When Quoc Doan was six, his family escaped from Vietnam by boat. During the turbulent stormy nights, the sight of monolithic ocean waves crashing on his tiny boat put fear into his heart. Yet his family survived the perilous journey and landed in a safe country. This instilled in him a sense of hope and fearlessness. From there on, Quoc has never been afraid to travel beyond his comfort zone. No chicken bus is too crowded, no hostel is too sketchy, and no country is off limits. A curiosity for new lands and culture pulls him forward. The ocean waves were conquerable after all.
In his journal, Quoc takes us on a chicken bus ride through eight Central American countries, where he gets up close and personal with the locals. Check out his stellar portraits and stories here, and follow Quoc @beginswithq.
What led you to travel through Central America?
I was slightly familiar with Central America. I learned some Spanish in high school (many decades ago). The countries themselves were small and the path was a simple north to south. Similar to my Southeast Asia trip, the small countries means short travel time and lots of cultures. So I bought a one way ticket and hopped on the next plane.
What was your most memorable experience during this trip?
In Granada, Nicaragua, I went out alone for a drink on New Years Eve at the town square. I ran into a bunch of fun travelers I had met before. A random parade passed by and we all jumped in and danced with them. That parade crawled out of the main square and into a local neighborhood where there was a big block party put on by the locals. We lit fireworks, played games, drank, and danced the night away. This would go down in my memory as the best New Years in my life. It’s these grand unexpected adventures that remind me of how much I love travel.
Do you have a favorite place that you’ve visited, and why?
I have two. Iceland and India are the two places on Earth where I feel like I am on another planet. Iceland has a wide range of environmental conditions. It has ice caves, deserts, glaciers, volcanos, sulfuric wastelands and lush forests. India has a diverse range of people and cultures. While they all speak English, there is a wide variety of religions, classes, languages, and architecture. Not to mention all the animals crossing the street at the traffic intersection.
What’s your favorite travel tip?
Travel light and pack two chargers. Before every trip I lay out my gear and spend a lot of time thinking, planning, and minimizing how much I need. The most important thing was my mobile device. Calling it a phone doesn’t do it justice. It’s my phone, camera, GPS navigator, internet hub, translator, language teacher, travel advisor, photo editing studio, trip planner, newspaper, currency converter, and most importantly my travel journal. For that reason, I brought two chargers for it. I used it from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. But there was never a moment it was out of juice.