Central America: Travel should be slow, deep and cheap | AspenTimes.com
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Central America: Travel should be slow, deep and cheap

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I don’t do vacation.Luxury is lost on me, and sitting on the beach is a drag. I’m not only pigment-challenged and relegated to the shade of an umbrella in hot sun, but I need to move. As a former travel guidebook writer, I like to go slow, dig deep and live cheap.On my last short trip I packed the basics – clothes, hat, sunscreen, camera – and hopped a flight to Mexico City to ride local buses and abuse the Spanish language (I only know the present tense).I hit the southern state of Oaxaca and spent a few days staying with a local family, wandering the town guided only by my wide-angle lens and an appetite for mole negro.

I shot portraits and street scenes, chatted with locals – “I am travel Mexico!” – and spent the hot hours downing local coffee and catching up on old New Yorker magazines.From there to Tapachula and across the border to Guatemala for a no-frills odyssey on local camionettas, or “chicken buses” – old U.S. school buses dolled up with chrome and day-glo paint and packed three to a seat.In Quetzaltenango, also known as Xele, I found a guesthouse filled with young Americans playing Che Guevara. And after a good hike, I spent a day squashed against a chicken bus window on the way to Antigua, locals staring at me in wonder and giggling at my pidgin Spanish: “I born Pittsburgh. I am write books.” And I think I recognized some school-bus graffiti from a 1978 elementary school field trip.I got close to flowing lava on a volcano outside Antigua, and shot pictures in the markets of the border town Huehuetenango. I was the only gringo in town.Then there were long bus rides back to the Oaxaca coast and, yes, some beach time, which consisted mostly banging against submerged reefs in surfing lessons by day and telling tales with expats by night. It’s there I met Allyn Harvey, then the managing editor of The Aspen Times, which eventually landed me a job and a life in Aspen.Forget vacations. Give me adventure.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.


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