About Kim and Clark Kays
Kim & Clark Kays quit their jobs for an uncertain trip around the world. Originally from St. Louis, they relocated to Chicago after getting married in 2005. After working for five years in middle school and the Fortune 500, they realized there was more to life than the 9-to-5, so made the crazy decision to exchange money for time rather than the other way around.
Their hobbies include fighting over writing styles and searching for gelato. They think food, beer, architecture, and photography are some of the best things about travel—especially when combined. Their travel blog, To Uncertainty and Beyond, includes long-term travel tips as well as humorous anecdotes from their journey through Europe and Asia. They invite you to experience their journey and learn from their adventures and mistakes.
Latest Posts by Kim and Clark Kays
After spending a few sedentary days in Antigua, I was ready for a little activity. So, I signed up for the afternoon hike to volcán Pacaya. It’s one of Guatemala’s active volcanoes and last erupted in May of 2010. You can still see it smoldering on the skyline.
I had high hopes for this hike. It would be my first time climbing around on a volcano, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just kept thinking of that Reading Rainbow episode when Levar Burton climbed around the steaming rocks with red-hot lava flowing in the cracks. I was really excited!
I climbed into a shuttle bus with about eight other people and we bounced our way out of the cobblestone streets of Antigua. It was a beautiful hour and a half ride to get to the base of the volcano. I spent the time chatting with my group and taking in the view.
We arrived at the base, met our guide, purchased some walking sticks from some kids, and hit the trail. Then came my first disappointment. Our guide only spoke Spanish. So, for most of the hike, I had to guess at what he was pointing at and telling us.
Every once in a while someone would ask follow-up questions or discuss what he just said in English, so I got the idea. I even got used to that after a while and began to catch on to more and more of what he said.
No one had prepared me for how difficult this hike would be. It’s quite hard climbing up a steep incline through slippery gravel with short little legs. We were continually losing our footing and catching our balance on whatever we could grab, even each other. About 15 minutes in, my legs were covered in volcanic dust from the shins down.
Our canine companions (who probably make the journey several times a day) were even huffing and puffing. To make matters worse, a happy-go-lucky group of Australians bounced ahead of me, chatting away like it was nothing!
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one struggling. A couple of Israeli guys, a girl from the Netherlands, and I took up the rear for most of the hike. We were continually shouting encouragement to each other, offering our assistance, and frequently stopping for water.
I nearly took up the offer for a horse-back “taxi” ride about half-way up. But, I managed to stick it out.
The thought of the beautiful view of the smoldering volcano, possibly oozing red-hot lava helped sustain me during the hour and a half struggle. Imagine my surprise when I saw this instead:
This is it? This is what I climbed up here for? Visibility at the top was about 10 meters. We were all noticeably disappointed as we snapped photos of white nothingness. Then, our guide said it was time to continue on.
What? It’s not over? The hope of seeing rivulets of lava (or ate least seeing something) re-kindled in us and we all followed him eagerly down a steep slope into the thick mist.
Instead of flowing lava, we got deep cracks in the side of the mountain with hot air gushing out. Okay, that isn’t too bad. It’s something volcano-ish, at least!
We spent some time throwing little pieces of paper into the cracks and watching them burn. We also enjoyed cheering on the Australian guy who took his life into his own hands by jumping over the crack, scorching the hair on his legs.
The sky also cleared up right before sunset so we could get a few photos of us close to Pacaya. Our guide took us into the “sauna” which was a cave that felt like an oven. Then, we turned around and made the long trek back.
Needless to say, I was a little disappointed in my Volcano journey. Our guide didn’t even bring marshmallows to roast over the cracks! I felt a little cheated.
If you plan on hiking to Pacaya, I highly recommend taking the morning tour and BYOM. I saw several people’s photos and the sky is much clearer in the morning. Every evening I was in Antigua, there were clouds and fog around all the volcano peaks, but it was quite clear in the mornings.
