Sold 

24 Jul

I was crying thinking about this post. I cried as I finally cleaned out Skyhorse, taking out all our stained clothes and rusty canned goods with Spanish labels. I cried as she pulled out of our driveway one last time. And I’m crying as I write this now.  

  
Skyhorse is officially sold. A man in Indiana bought her and the shipping company picked her up yesterday morning at 7am. I never got to meet the new owner or even speak to him. I don’t know his plans, though Hani says he wants to retire and live off the grid somewhere. 

I never thought Skyhorse would actually sell. We listed her on eBay a bunch of times and posted the sale on just about every forum. We got more questions out of curiosity than interested buyers. I was convinced that Skyhorse was just going to be a cool fixture in our driveway (which, unlike at my parents house, was welcome in the physical driveway and not tucked in the side yard because of some stupid ordinance). 

It’s kind of hilarious when you think about it, the full circle of emotions I experienced associated with Skyhorse. I thought Hani was insane when he bought the ambulance. And then the truck. And completely off his rocker when we went to an airplane junkyard, rented a U-haul, and brought home a plane fuselage. I can’t even begin to express the fury I felt when he purchased one tow vehicle after another, finally settling on the motorcycle. 

But then Skyhorse started to take shape. It took on all the qualities of a home. The idea of packing up and leaving grew on me and instead of seeming far fetched, it became the next logical step for us. And I have to profusely thank my crazy husband for having this vision and creating Skyhorse, the best home we will EVER have. Without Hani being Hani, we would never have this unbelievable chapter in our life. 

So after 5 years in the making and 2 years on the road, we parted ways. May each of our journeys continue to be adventurous.   

 

Travel Tips

20 Apr

With a new wave of travelers on the horizon, I wanted to share a few tips that made our life on the road easier. This is not really a “pack list” but more of a collection of helpful ideas, that may or may not be helpful to you. Everyone’s experience on the road is different but hopefully these gems will make your experience the best possible.

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General living
Document your days. I cannot stress this enough. I created a simple excel spreadsheet and wrote every day: where we ended for the night, the route we took to get there, how much we spent, a brief description of what we did, what we paid to camp and any exceptional circumstance we encountered. It takes 5 minutes to do. Not only does it keep you mindful of expenses, it was really fun for us to go back and see where we were 6 months earlier. And years from now, we’ll have this awesome list of everything we did.

Pack light and minimally. You can find anything on the road you forgot (clothes, sunglasses, kitchen items…) unless you like a very specific shimmering silky body wash (ahem).

Use quick dry camping towels. Real towels get smelly really fast. All 3 we had kinda sucked but the Aquis Adventure Microfiber Towel lasted the longest. Buy a few varieties before your trip and test which you like best. They are all really different with varying textures. And pricey.

Be a smart shopper. Grocery store prices south of the border are higher than the open air markets, mainly because you can’t barter. Produce was often better at the markets too. Bring a calculator (or your cell phone) into the store and do the math–a lot of times it’s cheaper to buy 24 individual cans of beer than 2 12 packs (stupid packaging).

The first few months south of the border were spent filling our water tanks with purified water. That proved to be both annoying and difficult because the purification centers were usually on tight one way streets. We quickly learned that the easiest place to fill up our water tanks are at a gas station or fire station. Fire stations typically had good drinking water.
Banking
Budget $100 a day but you’ll spend a bit more in the U.S. and less south of the border.

Find a bank that reimburses you for ATM fees, as you will accumulate a ton of fees living on the road. We banked with Charles Schwab. A person always answered our calls, it’s very easy to deposit with the mobile app and just all around a great bank. We were reimbursed hundreds of dollars in ATM fees over the course of our adventure.

Because ATMs south of the border are unreliable (they aren’t in every town or out of cash, especially on holidays or max you out after 2 transactions), keep about $400 cash on hand, but not on your person, in case of emergencies. No one takes checks.

