Saturday, January 28, 2023

Wool for the Win!

I have been wearing a high-quality wardrobe, necessary for my minimalist lifestyle, for 788 days. I began by wearing a dress for 100 days in a row (which occurred during the winter I lived at the beach). The dress is from Wool& and I have since built my entire wardrobe around what they sell. 

They interviewed me about my lifestyle. You can see the article here. I think it is cool. 

I have always lived my life by what makes sense, or what feels good, which most often fights cultural norms. Focusing on my adventures instead of what people think about my clothes or looks is not always easy emotionally but “stuff” weighs us down and I love how light I feel! 

If the article intrigued you about trying out the benefits of wool or owning a high-quality wardrobe I endorse Wool& for women and Wool and Prince for men. Reach out if you want to know where to start ( 

Happy adventuring! Rae Ann

Monday, January 9, 2023

Final Post: Great South American Adventure

I arrived back home in San Jose, California at noon today. I unpacked, did my laundry, took a shower, went grocery shopping, and logged into work to get a sneak peek at what faces me tomorrow (it doesn't look bad). 

The twenty-nine-hour journey back was long but uneventful. I spent the first nine-hour flight listening to an audiobook and embroidering. I have come to love it and plan to do more. It takes up very little space, does not require counting or thinking, and consumes lots of time. 

We arrived in Miami with twelve (overnight) hours to burn. I hung out at Delta’s Sky Lounge until it closed and then we attempted to sleep at the gate. The airport was dead; can you spot Henry in the photo below?

After sweating my ass off for the last 30 days I never thought I could be cold again. Oh, how I was wrong! It was so cold we were wrapping ourselves in every piece of wool clothing I own (as well as the Avianca blanket I stole) and Henry got to test the hat I knit him on this trip. We both got a few hours' sleep. 

This was an epic 32-day South American Adventure. There are so many highlights. 
  • The longest holiday I have ever taken (32 days)
  • New Countries: Seven (7); Peru, Colombia, Panamá, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay
  • New Continent: One; South America
  • Miles walked: 174.33 (average 5.4/day)
  • Miles flew: 20,224 miles (it is 24,901 miles to travel around the world!) 
  • Flights of stairs climbed: 365 (average 11/day)
  • Airlines flew: Five (5); Delta, Latam, Avianca, Copa, JetSmart
  • Flights took: Fourteen (14)
  • New friends: Too many to count
  • Books: Five (5)
  • Hats knit: Two-and-a-half
  • Embroidery projects: One partially complete
  • My Polarsteps map showing all stops is here

I have learned:
  • I love Latinos. They are kind, patient, and passionate. 
  • South America can be inexpensive for Americans
  • I would like to return to see: Ecuador, Patagonia, and Ushuaia (as I depart to Antarctica)
  • I can do long holidays and will never miss work or feel bored
  • I can eat seafood if I close my eyes
  • I can eat mushed fruit (aka smoothies)
Much of this trip was sampling cities to see if I would like to return for longer stays as I begin to travel full-time. I judge a city on safety, the kindness of the people, cost, cultural things to do, public transportation, and cleanliness. Here are my thoughts based on my short time at each:
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: This was my favorite. The city's architecture is beautiful reminding me of Europe with lots of green spaces. The people were nice, it felt very safe, and things were inexpensive (using cash). 
  • Peru (Lima & Cusco): I loved Peru. It is inexpensive and safe, and the people are just lovely. I would love to return and get Machu Picchu off my list. 
  • Rio, Brazil: I like Rio. The people were nice, it felt pretty safe, and the city has lots to explore. It did not stand out as spectacular but nothing negative either.
  • Santiago, Chile: Because Henry and I had a bit of a reunion in Santiago I do not feel I gave it much of my attention. It was not as inexpensive as the other cities though so that is a deterrent. But the people were lovely, it was clean and generally safe. 
  • Panama City, Panama: There are a ton of Americans in Panama, most likely because it is comfortable (e.g., use the American dollar, can drink the tap water). People are very nice but it isn’t much cheaper than in the states. Since the canal keeps its economy alive they do not need to promote tourism but it does have everything Costa Rica has to offer. 
  • Bogota, Colombia: I never felt safe in Bogota. You can’t use your phone in public without risk of it being taken and we all know how important my phone is. I can’t imagine going back. I talked to many tourists asking about other cities in Colombia but crime remained high there as well. However, Bogota is super inexpensive and although everyone speaks of the crime, they are kind people. If you like hiking you would probably love it. 
  • Uruguay: I only spent six hours in the country but I heard great things about it.
I return to work tomorrow, although I blocked the entire day to clean up emails and figure out what I do for work. I have mixed emotions. I’m anxious I have forgotten everything. Friends tell me it will come back. I also love my work and look forward to returning to the challenge. 

This was a wonderful adventure. It could not have gone better. I selected South America without much thought and did not put much time into planning but it was seriously a wonderful month. I could have stayed another 32 days. 

My next adventure is my COVID-rescheduled Cuba trip in April. Hopefully. 

Happy Travels everyone! Thanks for following my journey. I love all the messages. It feels like you are all on the journey alongside me.

