North American Travels Update (Featuring GIS-Based Cartography)
This page is intended to serve as an overview of my two primary trips I’ve made in recent years…trips that have whet my appetite to see the rest of the world. More importantly, I’ve decided to return to college with a renewed sense of purpose at West Chester University of Pennsylvania! As of December 2016 I have graduated summa cum laude with a BA in the Department of Geography and Planning (environmental concentration). I may have hung up my hitchhiking thumb for now, and I am still eager to get back out on the road to see where it may lead me in the future, but for now I am working for an ecological consulting company and putting my GIS skills to work in the great outdoors!
My first time hitchhiking was in 2013 (orange/brown) out to the West Coast and down along the periphery of the U.S. back to the East Coast, which was ~7,000 miles (not counting the bus back home to Pennsylvania). Since I’m lucky, my very first hitchhiking ride was a courtesy lift into West Chester during the WCU Homecoming celebration…in the back of a cop car (with ill-fitting complimentary handcuffs, but aside from that it was a pleasant ride). For context, my last ride of the trip was to the Greyhound station in Orlando on Thanksgiving Day, after a nice little beer-and-BBQ with the family/coworkers of a very friendly trucker that I’d gotten a ride from the night before. It was very bittersweet to get picked up in Philly and unpacking everything when I was back home, but a nice shower and a hot meal wasn’t such a bad way to punctuate the end of that trip.
I left the state again on May 26th, 2014 (green/black), and as you can see, my trip route developed a bit more organically as different opportunities popped up. This trip began with a travel partner I’d met at one of the Greyhound stops on the ride home from my 2013 trip, but there was a serious family emergency and he had to fly home to Sweden. I had no way of knowing if/when he’d make it back to the U.S. and at first I wasn’t all gung-ho about crossing into Mexico by myself–hence the zigzagging around the country. I also wanted to check out some parts of the homeland that I hadn’t yet visited (and to pick up various odd jobs along the way so I’d have enough cash to survive abroad).
As far as national capitals go, Distrito Federal is beautiful, very culture-rich, and has plenty of delicious options to get some cheap street food (you can get a pretty filling meal for the equivalent of about $5 USD). However, the 19-hour trip I took to get there from San Antonio was possibly the worst ride of my entire life, and when you factor in the conversion rate, it became a 28-hour ordeal. I’d sooner drink my own urine than have another sip of that water…and that is no exaggeration. I have a pretty strong stomach, too–I was eating raw turtle eggs and beer for breakfast with my Guatemalan host, and I drank the tap water all over Central America with no problems whatsoever–but that Mexican water did evil things to my insides. Anyway, I left the U.S. on September 2nd and arrived in D.F. September 4th. I mainly stayed in Pueblo while I was in Mexico (about two hours east of the capital), and it’s absolutely gorgeous there. Also a bit less crowded than D.F. with relatively similar transport/food costs. Oaxaca was probably my favorite Mexican state, though–and that was the first of many places I wound up staying in a hostel.
On September 22nd, I got a ride in Tapachula, Chiapas–and the driver dropped me off just a couple of kilometers away from the Guatemalan border, so I hoofed it into Central America. I didn’t know how far south of the border I’d wind up, and I didn’t have a map of Central America, so I pretty much made it through the other six countries on a well-placed trust in the locals. I made it to Casco Viejo, Panama in the early hours of October 4th. I knew my funds wouldn’t last forever, and a trip to Columbia would have cost me around $400 for a ferry, or otherwise I’d have to book a flight to South America, but I was pretty content with where I’d made it, so I’ll be saving that continent for a rainy day (which I hear is quite often around the Amazon). I flew out of Panama City on October 12th, and it was every bit of luxurious as the Greyhound bus into Mexico wasn’t. I wonder what’s next? Where…and with whom? I’m comfortable where I am now, so I’ll have plenty of time to cross that bridge when I get to it (and more easily than the Darién Gap, I’d expect).
[Brown]: Hitchhiking Travel Route from Phoenixville, PA to Orlando, FL (10/12/2013 – 11/27/2013)
[Black]: PA to Panama Hitchhiking and Independent Travels (5/26/2014 – 11/4/2014)