I don’t regret going on the hike. I did get up close to my first volcano, got a good work-out, met some fun people, saw some great sights, and it was fairly inexpensive. I’m sure I’ll hike another volcano during my time here in Guatemala. The country has 33 volcanoes that are begging to be explored!
I was back in the U.S. for a few weeks around the holidays and really enjoyed talking about our trip with our friends and family. We got the usual questions about favorites and least favorites. Some comments and questions about India made me think we were too harsh in our previous posts. A lot of people assume we didn’t like India. (Maybe it was all the cow shit talk…) On the contrary, we liked it quite a bit, it’s just a tough place. In an effort to help people understand the great things about India, without going into the negative, here are my 5 favorite things!
1. The Food
No surprise here. I already loved Indian cuisine, so how could I not love the better, and cheaper, real thing? Some of my favorite items were veg pakora, bhindi masala, and palak paneer. We also ate a lot of Thali, which is like a sample plate of a few curries and sauces with naan or roti. Even in SE Asia we made it a point to seek out Indian neighborhoods for a meal at least once a week. Travelers shouldn’t be afraid to jump right in and enjoy the food in India. Just use your head and watch for anything that looks unsanitary. If the place is full of locals, the food probably isn’t making people sick, or they wouldn’t be in business.
The colors, textures, and sparkles of the Indian saris are vibrant and beautiful. It seems that the sole purpose of an Indian woman is to look pretty. We were in India around the time of Diwali so maybe the women were stepping it up a notch for the holiday. I loved seeing a girl in a colorful sari clinging to the back of a scooter with her scarf blowing in the wind. Somehow, they keep that scarf on while zipping through traffic! I didn’t buy a full sari, but I did buy a silk sari-like shirt and beautiful Pashmina scarf for a great price. If you’re going to be in India for a long time, go ahead and get a sari. Locals love too see non-Indians trying to blend in!
3. Masala Chai
Already being a tea fan, this drink won me over instantly. It’s black tea mixed with a healthy dose of warm masala milk and sugar. Sometimes is spicier, sometimes sweeter. It depends on who buy it from. You’ll find it served absolutely everywhere, usually in little paper cups. It’s the perfect way to start the day and end each meal!
4. The Smells
Of course I’m not talking about the sewage and cows. What sticks with me the most is the incense and flowers. Every business and home has a little shrine set up and a sweet smell pours out of every doorway. Women and children make garland to sell on the streets, especially during holidays. It adds to the colorful atmosphere and definitely improves the smell! You also can’t beat that wonderful spicy smell that comes out of every market and restaurant. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
5. The Photos
India is a photographer’s dream. Everything is colorful and interesting. You can take dozens of photos just standing on one street corner. It’s also a lot of fun taking pictures of the kids and people. They are all friendly, outgoing, and very willing to have their picture taken. This is not true of the locals in some countries we visited. We even felt like celebrities sometimes. Families wanted to shake our hands and takes photos with the white people. Hordes of kids swarmed us screaming “photo, photo!” Some of our favorite photos on this trip are from India.
What do you love about India? Leave your comments below!
I just got to the airport! I’m on my way!
I’ve got pretty much the same gear packed with a few different shirts. I’m bringing jeans this time around since I’m going to be staying put for a few weeks at a time and sitting in class all day. And yes, the travel hair dryer and straightener are also coming along! Go ahead and judge, but I’ll be the one with dry, uncurled hair.
I’m excited to test out my new backpack despite the nasty letter from my old pack. I switched from a 70L REI Venus to a 65L REI Ridgeline. The Venus was just too big for my small frame. I’ve been wearing the Ridgeline around a bit, and I really like it. I wish I had chosen it in the first place.
I’m also armed with a new Acer Aspire. The MacBook Pro was just too big and heavy to fit in the backpack with all the camera gear. Plus, Clark needs a computer for his job search and/or travels. This Acer is a real piece of crap, but this blog isn’t going to write itself. Clark’s one post per month won’t satisfy our dozens of readers.
