Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
Issue Focus on Travel, Volunteering, Work, Study, and Living in Mexico and Central America
Feature: The Hidden Treasures of Belize by Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl
Travel in Belize
The small Central American country of Belize is primarily known for the world's second largest barrier reef and its picturesque islands, which are a popular destination for sun seekers and divers. But Belize has much more to offer than coral reefs and pristine beaches. The country has a great cultural and ecological diversity, and visitors are well advised to venture beyond the islands and beaches to explore the country's rich traditions and natural heritage. For travelers interested in meeting the diverse ethnic groups that make up the country's population while exploring remote natural attractions, the southern district of Toledo is the best destination. Although southern Belize is the least visited region of Belize, it is home to ancient Mayan temples, pristine rain forests, dense mangroves, mountain ranges, extensive river systems, limestone caves, and lagoons. Small indigenous communities are scattered all across this largely unspoiled region, where the villagers pursue traditional livelihoods of farming and fishing... Read more
Latin America Travel Planner 2008 by Latin America and Ecotourism Editor Ron Mader
Latin America Travel Planner
Latin America has never been so easy to visit.

Latin America is enjoying renewed interest due to its cultural and environmental diversity. Environmentalists talk of biodiversity--the species-rich forests of Mexico and Brazil, the abundant birdlife in Costa Rica and Honduras, and the megadiversity found in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

Whether your idea of a good time is hiking the Andes, buying crafts in Oaxaca, snorkeling along the Maya Reef, volunteering in rural communities, or learning how to cook a tasty tamale, travel options abound and most are a bargain if you know where to look... Read More

Budget Travel in Mexico and Central America by Resourceful Travel Columnist Tim Leffel
Budget Travel in Mexico and Central America
Mexico and the countries of Central America attract plenty of budget travelers, and for good reasons. The coastal resort areas of Mexico cater to tourists on a short vacation-and are priced to match-but the rest of the vast country offers plenty of value and a good infrastructure. Costa Rica and Belize have gotten expensive for the same reason as parts of Mexico, but there are plenty of other options for those on a budget. In their own ways, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala offer some of the world's best bargains... Read More
A Learning Adventure in Honduras by Local Encounters Columnist Michele Peterson
Lenca Honduras
For one week each February, chaos reigns in the tiny village of La Campa, Honduras. During the village's annual festival, over 30,000 pilgrims journey to the cathedral, Iglesia de San Matias to pay homage to the municipality's patron saint. A sprawling tent town springs up to service the faithful and the air is filled with the din of vendors hawking everything from tamales to bootleg DVD's. Religious ceremonies include candlelight processions, a traditional masked guancascos dance and a ritual exchange of relics between neighbouring indigenous villages. The rest of the year, life is a struggle for survival. Situated deep in the remote highlands of western Honduras and a four hour drive from the Mayan ruins of Copan, the nearest major tourism destination, the village of 400 permanent residents sees few international visitors. A new community-based tourism project hopes to change that...Read More
The "Semana Santa" Easter Festival in Antigua, Guatemala by Sandra Kennedy
Easter Festival in Guatemala
Pastel-colored homes, cobblestone streets, bougainvillea-covered walls and looming volcanoes offer the first glimpses of Antigua. The UNESCO World Heritage site embraces thousands of travelers wanting to experience this world-famed Catholic celebration commemorating the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Antigua, Guatemala comes alive with its annual "Semana Santa" Holy Week, held sometime between March 22 and April 23. The entire city participates in the solemn activities during the week with a joyous celebration on Easter. Spanish missionaries from Seville initiated this religious occasion during colonial times... Read More

Responsible Travel and Ecotourism in Mexico and Central America by Ron Mader
Responsible travel in Mexico and Central America
Latin America is the cradle of ecotourism. First touted as a development strategy to preserve the wilderness and development employment in Celestun, Mexico by Hector Ceballos-Lascurain in 1983, ecotourism was adopted by many countries including Costa Rica and Ecuador as a viable way to promote rural tourism and environmental awareness.