Rae Ann

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Saturday, January 7, 2023

Day 30: Santiago & The Last Day

We checked out of my last Selina. I would 100% recommend this chain. It is the best set of Hostals I have ever stayed in. I mean, check out those Uber cute bikes below (which would have killed my ass but are still cute). It made my 32 day adventure much more enjoyable. 

We flew back to Santiago where we will depart back to the states because the flights from Buenos Aires to San Jose were nearly double that of flying from Santiago. We were able to see the Andes one more time. 

We settled into our hotel and our plan was to simply get dinner, enjoy some cocktails, and get to bed early. Of course a few too many cocktails leads to ice cream as well. It was a perfect evening. 

I just love traveling with Henry. Listening to him speak Spanish with everyone not only makes things so much easier but is fun to hear because he does not do it in the states. Goodness we had a ton of fun. 

Day 29: Cemetery & Night Out

As with most mornings I started with a lovely breakfast at my hostel. I am going to miss these. 

We visited La Recoleta Cemetery, noted as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. I would agree. It reminded me of the cemeteries in New Orleans but much more ornate and the caskets are visible through the vaults. It is one of the few public cemeteries in Buenos Aires. 

As you can see in the third photo some are abandoned but the government charges an annual fee so some just stop paying. But they can’t get rid of them because they are designated historical. 

Evita Peron is buried in Recoleta. 

We explored the city center a bit more and returned to our Hostal to shower and take a siesta. We opted for Italian as 60% of Argentinians are Italian. It was yummy. 

We finished dinner at midnight and were committed to going out for a drink. At 1am the neighborhood was just starting to get busy. We got ice cream and as you can see in the last photo, taken in our Hostal elevator, I was exhausted. I would need to adjust my internal time clock to keep up with these Latinos. 

It was a great night. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Day 28: Uruguay & Tango

We started the morning early and caught a ferry into Colonia del Sacramento, across the river (which I always thought was the Atlantic) from Buenos Aires, located in Uruguay. I was looking forward to getting another stamp in my passport book but we found Colonia is also a perfect place to spend a relaxing day. Colonia is a photographers dream lined with cobblestone streets, buildings reminding me of Portugal (Uruguay was under rule of them initially), and beautiful flowers. 

We climbed the water tower and were presented with a spectacular view of the town and river. 

You can walk the entire town easily so that is what we did. As we like to eat local food we opted for Chivitas (national dish of Uruguay made of sliced beefsteak, mozzarella, tomatoes, ham, egg, Mayo, and olives), Milanesa (breaded beef instead), and cerveza. It was also nice to spend the afternoon with our friend Patricia. 

We hopped back on the ferry, returned to our Hostal to shower (it is hot here in the high 80’s), and jumped in an Uber to see a tango show. It was really good and a lovely evening. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Day 27: The City & Asado

Our first day in Buenos Aires was spent exploring the city. We started at Floralis Generica, a sculpture that opens and closes it’s petals. Next we made our way into the center of the city and stopped at El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a beautiful bookstore in an old theatre. 

I love Buenos Aires! The city is very clean, the people are friendly, they have beautiful park spaces, and it is the most safe city I have visited on my trip. The Italians, and some French, have influence on their architecture. It is really beautiful. 

We went on a historical walking tour in the afternoon. After a previous attempt the Spaniards captured Argentina in 1580 and Buenos Aires became the capital in 1770. They got independence in 1816 and before that time there was lots of immigration so the city is very diverse. 

The Spaniards wanted the capital to be very much like Europe so the buildings have that influence. The last dictatorship ended in 1983 and this is now the longest without one. But Argentina has drama when it comes to politics. 

Argentina has nearly a 100% inflation rate every year. Every year. One year it was 3,000%. Since they have such high inflation they like to keep their savings in American dollars as it maintains value. In every country there is an exchange rate but in Argentina there are many different rates. There is a legal rate (~ 150), a Blue Dollar rate (~ 350), and a new tourist rate (~ 311). If we buy a 1,000 peso item at the legal rate it would cost $5.59. Since Argentinians love American Dollars we can exchange them (illegally) for pesos and that same 1,000 peso would cost $2.85. Nearly half! So although I usually put everything on my credit card we came here with cash. This is crazy enough but their largest note is $3 so you can imagine how many notes you need to pay a $360 hotel bill! Money counters are very common. 

December 18, 2021 the government rolled out a new tourist rate, nearly the illegal blue rate, that can be used for credit cards for those out of the country. We did not trust it but have tried it a couple times for small purchases and it seems to be working. But we heard from others it is not working for all transactions. 

So cash is king in Argentina to save nearly half! Crazy. 

Henry and I spent hours discussing their financial situation. But I will say, Argentinians are happy. Without going into politics much, the government does take care of its people. 

After the tour we showered and walked a couple blocks to a neighborhood home where we enjoyed an asado (booked through Airbnb). Argentinians love their meat and asado means BBQ. The rooftop was magical and the food was unbelievable! Our hosts explained all the meats and Henry spent lots of time at the grill learning how to cook over wood.