Category Archives: things that make me smile

Where’s the best place to relax? Hint: the beach

Once we picked up my new medicine, where’s the best place to relax?

Yes, the beach.

as it should be

all smiles, as it should be

beach

vina beach

bus sponsorship

bus sponsorship on the beach

guardavida

guardavida (lifeguard)

view from the sand

behind us – beachfront property


Lightening My Load

 DSC03314

You haven’t really travelled until you’ve taken on South America…The challenge is deciding where to begin. With so much choice, it’s as though the continent was built for travel; a place that excites, thrills, challenges and infuriates…Brave a white-knuckle bus ride down  Peruvian slopes and be astounded by endless Andean vistas…South America, however is not just about breathtaking sights – its stunning soundtrack is sure to leave your feet a-tapping long after you’re back in the day job…Argentine  folklórica (folk music) trickles out of truck radios in the pampas and the jolting rhythm of cumbia making those Andean bus rides even more absurd.

However, when it comes to experiencing this incredible land the real reward  is undoubtably the South American spirit. The entire continent approaches life with the enthusiasm of an old-fashioned road trip: windows down and stereo blaring. South America is a continent that engulfs you and changes you – your state of mind, your outlook on life. As soon as you step foot on South American  soil, the transformation begins.

Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring

I love guidebooks. They are my souvenirs and my notebooks. I have folded over pages and I have made notes on the white space as I learn information about a place while I’m on the go.

I have a shelf in my bookcase with guidebooks from all of my travels — starting with a Let’s Go Europe: 2000, Lonely Planet Switzerland, Fodor’s New Orleans, Lonely Planet Costa Rica, Frommer’s and a Lonely Planet both from Italy, Lonely Planet Croatia, Lonely Planet Argentina and more.

I was hoping to put my Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring back on my bookcase.

It took less than a week carrying around my book to decide that the book would need to come apart.

This guidebook would not make it home in one piece to take it’s earned spot on my bookcase.

I had seen other backpackers do the same and I had to join them. I was carrying around dead weight and pulling out this huge book every time I needed it wasn’t going to work for me. In fact, I wasn’t pulling out the book because it was so cumbersome.

The prospect of ripping my book apart broke my heart, although, temporarily. It was adding to the load I was carrying on my back but I didn’t want the book to go to waste.

There was so much information on these crisp, brand new pages and so many places to explore! My friend Romina was preparing for another trip to Brazil, which was the biggest section of the book, and which was not a destination for this particular trip. Romina told me that reading the pages of the other sections would also help her practice her English (which was already superb). Knowing that the remaining part of my book would go to a good home lessened the blow.

I took a deep breath, ready to deface a book. I pulled out the pages for Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Romina gave me five paperclips to put together my new, and lighter, ‘guidebooks.’

guidebooks

And I left Romina the rest of the guidebook, still pretty much intact, for her use.

DSC03313


Photos: Donkeys at Work

La Pedrera Donkey

donkey trashman 

Trash donkey – Montevideo, Uruguay

Transportation donkey – La Pedrera, Uruguay


Livin La Vida Local

The rest of the day in Montevideo with Romina and Mariela was quite fun. We joked that I was livin la vida local since Romina had a lot of errands to run and I was happy to go along with her. Mariela worked during the day so she would meet up with us afterwards.

Some of the things we did —

  • Romina had an interview and I found an internet cafe nearby
  • Romina needed to get approved for an apartment and I went to the bank with her
  • Romina had to pay her phone bill
  • Romina needed to look at an apartment (2 blocks from the beach in a nice neighborhood, $300USD/month) – my artsy shot from one of the windows in the apartment we looked at

Apartment

  • I had to go to a hardware store for a converter
  • Romina took me to the old city and gave me a tour of historic Montevideo

MVD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought this facade was so elegant and pretty. The dark doors are simply gorgeous.

Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famous theatre – we went inside for a peek before a show was to start.

Teatro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then the mate canisters…more on this later!!

Mate


This time last year…

This time last year, nearly to the minute, I was enjoying my business class upgrade, enjoying fine wine and a nice dinner before drifting to sleep under a down comforter. I was headed to Buenos Aires to start my South American adventure.

I know I’m still taking my time telling my stories here on my blog, but all you have to know is that it was a decision I do not regret and there are some good stories, so stay tuned!

Even though I had shitty bus rides, bad nights of sleep and bouts of loneliness, I met wonderful people, tasted amazing food and experienced life as a local in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

With that said, and with freezing cold temperatures here in the Northeast US tonight, I wish I was headed back to South American summertime once again!!


A Tour of Daisy’s House

After stopping in at two houses we thought was Daisy’s (remember we had nothing more than the man at the supermarket pointing in the general direction of Daisy’s house to guide us), we arrived.

We meet Daisy’s daughter, who was well into her fifties. I had been thinking Daisy was around our age.