Costa Rica quickly became the poster child for green travel and ecotourism thanks to a plethora of scientific research and the success of the New Key guidebook... Read More
 Volunteering, Educational, and Sustainable Travel in Belize by Joshua Berman
Volunteer in Belize
There are many good reasons why non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, and other groups play host to so many alternative tourism options in Belize. It is a small country (about the size of Massachusetts) whose tiny and diverse population of less than 300,000 speak English; it is close (about a two-hour flight from either Miami or Houston); it is safe; and it is beautiful. And the growing number of visitors who come to Belize with time and energy to teach, study, learn, and work are not disappointed. Call it "engaged," "alternative," or "sustainable" tourism and get ready to get involved... Read More
Working at an Eco-Lodge and Guiding Tours in Costa Rica by Caroline Nye
Work Eco-Lodge Costa Rica
"Caroliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiina." I heard someone shouting my name across the river. I wiped my soil-covered hands on my overalls and wandered over to the river to peer through the trees at whoever was shouting to me. It was one of the local lads who worked at the lodge up the road. He tethered his horse to a tree and wobbled over the plank we used as a bridge, waving a small piece of paper in his hand...

“COME QUICKLY PLEASE. TONIO HAS LEFT, WE HAVE AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL OF AMERICAN TOURISTS AND YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE VILLAGE WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH AND SPANISH NOW. CAN YOU HELP?”... Read More

Getting Around in Mexico by Resourceful Travel Columnist Tim Leffel
Transportation in Mexico
If you've been traveling around Southeast Asia or Central America, the distances required to go from place to place in Mexico can come as a shock. Moving from one coast of Mexico to the other is similar in scope to doing the same thing in Canada or the U.S.-this is the 15th-largest country in the world by area.

On the plus side, it can be quite comfortable going from city to city. Mexico has one of the best bus systems in the world, with four classes of service between popular destinations and roads that are, for the most part, in good shape... Read More

Overland Travel in Central America by Volker Poelzl
Overland Travel Central America
Central America is a fairly small region of seven countries with a total area comparable to the size of France or about twice the size of the state of Colorado. Despite its small size overland travel in Central America is much more time-consuming than a map would suggest. The region is dissected by highways, among them the Pan-American Highway, but most roads are just two-lane, often badly in need of repair. Most Central American countries have just one major highway connecting its major cities, which means that they are often overcrowded with trucks, buses, farm vehicles, and passenger vans... Read More
Travel Safety in Central America by Volker Poelzl
Travel Safety Central America
To prepare for my three-month Central America trip I did my homework and read travel warnings and country background information. Since I was traveling on my own and carried a laptop, two digital cameras, and all kinds of other gear, I wanted to be prepared for potential safety concerns. Unfortunately, the information I found was not encouraging for a long-term solo traveler. Most of the countries in Central America have a high crime rate and the reports included incidents of highway robberies by criminal gangs and muggings of tourists. Faced with these facts, I realized that I couldn’t possibly prepare for all potential safety. But I knew from my previous experiences in over thirty countries that travel warnings often exaggerate the reality on the ground and that I had to make my own assessment of safety in Central America. I decided that I would be as careful as possible but that I would not let such concerns spoil my trip... Read More
Spanish Language Study in Honduras by Volker Poelzl
Spanish Language Study Honduras
With growing economic ties and the movement of goods and human resources between North America and Latin America, Spanish continues be an increasingly important language for trade, business, and education. During this time of a weak dollar, Central America has become especially attractive for studying Spanish. It is not only cheaper than Mexico or Spain, but the region's six Spanish-speaking countries also have great cultural diversity and natural beauty. Guatemala and Costa Rica are no doubt the region's most popular destinations, but Honduras is beginning to emerge as a place where there is a good selection of Spanish schools located in some attractive areas... Read More
A Semester at a Mexican University by Rachel Hartman
University Study Mexico City
Study Spanish at a language institute and you'll learn to fill in the blanks of a worksheet with the correct verb forms. Study at a Mexican University and you'll learn to incorporate those verbs eloquently into a speech. If you want to move away from textbook Spanish, consider studying at a university. From writing essays to giving presentations, you'll gain insight related to the language and culture. Here are a few more reasons to study at a university in Mexico... Read More
Studying Spanish in Mexican Language Schools After Graduation by Michael Kay
 
...My options have now been widened to include the large number of competent, but non-university language schools. Most of these schools are cheaper, the paperwork always minimal, and the instruction schedules are generally much more flexible. Such independence also allowed me to choose where I wanted to study, rather than being limited to a predetermined list. Thus I have been able to see many different aspects of Mexico. I started my travels in the preserved colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, located in the largely conservative central highlands, before moving on to the city of Oaxaca, one of the main nodes of the country's more liberal and racially heterogeneous south. I expect my next stop, San Cristabal de Las Casas, the capital of Chiapas... Read More
 The Expat Phenomenon in Mexico by Rachel Hartman
 
