Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad    

Focus on Central America, Mexico, and the Carribean

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Late Atitlan
A view of Late Atitlan from the shore of San Marcos la Laguna.
Photo by Matt Gibson.

With three volcanoes rising out of its emerald surface, and more visible on the horizon, Lake Atitlán is Central America's deepest lake, and considered by many to be the most beautiful lake in the world. Aldous Huxley famously wrote that, "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing."  Read more

Study Spanish in Nicaragua
It is no secret that the best way to learn to speak Spanish is full immersion—go abroad, live with a non-English-speaking family, take classes every day, study, practice, make mistakes, then repeat these last three steps until your brain feels like refried beans. Nicaragua is a prime location for your language-learning travails: A cheap and safe nation where for about US$200 a week, you will get 20 hours of instruction, room and board with a family, trips, and activities. In comparison, a similar program in Spain would cost at least $500 a week... Read More 
Study Spanish in Oaxaca
Oaxaca (pronounced wa-HA-ka) awakens the senses.

This is not hyperbolic promotion, but rather a candid assessment of a place that is ideal for a learning vacation. Immerse yourself in sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures that are unique. During the past eight years I have lived in Oaxaca and have had the privilege of getting to know many students. Said one friend and native New Yorker, "When you hang out with Mexicans and you speak Spanish, you are in a different Mexico." Read More 
Teaching English in Mexico
...Those one million U.S. citizens—as well as the countless Canadians, Brits, Irish, Aussies, etc. who make up Mexico's English-speaking population, came here for a variety of reasons. Many are retired folks who find that their pensions go farther south of the border. Others are business people, taking advantage of NAFTA's gift of easy access to Latin America's largest economy. And some are volunteers trying to make a difference in what, in many places, is still a third world country. But for those like me who are far too young to retire, who have no interest in helping make multinational corporations richer, and who don't have the savings to support an extended volunteer existence, teaching English offers perhaps the best entry into a Mex-pat life... Read More 
Mexican Beer
In most Latin America countries, the beer is a letdown. One or two brands usually dominate the market and they generally present minor variations on a similar taste profile.

Mexico is an exception to the rule, with a long history of quality beer at good prices, with a wide array of choices. Early inhabitants of the region made a variety of fermented drinks from the agave cactus and corn, but Europeans introduced beer from the homeland as they arrived. Some Mexican brands have surprisingly long histories of a century or more, thanks to German and Swiss brewers that established companies in the 1800s. In a footnote of Mexican history, the Austrian emperor Maximilian ruled much of the country for a brief four years. Left behind were recipes for darker beers, the precursors to Negra Modela, Bohemia Obscura, and Dos Equis Ambar today... Read More 
Volunteer in Guatemala
Often, when people describe Antigua, they refer to the city’s beauty, the colonial architecture, and tourist amenities like yoga classes and bagels. Antigua is seen as “Latin America Light,” a bit of cultural flavor without the unattractive bits. In other words, visitors to Antigua may easily avoid close contact with the poverty, trash, and crime that are often associated with the rest of Guatemala.

Few realize that less than 15 minutes away from this idyllic destination the real Guatemala lies in places like Ciudad Vieja. Though tourists may not perceive surrounding communities such as this one as inviting as Antigua, they are not the treacherous ghettos people fear. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of need. When travelers avert their eyes and avoid seeing the reality of daily life for the majority of Guatemalans, they leave the country without having experienced a true taste of it... Read More 

Travel and Cooking in Tobago
Spotting a Doubles vendor outside the airport terminal in Tobago is not difficult on this small island about 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and six miles (10 kilometers) wide. Locals and travelers racing in and out of the airport relish this fusion of Indian/Caribbean flavors—a symbol of the mingling of races and cultures... Read More 
...after graduating from college, I lived in the southern Martiniquan town of Le Marin for nine months while teaching English 12 hours a week at a local primary school. For my efforts I was paid around 1,100 per month, 30 percent more than those in similar positions in mainland France get paid. The cost of living in the DOMs is slightly above the average in Europe so all DOM state workers, teachers included, benefit from this bonus. Activities in Martinique range from swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and underwater fishing, to hiking the northern range of mountains dominated by the notorious volcano Mt. Pelle. There is also a sport called canyoning, created in Martinique, which involves hiking and rappelling through steep rocky niches to bathe in various waterfalls and natural pools in the rainforest that covers part of the northern interior of the island... Read More 
Zahara Heckscher
Many international volunteers, especially those from North America, find Mexico and Central America to be inviting and exciting places to serve. Easier and cheaper to get to than Africa and Asia, this region offers a huge range of volunteer opportunities from working with street children in Mexico City to counting butterflies in the rainforests of Cost Rica... Read More
Alison Gardner
While staying at Akumal on the Quintanaroo Coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, I journeyed to "Where the Sky is Born," to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in order to experience this magical Caribbean mangrove-laced wetland interpreted through indigenous Mayan eyes. Since many of the 2,000 people living around this blue and turquoise water wonderland have deep Mayan roots, it seemed entirely appropriate to hear their family stories and learn from local guides about the wildlife and delicate ecosystems of this 1.3 million acre protected area... Read More
Ron Mader of
How do you explain the terms "Internet," "real-time communication" or "Web 2.0" to residents of rural communities who do not have their own telephone and who have never set foot in a cybercafe? How do they interpret the jargon? Most importantly, are they able to find ways to use these services for their own benefit? Read More
Michele Peterson
If you have ever wished you could pack up and escape to a Caribbean island but are not yet ready to make the leap, then a vacation home rental on Martinique could be the perfect solution. Located in the eastern Caribbean, the island is one of the world's safest tropical destinations and is blessed with clean beaches, dramatic mist-shrouded mountains and a lively Creole culture. An overseas department of France, Martinique also participates in the Gites de France program, a vacation home rental service... Read More
Tim Leffel
In most of Latin America, residents coming from the U.S., Canada, or Europe can live on a fraction of what they spend to get by at home. This fact hasn't been lost on retirees, who have flocked to Mexico in the past decade. Some half a million U.S. citizens are living there full time or close to it. Other sunny spots have seen a huge influx of retirees, including Costa Rica, Belize, Roatan Island in Honduras, and the highlands of Panama... Read More
Ask the Expat Q&A
The Hidden Costs of Moving Abroad
by a Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl
Volker Poelzl
At a time when people are tightening their belts, it is a good idea to plan your finances and expenditures carefully and prudently. However, this can be difficult when it comes to expenses we are unfamiliar with, such as the cost associated with moving abroad... Read More
Book Reviews
Mapping Your Volunteer Vacation Mapping Your Volunteer Vacation by Jane Stanfield

A practical workbook about volunteering which is intended for first-time international volunteers. Author Jane Stanfield traveled around the world for one year and participated in 12 volunteer programs in eight different countries. Her book draws strongly upon her own recent experiences, including the fact that she could not find practical information to help her get prepared... Read More

TAzine Editorial
TAzine is 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 trailblazing 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.

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