Here's the backstory...
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
When Johel and I met 17 years ago, he had been living in the US for about four years (he's originally from Costa Rica) and I was here in Madison. Ironically, just as we began to date, I'd committed to a year abroad the following year in a (different) rural community in Costa Rica as an English instructor. So our story begins with meeting - me leaving - me meeting my (future) in-laws alone (all gazillion of them....he's got 7 siblings, all with kids, many of whom now have their own kids) - and then me coming back and us getting married in a civil ceremony to begin the dreaded immigration process. Fast forward through that first year together (where immigration led us down many stressful, sad, difficult paths - but that is another blog in and of itself!) and we arrive at the end of it where our lives became quite different than what we had originally envisioned. Instead of our dreams of traveling the world as a young couple a decent amount of spending cash and without responsibilities, before a house, cars, and kiddos, immigration required Johel to stay in the country through the duration of his immigration process, putting all of our international travel dreams on hold. So instead, we road tripped like crazy to the West and the East, hitting up incredible national parks and even attempting a chunk of the Appalachian Trail (for a day...it's a long story!)
At home, Johel went to school while I worked, we bought a house (which we were lucky enough to then spend the next 10 wonderful years in), had three incredible babies: Oliver, Yori and Leo, finally concluded our immigration battle (yes, a degree, a house and three kids later!) and then start to think about ....travel? With three kids in tow? Hmmm. How exactly does that work?
But work it did, to a certain extent. Neither Johel nor I rake in much money, but we are crazy hard workers and relatively creative. We would take lots of mini-adventures and road trips, which I liked because it was cheaper than flying (although Johel always hated it when I brought up the topic: "you want to drive where? with three kids? non-stop? in a Prius?!"). We did New Orleans, Colorado National Parks, Utah National Parks, Maine and back in a week (yikes, very bad idea!), Mammoth Caves National Park, and more. When we finally got married in a typical ceremony-and-party style event, my brother and sister-in-law, avid travelers themselves, gave us our honeymoon in Europe (kid-free...woohoo!) We covered three countries and 175 miles of walking in 15 days (don't let anyone tell you can't see Rome in a day...it can be done - I know, we did it!!) Johel almost divorced me only two short months after ceremoniously trying the knot: "Shouldn't a honeymoon without kids be relaxing?" "Of course not! We don't have kids for once! That is precisely why we have to do everything we normally wouldn't be able to do with them!")
During regular life, Johel worked at a local school and was confined to standard school vacations (read: most expensive times of year to travel!). That, combined with my desire to find the cheapest possible option on airline ticket prices for a family of five (and, more truthfully, for things to just fit within our budget), left us always spending the holidays monitoring flight sites like crazy people into the wee hours of the night, scouring for deals on holiday travel. We got lucky in 2018 and bought December 27th tickets for Guatemala on Christmas day...leaving from Houston! No worries, I thought, since our original plan was to road trip to Texas anyways. So, we loaded up the car on the 26th, drove straight through to Houston, booked things en route (Guatemala wasn't on our bucket list: had no clue and no plans!) but there we were on the 27th in Guatemala City and hiking volcanoes on the 28th. Woo hoo! Major pat on the back for this small-budget, travel-hungry family!
So, long story a bit shorter, we've gotten our adventures in to the greatest extent possible given our circumstances. But Johel and I had always dreamed of major adventures. Living abroad or major treks through incredible, less-explored natural spaces. But as anyone with work and kids knows, the longer you wait, the harder it gets to break out of the comfort zone you've created for yourself and your family and to justify pulling money from X (surely a necessity) to help pay for Y (travel and adventures - not a necessity?). But over time, we just couldn't shake that desire for something else. And that lead us to where we are now...