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Connecting with locals through Couchsurfing

[massive catching up to do while continuing from the January 9, 2014 post while storytelling from my time in South America]

Since I had good luck with couch surfing in Uruguay, I reached out to the Couchsurfing community and connected with a fellow couch surfer whose home was Mendoza. We met for a submarino and then, since the website is all about connecting travelers with locals, he insisted that he could show me around his hometown.

As we toured town by foot, he told stories of his hometown as we pointed out some of the beautiful architecture. Sometimes you never know where your day will take you. This day, in particular, brought me back to a square in Seville, Spain. Such similarities to the tiles and the colors…sometimes it is just a really small world, after all.

(For the record, this is still Mendoza, Argentina.)

mendoza1 mendoza2 mendoza3 mendoza4 mendoza5


before the clock strikes midnight

For a variety of reasons I neglected my blog in 2014. I plan on reversing that in 2015 to get back to the writing and storytelling that I love.

If you missed my writing, I did have a bit of travel writing published this year. I plan to update the ‘articles’ section soon with those links. Check back soon.

In the meantime, here’s one of the published articles. This one was published on the Huffington Post earlier this year — Six Tips to Ace Your First Business Trip

A happy and healthy new year to you. Thanks for reading. Much appreciated.

More in 2015.


Introduction to South American Bus Travel

I traveled on a bus from one company from Colonia to Montevideo and on another bus from a different company to get from Montevideo to Punta del Este.

Thus far in my trip I had only traveled via plane, taxi, ferry, car and moto. As these were the first two of my many South American bus journeys, and quite different from one another, and as I would learn, different from the rest, I wanted to share my observations:

Observations that hold true on both buses — Colonia to Montevideo and Montevideo to Punta del Este:

Riders love having assigned seats. They WILL ask you to move if you are sitting in their assigned seat. Even if the bus is half full.

The buses play music. When the bus driver finds a station, he cranks it up.

People talk on their cell phones (nice to know rudeness is universal). They read, they sleep and they chat to their neighbor.

The buses are freezing cold. I made a mental note to pull my fleece and scarf out in preparation for bus rides. I quickly learned that this is a constant except when you get to Bolivia and Ecuador. Then you can only wish they were freezing cold.

The bus doesn’t wait. When someone wants to get on or off, the bus literally stops for as long as it takes for the person to get on or off.

Observations on the Colonia to Montevideo leg of my trip…

Bus had two employees working. There is a driver and a guard/co-pilot. The bus driver drives and the guard/co-pilot walks up and down the aisle to announce stops, collect tickets and helps load luggage underneath the bus.

There is a door. It acts as a partition between the passengers and the driver and guard/co-pilot. I’m not sure if this is a safety thing or if the guard doesn’t want to deal with passengers. The door was only opened when the co-pilot announces the next stop, comes to collect tickets or lets passengers on and off.

Music. I am sure it’s drivers choice and it sounded like traditional music. It provided nice background music.

New bus. I felt very safe and the bus driver was competent.

Observations on the Montevideo to Punta del Este leg…

One employee. I felt spoiled now. We only had the driver and he had to do the work of two because he did not have the co-pilot. As the bus slowed, the driver would scream the name of the next stop.

No partition. Again, spoiled. Why no partition?

Music. Again, drivers choice. He blasted Lady Gaga.

Old bus. The bus had ripped seats. The driver tailgated and continued to slam on his brakes for the duration of the trip.


What is CouchSurfing?

Are you wondering what CouchSurfing is and why I chose to utilize it? It connects like-minded people to one another.

You don’t need to host to connect with other travelers, you just have to want to meet them.

In fact, I did not contact Laura to stay with her. Laura is an English teacher and we had been communicating in English and Spanish via email. I had contacted her to meet up and see a place through a local’s eyes.

I chose to contact Laura for several reasons. Her profile was interesting and came with a lot of positive reviews (yes, you can review people), she was my age and she taught English. I had figured that no matter how bad my Spanish was, we could always fall back on English.

When I was getting ready to leave Colonia, I thought that if my first CouchSurfing experience with Laura signaled a sign of things to come, it has to be the best idea ever.


An American, two Australians and a Train to Bruges

I fondly remember using my Let’s Go Europe circa 2000.

Because it was in English, I tended to attract other English speaking travelers. In this particular situation I was waiting for the train to Bruges. A lovely couple from Australia came over to me asking about the status of the train. I probably knew as much as they did but we agreed to join forces and figure it out together.

They must have been in their sixties at the time and we shared a lovely ride to Bruges together talking about our homelands, our travels and what we were planning to see and do in Bruges.

The commuter train to Bruges was packed and the three of us were standing for the better part of the trip. When two seats opened up, the husband offered me one of the seats next to his wife as he stood for the duration of the short train ride.

It’s the simple things that make a solo traveler not so solo.


If You’re Headed to Sandringham…

As much as we all (ok, me) dream to be part of the Royal Family…I read they have five mandatory wardrobe changes for Christmas.

Five. For ONE day. ONE day.

“Kate will need a casual outfit for breakfast, a smart outfit and a hat for the morning church service, a dress for lunch, a cocktail dress for early evening drinks and a full-length dress for the evening meal,” ABC News’ royal correspondent Kate Nicholl told “GMA,” explaining that the same will be required of all of the attendees at the royal Christmas.

I am going to visit the boyfriend’s family for four days and I packed, four – and could become, five – outfits, if I repeated a little, i.e. jeans.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or are headed for Chinese food and a movie, whatever you are doing, I hope you have as few wardrobe changes as possible.


To Another Place and Time

On a recent rainy day I found myself waiting for the F train on the Lexington Avenue line at 63rd Street.

The combination of the rainy day and the deep into the ground subway line reminded me of London.

I think it was the Covent Garden station in London that was so far down into the ground. I took the steps once, but they had these huge cargo elevators to shuttle people from the depths of the earth to street level.

At the 63rd Street station there may be elevators, but what’s iconic are the escalators, and more escalators, just when you think you made it!

Kenny Chesney sings a song called ‘I Go Back’ – it’s about how something in your present ‘takes us to another place and time.’ 

I have plenty of those triggers but the rainy day and the 63rd Street F station was definitely the most recent.

What takes YOU to ‘another place and time’…share in the comments below!