Adventure by Chicken Bus by Janet Losole
Adventure by Chicken Bus is a travelogue from a family of four Canadians who sold up all their possessions and went back-packing through Central America. Between 2005 and 2007, Janet and Lloyd took their two home-schooled children, then aged 8 and 5 years old, on a very long school field trip.
The family started in Costa Rica and were determined to live and travel as the locals did. This meant taking long uncomfortable journeys on ‘chicken buses’, ex North American yellow school buses that have been recycled. Janet and Lloyd were both experienced back-packers and travellers, but the extra challenge was travelling with small children.
I was fascinated by some of their experiences which often took them on a less travelled route and far away from popular tourist destinations. This way they immersed themselves in the people and the places. The turtle conservation, watching ships pass through the Panama Canal and walking around Mayan cities, which remained almost undisturbed, were some of my favourite parts.
Janet and her family travelled for almost two years; they became adept at frugal living, keeping themselves safe and planned trips, excursions and long distance travel carefully where possible. Although Costa Rica was the primary destination, the family also backpacked in Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, I know very little about these countries so the map at the front of the book was a great help.
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Embarking on a homeschooling field trip to Central America is stressful enough, but add in perilous bridge crossings, trips to the hospital, and a lack of women’s underwear, and you have the makings of an Adventure by Chicken Bus.
Buckling under a mountain of debt, Janet LoSole and her family are at their wits’ end. Determined to make a drastic change, they sell all worldly possessions and hit the road. With only a few items of clothing, a four-person tent, and little else, the family visits a sleepy island backwater in Costa Rica to save endangered sea turtles.
In Panama, they bounce around like turnips in the back of a vegetable truck to reach an isolated monkey sanctuary. In Guatemala, they scale the ancient Mayan temples of Tikal.
In between tales of begging rides from total strangers and sleeping overnight in the jungle with an indigenous family, Janet endorses community-based travel–supporting local businesses and favoring public transportation called chicken buses. She also writes candidly about what it takes to travel long-term with two little girls amid the chaos of border crossings, erratic drivers, and creepy crawlies lurking at the edge of the jungle.