Just made it through security at O’Hare. I’m on Continental Flight 463 leaving at 5:23 this morning. We’ll see how I feel at noon when I finally arrive in Guatemala City and haven’t slept in 24 hours. Maybe I can find a nice comfy bench or piece of carpet to nap on.
I have a few butterflies in my stomach, but I think solo travel will be really good for me. I have to keep reminding myself that I just traveled the world. This should be a piece of cake… o tarta en español.
I’ve smoked hookah in Istanbul, been mobbed by kids in Cairo and Jodhpur, been busted for riding the metro for free in Vienna, driven my scooter into a wall in Cappadocia, CouchSurfed and ridden on local buses in India, attended a Red Shirt rally in Bangkok, and navigated my way through countless train stations and airports.
I can handle this.
Wish me luck!
Check out our latest video covering our adventures to date! It includes a new packing time lapse and deleted scenes from our world travels!
I love when I run across a great blog that was recommended to me by another blogger.
Some incredibly “with-it” writers do this weekly or monthly; I’m definitely not organized and dedicated enough to do that. But, I do like the idea, so I thought I’d pass a few along. Maybe I’ll do it again in a few weeks when I make some new discoveries. ENJOY!
Disclaimer: I read a TON of blogs but, these are the five blogs that I’ve been really enjoying lately. I definitely don’t want to diss (yes, I used that word) any of my other blog friends! And, these five didn’t pay or bribe me in any way!
JohnnyVagabond.com – Twitter: @JohnnyVagabond
Not only is Wes a great photographer, but he is an amazing story teller. His photos make me seriously jealous! With each new post I loath love him even more. His recent stuff on India is amazing!
www.unbravegirl.com – Twitter: @unbravegirl
Sally is anything but cowardly. She’s not afraid to make fun of herself or the travel-blog world. She’s truthful, witty, and just plain funny. Her writing style is so natural and readable that you don’t even notice she’s a little long-winded (I’m not hating, it’s self-proclaimed).
www.AdventurousKate.com – Twitter: @adventurouskate
Here’s another super-funny, snarky, and bold solo travel girl. Kate’s fun experiences and easygoing style make me smile and even laugh out loud sometimes. She quit her job to travel, write, and show the world that solo female travel is safe and fun.
Bacon is Magic
www.BaconisMagic.ca – Twitter: @Ayngelina
This girl is a risk taker! Her blog is fun, interesting, and truly straight from the heart. She just decided to take a leap of faith and try to travel indefinitely! Check out her photo stream on Flickr too!
One Giant Step
One-Giant-Step.com – Twitter:@OneGiantStep
When we first began planning our RTW trip, we started following this blog. Gillian and Jason did the same thing as us and we used some of their knowledge and tips to help us along our way. One year and fourteen countries later, she’s still blogging and trying to pursue her dreams. Her site is full of great travel info!
I’m heading down to Guatemala in about a week – solo. I’ve always wanted to be a Spanish speaker and in Spain my love for the language grew even more. I’m a teacher and just got my Master’s degree in Urban Ed. Leadership. My goal is to be a leader of some sort in a large urban school setting. This means that Spanish will most likely come up every so often and I should probably be able to say more to a parent than “Su hijo es muy malo.” or “¿Dónde está el baño?”
So, I started looking into immersion programs in Central and South America. I found that Antigua, Guatemala is the perfect place to go. There are over 70 schools there. They set up a home-stay for you (including meals) and give you 5 hours of lessons a day for under $250 a week! How could I not jump at that? I chose the Sevilla Academia de Español. The best part? You pay by the week! If my brain feels fried after three weeks, I’ll stop, if not, keep going! There’s no financial commitment or pressure.
The only thing is, I’m not sure if I’m the solo traveler type. Sure, I can hold my own on “the streets” and not get ripped off by tuk-tuk drivers. I know the ropes of avoiding scams and don’t feel nervous about staying in a hostel or home-stay on my own. It isn’t the “travel” part of the trip I’m nervous about.
There are two things I worry about and I imagine the way applies to many women traveling alone: not enjoying it and being safe.
