Epic Education’s Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

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Another year, another 12 months of Epic Education. 2018 was a roller coaster ride for us, full of ups, downs and as much travel as we could manage. Here’s a quick rundown of our year.

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

An Epic 2018: Our Year in Review

For us, 2018 was a year of transition. After five years of moving from place to place, we started looking for a place to plant roots. Well, that actually started in 2017, when we first ventured into Mexico looking for a home base. By January of 2018, we found a place that we could call home…possibly for a while.

That doesn’t mean we want to stop traveling. By no means. But the kids have asked us about slowing down and staying in one place for a while. The question is: where is that place? It’s possible we found it this year. Here’s a quick run-through of that decision and more on our travel in 2018.

January > February

Returning to San Miguel de Allende

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

On January 6th, we returned to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with the intention of staying a while. We had just spent the final three months of 2017 in the Yucatan Peninsula and were ready for a change. With that in mind, we decided to go inland and see if we’d enjoy living on the high desert plains of central Mexico.

It turns out we did!

We found an apartment perched on a hill overlooking the city and started searching for fun and community. We knew there were lots of things to do in San Miguel de Allende, but now we wanted to build a deeper connection with the city. By February, our daughter was taking aikido lessons and joining practices for a flash mob.

The boy found a group of friends, too: both local kids and the offspring of some expat families. Soon our son was hanging with them downtown and photographing their parkour on the weekends. I started working with a local charity once a week and discovered some of the best people in town participating there.

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March > April

Fallas Festival in Valencia, Spain

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

March arrived and the girl’s flash mob dazzled residents with a (fairly) unexpected rendition of “Uptown Funk” in one of the town’s main squares. Fast forward a week and we were packing for Spain. One of our favorite things about living in Valencia for two years was its amazing Fallas festival. Every March, the town becomes full of spectacular statues, deafening fireworks, and churro stands. The streets smell like gunpowder and chocolate. We love Fallas.

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Semana Santa in Mexico

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

We returned from Valencia to find San Miguel de Allende in the middle of the Easter season. Purple and white decorations were everywhere. San Miguel is famous for its Semana Santa celebrations, and now we know why. For example, who knew you could blow up Judas Iscariot to the sound of church bells?

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May > June

Guanajuato City, Lion King, & Family Visit

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

In May, my parents came to visit us in San Miguel de Allende. I knew they would enjoy it here, but their love for the place exceeded even my expectations. The visit was ostensibly to see the girl’s performance in a local production of the Lion King, but we made sure they saw much more than that.

We explored the botanical gardens and took them on various walking tours of cathedrals, homes, and gardens. Oh, and we ate our weight in exceptional Mexican food. We also took them to nearby Guanajuato City, another beautiful colonial town (and UNESCO site) built by Spanish silver magnates.

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July > August

Mexico City

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

By July, we had made many trips to Mexico City (aka CDMX or Ciudad de Mexico) as that’s our main hub and the airport we use most for travel. Mexico City is an incredible town and I love it more each time we visit. The vast central part of the city is clean, safe, cosmopolitan, and full of cultural opportunities for traveling families. There are fantastic museums, beautiful parks, fascinating markets, amazing food, and more art, architecture, and design than you can see in a week.

We’ve spent half a day simply walking the stylish, tree-lined avenues of neighborhoods like Juarez, Roma, and Condesa. We’ve visited the home of Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. Then there is the world-class Anthropology Museum, the incredible Children’s Museum, and dozens of other repositories of art, history, and design. We’ve taken street art tours, street food tours, and cooking classes. By my last count, we’ve been to Mexico City now at least seven times, and I can’t wait to go back again.

Tokyo/Osaka, & Atlanta

At the end of June, Keiko and our boy went back to Japan for a long visit. Keiko’s family in Osaka, so the boy got to see his grandparents and brush up his now-rarely used Japanese. In Tokyo, he wandered around our old neighborhood on his own one day. He walked by our old apartment and saw where he lived, went to school and the restaurants still serving his favorite foods (cue nostalgia).

Before returning to Mexico, the kids stopped in Atlanta for some time with their grandparents. While there, the girl attended a theater camp at Georgia Tech University. The boy went to a photography camp at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). Then it was back to Mexico City, where I was waiting. Keiko came a few weeks later and met us in San Miguel de Allende.