Mexico: the land of purple flowers, loud mariachi bands, and fresh tortillas. Over the years, it has drawn more than a million Americans to settle among its people. What brings these expats south of the border and what makes them stay? Is it just cheap living, a sense of adventure, a curiosity of other cultures, or a little of all of the above? The answer, like most things in life, is complex. While their reasons vary, the vast majority of expats living in Mexico will agree on this: they love it, and don't want to leave... Read More
Teaching English and Living in Mexico City by Rachel Hartman
Teaching English in Mexico City
I taught English in Mexico City for two years and would do it all over again. Not only is the sprawling metropolis one of the largest in the world, it also serves as a center for Mexico's history and culture. Head there, and you'll get an inside look at the country's intriguing past and present. The only thing you won't find in Mexico City is a chance to be bored.

With the help of the Internet and the telephone, you can find a teaching job pretty easily. Among Mexico City’s estimated 20 million people, there is a high demand for English. Parents want their children to learn the language in school. Employees in certain fields need a strong command of the language to communicate internationally. And others see it as a way to improve their education. All of this means that many schools, universities, language institutes, and companies seek capable teachers. Being a native speaker of the language automatically gives you a competitive edge... Read More

 Volunteering in Mexico to Save Coral Reefs by Cheryl S. McDonald
Volunteer in Mexico
While finishing my transect for the morning’s fish monitoring session, I glanced up to find myself face to face with two beautiful gray angelfish. Quickly, I gathered my data slate—with notes about my morning's transect activities along with the measuring tape and monitoring stick—and put it back into the dive bag. I weighed down the gear bag with an extra two pound weight. Now I could play with the fish for the final eight minutes of allotted bottom time. After quick agreement with a buddy that it was time to check out the undersea life from the perspective of tourists and not scientists—we were off. As I slowly approached the beautiful fish they did not seem bothered, but rather curious. We seemed equally intrigued with each other... Read More
 Volunteering in Honduras by Sasha Arms
Volunteer Honduras
Honduras is a destination that was previously overlooked by visitors to Central America. The popular destinations of Costa Rica, Belize, and Guatemala left Honduras as a gateway country for travelers in transit. In recent years that has changed. Honduras is proving itself as a beautiful country with something to suit every travel taste, with sites of historical significance, traditional tribes, "paradise" islands offering diving and coral reefs, rustic islands providing a snapshot of communities untouched by tourism, modernizing cities, and Caribbean subcultures. Of course, as in every Latin American country, Honduras has its problems. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line, and as a result there is crime, poor education systems, and health problems. This is the terrible truth, but is also the reason why a travel experience to Honduras can be so much more rewarding. Volunteers are desperately needed across the country—for teaching, community work, medical work, and conservation... Read More
Endpage: A Journey in Guatemala by Luke Rodehorst
Guatemala
From the sky, Guatemala opens suddenly. Inactive volcanoes and the Sierra Cuchumatanes surround Izaball, a glassy lake surrounded by quaint fishing villages and dotted by an occasional sailboat. Guatemala City at this point is mostly obscured. Paradise remains intact.

98% of Guatemala City's 3 million person population lives in poverty. It is the largest city in Central America. Since there are no zoning laws, the city sprawls into a seemingly endless network of shantytowns. When people do have money, they often spend it on building a larger home... Read More

Calendar of Arts and Events
There are three wonderful visitor-friendly festivals in Mexico this summer.
Festivals Guelaguetza Mexico
July
Oaxaca, Mexico—Guelaguetza. The two Mondays following July 16: www.planeta.com/ecotravel/mexico/oaxaca/guelaguetza.html.
Huamantala, Mexico
August
Huamantla, Tlaxcala
. Each year on August 14th residents of the town of Huamantla, Tlaxcala use the streets leading to the main church to display carpets made of sawdust and cut flowers: www.planeta.com/ecotravel/mexico/tlaxcala/huamantla.html.
Independence Day Mexico
September
September 16—Independence Day.
Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain with the famous "grito."' The big party takes place in Mexico City's zocalo. Not for casual visitors as it becomes very crowded,. but there are festivals around the country that celebrate the holiday.
Safety Tips for Solo Women Travelers
Women's Travel Columnist Beth Whitman
Beth Whitman
...people may have convinced you that traveling on your own is unsafe, therefore you’ve put off your life’s dream waiting for the right travel partner. The truth is that a woman journeying on her own does need to take a few extra precautions, but adhering to the following advice can result in rewarding and trouble-free travel... Read More
Five Ideas for Budget Sightseeing in Europe
Europe Budget Travel Columnist Kelby Carr
Kelby Carr
Sightseeing is often a Europe travel expense people forget or underestimate, but you can quickly rack up charges in the realm of even hundreds of euros in no time with tours and pricy attraction tickets. You don't want to miss out on the sightseeing, of course. That's a major reason you're visiting Europe. Just sightsee smartly, and you can protect your wallet from a major hit in these times of a high euro exhange rate.... Read More
Ask the Expert Q&A
Taking Electronic Devices Overseas
Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl
Volker Poelzl
From time to time readers send me questions about the electronic devices they plan to take overseas. In this column I summarize the most important issues travelers and expatriates should be aware of when taking their cell phone, PDA, laptop computer, or other electronic devices overseas... Read More
Book Reviews
Moon Handbooks Belize
Moon Handbooks Belize
by Joshua Berman