For me, a lot of the fun of traveling is sharing it with someone. And, I don’t just mean with a spouse. When I think about my past travels, the memories I have are about the people, not just the places. The moments I remember are heading out with Jesse in London in search of a Harley Davidson shop on a college choir tour, gazing at the Jefferson Memorial from a paddle boat with three high school friends, or stopping in Janesville, Wisconsin to take our pictures with the giant cow with Heather and Allie. I enjoy traveling with people.
I was a solo-traveler two times on our RTW trip for just a couple of days when the computer broke. I walked around Dubrovnik for a whole afternoon and pretty much got nothing out of it. I only made mental notes of where to bring Clark when he arrived and which ice cream shops to avoid. I didn’t even take photos. I spent another day reading and relaxing on the beach alone. I didn’t even get in the water. What’s the point when I’m by myself?
Will I even enjoy doing this next leg of my journey alone? More importantly, how will I take pictures of myself with a big SLR camera and short stubby arms?
The other source of anxiety is my safety. Solo women travelers sometimes have a hard time in Latin American countries. I’ve been reading up and talking to friends who’ve been to these countries. The general idea is to stay in crowded areas and not go out at night, especially alone. Don’t take overnight buses or encourage any cat calls. Don’t respond at all, as that could be considered encouragement.
I experienced some of this in Egypt, Jordan, and India, but I have a feeling it’ll be kicked up a notch in Guatemala, especially without Clark by my side. By the end of our RTW trip, I began to feel pretty safe almost anywhere. I definitely have encountered more violence and theft on the train in Chicago than anywhere we went on our trip.
It doesn’t help that Clark even mentioned being a little worried for my safety. He never had qualms with me riding the El in Chicago late at night or wandering the streets of India alone. Will it really be that bad? Maybe I should re-read our Travel Trepidation post on fear and remind myself that if I don’t jump in and do it, I’ll regret it.
At least during my time at the language school in Antigua, I’ll be able to stay in safe areas. The place is overrun with tourists and I’m sure the school has lots of great advice and tips. But, I don’t want to just stay in Antigua. After I’m done with classes, I’d like to head out and see more of Guatemala and practice my newly acquired Spanish expertise.
Can I do it alone? Should I try to find another solo traveler to join up with? Can I just tag along with a small group of people? Should I join one of those packaged tour groups I’ve spoken out against so strongly?
So, with all these thoughts running through my head, I’m getting my gear ready and packed up again. I downgraded to the smaller Ridgeline backpack and am very happy with that decision. (Yes, REI took my old one back after 9 months! The new one was on sale so I got a RTW trip’s use out of the Venus, traded it in for a brand new pack, and got $65 back. This is why I love REI.)
It’s been nearly a week since I last saw you. I should have known something was wrong between us. We used to carry everything together. You used to never take your eyes off me, but these past few weeks have been different. You left me completely empty in a cold, dark corner with nothing but my hydration port.
I was so excited when you put me on last Tuesday. “Yay! We are finally together again!”, I thought. As it turns out, it was all a lie.
I had such high hopes when we got to REI. I thought you might buy me some accessories or wanted to brag to the clerk how pretty I look after all these months. But nooooo, you abandoned me! You tossed me aside to be thrown in the storage room with the Christmas rejects.
You didn’t even say goodbye.
When the cashier asked you what was wrong, you said, “It just isn’t right for me.” I still can barely write the words. Just isn’t right for you?! You hurt me to the zippers, sweet Kim.
How could you after all we’ve been through? Why did you leave me, when we fit so well together? Sure, I might get a little pudgy when fully stuffed. I’m a little heavy sometimes, I admit, but no pack is perfect!
On your way out, I saw you from the returns bin. I nearly broke my internal bladder when I saw the bitter truth. You exchanged me for a newer model! And, what’s worse, you exchanged me for a Ridgeline 65?! A Gregory Baltoro 75, I could understand at least, but a puny, little Ridgeline?
Does that blue floozy have the capacity that I have? Does it have the convenient and spacious outer pocket? Is it fully front-loading? Can it snap around you as tight as I can? I don’t think so. What does it have that I don’t, huh?!