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September > October

Costa Rica

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

By September, we had decided to stay longer in San Miguel de Allende, so we started looking for a larger apartment. The kids were sharing a bedroom, and when you have a teen and a tween, it’s best to give them their own space. Surprisingly, we found a place quickly and signed a contract before someone else could.

The day after we signed, the boy and I left for Costa Rica. Little did we know that the country was going through one of the biggest labor strikes in its history. State workers were shutting down the main roads from the capital of San Jose to the coasts. Our four-hour drive turned into eight hours, but fortunately for us, we had a private driver.

Costa Rica was fantastic, and we really enjoyed Puerto Viejo, on the country’s eastern Caribbean coast. It’s a little rough around the edges, but we loved the food, the atmosphere and the wildlife opportunities there. We even made a few local friends.

Once we returned, it was time to move house. We loved our apartment up on the hill overlooking San Miguel de Allende, but now we were closer to downtown and a lot of the places and people we enjoy. After another nine months of homeschooling the kids started at local schools again. This time here in Mexico. Unlike their time Spain’s education system, we enrolled then in less conventional schools. The kids were given a choice of where they wanted to go, and they ended up choosing different schools. Each school is unique, and the right place for their personalities, social needs, and learning styles.

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Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

Next came one of my favorite times of 2018. As the end of October drew near, it was time for Dia de Los Muertos: Day of the Dead. We experienced our first Dia de Los Muertos in Merida, the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula. It was fun, but we knew from friends that Dia de Los Muertos in San Miguel was something to behold. We soaked it all in, having our faces painted and wandering around the intricately decorated altars and graves.

During Dia de Los Muertos, my friend Brandon Pierce was holding his Family Adventure Summit in town. He had asked me to emcee the Halloween party, which I did with gusto and gratitude. There I saw old friends and made new ones new friends.

November > December

Peru!

Epic Education's Year in Review 2018: Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan & Peru

November flew by in a flash. The kids were adjusting to their new school schedules and Keiko and I were writing, researching and preparing for our next trip: Peru.

The four of us flew to Lima in early December and spent a week there before the rest of my family arrived. That’s right: this trip was a big one. December 28th, 2018 marked my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, my mom wanted to see Machu Picchu. So after a week in Lima, we were met by my mother and father, as well as my brother and sister and their spouses. Now 10-people strong, we took in parts of Lima, Cusco, and Puno, as well as the infamous Inca city in the clouds. I read Mark Adam’s book Turn Right at Machu Picchu before I left, and I’m very glad I did. Recommended.

The trip was like no other we’ve ever taken. For one, having time with the whole family — especially my kids spending time with aunts, uncles, and grandparents — was precious indeed. Aside from a few wedding celebrations in Georgia and Puerto Escondido, we are rarely all in the same place at the same time. Secondly, the landscape, culture, and food of Peru are all unique in so many ways. And wow: there really are some cool things to do in Peru. Aside from climbing ruins, learning about Incan culture and the conquistadors, we went paragliding, swam with sea lions and ate roasted cuy (guinea pig).

We did encounter an unexpected challenge, however: altitude sickness. Some people weren’t affected at all. Yet for me, it gave me a dull headache and a dizzy feeling for days. And I was lucky. A few others — including my daughter — had debilitating nausea…or worse. They eventually came around, but man-o-man…altitude sickness…we weren’t prepared. Lesson learned.

At last, we returned to Mexico on the December 30th and spent New Year’s Eve at a friend’s house in San Miguel de Allende. Another year flew by, and I am once again humbled and grateful to friends, to family and to you, my readers, for sticking with us one another 365 days.

What lays ahead in 2019? Hard to say at the moment. We love it here in Mexico, and there are still large swaths of the country I still want to explore. Yet I have felt the pull back to Tokyo — our second home — recently. More than any other time since we left Japan five years ago. Time will tell, but I hope you stay tuned to see what’s next.

Thank you for spending part of your day with me. If you want to keep up with the latest news and posts from team Epic Education, please sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on social media:

Until the next!

Jason, Keiko, and kiddos.

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