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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  1. This is just amazing!! Love reading all your posts

  2. What fun! I’m a senior woman and am going on a four week solo trip through Northern Europe later this year. Like you I’m a minimalist packer (wool is the best, I agree), and need to keep the combined weight of my carry on and personal item <10!

    1. What fun! Good luck with your packing and safe travels. If you want to see my packing list or talk packing shoot me a message: