Central America on a Shoestring, the 7th edition. For eight writers, it's more than just a guidebook, it was the sunbaked, schoolbus-rattled life we lived traveling the isthmus for months, scoping out ceviche stands and putting it all together. That's right: blood, sweat and beers. One colleague accepted the job days before the coup in Honduras (on the bright side, he rarely had to make reservations). With another, we debated merits of cheap vs. boutique (Him: you know, it's a bit pricey, a lot of phallic sculptures and young masseuses. Me: porno? Him: Nah, just artsy). Author Tom Spurling documented his trip with a kick-ass photo journal of El Salvador. In Panama, the sights were too many: whales breaching, a dash of scarlet macaws, chelas rimmed with frozen ice, kids commandeering dugout canoes, the remnants of the world's worst prison and a coat rack from Noriega's former compound.
Now, parts of Central America are offering a lot for your dollar, not to mention great potential for human encounters, fodder for the best kind of travel experience. Yes, here is a place where, boutique or cheap, people will stop and talk with you. But don't listen to me. Grab a book and get on the road.