To think of all those times I unzipped for you. All those times you reached deep in my compartment. The thought makes me sick now.
Just so you know, I am done crying for you. My Coating Finish™ shell with individual fibers resulting in reduced water absorption and stronger durability was nearly soaked to the internal frame. The REI Garage Sale is on the 23rd, and I am looking forward to meeting someone who will truly appreciate this sexy, green machine.
I wish you and your J-zipper, strap-deprived sack all the best. You deserve each other.
REI Venus 70
P.S. — You left a pair of socks in my main compartment. I’m keeping them.
I’m always eager to try new drinks when I get to a new country or region. We’ve had cold, gritty Turkish coffee to super-sweet milk tea in Thailand. Here are a few of our favorites!
1.Masala Chai – India
Masala chai is one of my favorite things in India. Basically, it is black tea, usually Assam, mixed with milk, sweetener (sugar or honey), and lots of spices. The spices used will vary from place to place, but the basics are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, fennel seeds, peppercorn, and cloves. It is available on the streets from Chai Wallahs, on trains, in hotels, and pretty much everywhere you go.
2. Michelada – Mexico
As our friend Bill would say, “Oh. My. God.” This is undoubtedly one of our favorite drink discoveries. We visited Mexico City in 2008 and have been making this tasty beverage for ourselves at home ever since. There are a few variations on the drink, but the traditional Michelada is beer, lime juice, and clamato. It is served in a glass, or big paper cup, with the rim salted and caked with pepper and chili powder. Doesn’t sound good? Just try it! I think you’d be surprised. Another variation leaves out the clamato and chili powder to make a sort of “beergarita”: beer, lime, salted rim. They go over well at a summer BBQ!
3. Augustiner Edelstoff – Munich, Germany
Day after day we found ourselves at the Augustiner beer hall during our week in Munich. The loud, rowdy atmosphere, good food, and great beer were irresistible. You’ve gotta love the waitress carrying three liters of beer in each hand. Our favorite brew is Edelstoff, and a liter will put you back about six euros. Clark was also a fan of the weissbiers.
4. Singapore Sling
This mixed drink is a staple in Singapore. It was invented at the Raffles hotel and can now be found served all over SE Asia. The original recipe uses gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine, and fresh pineapple juice. The hotel now serves up a pre-mixed version because of the high volume of orders to be filled. You’ll pay almost $30 at the Raffles, but you can get a cheaper version at almost any bar in Singapore. We also found them all over Southeast Asia, of course. It’s the perfect tropical treat, and I enjoyed a few during our two weeks in Bangkok.
5. Super Bock – Portugal
This is the national beer of Portugal and you’ll find it absolutely everywhere. It’s especially good along side the ever-popular bar snack of Lupini beans. This was our beer of choice at only one euro per liter in Lisbon’s Barrio Alto. You can’t beat that and to top it off– you can drink in the street! (Americans get very excited about that kind of thing…)
6. Pomegranate/Orange Juice – Turkey
You can’t beat sipping on a fresh-squeezed juice while wandering through the markets in Istanbul or Izmir. There are juicing stands every few feet in most major Turkish cities. You can also get the pomegranate straight-up, but we preferred to tone it down with the orange. Plus, the antioxidants in pomegranate supposedly offer a million health benefits from lowering cholesterol to slowing cancer. Just don’t buy it from the stands outside the Blue Mosque (five lira!). Head over to the Grand Bazaar for one-lira cups.
7. Chang – Thailand
The beer to drink on the beach in Thailand is Chang. Probably because it’s cheap. We enjoyed quite a few relaxing drinks while sitting at the edge of the lapping waves. After going through some tough travel days to get to the Thai islands, you’ll need a cold one! We also really enjoyed Tiger and Singha, but Chang was the cheapest, so usually our drink of choice! Someone wrote “Donot wory be hppy” on the bottle koozie pictured below, and we just had to have it as a souvenir. If you ever visit the reggae bar on Koh Lipe, please tell them we’re sorry for swiping their foam thingys.
