5 and a half weeks… FIVE and a half weeks! I´ve officially been wandering around foreign places with my backpack for longer than EVER before. Not that that’s very long in the backpacking community, but heck it is long for me. I have travelled over 4000 kilometres through 4 countries. It has been fantastic – BUT my back is killing me and it is long overdue a break from semi-camas and the giant turquoise Osprey creation I once thought was my Yeoseph (a.k.a. my soul mate). I am currently taking a time out in Taltal, Chile where I am going to be teaching English voluntarily for the next month. I suppose I should tell you about the actual travelling I have been doing, but as I am in the mood for more reflective writing you are going to have to make do with the cliff notes version instead…
On the 26th September I flew out of London Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro, via Frankfurt. The flight was a solid 7/10 and I landed into Rio without any problems. After a slightly dodgey airport pick up and having to make my own bed at 4am (hostel life, gotta love it) I managed to get some half decent sleep and get over my jet lag pretty swiftly. Rio was a complicated paradise: stunning but without a doubt dangerous. I heard gun fire twice and a drug lord was killed by police down the street the night I arrived, sooo as much as I wanted to learn more about Brazil’s colourful culture, I thought it would be best to learn some Portuguese and come back another time. I flew to Foz do Iguazu, marvelled at the marvelous waterfalls, and spent a day with a puppy named Chewy who gained more likes on Facebook than the natural wonder I checked out the day before.
From Foz I hopped on a bus to the Friendship Bridge and walked my ginger self solo into Paraguay. It was one of those hell yeah I´m an independent woman maybe I should be priminister moments because it felt awesome and passport stamps are proven* to increase endorphins, dopamine, and other happy hormones lurking in your blood stream. Once in Asuncion I decided to chill out, met a load of Americans doing Peace Corps, and admired the street art across the city. I was over the MOON to be finally practicing my Spanish and to be consuming beer for under a euro a bottle. I was later adopted by some German brothers and their adopted Austrian friend, and I kicked back there for a week before thunderstorms and forecasts of 37 degrees plus humidity drove me to Cordoba, Argentina. I couchsurfed with a lovely Argentinian couple, was impressed by the Art museums and unimpressed by the lack of cash available to withdraw from ATMs.
From there I went west to Mendoza and had my favourite day yet cycling around picture perfect vineyards acting all sophisticated and whatnot. I left with a craving for Malbec and was BLOWN AWAY by the stunning bus ride via the Andes into Chile. I then fell deeply in love with Santiago, got spoiled by my Vegan couchsurfing host, spent a week dilly dallying in Valparaiso before returning to Santiago to hang out with some cool kids I met back in Rio. We got an Airbnb for the weekend, visited museums, drank wine, and watched a Chilean Rom-com. It was splendid to take a break from the usual bacpacker´s diggs and to see some familiar faces, even if only for 2 days.
So yeah, after all that gallivanting I´m pretty darn exhausted and very much excited to have a bit of routine again. I wrote in my last post about being scared to do this and I was worried about how I would feel on the trip. It is easy to have FMO at home when no one around you lives in the world you thrive in. Is this what I am supposed to be doing? Should I be in London working a desk job, rocking a fabulous wardrobe and living a ´real´ life? I mean, my wardrobe does suck at the moment and 20 hour bus journeys must be worse than a 9-5 shift… Once in Rio, however, my questions were answered for me. I remembered how comfortable I feel in foreign places and how well I cope under pressure. I am back in a world that inspires me, surrounded by people who – although are all of different ages and backgrounds – are here chasing similar dreams, and that is reassuring.
And moving to Spain to learn Spanish? 100% worth the two-year detour. When I arrived at my volunteering placement and found out I would be the only volunteer for the month, panic set in. Memories of how lonely I felt in Peru even after being alone for just a week and a half came flooding back, and I couldn´t believe it had happened again. I only teach 20 hours maximum a week, what the heck am I supposed to do the other 80 odd hours that I am awake when I can´t… Oh, wait, I CAN talk to locals now… So I don´t have to depend on the presence of English speakers to have a conversation or make plans for the weekend… GREAT. Last night I was invited to see a show at the Centro Cultural, and today I have been invited to go Kayaking. Learning a second language has opened doors for me and made this trip unique. You don´t need to runaway into the mountains to escape the gringo trail – I´ve walked dogs across university grounds in Cordoba, followed spray painted ants to a sweet shop in Valparaiso, and hiked to swim in turquoise waters of the Pacific here all without another gringo in site, even when there were hundreds just a few blocks down the road. I am not a tourism snob and don´t see anything wrong with wanting to hit up iconic landmarks and buy tacky souvenirs, but this has been a welcome change of scenery and one I wish to exploit more often in my future trips.
There has just been one thing getting me down: the Budget. I mentioned in my last post how I didn’t really have enough money but was gonna go ahead and figure it out once I got here. Well, I have been doing that and it turns out that although there certainly are parts of South America you can do on the cheap (if you travel to Paraguay and head north-west), there are others that will laugh in the face of your £23 a day budget and stick you in the corner for all the other kids to point and laugh too. Brazil, Argentina, and Chile have each bullied my purse into submission and I’ve tried everything to keep costs down: stayed in the cheapest dorm rooms, couchsurfed, travelled by bus, stuffed my face with free hostel breakfast and spoiled myself with rice and pasta dinners. I have also had to turn down a number of awesome tours, nights out, and landmarks. Now I am doing a workaway my spending has driven to a halt which means I can stretch the amount of time I am here, but doesn’t mean I can stretch the number of places I can see. As soon as I hit the road the budget and its restrictions will be back, and I am tired of it. In fact, I think I’m already half asleep.
And that mi amigos has left me with a dilemma: Colombia – to postpone or not to postpone? The agency still hasn’t given me a date or location to work with and as I result I am finding it hard to connect with.. When do I start? Ni idea. Where will I be living? Tampoco. Turns out if I want to I could start in June instead: the money I have left certainly will not stretch until then, meaning I would have to go home early in the new year, find a job to make some savings then come back out in 6 months, OR do something totally different (heck I’m supposed to be in Singapore…). In the meantime I could make a rude hand gesture and curse profusely at Mr. Budget and do crazy things like blow all my money Spanish classes, excursions, and perhaps an Ayahuasca ceremony… I mean, that IS exactly what I wanted to do here anyway…
OR living off rice for three more months could also be a RAVE… Right?
What do you think? Have you ever had to cut a trip short thanks to Señor Budget? Do share your wisdom below, I’d love some advice from fellow viajeros !
* Proven unscientifically by me.
Unfortunately due a lack of computer access I am unable to write as much as I would like to about my trip, but promise to do so once I do! In the meantime check out and (if you’d like) follow my Instagram @thecandidnomad for more regular updates about my trip!