by Niall Doherty


It’s almost midnight, gate still chained, don’t fancy waiting out on this shady street for three hours. I swing my big bag over first, nothing breakable in there. Then I let my smaller bag follow, the bigger one acting as a crash pad. Quick look around, coast still clear, so I spring myself up over the fence. If nobody’s home, I’ll have to do all this again in a minute.


Crossing into Honduras, twenty of us gathered around the driver as he calls names and hands back passports before we can reboard. A beggar wanders over. He’s in his fifties, face all weary, clothes all scuffed up. Standing there with his crutches, I wonder how he lost the leg. He watches the driver, eyes hopeful, as if waiting for his name to be called.


If I have a theme this year, it’s focus. My tendency has always been to take on too much, and then get scattered, not giving myself enough time to think. I’m going to try hold back on the workouts, for example, because that’s really just a form of procrastination for me at this stage. The money-making must come first. Once I crack that, everything else gets easier.


Antigua is a little colonial town surrounded by volcanoes, full of cobbled streets and broken steeples. It was Guatemala’s capital until earthquakes wrecked the joint back in the eighteenth century. I step off a minibus, check into my hostel, and go for a wander. My new favorite thing is finding an old, quiet church for a wee spot of meditation.


This guy is on some high level shit, business did half a mil last year. Earlier he showed me his goals and values all written out in great detail. Now he’s quizzing me on my business plans. With a few sharp questions he exposes giant flaws, crucial considerations. Mind blown. The highlight of my time in Central America may prove to be this very conversation.

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. I snapped this photo right after a man with a machete threatened to throw rocks at my head.

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. I snapped this photo right after a man with a machete threatened to throw rocks at my head.


After that chat last night and reading about EV this morning, I sit in a coffee shop in San Marcos and crunch numbers, estimate odds. The figures I end up with don’t look good. My work plan for New Orleans will have to change, Amsterdam too. Time to cut the bullshit and focus relentlessly on the one thing most likely to get me where I want to go.


Just the two of us atop this mountain. I’m convinced it’s a shakedown, so I tell him I’m leaving and make for the trail, fully aware that he ain’t happy and there’s a machete strapped to his hip. But he goes for rocks instead, gathers up a couple and assumes a throwing stance, daring me to take another step. “En serio?” He nods wide-eyed, as if to say, “Go ahead, see what happens.”


Acknowledging others. It’s such a simple thing, but I often fall in with the rabblement and blank my fellow humans. I let myself off the hook in busy surroundings, but no excuse on quiet streets or in half-empty coffee shops. Why are we so hesitant to say hi, offer a nod, maybe even a smile? What is that fear? Rejection? Embarrassment? Strangers?


We’re already a few miles into Mexico by the time I realize, jacket and ear buds left behind on the other bus. Shite. It’s not so much that I mind losing those things — though that jacket was my oldest possession, and I was using the ear buds daily — it’s more the carelessness that bugs me, being absent-minded. I take some breaths and try to forgive.


I’m wearing three layers, and a t-shirt over my head. Just another ice-cold bus trip in Latin America, where the a/c is either on full blast or not at all. I’m poked awake twice during the night by police inspecting the vehicle, wanting to know where I’m from, where I live, and if the little Mexican boy asleep in the next seat belongs to me.

Teotihuacan, just outside Mexico City, and just before I got kicked out by security.

Teotihuacan, just outside Mexico City, and just before I got kicked out by security.


The twelve hour bus to Mexico City ended up taking seventeen hours, and that was just fine with me, stuck into a good book as I was during the long crawl through traffic on the home stretch. I must have got a solid three hours of reading in, then walked the two miles to the hostel, stopping off en route at a busy breakfast place and a quiet church.


Started off in great form today, but ending on a low. I think I’m just lonely again, passing through these towns, not really knowing anybody. Met a girl off Tinder this afternoon and she was cool and everything, but fuck, I don’t know, man. There was the language barrier, and the fact that I’ll be out of here in two days. It all seemed so pointless.


This is interesting. I’ve never been kicked out of a UNESCO World Heritage site before. The security guard escorting me to the exit hardly seems interested in my excuses. Doesn’t help that I’m offering them in broken Spanish. Probably sounds something like this to his hears: “No sign. I not know. Why no sign? My friends not here. I no come in this way.”


I wake up from a dream in which I’m vomiting, and find myself actually vomiting. All over the hostel bedsheets at five in the morning. Not sure what it was that I ate, possibly those street tacos or the hostel breakfast. Montezuma’s revenge. As I try clean up without disturbing the roomies, I realize it might be a very long day ahead. I’m due to board a 20-hour bus this afternoon.


US-Mexican border. The final big hurdle. Once I’m beyond, the rest is easy, downhill all the way home. But you hear horror stories about this crossing, regular people refused entry for no good reason. I step to the window and hand over my papers. Eventually the agent asks that one question, my response to which always raises eyebrows: “How long have you been traveling?”


Two days in San Antonio, not very pleasant thanks to this lingering diarrhea. But balancing it out are these two dudes I’m crashing with. They’ve taken me around to buy meds, do laundry, see some sights. Andrew has even paid for a couple of my meals. Last time I Couchsurfed was almost three years ago in Iran, kindness much the same.

America, fuck yeah!

America, fuck yeah!

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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