Use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. We used Capital One and got cash back for our purchases.
Safety
Make a copy of everything important from your passport to credit cards and hide them. If you are privileged enough to be pulled over, NEVER present your original documents. That’s just setting you up to have to pay a bribe to get it back. Always give a copy (or say you lost it or left it somewhere a few towns away).
Techie
Get an unlocked iPhone, download the iOverlander app, and thank me later. You really can’t beat the ease of an iPhone on a trip like this. iOverlander was created by fellow travelers Song of the Road and tested by yours truly, among others. It is a map database with camping locations and other helpful landmarks GPS marked. Some other useful apps were Whatsapp (free, text over data so you can text any phone number in any country), magicJack (another free app that uses data and allows you to call the US for free, worked much better than Skype calls), Google earth and Google translate. With the cell, just load local SIM cards (about $2) when you arrive in a new country.

A wifi extender is a must! We had the Alfa extender and it worked fabulously at grabbing a far away wifi signal.

Put all your movies on a hard drive (DVDs take up so much space). The drive also is key at backing up your travel pictures. We bought a 1T hard drive before we left and that was plenty of space for our thousands of pictures and hundreds of movie, music and tv files.

Bring a small thumb drive to easily grab movies from a friend’s computer to yours. Because not everyone has a Mac (oddly enough).

I am a huge fan of my Kindle. While Hani is partial to paper books, they really just take up so much space. A Kindle or eReader is much more practical and an easy way to store guide books. Except the Church and Church Guide to Camping in Mexico. That book is a must for Mexican camping. And paper maps if you are lucky to find good ones. We didn’t.

Get a good camera and learn how to use it BEFORE you go.

Now you are all set! Happy travels!

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Budget Recap–Breaking Down 2 Years On The Road

26 Mar

I’ve always been very open about our finances for our adventure because I believe a trip/2-year-lifestyle like ours is something ANYONE can do.

We worked normal paying jobs (we were both State of Florida employees so not making bank) and saved. Yes, we took vacations and had cars and bought things, but we are not extravagant spenders. Pre-trip, our credit card bills would total around $4,000 a month, plus $2,000 for rent, utilities, cable and all that stuff. We put a portion aside every month to use for this trip, budgeting $100 a day and anticipating a year of travel with plenty to come home to because we knew we’d be starting fresh–without an apartment or furniture or job. Well, the year turned into almost 2 years, with a total spending of…

$62,969

for 680 days on the road, nearly 9 months in the US and 14 months south of the border. That’s $2,798.62 a month and $92.60 a day. We were slightly under our daily budget and cut our pre-trip spending more than HALF!

That figure includes every dime that was spent while traveling–from ferry rides and fuel to copies at the border and camping. So let’s break it down.

**Disclosure: this is just what WE spent and not what is typical of travelers. If we felt like eating dinner out, we ate dinner out. If Hani wanted a really cool handmade knife in Alaska, he got it. I definitely kept our expenses in mind but did not let our budget control our every move, knowing that I’d regret not zip lining in Costa Rica even though we already did it 5 years earlier.

The most expensive places for us were Alaska, where we spent an average of $143.93 a day (Skyhorse needed a new starter, fuel was expensive and we were doing LOTS of driving and the ferry trip), Canada averaged $113 a day (because it’s Canada and things are crazy expensive) and Panama was $110.10 a day (because we went to a fancy doctor and got a pricey repair on the truck). The cheapest countries for us were Costa Rica spending $56.23 a day and El Salvador at $57.87 a day. The funny thing about Costa Rica is that it’s pretty expensive, on par to American prices for groceries, restaurants and tourist attractions. But during our 90 days there, we camped for free, didn’t pay for laundry at all, rented a super cheap house, cooked a lot and relied heavily on the motorcycle, which cut our fuel costs.

 

FOOD: $21,829.51

We are some good eaters! I am actually really surprised by this number, as I thought for sure our biggest expense would be fuel. But oh no, our bellies spoke louder than Skyhorse’s engine, I guess. Of that total, $10,608.20 was spent on groceries (bottles of booze and beer included), $2,341.87 going out to bars (where we just drank), and $8,879.44 at restaurants, cafes, snacks, and anything that was not home cooked (ummm, tacos…). I cooked the vast majority of the time and I am proud that our costs reflect that.

