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It’s snowing. In Vancouver. In March. It has apparently been one of the worst winters in Vancouver in decades. Worst as in the most snow ever! In a normal winter here it snows a couple of times in December or January. This year it snowed practically all winter. And it’s still snowing. In March!

I am grateful for warm cozy clothes, and a warm cozy apartment, and no urgent need to face the great white outdoors.

We have just returned from six weeks in Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, followed by six weeks travelling around the Yucatan Peninsula, two weeks in Guatemala and two weeks in Cuba. Four months in total.

Here are all the things that have gone “wrong” in the last five years of travelling:

* We’ve had food poisoning three or four times, which was easily fixed with the broad-spectrum antibiotic that we carry with us.
* Don picked up some kind of parasite in the Amazon that was sorted once we got back to Vancouver.
* I got some weird red itchy rash all over my stomach in the Amazon that went away by itself.
* In India I took too much of a herbal prophylactic for malaria that caused some liver problems, which healed up as soon as I stopped taking it.
* Don had his daypack stolen in Mexico when he was so excited watching a dance performance that he forgot to pay attention to it. It was at worst inconvenient. We didn’t lose a ton of cash, and we didn’t lose our passports. We found him an excellent new backpack in Mexico City.
* I fell hiking in India and bashed my knee pretty bad. RICE to the rescue.
* At a festival in Mexico chasing after a photograph I tripped and hit my head on concrete. First aid was immediate and excellent. A few days later I had black eyes and Don, being a neuropsychologist, was quite concerned about this development. A visit to see a neurosurgeon at a local hospital took thirty minutes and cost only sixty dollars. Love the Mexican medical system.
* Don’s credit card was compromised in Sweden, teaching us to never let it out of our sight when making a payment. In restaurants where they don’t bring the machine to the table we follow our card wherever it goes.
* Don had a blown lumbar disc that slowed us down a bit while it healed. During that time I did all the heavy lifting.
* I left my orthotics behind in Bolivia.

Out of hundreds of flights/trains/buses and other forms of transportation no lost luggage, and no missed connections.
We have been ripped off by taxi drivers from time to time, but every one of them delivered us safely to our destination. Hundreds of them: every new place a taxi from the airport/bus/train station to our accommodation.

For five years it felt as if we were being moved along by serendipity, exactly on the path we needed to be on.

In just four months here’s what happened on our most recent trip:

* About a week in I got food poisoning.
* A couple of weeks later I got it again.
* Then we both got serious throwing-up-all-night food poisoning even though we were making our own meals and disinfecting all fruits and vegetables before meal preparation. To this day we have no idea what caused it.
* I woke up one morning with my left knee painful and badly swollen. I still don’t know what it is but it’s still swollen and feels kind of like a torn ligament or something.
* About six weeks in I got a red itchy rash all over my head that to this day I only have under control using a dermatological cream and an antiseptic shampoo.
* Then when we travelled from Merida to Valladolid I left behind the battery charger and spare battery for my camera rendering my camera useless. We had to make a special trip back to retrieve it.

For most of this trip I was in quite a lot of pain and couldn’t walk long distances, but I took pain medication and we worked around my limitations. For most of this trip Don was feeling great. Until we got to Guatemala about three months in.

* Picture this: The front of a building right up against a narrow sidewalk. There are no windows. There are two large metal doors that look like garage doors. Next to them, at the same level is another metal door of regular size. It’s the front of our guesthouse in San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala. When we first arrive we are welcomed in through the double garage doors directly onto a concrete floor and across it into the guesthouse. We are given a room key, and a key to the smaller metal door. When we return after having been out on the first night there Don opens the door expecting to step onto an extension of the concrete floor of the garage area. The doors are after all at the same level and side by side. Instead he steps into space and goes hurtling down a flight of concrete stairs. The only thing that “saves” him is a landing half way down. He’s left with a badly bruised hip that eventually spreads all the way down his leg, a huge egg on his head, and a sprained wrist. We were both grateful there were no broken bones.
* A week later Don had his pocket picked in Antigua. In his wallet was, of course, his credit card and driver’s license, and a bit of cash. We immediately cancelled the credit card and began using my companion card instead.
* A couple of weeks later Don found an odd charge on the credit card bill (thank goodness he pays close attention to these things) and through phone calls with the credit card company we discovered it was a scam and that somehow my companion card has also been compromised, so it too is cancelled. I have a second credit card. I’ve had it for years. We almost never use it. It’s our emergency card and it saved us.
* The day before we were to fly back to Canada I woke up with an eye infection.

Okay! Okay! We get it! It’s time to stop. It’s time to regroup. It’s time to reassess everything.

We have made the decision to stay in Vancouver for the next twelve months. We don’t know if we’re done travelling or not, we just know we need a time out. Travelling is very hard on the body and frankly my body feels pummeled. I need time to see doctors. I need the time it takes to get a clear diagnosis of the pain in my hips, knees, shins, and ankles because I now know for sure that whatever is going on it’s not just osteoarthritis. I need days on end where I have no agenda. I’m feeling pretty burnt out. Don not so much, but he’s happy to rest for a while too. At the end of a year we’ll reassess. Or if my body gets healed before that maybe we’ll take off again sooner. What’s most important is that the time out is open ended and that we move through it the same way we’ve moved through our travelling life for the past five and a half years: feeling our way by the tips of our fingers.

Above: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
Below: Parachico and Chiapaneca dancers at the Fiesta Grande de Enero, Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico.


Next post: this is the third time I’ve promised that the next post will be about the spectacular indigenous festival we went to in Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico. The next post will probably be about that, but it could just as easily end up being about something else. 

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2017.