Our ticket to Medellin, Colombia is a one-way ticket. We want to travel overland throughout all of South America for one year after arriving. The plan is to end up in Venezuela or all the way back in Colombia again in October 2012 to end the adventure.
Then how are we going to get home?
We have two options:
The Boring Option: Buy a one-way flight ticket back to the states from Venezuela or Colombia. Lame.
The Fun Option: Continue the traveling over land and sea! A little geography for you–there is a small section of rainforest connecting Colombia and Panama (South America and Central America) called The Darien Gap. According to Wikipedia (which is not always reliable, I know) “The Darien Gap is a large swath of undeveloped swampland and forest separating Panama‘s Darién Province in Central America fromColombia in South America. It measures just over 160 km (99 mi) long and about 50 km (31 mi) wide. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive, and the environmental toll is steep. Political consensus in favor of road construction has not emerged, and consequently there is no road connection through the Darién Gap connecting North/Central America with South America. It is therefore the missing link of the Pan-American Highway.” While some brave/idiotic souls have successfully trekked through the Darien by jeep or on foot, every source I’ve ever read strongly advises travelers NOT to attempt it. Not only is there no road, making it a long, hot, and difficult trek, but the geography, isolation and lawlessness of the area makes it a perfect passage for drug traffickers, guerilla groups, and other unsavory characters. Basically, you’re just asking to be kidnapped or killed if you enter the area. Not to be melodramatic, but you’d have to have a death wish to go there. NO ONE DOES IT.
So, those problems make getting back to the US entirely overland impossible. But what you CAN do is take a BOAT from Colombia to Panama! Although there’s no commercial service, it is apparently very common for travelers to catch rides on private sailboats going from Cartagena, Colombia to Portabelo, Panama. The trip takes 4-5 days, and you usually get to stop at some paradise-like beaches in the San Blas islands on the way. As someone who’s never been sailing for more than a few hours, that trip just sounds like such an adventure! The cost for the passage is usually around $300 per person. Then, once we arrive in Panama, we can easily take buses all the way through Central America to arrive back in the US, and see more beautiful and new places along the way! Zach calculated the estimated cost of bussing it all the way back to Texas from Panama to be about $400. So, with the $300 boat ride and the $400 busses, that fits perfectly into our $700 return trip budget. What that doesn’t include, however, is money for food and accommodations all through Central America. What it will come down to is whether or not we have enough extra money to afford those living expenses while extending our trip through Central America. If we’ve got the money, we’ve got the time!
Obviously, I’m all for the FUN way to get back! It’s a long way off, but I’m definitely planning to try to live a little under-budget all through South America so that we can afford to add Central America on to the end! Let’s hope it can happen!