My name is Ruth and I am travelling with my husband Mark and 2 kids, Wilf (10) and Megan (8). We live in Cornwall in the UK and have been travelling south from Cuba through central and South America since November 2017. We’re trying to make our trip plastic free wherever possible.-
My first big trip was in my 20’s with a friend across Australia, New Zealand and Asia and I’ve loved independent travel ever since. I love the adventure of turning up somewhere with no plans and seeing where fate takes you.
Before the kids came along we travelled around Ecuador, and then Guatemala when I was pregnant with my son. We fell in love with the simplicity of life, and how kids can always be found tagging along or tied over a shoulder. It really influenced how we approached parenting and we decided then that we would return when the kids were old enough.
Fast forward 10 years and here we are! It’s involved a lot of hard work and some sacrifices along the way. We relocated and built a business from scratch which involved Mark missing out on much of the children’s early years, so making the trip happen also became a mission to spend time with the kids before they were too old.
Fortunately our school thought the trip was a great idea, but we had to give up our school places. I’m a teacher so it’s easy for me to make sure the kids aren’t falling behind at school, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for school places when we get back.
Where abouts in the world are you right now?
We are currently exploring Lake Titicaca and just crossed the border from Peru to Bolivia. We spent 7 weeks exploring Peru - each country has taken so much longer than planned! There has been so much to see and the Peruvian Andes are beyond spectacular. It’s impossible to convey in images or words just how vast and beautiful they are. So far we have had only positive experiences with people in all of the countries we’ve visited and we’re pretty sure we have a better experience travelling with kids, especially when they speak in their best Spanish.
Unfortunately the culture and infrastructure is really struggling to cope with the volume of rubbish here, and even the most remote of places haven’t escaped the scourge of disposable plastic, which is really sad. I think in all honesty this has been the biggest challenge so far. With a bit of planning, a bit of Spanish and some flexibility we’ve managed to avoid any travel challenges along the way (although I suppose it depends on how you react to a broken down boat on the Amazon river or an electrocuting shower!).
The last time we were here smart phones didn’t exist. I hate to admit it but whilst it’s made the experience different, I’ve definitely appreciated access to travel apps and blogs.
How's the food?!
The kids are adapting really well to being in different cultures and countries and they’ve both eaten things they wouldn’t have touched at home. We’ve had some really delicious food - spicy peanut Empanadas de Popayan in Colombia, Pachamanca in Huaraz, Peru and lots of street food. Surprisingly it’s been really hard to find drinks, although this is partly down to my refusal to buy plastic. There are lots of fresh juices but that can get expensive...the kids are happy though, they’ve had more fizzy drinks this year than all their years so far! We also have a travel water filter so we’ve avoided buying lots of bottled water, which keeps me motivated to filter enough water for 4 on a hike.
Any funny, interesting or daunting experiences along the way?
We had some really special experiences in Peru, and the best ones started out as some of the most random!
- We visited a tiny mountain village called Leymebamba for its Museum of Mummies. We found an amazing trek purely by chance, and spent 3 days in the pouring rain walking and pony trekking to see the original mausoleum where the mummies were found. It was hard going, 3/4 of us fell off our horses and we were cold and wet but the kids were total troopers and we’ll remember it forever!
- After a long boat trip down then Amazon we arrived in Leticia with no accomodation booked. We found a hostel with a very enthusiastic Colombian, who recommended a jungle lodge in a tiny village up the amazon called Puerto Narino. We did a quick search and the village looked great, so we said yes...arriving after a two hour boat ride there was no-one to meet us and we had no way of contacting them. The village only had a couple of ‘roads’ marked on a simple map, easy we thought, we’ll walk. Then the rain came. We walked further and further away from civilisation. After an hour of searching, soaked through and muddy we eventually found the lodges we had booked. The place was certainly a few years past it’s best, but we were the only people there, which meant we had boat trip to Laguna Tarapota all to ourselves. We went in the evening after the rain stopped and had the most magical time watching river dolphins. There were Delfines Rosada passing under our little boat and the grey river dolphins gave us a personal show jumping and playing in the sunset. It was completely magical, and appreciated all the more when we saw the tour boats heading out the following morning. The return trip to Iquitos took over 18 hours after the engines failed on the boat. The Amazon river suddenly looks a whole lot bigger when you’re calculating the possibilities of swimming to the bank!
Can you give us your best tips for making it work?
Best budget tips:
Consider independent trips rather than tours, there are lots of great travel blogs to help out with organising your own trips.
Look for accommodation with breakfast included, buying breakfast for 4 can make a big dent in the daily budget.
Opt for the ‘Almuerzo’ fixed lunch menu, often you can eat for less than buying the food in a supermarket.
Research bus prices as the price often changes at different times of day or bus company and you can save on accomodation with a night bus.
Speak Spanish with a smile! Even basic Spanish helps to avoid being taken advantage of with taxi fares, shopping and tour prices.
Be selective about what your must-see activities are. Paying for four all the time quickly adds up so we’ve had to miss out on some trips, but a bit of planning and being open to tips & suggestions from locals along the way helps to make everything more do-able.
Travel with kids tips:
Each of the kids has a little gym bag of very small toys, Lego has been a complete lifesaver.
We asked family for travel presents for birthdays before we left, so they also have a Kindle each to keep up with reading.
Accept that it’s going to be a slower journey than travelling single. We’ve been able to do all the big adventures other travellers dream of but we factor in down time for the kids to be kids. Often this means being in one place for longer and having ‘nothing’ days, hanging out and playing Lego. This is especially true after early starts and night buses.
Our kids are school age so a year away from friends is a big deal. Video calls have been a great way for them to keep in touch and chat to friends and family. A SIM card or contract abroad can be really expensive. We’re tied-in to our contract deal at home but it means we can use WhatsApp or FaceTime with WiFi for free.
Any funny, interesting or daunting experiences along the way?
I’ll be honest, I’ve had some heart-in-the-mouth moments on every form of transport, and I do sometimes question if we’re being foolhardy, but I balance my fears with the reality that this is how most of the world travels everyday. At the end of the day the experiences we’ve had totally outweigh the moments of fear...and the kids just think most of it is great fun!
What do you miss, if anything?
The weather is amazing in Cornwall right now and we definitely miss home in the sunshine, but mostly we just feel so lucky to be experiencing new cultures and to have an awesome place to call home. We’re planning to go home in October, but I’m dreaming of new adventures for the future!
Where can we find you?!
Facebook page: beachcleanerbeach