How To: Smart Travel Enrollment headerEnrolling in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.)

There is an informative program called Smart Traveler from the U.S. State Department. We recommend that all teams register themselves so the U.S. Embassy will be aware of your presence in country in case of an emergency. You may choose to do this or not, but it is our recommendation that you do. We will keep you apprised of vital information that we receive if there are major change or concerns for your trip. As always, your team’s safety is always on our minds as we plan and prepare you’re your arrival. To enroll your team in the S.T.E.P. system online, follow the directions below:

Continue reading

Hiking the Volcano Santa Maria

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.                © MICHAEL SHEAD

The Volcano Santa Maria; been there, done that…and it was tough!

Ever since I heard about the moonlight hikes of the volcano Santa Maria, I thought that it sounded like a blast!

Hiking through the moonlit darkness into the dawn and then seeing sunrise from the towering peak and viewing up to 11 other volcanic peaks including looking down onto the live crater of Santiaguito, sounded like a great adventure for this Kansas farm boy.

So, here’s the story of my volcanic hiking adventure…

The Mountain

  • Name: Santa Maria
  • Height: 12,375 ft (3772 mts)
  • Type:Volcanic
  • Comparison: Mt. Fuji in Japan is about 10 feet taller
  • Trail rating: Strenuous
  • Trail distance: Approx. 6.21 miles (10 km)
  • Elevation increase from trailhead: Approx. 4,173 feet

The hikers

I had been dreaming of doing this hike for two years so when I found out that some friends were interested I planned it for Nov. 15th, 2013 (technically a few days before the full moon but it worked better for our schedules). There were five friends from ASELSI and three guys visiting town from Michigan plus our friend Kevin, from Totonicapan, our guide, Hansy, two friends of his and two police officers for safety. (Apparently there have been some thieves prowling the trails and they recommend armed escorts to prevent attacks.)

In Quetzaltenango, we met up with Hansy near the stadium and his friend wowed us with a  story of Hansy’s record ascent of the mountain (an incredible 45 minutes). Then we drove over to the central park where a van pulled up at about 12:30 a.m., and we headed out to the Santa Maria Summit Trail trailhead which ended up being quite a long ways from the foot of the mountain but, unless you’re on dirt bikes, that’s as close as you can get in a van. Continue reading

Packing Tips For Edward Snowden

Packing tips for Edward SnowdenPacking Tips For Edward Snowden

I appreciate how Christopher Elliott newsjacked the Snowden chase and brought himself into the current churning of the news machine with an article on potential packing tips for the ex-NSA contractor who is on the run.

To sum it up Elliott says Snowden should pack small and light and bring running shoes!

Read it all here….


Mapas de Viajes GPS para Guatemala

Moverse en Guatemala puede ser difícil. Encontrar un buen mapa de carreteras de la capital o de esta nación que es aproximadamente el tamaño de Tennessee es difícil también. Ahí es donde los Sistemas de Posicionamiento Global (GPS) son útiles.

Tenemos un Garmin Nuvi 1350 que cuenta con mapas grandes de los EE.UU., pero un mapa impreciso muy tosco y, francamente, que muestra algunas carreteras en Guatemala, pero cuando conduzco las carreteras del mapa base resulta ser, de la carretera. Por lo tanto, fui en busca de mapas GPS que pueda descargar y me encontré con algunas opciones:

Guatemala Captura de pantalla de GPSWORLDNET

He encontrado una serie de comentarios negativos sobre mapas de viajes GPS, así que tuve que ir con otra opción … GPSWorldNet y estoy muy contenta de haberlo hecho. Tienen mapas de toda América Central, (aunque sólo he probado la guatemalteca). He encontrado que los mapas de GPS de GPSWorldNet son muy precisos y de gran utilidad en el campo. No sólo eso, una vez tuve una Garmin Nuvi que le había cargado los mapas de GPSWorldNet en el pero desapareció. Yo había descargado mis puntos de viaje por carretera de Garmin, así que fui capaz de salvarlos!

Yo ya había pagado los $80 para ver el mapa en concreto para mi primer Nuvi. Pensé que tendría que volver a comprar el mapa, pero cuando me puse en contacto GPSWorldNet, amablemente me proporcionó la descarga del mapa para mi Nuvi nuevo y está funcionando muy bien! Dos pulgares arriba a GPSworldnet.

Aquí están las razones principales que me gustan de mi Mapa GPS de Guatemala:

• Los mapas precisos de la Ciudad de Guatemala, pueblos y carreteras locales.

• Muchos de los puntos locales ya cargados (aunque hay mas salas de billar de lo que jamás podría desear!)

• La funcionalidad de los dispositivos de Garmin es facil. (Sólo tienes que seguir las sencillas instrucciones para cargar el mapa en el equipo!)

• Los mapas funcionan para Windows Symbian y Android, así como los dispositivos de Garmin.

Si estás buscando un buen mapa Recomiendo GPSWorldNet para toda América Central.

GPS maps for Guatemala

Driving in Guatemala with my GPS in action.

Getting around in Guatemala can be tough. Finding a good road map of the capital or this nation that is roughly the size of Tennessee is difficult as well. That’s where Global Positioning Systems (GPS) come in handy.
We have a Garmin Nuvi 1350 that has great maps of the U.S. but a very rough and, frankly, inaccurate base map that shows some highways in Guatemala but when I drive the highways the basemap proves to be , the highway . So, I went in search of GPS maps that I can download and I found a few options:


Guatemala Screen shot from GPSWORLDNET

I found a number of negative comments on GPS Travel Maps so I had to go with another option…GPS World Net and I’m very glad I did. They have maps for all of Central America, (though I have only tested the Guatemalan one). I have found GPS World Net’s GPS maps to be accurate and very useful in the field. Not only that, I once had a Garmin Nuvi that I had loaded the GPS World Net maps on but it disappeared.  I had downloaded my points to  Garmin’s Road Trip so I was able to save those!


I had already paid the $80 for the map specifically for my first Nuvi. I thought I’d have to re-purchase the map, but when I contacted GPS World Net they graciously provided me with the download of the map for my new Nuvi and it’s working great! Two thumbs up to GPSWorldNet.


Here are key reasons I like my Guatemalan GPS map:

  • Accurate maps of Guatemala City, Villages, and local roads.
  • Lots of local points already loaded (though more pool halls than I could ever want!)
  • Easy functionality with Garmin devices. (Just follow the simple instructions to load the map on the device!)
  • Maps function for Windows Symbian and Android as well as Garmin devices.


If you’re looking for a good map I recommend GPSWorldNet for all of Central America.


International Health Insurance for Expatriates

We live abroad and we want international health insurance for our family. While companies that provide international health insurance are many, we wanted something that provided some key options:

  • Reasonably good coverage (of course!)
  • Maternity coverage
  • A track record of good service to customers (see reviews)
  • A high deductible option,
  • Coverage inside and outside the U.S.,
  • Inexpensive, money-saving rates

We searched around, talked to fellow expatriates and discovered some options. Below is a break down on what we found.

(UPDATE!) After reviewing a number of options, we chose to go with IMG  but after a good year and a half of using them they increased their costs for the maternity rider by some 60%. So we dropped them and switched to a Guatemalan insurance that includes coverage in the States for when we visit. Now we use Seguros GyT.

International insurance options we checked out:



Global Medical Insurance from IMG (International Medical Group) Continue reading