 

FUEL: $14,200

Pretty self explanatory. We average 8-10 miles to the gallon and cruise at 50 mph. The most expensive diesel we came across was in Canada at $5.50 a gallon. The cheapest diesel was when we returned back to the States. Weird.

 

TRUCK AND MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE: $8,436

This includes the brand new tires we bought at the start of the trip down to the oil filters needed for the motorcycle. Hani did our oil changes and regular maintenance but we had our fair share of trips to the mechanic while on the road. The only earth shattering maintenance expense was a new U-joint for $1,462. Everything else was pretty standard wear and tear on our big beastly vehicle.

 

CLOTHES, GIFTS AND SOUVENIRS: $3,251.83

We did replace a lot of t-shirts and undies (if we are being honest), as our clothes took some serious beatings over the years. As for souvenirs, we didn’t buy a lot of things to bring home though couldn’t resist some beautiful art and textiles (our friends and families were the main beneficiaries of what we brought back). The little things here and there added up but I realized that when I saw something I loved, I bought it, knowing I would most likely never see anything similar again. And when I look down at my wrist and see my bead from Alaska and handwoven Guatemalan bracelet, the feeling of being in that moment when I bought those items comes back to me and makes me smile. I’m fortunate that we had that ability to spend money on non-necessary objects.

 

LODGING: $2,743.19

I’m very proud of this number since it’s the result of LOADS of bargaining on my part (big pat on the back). Plus, how many people can say that they lived in a comfortable home for 2 years paying only this as “rent”? We always try to camp for free but sometime it just isn’t practical or entirely safe. Like when we were in the National Parks in the States, we often opted to camp inside the park even though we didn’t need the services they offered us, instead of driving out for the night and coming back in the next day. Also, in a lot of the major cities in Mexico, it’s completely impossible for us to drive Skyhorse into town so we would park at an overpriced campground outside of town and use the motorcycle to drive in and explore the city. This figure includes everything we paid to park at campgrounds, the “tips” we paid the hired nighttime policemen at Pemex gas stations in Mexico, our few hotel stays and our rentals in Costa Rica and Mexico.

 

TRANSPORTATION: $2,603

So yes, we were our own source of transportation, but there were times we took a tuk tuk or cab or bus or lancha/boat or a ferry (in Alaska, Baja and Costa Rica). This biggest chunk of this was $1,400 for the Alaska Ferry from Haines to Juneau to Sitka to Ketchikan dropping us off in Prince Rupert, Canada. Totally worth it and an extraordinary way to explore the Alaskan seas, cities and wildlife!

 

ENTERTAINMENT: $2,262.75

This is our Jazz Fest, museums, tours, movies, zip lining, volcano boarding, park and zoo entrance category. Lots of free stuff to entertain ourselves along the way but these were the special things that we just wanted to do.

 

MEDICAL: $2,071.13

Our doctor visits (big and small) and medicine. I don’t even want to begin to figure out how much these visits and medicine would have cost us if we were in the US. We didn’t see any doctors during our time in the States. South of the border the medical care was fabulous and cheap, and since health insurance didn’t matter, we didn’t have any.

 

DOGS: $1,541

Shae and Olivia were very easy travelers and not very expensive to travel with. But honestly, even if it was expensive to travel with our dogs, we would have done it anyway because it made the trip that much better! When days took a shitty turn (as they usually did), a doggie kiss and cuddle did wonders for our attitudes. We brought the dogs to the vet under a handful times, only one time when Shae was actually sick. We paid a total of $46.33 at the borders of Guatemala (for b.s.) and Honduras for fees. The rest was dog food, treats and refills of their monthly heart worm and flea and tick medicines when I ran out the last 9 months. Dog food was insanely pricey south of the border, which was odd considering how many strays there were.

 

BORDER CROSSINGS: $1,161.96

16 borders in total–US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, times 2. That figure includes entrance and exit vistas, fumigation, vehicle permits, insurance, and copies (the dog permit fees I included in the above “dog” section). We only bought insurance when we were required to so we didn’t have vehicle insurance in Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras. Also keep in mind that permits and insurance was for 2 vehicles–Skyhorse and the motorcycle. The most expensive vehicle permit was for Honduras, probably because they know most people just drive through the country. The most ridiculous border fee we paid, aside from the dog fee, was the $30 exit fee leaving Costa Rica. Pay to leave?! Really??