8. Bosnian Coffee
I’m not a big coffee drinker, but Clark really enjoyed this strong drink. Bosnian Coffee is prepared by by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans in a small copper pot. Before pouring the coffee into your little ceramic cup, skim the film and grounds from the top with your spoon. You can pour your coffee over lumps of sugar or dip your sugar into the coffee and alternate nibbling the sugar and sipping the coffee. It will mostly likely be served with a little square of Turkish Delight. I like mine with LOTS of sugar.
9. Port wine – Porto, Portugal
Going for a port-tasting is a must when visiting Porto. If you think you’ve had Port before, think again. The real stuff is incredible! There are countless little wineries along the Douro River that offer free tours and tastings. We went for a hostel outing to the Croft winery and got to taste a few varieties. The older the port, the sweeter and nuttier the flavor. We’re still waiting for a special occasion to break open the 40-year vintage we bought!
On a side note, the tour guide pouring the wine in the photo had the strangest accent. Even months after leaving Porto, I thought the port’s color came from the “hood”. What’s hood? Beats me. Clark later told me that she was in fact saying “wood”– as in wood from the casks. Oops.
10. Lassi – India
We enjoyed quite a variety of Lassis in India. My favorite flavors were banana and Makhani. A Lassi is a creamy yogurt drink sweetened with honey and fruits. The Makhani lassi is a special variety found in Jodhpur. This lassi is seasoned with saffron and blended with a tart cheese-like substance. The best one can be found at a little hole-in-the wall cafe/guest house in the main square.
What’s your favorite drink? Leave your comments below!
Posted from: Chicago, IL, USA
Food is undeniably the best part of travel. There is nothing in the U.S. like the amazing street food you can get in Mexico, India, Spain, or Asia. The freshness of the produce and meats and the great flavors from the local spices are amazing. Our main goal upon arriving to a new place is to find the best little hole-in-the wall place that is filled with locals. This usually means the food is great and the prices are better. We ran across just such a place in Bangkok– T&K Seafood.
We spent one our first evenings in Bangkok walking around Chinatown. The markets and stores were shutting down, but the streets were still alive with people, cars, tuk-tuks, and plenty of food stalls were still in full swing. More upscale restaurants were advertising shark fin soup, seafood curry, and crab galore, but we didn’t want to pay a lot, so we stuck to the streets.
We came across a large gathering of locals and tourists sitting at stainless steel tables on plastic stools outside of a jewelry shop. Around the corner we could see huge pots of food boiling, saucepans simmering, and buckets-full of fresh seafood on ice. Bingo!
We grabbed two seats as soon as they became available and took a look at the menu. Crab, seafood curry stews, grilled cockles and muscles, squid soup, fresh oysters, and giant prawns were all very reasonably priced. Our first night we got a stuffed crab cake, crab in yellow curry sauce, grilled cockles, fried prawns, and a big beer all for only 600 Baht.
The food was amazing and it cost only a fraction of what you would pay in the United States.
The place was so good that we went back again and again, trying something new each time. This was by far some of our favorite food on the entire trip. The atmosphere was also part of the appeal. You are inches from a loud, traffic-filled street with the huge, neon signs of Chinatown surrounding you. The long cafeteria-style tables are shared with other patrons. This inevitably leads to chatting (if they speak English, of course) about the food, the city, and travel. It is very much a backyard BBQ kind of venue with a very fun feel.
Worried about getting sick? Don’t be! The seafood is chilled and hasn’t been sitting out in the sun all day. The dishes and cooking utensils were very clean. Huge buckets of fresh water are brought in for each load of dishes. These people set up shop in the same location every night, so they know what they’re doing. They are clearly not in the food poisoning business.
The lady selling two-day old cockles out of a grimy bucket on the other side of the street might be a little questionable. Just use a little caution and you’ll be safe eating street food anywhere. If you are in Bangkok, just head to Chinatown and look for the busiest street corner. You can’t miss it.