Having just traveled in Belize a few months ago, it was a pleasure for me to review Joshua Berman's Moon Handbooks Belize. Still closely remembering my own experiences in Belize, I can definitely attest to the fact that this book is a very complete and useful guide to all that the small country of Belize has to offer. Berman considers activities for a variety of interests, budgets and ages, which makes the Moon Handbooks Belize a great companion for almost any traveler... Read more
Movie Reviews
Watching foreign movies is a great way to get into the spirit of an upcoming trip and learn about local cultures and customs. We will regularly feature reviews of noteworthy new and classic foreign films which tell stories about foreign lands, their people, cultures, and ways of life.
Innocent Voices
Innocent Voices by David Hickins
There are very few movies that take place in Central America, except for "shoot'em up" action flicks from the U.S. "Innocent Voices" is a notable exception. It is one of very few movies about Central America that take a realistic look at the region's social and political problems of the recent past. 'Innocent voices' is a compelling drama about the brutal civil war in El Salvador during the 1980s. It is based on the childhood experiences of Oscar Torres, who co-wrote the script... Read more.
Music Reviews
Any Palacio
A Tribute to Any Palacio and Garifuna Culture
The Belizean musician and singer Andy Palacio unexpectedly died this past January at the young age of 47. Andy Palacio had only recently risen to stardom as one of the new World Music sensations. His latest CD, "Wátina", released in early 2007, was rated among the best world music albums in recent years, and some critics even said that it is among the best world music albums of all times... Read more
Website of the Month
Planeta: Ron Mader
From Ron Mader, host of Planeta.com, check out his illustrated piece on Lessons from Mexico.

This collection of photos was created by Transitions Abroad's Latin America editor Ron Mader. He demonstrates how environmental awareness and tourism are learning to tread the same path. Organized tours and individual travelers continue to discover the natural and cultural wonders of Mexico. Ron's photos document best practices in responsible travel and ecotourism. Highlights include features on Guadalajara's Bosque La Primavera and the weavers of Oaxaca. For Mexico-buffs there is the visually entertaining Legacy of Juárez and Green, White and Red.
Latin America Travel Survey
Latin America! Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Caribbean, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Planeta.com and Transitions Abroad are asking readers to share thoughts about travel in Latin America. The survey opens July 1 and results will be published online.

Among the items in the survey -- respondents will be asked which countries they are visiting in the next six months and to rate Latin American countries in terms of their environmental and cultural appeal. The survey also requests specific suggestions that can be shared with locals.
What's New at TransitionsAbroad.com
TAzine Editorial

We are proud to launch TAzine as a monthly Webzine which continues the 31-year tradition started by Transitions Abroad magazine. TAzine features many of the same columnists who wrote for the magazine, a growing group of new columnists, while featuring many freelance writers who wish to share their experiences and expertise within the context of our pioneering coverage of work, study, travel, and living abroad.

Founded in 1977 by Dr. Clayton Allen Hubbs, Transitions Abroad magazine was the only print publication dedicated to work, study, living, volunteering, and immersion travel abroad. Its purpose—in print and now as a Webzine—is the dissemination of practical information leading to a greater understanding of other cultures through direct participation in the daily life of the host community.

Send in your submissions for the webzine to webeditorial@transitionsabroad.com on the subjects of travel, work, study, internships, teaching, volunteering, living abroad, and much more in accordance with our detailed writers' guidelines!

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Central America and Mexico
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Europe and Budget Travel
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