 

LAUNDRY: $376

Laundry is one of those things I have always taken for granted. Except for my dorm years and one year in law school, I have always had a washer/dryer in my home. I never really paid attention to how much it cost to wash my clothes. On our trip, however, I hustled majorly when it came to laundry. When we were in cities when we knew someone, I had no shame in asking to use their washer and dryer. I would scout out the best laundry deals and avoid doing laundry in backpacker or tourist towns, as prices would inevitably be higher there. Coin operated laundromats ceased to exist outside the US so our wash was mostly hand or machine washed, line dried, and folded, waiting for us to pick it up and cost around .40 per pound. I always bargained for cheaper prices south of the border, hence why our cost to have clean clothes was so low…until we got back to Antigua, Guatemala, that is. It was there, after we had just had all of our clothes washed that we discovered we had mites and needed to have every item inside the truck washed again in hot water. EV-ERY-THING! $85 and 2 days later, our bedding and clothes were super clean and mite free.

 

BOOKS: $332.51

Hani is addicted to books. He will maybe read 1 of every 10 he purchases from cover to cover. So when he bought his first book of the trip in Texas for $2, I thought it would be funny to see how much he spent the whole time. This amount is totally nuts. We could have gone out to a few more nice dinners on this. Instead we have a large bookshelf of unread books. Damn Hani and his desire to learn! (Side note: I did buy a few books on my Kindle but didn’t include the cost on here. Many of my books I got for free. I highly recommend getting a Kindle or other eReader to save space.)

 

TOLLS: $327

We came across a random toll here and there in the US, but nothing prepared us for the tolls in Mexico. Not only are they excessively expensive, the quality of the toll roads are 1,000 times better–no speed bumps or cattle or craters–so the cost is minimal compared to the aggravation endured by taking the free roads. Just in Mexico, we spent $271 on tolls and it was worth every peso!

 

CELL SERVICE: $318.56

Cost of having cell service during the 14 months we were in Mexico and Central America only (we still had our US plan in the States and Canada). Both our iPhone were unlocked at the beginning of the trip so when we entered a new country, we bought a $2 local SIM card and a data package with a local company, which averaged about $18 for 3 weeks of internet. We only bought plans for one of our phones since we were always together and would add a few extra dollars on the phone for local calls and texts.

 

The remaining expenses were for water, parking and donations. We never paid foreign transaction fees on our credit card (we have Capital One Visa cards with cash back rewards) nor did we pay ATM fees (we bank with Charles Schwab and get all ATM fees reimbursed at the end of each month).

And that’s the cost to drive from Key West to Alaska to Panama City, Panama and back!   

Back To Mile 0

23 Mar

After leaving Daytona, we arrived in Miami and welcomed to this:

our crap!

our crap!

and this:

family!

family!

My parents threw us an awesome welcome home party the day after we got to Miami, just enough time to dig through our bags of “new” 2-year-old clothes and find something hole and stain free to wear. (Seriously don’t remember keeping so much stuff!) It was FAN-TASTIC to see our friends and family after being away for so long.

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we finally met our godson Ethan

we finally met our godson Ethan

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the sweetest gift!

the sweetest gift!

We spent the next few days readjusting (more on that later), taking the dogs for a vet check up, getting an oil change on our car and other random welcome-to-reality tasks (like getting new batteries for all 5 of my watches that died during our 2 year absence).

Then, on March 5, 2015, back to Key West, where it all began. We decided to drive Skyhorse because, well, why wouldn’t you take an impractically large vehicle a tiny island during Spring Break. No, it just seemed fitting to return with Skyhorse.

The water looked bluer. The sky clearer. I had forgotten how amazingly captivating the drive down the Keys is.

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look at that big smile!!

look at that big smile!!

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The normally 3 hour drive took us 5 hours, as we stopped to visit friends all along the way down. And after 680 days–1.5 months shy of 2 years–we returned to Key West for a long weekend visit.

