I always start with the best of intentions to write a summary of my travels once I’m home. Something about the return to the familiar surroundings of reality usually squishes any creative impulse left in me to write; its as if the inspiration created by the constantly new stimuli fades away leaving nothing but…despair.
Yes. The culture shock of coming home is bad. All who have traveled for an extensive period of time are aware of this. Well. Let me tell you: it is made even worse by 1 – not having a job or significant other to come home to, and 2 – not having a crowd of people ready to throw you a “welcome home party”.
I was not even enthused significantly when I discovered that I had passed the CFP examination that I had been studying so hard for, during the months leading up to the trip.
Or worse yet: friends who’ve had you off their radar for so long they won’t even answer your wall-to-wall on Facebook.
As you can tell, I am sad to be home. And I’m going to need a lot of encouragement if I’m going to finally put pen to paper (figuratively of course) and make this blog into a book which I’ve been talking about writing for at least ten years, and still have done nothing about.
So, a conclusion of sorts to my time in Central & South America. That’s what I’ve been asked to write. Ok. I think I only have the strength to do this in list format. So, here goes:
1 – What were your favorite things about Central America?
– Its always warm enough to throw on a tank top, shorts, and a pair of flip flops.
– The men will ALWAYS remind you that you are a sexy, desirable, woman by hollering at you from every possible vantage point.
– People have an incredibly apparent sense of community and family. They stop and talk to each other on the street (forget Facebook!) They offer rides to each other as they drive down the street. They go out as families in the evening. They all live together under one roof and share everything they own. They take care of their elders.
– It seemed perfectly normal to be drinking beer at 10 o’clock in the morning.
– Oh! 50c beers! Ladies drink for free!
– Less than 40 feet of visibility seemed like a good reason not to go diving. (WHAT was I thinking??)
– Chicken buses with blaring music and a strobe light on the ceiling!
– Same power outlet voltages as back home
– Lots of adrenaline activities to try out – white water rafting/kayaking, canyoning, zip-lining canopy…
– No one is in a hurry to DO ANYTHING
Things I hated about Central America:
– No one is in a hurry to DO ANYTHING
– Each time you past a roadside store, restaurant and shop, it would be a requirement for there to be at least two stray dogs, and at least one, if not several crying, underclothed children.
– The idea of buying fast food fried chicken, and the speed at which it would happen is the equivalent to placing an order with God on a slip of paper.
– Forget trying to complain. About anything. Ever.
– Trash, everywhere…especially plastic bottles. People throw trash into rivers, and out of the windows of moving vehicles.
– Can’t order ice with your drink, or drink tap water anywhere except Panama City.
– Rice and beans does not constitute a good breakfast food item.
– If you sit down to order a meal in a restaurant, the wait staff will quickly think of ways to actively ignore you, for fear they might be required to actually do some work
– Chicken buses. That do not cater to the leg length of any individuals past Grade 8.
– “Is it safe?” is a question you have to leave behind in the hotel room.
– What were your favorite things about Peru and Bolivia?
– When my mountain guide told me how beautiful I was. And then proceeded to explain how all foreign women are SO BEAUTIFUL.
– Vast, breathtaking altiplano expanses.
– The incredible Andes mountains with their jagged snow capped peaks which begged me to climb them, altitude sickness be damned!
– Coca leaves. Observing what an active part of the culture they play. How chewing is as socially acceptable among friends as meeting for a drink is back home. How black it made everyone’s teeth.
– Llamas. And Alpacas. How cute they were. And how tasty!
– Inca Kola. How yellow it was. How popular it was- way more than Coca Cola.
– How almost every conversation, with every traveller you met, started with: “So, where are you from? Where are you travelling? Where are you going next/where’ve you been? How long are you going to be away?”
– How many conversations I had that last more than a few hours, at which point I realized that I didn’t know the person’s name.
– Ordering a meal which includes cocktails, wine, steak, and dessert for under $10!
– Things I hated about travelling in South America:
– Hostels that have become overrun with groups of Israeli backpackers, who clearly did not leave their country to experience any other culture other than their own.
– Paying for toilets. And the “whammy” system (which usually came out as just one whammy). Single whammy – toilet was clean enough to stomach using. Double – it had toilet paper. Triple – there was hand soap (which usually moved me to tears), and finally, Quadruple whammy – when you didn’t have to pay for it!!
– Long overnight bus journeys that contained every human endurance test known: Blaring loud violent movies to sleep through, temperatures ranging from a modern convection oven to the arctic. Seats that lovingly promised to recline which then failed to. Seats so large you bounced around in them like a ball in a ping pong machine. Death by Pan Flute music. All night. Creepy, secluded bus stations full of a few people who will hound you as you sleepily stumble off of the bus at 3:30 in the morning.
– How there are basically two directions you can travel through Peru and Bolivia in…and for a while, how each time I met somebody really cool that I could hang with- they would be travelling in the opposite direction to me.
– How you could never let your bags out of your sight. Even in Public bathrooms…hauling your backpack into the stall with you, being hardly unable to close the door!
– Never getting used to the altitude, past Cusco. I was always huffing to walk up a steep street. Knowing that people here are just born with a different lung capacity to my own.
In any case…I had a fantastic journey, which I must now turn into a book.
Days away from home -76
Separate flights flown – 13
Countries visited – 7
Number of friends connected with on Facebook -24
Number of men I kissed – 3
Days spent at altitude -36
Days spent on bikes – 3
Archaeological sites visited – 5
Days I got up before 5am -12 (!!!!)
Days spent on buses (entirely) -11
Days spent in the jungle -5
Days spent in cities -19
Days of diving – 1
Days of snorkeling – 7
Days on tropical beaches -13
Nights in a tent under the stars – 6
Days spent hiking or climbing a mountain – 17 (!!!!)
Nights spent on overnight buses – 5
Religious festivals observed – 3
AND….number of first things attempted!
-Canopy “zip lining”
-Riding a scooter
– Eating Alpaca/Llama
– Sand buggy/boarding
– Climbing a 20,000 foot mountain
– Going to a wrestling match
– Biking down the “world’s most dangerous road”