If you ask people what traveling is all about, you will get a different answer every time. Soul searching, immersing yourself in other cultures, creating memories, leaving your comfortzone, sampling new cuisines, learning to be on your own, staying within budget, you name it. Everybody has a different reason for packing their bags and going on an adventure.
Nearing the end (of the first part)
Evertime we leave a place, we tend to feel a bit melancholic. Since this is better than doing a happy dance over moving on, we cherish this feeling and talk to eachother about what made the place we’re leaving so special.
This time, we are nearing the end of our stay at a whole continent. And while looking back, we learned a very important lesson: Beautiful places can hardly be spoiled but less interesting places can become awesome because of wonderful people.
A warm welcome
The first example of this is the island of Chiloe. Sure it was pretty over there, we got to see pinguins and Castro is a cute little city. But what made our stay there so incredible is being reunited with our friend Berend, meeting his landlady and the owner of our camping: Francisco.
Being greeted as long lost friends, when you actually are or when you just met, is heartwarming and a very good start to a trip so far from home.
We’ve been on quite a few group tours. Mainly because it’s cheaper than private ones but also because it can be fun to meet new people. It’s always a gamble though, you can also get stuck with people or a guide you can’t stand for one or multiple days.
We got lucky, we met a fun and likeminded bunch of travelers on our Maragua trek and had a great group formed by the chance of being in the same minivan to Torotoro. We ended up deep in the jungle with the kindest newlywed couple and formed a Thai/US-UK-Dutch group for lunch and a museum visit after a walking tour through Medellín. And let’s not forget about my personal Santa Cruz support group in Peru or our Bolivian hardstyle music lovin’ guide.
People that made the difference
Sometimes you even meet people that change your whole experience of a place. In Peru, poor sick Thomas was left behind by his cruel wife so she could go on a hike. However, Henry (the owner of the hotel he stayed at) made sure that he was not left alone. From practicing Spanish and binging on chocolate to a daily checkup on Thomas’ health, Henry made the time feel like he was staying with a friend, instead of just waiting around for me to return.
For a little island getaway in Colombia, Thomas found a very, very off the beaten track spot in the Caribbean sea. The place was clearly not accustomed to foreign guests, meaning that we felt a little, well, underinformed and left to figure everything out on our own. What changed this feeling was Caro, the chattiest 7 year old ever. We played cards with her, she used us as her personal water jungle gym and on our last day she took us on a tour around the island.
Caro didn’t care that we had some trouble with the Spanish accent of the region. She just kept talking until we got it. Family affairs, her pets, livestock, the places she had visited on the mainland, school, everything was a suitable topic in her eyes. We rewarded her efforts of showing us around with icecream and cola. Not very responsible but hey, we’re not the parents ;).
Traveling is only fun when you want to. We have the choice to go but some others are not as fortunate. We’ve met people working far away from home to support their families and people that simply had to leave. The best example may be this girl:
She fled Venezulea with her husband, leaving the rest of her family behind. They survive there but times are hard. When the situation improves she would love to go home but until then, she sings and dances around the restaurant she works at in Cartagena. She smiled all the time and proudly told us about all the beauty that Venezuela has to offer. And back home, we complain about trains that are late…
We probably forgot to mention more than a few special encounters here but wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone that made our stay in South America unforgettable. Ten more days to go, but if we can, we’ll be back!