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Our 5 days in Key West were filled with surprising this one for her 25th 29th 31st birthday

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this adorable face’s 1st birthday

happy 1st birthday Ava!!

meeting the newest generation of Key West Conchs, going out on the boat (a million thanks Lori and Kevin!!), wandering our old neighborhood, drinking at our favorite watering holes, and reconnecting with old friends. 

baby whisperer?

baby whisperer?

give me back my bow!

give me back my bow!

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fighting over who is going to wash the dishes. some things never change...

fighting over who is going to wash the dishes. some things never change…

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the Robertson Resort

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We even camped a night at the office. 

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The conversations picked up right where we had left off and though circumstances had changed (new addresses, new jobs…) all the people were the same. Those that we had laughed with for years before we left on our adventure were still standing there with open arms welcoming Hani and I back. The only measure of the passage of time was all the new little ones that have sprung up in the last 2 years.

The city and its unique character will always hold such a special place in our hearts. I know our visits to Key West will always continue. But for now, the wind is pulling us in a different direction.

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Skyhorse For Sale

11 Mar

Adventures in Skyhorse

Our travels have ended and we begrudgingly are selling our home.

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Skyhorse is the most unique camper you’ll ever find! We have traveled in this camper for 22 months from Key West to Alaska to Panama and back. It’s tried and tested. I can tell you everything about it since I built it. There are many features but here are a few to give an idea of what this amazing vehicle offers. The best feature, though, are the smiles, laughs and nods of delight you get while driving it.

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Our travels have ended but YOUR adventure is waiting to begin.

It cost me $60,000 to build I am asking $30,000.

I was living on a sailboat when I met my wife who gets seasick.  So our alternative was to overland.  I wanted to build a quality, rugged, self contained, creative motorhome.  I mounted a 1991 ambulance box on a 4×4…

View original post 160 more words

The return of Skyhorse

6 Mar
       Yesterday–March 5, 2015–concluded the travel portion of our adventure in Skyhorse, as we have landed back in Key West (for a visit, people! Not permanently.)
       Everyone asks how it feels to be back. Well, here it is…
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       I crave that simpler time. When the highway meant a one lane partially-paved road in either direction with bare land or small shacks on either side. When I didn’t care if I had makeup on or whether the clothes I was wearing had holes in them or were stained to near oblivion. When $4 meant a full meal for two or a weeks worth of fresh produce or a box of wine. When living with minimal possessions in a 14×8 space was more than sufficient.
       That being said, I missed our friends and family more than I thought. Yes, Skyhorse felt like our home because it had all the things that made it a home. But STUFF doesn’t always make a home complete. The one, massive part of our adventures that was missing was all of you. And it feels FAN-freaking-TASTIC to be back to that.
       This was not just “a trip.”  It was OUR LIFE for nearly two years. We lived in our moving home with the forest/ocean/mountains/wetlands/volcanoes as our ever changing backyard. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
       Your reality is whatever you make of it. Hani and I made our best possible reality for two years. So if you want to work 24/7, do it. If you want to quit your job and travel, do it! Whatever you want or dream, don’t just want or dream.
Make. It. Your. Reality. NOW!

Random thoughts/ month 22

3 Mar
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Rockin and rollin and truckin across the southern United States to finally arrive in FLORIDA (to cold weather). This month we:
+ especially love our Tennessee, Georgia and northern Florida friends. Thank you Faiqa, Scott, Wesley and Lamar, Cheeks and Lynne, and the Gardis for letting us stay warm indoors and/or use your electrical outlet for our heater. When the temps dipped in the 20s, you all saved us from a slow frigid death. Your generosity can only be repaid by taking Skyhorse off our hands. Now, who wants her??  
+ are still selling our beautiful home Skyhorse! Let us know if you are interested.
 
