What can I say, we've conquered our first continent (well, second with Antarctica, but that was more of a cushy vacation than a conquest). When we originally set out on our great adventure, the plan was to spend between three and four months in South America. Six months after arriving in Bogota, we have finally moved on. We had a few rough patches and things didn't always go according to plan, but I have to say... the last six months have been incredible. I have learned so many new things, met so many fantastic people, and seen the most beautiful places imaginable. In South America, we traveled through six countries and averaged $99 per day. Now that our time there has come to an end, we've had some recurring questions that I would like to try and answer in one place. We had a pre-trip FAQ post that people liked, so I thought it might be fun to do a follow up. What is your favorite thing you've done so far? Daniel: I refuse to answer that question. There were so many amazing things, how am I supposed to answer it? It is like asking a mother which child she likes best. I hate this question. Jordan: I have to agree, it is an impossible question to answer. I can answer things like my favorite city (Santiago), favorite beach (Montanita), and favorite hiking (Chalten), but how am I supposed to compare something like Machu Picchu to Salar de Uyuni to the Amazon Jungle to Patagonia? It is impossible! That being said, spending the time and money to learn Spanish was one of our best investments. It made our experiences everywhere we went much more authentic. The locals genuinely appreciated our efforts even though we may have mistakenly said some ridiculous things along the way. By the way, who knew that "purse" and the slang for "scrotum" could be so easy to confuse? OOPS.
Favorite/Least Favorite country? Daniel: Least favorite is Argentina. They lack distinctive culture, with many visible attempts to copy others. Anything distinctly Argentinian (like alfajores and parillas) were always excellent, but their attempts to copy western culture were more expensive and less enjoyable than their more authentic counterparts. Plus, there's the ordeal with the Falklands. Favorite is Chile. Santiago was our favorite city in South America, Patagonia is gorgeous (and much less expensive in Chile than Argentina), they have both the ocean and the driest desert, there are modern amenities, and we got a really cool picture of the moon. Whats not to love? Jordan: I agree with Daniel on this one... least favorite is absolutely Argentina. For all the same reasons, plus the fact that I absolutely hate dulce de leche and they put it on everything. Favorite: Ecuador. The people are amazing, the transport is easy and cheap, the culture is laid back. I absolutely fell in love with it.
Did you ever feel unsafe? In the cab from the airport to our hostel on our first night in Colombia. Other than that, we felt safe and never ran into any problems.
How was the transportation? Superb. I wish the US had busses more readily available and similarly affordable and convenient as those found in EVERY single country that we visited throughout all of South America. It really puts the US public transport system to shame. You may have noticed that we were pretty enamored with the transit from the fact that we wrote two posts dedicated solely to busses. That being said, it wasn't always puppies and rainbows. The downsides? We got carsick ALL.THE.TIME. Oh, and sometimes, we ended up on busses that looked like this:
What was the strangest thing you've eaten? Daniel: A termite that tasted like spearmint in the Amazon jungle. Jordan: It is probably a tie between llama, alpaca, and chicken foot soup. I wasn't particularly fond of any of them. *Of note, people have asked us if penguin tastes like chicken. THERE IS NO EATING OF PENGUINS!
How did you book hotels and find places to stay? In the northern countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), we had two main methods. If it was a small town, we sometimes would just turn up and walk down the main road until we found somewhere that looked suitable. Sometimes this worked out well, and sometimes (like in Montanita) it did not. The other way we found places was by looking in wikitravel or tripadvisor for a recommendation and going there. If it was good when we got there, we would stay. If not, we would just wander around the area and we could usually find something within a few blocks. We never booked ahead. In Chile and Argentina, however, this wasn't really possible. Because they were so much more expensive, we had to book a few nights in advance if we wanted to stay in a budget option that wasn't horrible. We generally try to book directly through the hostel rather than a booking site like hostelworld so that we could avoid paying unnecessary fees. The goal was always to spend less than $30 a night for accommodations, and we were usually successful.
Did you ever get sick, and how did you handle it? For the most part, we've been pretty healthy. We posted about when Daniel was hospitalized in Cuzco with food poisoning... he received fantastic care and our travel insurance reimbursed us in full for the cost. In Bolivia, we went to a local clinic to have Daniel's infected ingrown toenail drained and removed. It was a no-frills experience... nobody spoke English, they were using an empty 2-liter coke bottle as their sharps container, and the doctor asked "Do you want to pay extra for numbing medication?" before proceeding to cut off his toenail. On the plus side, it only set us back $2.80 and they did a really good job. Aside from that, we haven't had any other doctor visits. I had a pesky sinus infection for three weeks, so I picked up a Zpak at the pharmacy (no prescription required) for around $3 and it cleared up quickly after that. We've both had a few colds, but nothing major. Oh, and I've developed an annoying case of acne on my chin. Seriously, what gives?
Why didn't you see XYZ?! I can't believe you didn't go there! We didn't visit the Galapagos, Lake Tititicaca, Iguazu Falls, or Brazil. We missed a lot of the less touristy bits in Bolivia. We skipped the Nazca lines in Peru. We never made it to a futbol game. In short, there is just no way to do it all. Even after spending six months traveling slowly, there just isn't enough time or money. The more places you visit, the more places you find out about that you want to see. If you dash from site to site to site and try to cram as much into your time as possible, you get burned out very quickly. We decided early on that we are happier traveling more slowly and really experiencing the places we visit instead of just scratching the surface as tourists. If that means we miss some of the bigger sites, so be it. It just gives us a reason to visit again someday!
How do you handle souvenirs? The short answer is: we don't. We have bought very little along the way, mostly because it would be a pain to carry around a bunch of souvenirs and they are very expensive to ship. We mailed home a small box in Chile and a larger box more recently from Buenos Aires. The box from Buenos Aires, for example, was a little under 7kg and cost around $150 to send... needless to say, we won't be shipping anything else home for awhile! The one thing we have been collecting is local currency. We try to keep at least one crisp bill and shiny coin from each country we visit. When we get home, I would like to mount and frame them for display.
Why don't you write blog posts more often? Sometimes you go a whole week without anything! I know that we sometimes go DAYS without posting and that our families and friends crave updates, but sometimes it gets tiring. It usually takes at least two hours to put together each post, between sorting/editing/uploading photos and writing the actual content. I think we've done a pretty good job at keeping up with things, but I don't want to feel so obligated to have a certain number of posts per week that we start posting garbage.
What have you missed the most about home? Daniel: My bed. Jordan: PEANUT BUTTER! I do not understand why, but there is almost zero peanut butter to be found anywhere in South America. I've been lucky enough to find it two or three times, and it is always in a random section with a thick film of dust on the lid because nobody there eats it. Also, I really miss running every day and the holidays have me missing home in general.
Thanks for following us along on our adventures so far. Farewell, South America... hello Europe!