We end where we began?

The beginning

Summing up La Aventura Project in one post has left us here staring at a blank page for weeks now.  The same questions run through our heads: “What did we do?” and, “What did we accomplish?”  The jump back into life in the USA was quick, and we were immediately left with little time outside of work, back to normal US life.  The world we came from was stuck in the backs of our minds, left to dwell in occasional yearnings and stories misunderstood by their listeners.  When I have a street food craving at 11pm there is no friendly woman selling tortillas across the street.  Saddening, but it’s also nice to have a kitchen.

Here is a quick list of answers to some of the more popular questions we have been getting from friends and family:
Yes, they did in fact have electricity in Latin America.
Yes, we got sick a few times from the food.  But it was all delicious and we don’t regret trying everything!
No, we did not notice any drug cartel activity.
No, we don’t plan on settling down now or buying a house or anything like that.

Trying to make a list of our accomplishments sounded corny but I did it anyways to brag a little bit:
Learned Spanish to an intermediate level in which we could have decent conversations.
Traveled to 10 countries without flying.
Got engaged!
Learned much more about Latin American history than we did at school, more than most North Americans know.
Hiked the Inca Trail.
Built our blog into a resource for other travelers.

Regrets:  I wish we could have done more volunteering, but maybe you could say that we were more like scouts, examining the playing field.  We did have two stays at WWOOF farms, one in Colombia and another in Ecuador.  It would be fun to check out some more WWOOF farms in Central America someday.

The travel at first was much easier than I expected.  The roads were paved and the buses as nice as the Megabus that we took in the United States.  But as we entered Bolivia our luck was about the change.  It was there that we experienced transportation strikes and washed out highways.  Bolivia was by far the most “out there” country we visited.

La Aventura Project started as a film project and a longing to escape from it all.  Along the way we wrote more and more and eventually were able to use the website to make the adventure last longer.  We passed through phases of preferring writing over filming and vis-a-versa.  Near the end we really dreaded the thought of returning to the grind of working class society.  Here everyone makes little problems seem like the end of the world.  There there were real problems.

The future: We will continue adding to the website and will be posting hostel reviews by guest writes.  (More info if you are interested.)  Our goal is for the website to grow and continue as we start posting our travel tales from the States.  We’ll be beginning the US section of the website in September when we take a road trip across the northwest in the process of moving to California!  We’re also working hard to edit the documentary and we’ll post updates on that front as it gets done.

Ending where we began: So now we find ourselves in much the same place we were in when the seed of the idea for La Aventura Project began.  Making the most of the US and working hard to save money for future adventures.  Dreaming and trying to decide which continent to conquer next.  Asia?  Africa?  Europe?  South again to finally make it all the way to Patagonia?  We have no idea where we should go, but luckily we have awhile to decide as we work to replenish our bank accounts.  The only sure thing is that we can’t stay here for too long, so una nueva aventura is unquestionably on the horizon.

“There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” -Christopher McCandless

Chau chicos.

Advertisements

2/3 Highlights!

So, due to our crazy schedule changes, we’re actually past the 2/3 mark on our trip :-(.  But, since we just left South America and are heading to Central, we figured now would be the most logical time to do our “Close-enough-to-2/3rds” superlatives!

Days in South America:  168

Dollars Spent (not including flight):

Countries Visited: 4

Books Read: 19 (Carrie), 12 (Zach)

Number of shirts left: 6 (Carrie), 3 (Zach)

Superlatives

Favorite Food: ceviche (Zach), llapingachos (Carrie)

Favorite Snack: corn/cheese pancake thingies from Ecuador

Favorite Beverage: Campos de Solana vino tinto from Tarija, Bolivia

Most Craved Food Currently: orange cheese (Carrie), sour cream (Zach)

Things We’re Most Excited For in USA:  friends, Netflix, cooking, baking (Carrie), telling stories to family and friends (Zach)

Most Annoying Phenomenon: staring people

Longest Bus Marathon: 3 days almost-straight, Trinidad, Bolivia to Arequipa, Perú

Favorite Activity: still The Inca Trail with The Southwest Circuit as a close second.

Nicest People: still Colombians

Favorite Big City: Lima, Perú

Favorite Small City: Cuzco, Perú

Dumpiest Town: Uyuni, Bolivia

Best Hostel: Hostal Las Olas in Copacabana, Bolivia

Best Place to Open Our Bar Someday: Canoa, Ecuador

Most Enjoyable Hike: Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Most Miserable Hike: Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

Most Controversial Post: Happy Birthday Blog

Worst Addiction: Fried chicken

Most Life-Changing Moment: getting engaged

Hottest Place: Colombian coast

Most Mosquitoes: Bolivian Amazon

Biggest Disappointment: Taganga, Colombia

Biggest Ripoff: Bus from Medellin to Santa Marta, Colombia during Easter week=130,000 COP ($70) per ticket

Still Our Favorite Country: Ecuador!!!!!!!  We love you!!!!

Goals for Central America

1. Not sweat to death!

2. Show Zach’s friend Steve a good time in Nicaragua!

3. Do more filming!

4. Improve our Spanish!

5. Make it home safely, and with a little bit of money left.

Boat Hitchhiking to Trinidad, Bolivia – Part 4

After finally getting off La Pinta and setting foot back on dry land, we found ourselves in basically the middle of nowhere.  We were happy that River boat hitchhiking in Bolivia was done.  It was a tiny port with a few rundown boats parked and a few thatch shacks at the end of a dirt road.  Truly the back of beyond, like someplace out of Heart of Darkness or “Apocalypse Now”.  We knew it might be a long wait for a ride into Trinidad, so we sat down at a cafe and ordered “almuerzos”–hot noodle soup followed by a plate of rice, spaghetti, potatoes, and beef.  The heat was oppressive and we were pouring sweat even sitting in the shade.  Thankfully, while we were eating, a dusty, falling-apart taxi pulled up chock full of supplies.  While the driver unloaded his deliveries, we finished our lunch and afterwards waited a few minutes for more people to fill the car.  With four locals in the backseat, the driver, and Zach and I sharing the front passenger seat, we bounced off along the bumpy track towards Trinidad.  The short trip included a river crossing on a very rickety wooden ferry, and passed through several more tiny port villages.

