Our local dogs were avid swimmers and always willing to play. Travel heightens your senses and raises the old awareness. And if boredom whispers at the door on a lazy afternoon I suppose you could stand at the end of the dock and meditate on soaring eagle rays and sailboats moored in the sunset till it passes.