+ toured Tennessee. Man, that state is couuuun-try! Guns, camo and fried everything. And super flipping cold.
+ Memphis-ed. We visited with Hani’s friend Faiqa and her family, spending quality time drinking tea and talking shit about her brother. Kidding (but only about the tea part, Zia).
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+ nerded out in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The famed Lorraine Motel where MLK was shot is site to one of the best museums we’ve visited. Packed with videos, sound bites, replicas and news stories, this museum is a must see if you are anywhere in the vicinity of Memphis. Eat a big meal before you go so you are not forced to leave at hour 4 from hunger pains.
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+ sang our way around Graceland. Super pricey but well worth the tour around The King’s gorgeously decorated property, planes and cars, hosted by none other than John Stamos.
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the coolest bar

the coolest bar

even the king loved poodles

even the king loved poodles

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And now the cars and plane…
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+ checked out Sun Studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash and others recorded. Pretty cool but mostly pretty boring. Graceland was better. Sorry Peter!
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+ got sick, then better, then sick again. I don’t think this winter weather is good for our health. I hear the beach calling…
+ had an “I escaped Key West” reunion in Nashville. Miss these faces! We had such an amazing time meeting our friend Scott’s new wife Mandi and meeting Wesley and Lamar’s darling kids. Thanks baby Bub for letting us sleep in your room while you were away!

Huck wants to come in and play

+ shot our first rifle at a gun range in Nashville. Our Key West friend Scott relocated back to Nashville and after generously letting us crash in his spare house and showing us the cool parts of town, he introduced us to a typical Nashville afternoon activity…at the gun range. While I sucked and missed every skeet sent into the air, Hani did a pretty good job and hit 3 skeet! It was a hilarious experience and so fitting for our time in the south.
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lots of ammo

lots of ammo

+ adored Chattanooga. The city is blossoming with cute neighborhoods, restaurants and outdoor activities. While I died, Hani fielded questions from lots of people who spied our ‘for sale’ signs. Chuck was one of those people, taking instant adoration for Skyhorse, so much so that he invited us to dinner with his family. It was very reminiscent of our early days on the road where we’d just click with random people we met. Just the reminder I needed that even though we are at the end of our trip, we are not completely useless unemployed blobs.
+ wandered around Rock City, an area several miles up over Chattanooga. We followed a series of paths through rock formations and gardens to the highest point, where you can see 7 states in the distance. 

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+ played in Atlanta with my high school bud Matt, his wife Lynne and their two little girls. The girls were OBSESSED with Skyhorse, climbing all over the inside and jumping around the plane. They were definitely the most excited kids to see the truck. One of them almost drove Skyhorse as they accidentally (on purpose?!) shifted it in reverse. Guess you can’t leave a 5 year old alone in a vehicle.
+ met up with Estee and her fiancé Yoni in Atlanta. It was our first time all together and we had a blast doing what us Mayas do best: eating and drinking. After all, Estee and Yoni are on a strict Mediterranean diet. Until we meet again sissy and baby bro!
+ arrived in Apalachicola just as Hani’s sickness reached its peak so all I got for Valentine’s Day was his cough and a camp coozie. While Hani hibernated in bed for a few days, I got to work at our Key West friends Matt and Lisa’s year old bar, Bowery Station. I helped bartend slowly and meticulously twice (first time working in almost 2 years!!) and Hani made an appearance to wash glasses our last night in town. Waking up close to noon, listening to live music, pouring frosty brews and closing shop at 8 is work I could get used to!

+ met John and Mandi, soon-to-be overlanders, for a fun afternoon in Apalach. We gave them some travel tips, brunched and walked St George Island beach. Hopefully some of our advice will be helpful as they hit the road in a few months. So jealous of you guys and wish it was us starting our trip!!
+ played on our first beach in a long time. Too bad it was so cold out.
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+ landed in Daytona Beach for a long awaited visit with Hani’s parents. We haven’t seen them since we left their house at the beginning of the trip. For a week, we spent time with the Demetrious fam, eating all our favorite foods (stuffed grape leaves!) and reliving Hani’s “best of” Daytona spots. We even got to spend quality time with a few of Hani’s friends while in town.

+ had a fantastic girls reunion in West Palm Beach. A few of my sorority sisters met up for a much needed afternoon of giggles and food. It’s times like these that makes it SO GOOD to be back!