I’ve spent a lot of the free time in my life traveling — through Europe, Australia, Egypt, India, the Caribbean, etc. — but South America always stuck out as one glaring to-do flag that just never was crossed off the list. And now, after 4.5 months through Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia, I can’t believe our time in this continent is over. (For now! I’ll be back to conquer giant Brazil some day soon.)
We’ve seen such awe-inspiring lanscapes and done some pretty gutsy things (i.e. zip-lining on six consecutive cables in Peru, cliff-diving in Argentina). We ate a lot, A LOT of food (mostly steak and dulce de leche). We made friends who made strong, sometimes life-changing impressions on us, even though we may never see them again. (By the way, it’s really hard to keep perspective that what you’re doing is cool and interesting when you constantly meet other travelers who are doing even cooler and more interesting things.)
But I also learned a lot about my personality, as well as Eaman’s and how we travel together. It’s not easy to be together 24/7, but aside from the minor flare-ups, I’m proud to say we make it work. Our relationship gets stronger every day, and perhaps that’s because we’ve gone through so much — from grueling hikes and nights out until 7 a.m. to language barriers and food poisioning.
Zarate, Argentina. Look at how short Eaman’s hair was!!
But we also have some regrets.
I’m pretty impressed with how well I can understand even the fastest of Spanish speakers now, but my conversational skills are stagnant. I wish I had taken tango or salsa lessons, though that was more of a money issue. I wish I had volunteered. And wish I Couchsurfed in at least one place. Laziness accounts for the last two, and it’s unfortunate that only when something is ending that you realize just how lazy you’ve been.
But if anything, our time in South America was a good introduction to long-term travel, and we’ll keep the things we learned in mind as we move on to Asia later this year.
Before Thailand, Vietnam and the rest, though, we’re going to Hawaii — first for my cousin’s wedding, then, hopefully, to stay for a few months with an apartment, a job and a bit of stability. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t both in need of a break from backpacking. It can be exhausting. After a while, seeing yet another cathedral, another mountain or some other land mark — it all just blends into one. We met a few backpackers who voiced similar opinions. One Aussie girl, who was on month eight of her almost-ending travels said that she should’ve stopped at month six because she was too burnt out.
We don’t want to end up like that, which is why living in an apartment in
Buenos Aires was so important and why living in Hawaii (again, hopefully!) will be the change of pace and lifestyle refresher we need.
But that isn’t the end of my dissertation on South America. In lieu of a superlative list — I find it way too hard to compare countries, as they’re all so different — I wanted to give you a rundown of South America by the numbers because everything — even 24-hour bus rides — sound fun in retrospect.
Number of hostels: 19
Largest number of roommates in one hostel room: 9
Number of “rustic” accommodations: 3 (one in the Peruvian jungle had a shower that was hooked up to the electric wires for heat, so we’d constantly get shocked when touching the faucets)
Number of long-distance bus rides: 7
Number of inter-South America flights: 7
Number of times in Bogota’s airport (for layovers or landings): 3 (Archana) and 4 (Eaman)
Number of plazas visited named Plaza de Armas: 4
Number of nationalities met: 24 (mostly Germans)
Number of hikes/treks: 9
Number of personal belongings lost between the two of us: 7
Number of local dances learned: 4
Number of puppy friends made: 9
Number of Oklahoma University football games Eaman watched via the Internet: 3 a.k.a. fewer than he would’ve liked
Number of new songs purchased on iTunes after hearing them in South America: 11
Number of times we ate at El Turko, a shawarma cafe, in Arequipa, Peru: 9
Number of days in hospital: 1
Number of cute, pinchable babies: Lost count after day 2 in Peru