My German friends secured a double bed in a private room — the only private room. I scored the last bed in the place upstairs in the attic. It took a little work to get to my sleeping spot.

Here’s a photo tour of our accommodations.

Note: pictures do this situation absolutely no justice.

This was the ladder I had to climb to get upstairs to my bed. When I made it to the top, I learned that I would be sharing an attic with two roommates.

stairs to my bed

Once I made it up the ladder I would be coming up through this hole. See the beer on the floor? That’s mine. And that red blanket? That’s the bed I would be sleeping in. Once the sun went down, there would be no electricity. Good thing I am not a sleepwalker, right?

the hole i climbed to my bed (with the red blanket) note the beer on the floor

Getting ready for sunset.

preparing for sunset

Here’s another view of, for a lack of better words, the hole. The boy of the German couple was really tall. So tall that he had to duck everywhere in Daisy’s house, except for the kitchen (which sadly, I have no photos of). His height proved helpful for me since he was able to lift my backpack up the hole so I didn’t need to maneuver up the ladder with my pack on my back.

literally the hole i came up from

To get to the bathroom you had to go outside to a separate room. Think port-a-potty with walls. I still don’t know why this toilet was on a pedestel.

There was no counter space by the sink and since water wasn’t drinkable, imagine trying to brush your teeth holding a water bottle and miscellaneous toiletries. At this point one of my eyes were in so much pain that I no longer had to worry about contact lenses and solutions so a few less things that I had to balance at the sink.

the toilet

This barrel had a huge dish inside to scoop water into the toilet in order to ‘manually’ flush it. Ladies, keep an eye out. No matter who came out of the bathroom, the seat was always up thanks to the manual flushing system.

the water to fill the toilet to 'flush' it

And this is Daisy’s house.

The three of us dropped our bags by our beds, or in my case, raised them, and together made our way back to the supermarket to figure out our dinner before the sun goes down!


What to Expect in Cabo Polonio

Hot water: unlikely

Running water: maybe

Electricity: no

Was I nervous? A little.

Was I excited for the unknown? Definitely.

on the truck to cabo polonia


The Car That Followed Me Around Town

The title of this is much more interesting than the story behind this post.

As I explored Colonia on my first day in town, I saw this car at least five times. I don’t know if it was the same car, or if there are many, but it kept popping up all day and finally I just took a photo.

I’m not sure why but this photo makes me smile and I just wanted to share.


It’s not so much that what you are doing is particularly dangerous

I think this is an appropriate post today. The 24th is significant. It was the day in January I left, and it was the day in March I returned.The 24th of May is significant because I have now been back on US soil as long as I was gone.The time back on US soil has largely not been in my own home so I am still settling in. I have loads of friends I have yet to catch up with. I have had to revise my answers to similar questions, not because I am not sure of the answer, but because there are so many stories to tell and I don’t want to regurgitate the same ones!Where does one even begin? I knew once I started writing that part would be easy. The stories and the photographs speak for themselves. It was where to start that was difficult.I have decided that a good place to start is here. At the beginning. Or the end. However you want to look at it.Before I left I received the email below from a friend of my sister. Well, I should say she is my friend too. My sister happened to meet her first. We have very similar personalities. No wonder my sister, J, took to P so well.P sent me this email before I left but because I was so crazed with preparations I didn’t get a chance to read it until I was on the road. I did not realize the impact until I was traveling.

I cannot count the number of times I reread this motivational email on my trip (when I actually had an internet connection).

************

Hi there,

I’m sure if you had calmed down or if you are back to freaking out.  There is something about quitting your job without having another that is akin to a leap of faith.  Jumping off a cliff without surveying the water below.  I’ve felt that and the uncertainty that comes along with it, so I get it if you are all nerves.  I hope you are mostly excited, though.

I just wanted to write you before you leave and tell you how completely jealous I am.  I’ve been thinking about you this last week while I trudge through the misery of daily life/work and I admire your bravery.  It’s not so much that what you are doing is particularly dangerous, but I think that choosing to travel solo is a brave and uncommon thing (for most people).  It’s going to be such an amazing experience.  I wish I were as brave as you because even if I had the money I can’t say that I would be able to get up the nerve to travel around a foreign continent on my own.  Even though I secretly long to!

I hope that you have the time of your life!  Once you are back let’s secretly plan to ambush J with a trip of sorts…even if we have to bind, gag and carry her away in the night to do it.

Safe travels!

Love,

P

And I’m back on US soil

Just need to get myself situated. I also need to see if I can read my notes scrawled in notebooks while on bumpy bus rides 😉

All you need to know is that my adventure was absolutely amazing. Leaving for South America was by far the best decision I have ever made.

If you want to know why, you’ll have to stay tuned for my stories, observations and thoughts.

To put on the top of my to do list: Figure out when I can go back to visit the friends I made, see all that I missed and return to the places I loved.

And if you need help planning a trip to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador, I think I can make you a pretty sweet itinerary in any of those places!