From my hostel wall in Cali, Columbia
Update: I was featured on Buzzfeed’s “11 Inspiring Stories of People Who Left Normal Life and Embarked on an Adventure” post! Back in May, I announced I was quitting my job, selling my stuff, and traveling the world. I’ve been back for 3 months now and I just spent this past Sunday uploading the thousands of pictures I took and reminiscing about the trip.
To recap, I flew in to Ecuador, visited Colombia, was deported from Argentina, went to Chile, made my way back to Argentina with a one-day visit to Uruguay, headed to Bolivia and finally Peru. The trip was undeniably life-changing. I embarked on the journey for 2 reasons – 1) I finally had the means to do it after becoming a U.S. citizen in 2012 and 2) I’ve worked since I was 9 years old and I was burned out.
I came back with fresh eyes and a new perspective on everything from my goals, surroundings, being, and the human race. Shortly after I finished Spanish school, I lost track of what day and time it was. I eventually got to a point where I stopped looking at guidebooks, I no longer made todo lists for myself, and I didn’t have a schedule. It was spectacular and I miss it immensely. Here’s a brief summary of the things I did and the places I went (or you can view it in pictures by visiting my Instagram feed):
In Ecuador -
- Experienced two unforgettable acts of kindness the first day
- I fully immersed myself in the language, spending 6 hours a day learning Spanish for the first 3.5 weeks while living with a local family.
- I literally stood in the middle of the world with one foot in the Northern hemisphere and the other on the South and where the equator coordinates are 0 degrees latitude and longitude
- I hiked up the Pichincha Volcano (almost to the top but not quite) and took one of the highest aerial lifts in the world
- I visited over 40 waterfalls in Banos, a quaint little town which also had ‘medicinal’ hot baths
- I took over 10 salsa lessons with an instructor who didn’t speak English but guided me as gracefully as he could in the basics and more
In Colombia -
- I visited Cali, the salsa capital of the world
- I played in the biggest ball pit I’ve ever seen. Where? Surprisingly in the first floor of a beautiful mall in Medellin
- I went paragliding for the first time! Due to the language barrier, I accidentally agreed to air acrobatics as you’ll see in the video. Thankfully, it turned out to be a blast and I couldn’t get enough!
- I attended a futbol (soccer) game in a huge stadium during a championship round. The excitement was palpable and unforgettable. I thought Philly fans were diehard and I learned just how much South Americans live and breathe their sport
- I spoke at a local coworking space about entrepreneurship
- I took the Metrocable to the suburban areas of Medellin. I highly recommend doing this during the day and at night to see glamorous views of the city
- I celebrated 4th of July in a colorful, little town called Guatuape
- I climbed all 740 steps of El Penon de Guatape (a big rock locals used to worship)
- I stayed for the annual Feria de Flores festival, the biggest flower show in the world
- I went horseback riding for the first time in Sante Fe
- I conquered my fear of water and learned how to swim in a gorgeous resort
- It was also in Colombia where I started drinking coffee, or cafe con leche to be more specific which I’m now addicted to
In Chile -
- I had my first pisco sour and alfajor – two indulgences I miss dearly
- I climbed Cerro Santa Lucia & San Cristobal Hill to overlook stunning views of the city
- I went skiing for the first time on the Andes mountains with a friend who came to visit from Philly
- I tried Couchsurfing in Valparaiso and was lucky enough to meet a new friend who showed me all around town
In Argentina -
- I was originally deported from Argentina after I flew in from Colombia
- After altering my plans to visit Chile first, I crossed over by bus and started in Mendoza where I happily did the typical winery tours and steak dinners
- I met a local on that same bus who invited me to meet his sister. I ended up staying with them for a few days and she took me to the mountains with her boyfriend and friends. She spoke little English but took the time to communicate with me by gesturing and breaking things down in simple Spanish. One night, we spoke purely using Google Translate on the computer
- I took a bus to Cordoba, the second largest city in Argentina and spent a few days exploring the colonial architecture
- I stopped by La Cumbercita for a few days, a small mountain village with 300 inhabitants
- I took a detour to Belgrano del General, a small German town where I felt like I had teleported to the Country itself. P.S. they also hold their own Octuberfest every year.
- I stayed in Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks where I jumped around neighborhoods, watched tango shows, and ate phenomenal meals (soooo much meat!)
- I went to Iguazu Falls, a jaw-dropping wonder of the world where the waterfalls were endless
- I walked to the Tres Fronteras, where you can view Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina at once
- I stopped by Salta where I took a Tren de las Nubes tour that went to the Salt Lakes of Argentina, Jujuy, Purmamarca, Humahuaca and more towns I don’t remember. The ride is absolutely stunning. Mountains, deserts, cactuses, llamas, donkeys, and the salt flats. We made a few stops to explore a local town, have lunch, roam around the salt flats, and we admired the famous 7-colored mountain
In Bolivia -
- The 4-day salt flats tour was incredible. We visited salt mining and processing areas, stayed in a hotel where everything was made entirely out of salt, saw beautiful lagunas (Laguna Hedionda, Colorada, Blanca, and Verde), hot springs, ruins, churches, and graveyards
- A new friend and I visited a dinosaur museum in Sucre where we touched 70 million year old dinosaur tracks
- It was in this country that I finally got used to dining alone. I also tried llama for the first time (not bad)
- I rode down Death Road, the most dangerous street in the world. This was actually a life-altering experience that I’ll need to write about in another post
- I stayed in the Pampas jungle for 5 days and saw crocodiles, monkeys, turtles, pink dolphins, snakes, and other animals I had not heard of before
- I went to Lake Titicaca (bordering Bolivia & Peru), hiked the entire island, and spent the night in Sun Island
In Peru -
- I went on a tour of Colca Canyon (which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon)
- I stayed in Cusco for 10 days, learning about Incas and their history. I even met a shaman at Sacsayhuaman and participated in a spiritual ceremony
- I spent a day at Machu Picchu which was as enlightening as I heard it would be. The pictures don’t do it justice
- I was lucky enough to win a bus tour from Peru Hop that took us to Arequipa, Huacachina where we went sandboarding, Paracas where we rode a boat to view the wildlife, I flew over the Nazca lines in Ica, and we ended the tour in Lima which was my last city before going home in mid-November.
There’s so much I want to share – from travel hacks I picked up, lessons learned, lost in translation moments, how I only spent $15k, and general observations – that I’ll save them in another post. For now, I’m happy I spent the weekend going through my pictures, finally uploading them, and reliving the experience again by writing this post.
Are you planning a trip to any of the countries mentioned above? I’d be happy to help by sharing more details about my experiences.
Other travel posts:
Subscribe to this blog by email!