Ferrying our dumpy taxi across a small river.

Finally we reached Trinidad, a small city which is capital of Bolivia’s jungly Beni province.  Trinidad is known for it’s many motorcycles; everyone seems to have one and there are hardly any cars.  The motorcycles zip around the streets like mad, ignoring traffic laws and narrowly missing accidents at every turn.  It’s a miracle we didn’t get run over!  Tourists can also rent motorcycles.  If that’s your idea of fun, go for it.  To me it sounds like inevitable road rash, if not worse.

Motorcycle madness!

Finding an acceptable hostel took awhile, but we eventually stumbled into Alojamiento Carmen, a decent place with fans and shared bathrooms, the highlight being the cable TV with a plethora of English channels.  They had the Latin American versions of TLC, WB, and FOX, so we spent a lot of time in the room watching random things like “No Reservations” (love Anthony Bourdain), “Ace of Cakes”, “Friends”, “Two and a Half Men”, “Grey’s Anatomy” (My guilty pleasure…but what is GOING ON there? I’ve missed so much!), and the worst one ever, “Man vs. Food.” Normally I get so disgusted watching Adam stuff his face and get fatter every episode, but try watching it in Bolivia and just see how horribly HUNGRY and JEALOUS you get!

Okay, that was a major TV tangent.  But really, it ended up being good that we had so many channels because there’s not much else to do in Trinidad!  The city is so hot and humid that you start sweating after walking only one block.  There are also a lot of mosquitoes out at night.  Suffice it to say, after only a few hours of wandering the streets, we were bored.

That night we had a bit of an existential crisis.  We had planned to stay for a couple nights in Trinidad, find another boat, and continue down the Rio Mamoré to Guayaramerin, on the Brazilian border.  There were two major reasons we had decided to do this: 1. Getting off the Gringo Trail and 2. It’s cheap!  What we finally admitted to ourselves this night in Trini was that despite our best-laid plans, we were bored.  We had been a bit bored, in fact, ever since realizing how behind on our budget we were, and cutting back on all activities and extras to try to make up for it.  What ensued was a long discussion about our priorities and how to make this the best possible experience.  We came to two conclusions: 1. We don’t want to go into debt on this trip.  (Debt-free is the way to be!)  2. If we’re not having fun then we need to change something.  Therefore, a hard decision was made.  We conceded to the possibility of returning home earlier (in June rather than July).  Nothing is official (we still don’t have a return ticket), but doing this would definitely ease the financial strain and allow us to enjoy the time we have left a lot more.  We’d rather say we had an AMAZING TIME for 7 months than that we toughed it out on very little money for 8 months.  (Although, of course, if anyone wants to send us some $$, we won’t say no, lol.)  So in the interest of making it back to the states faster and ditching the heat, mosquitoes, and boat boredom, we changed our plan (again) and decided that Brazil can wait for another trip.  “Let’s get out of this sweaty town, back to the mountains and Perú!” we said.  Arequipa, Perú, was the next place we were really excited for, and we desperately needed some excitement.  If only we knew how impossible it would be get back on the grid…

Please read the beginning of our River boat Hitchhiking in the Bolivian Amazon Aventura!

PART 3

Thoughts that came in a jeep…

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.  You kind of have no choice when you spend muchas horas in vehicles bouncing along dirt roads.  Plus, gorgeous scenery to me always inspires introspection.  What’s hard is to put all these complicated thoughts into words in a way that makes sense.  But I’ll try.

I was definitely not prepared for the controversy that came from a hastily written, filler-type (if we must admit) blog entry of last week.  In fact, I barely glanced through it before giving it the thumbs up, more distracted by what I was doing on my own internet terminal.  Not that I’m shirking responsibility.  Everything that is written on this blog represents both Zach and I, no matter who writes it.

So bumping along at high altitude from Tupiza to Uyuni, I believe I was able to define one of my problems.  And it is this: I struggle a lot between being true to my own strong opinions and being gracious and loving.  I guess I am very good at the “carry a big stick” part but not so good at the “speak softly” part of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous philosophy.

Although the blog I’m referring to was written exaggeratedly, it did not translate so well over the Internet, and I can see how it did hurtfully insult.  I’m sorry for that.  I didn’t write it myself, but I have written things in the past that have been similar in tone.  The tightrope between being true to myself and still striving to understand those who are different from me is a difficult one to walk.  I need to work on my balance.

More thinking in transit revealed to me that the blanket statement “Real life is for chumps,” does not even truly represent my opinion.  Let me try to state my true opinions, which several days of organizing my thoughts on the subject have led me to:

1.  There is nothing wrong with, and I hold no judgement for, people who choose a more traditional American* life if that is truly what they want for themselves.

2.  I do believe people should question things more, educate themselves better, think more creatively, and not blindly follow the path laid out for them by their parents/government/job etc.

3.  I do believe that many, many Americans follow the traditional “American dream” (which I define as college, career, house, kids, retirement, etc.) because they become trapped by debt, aren’t encouraged to consider other options, or because they are afraid to do something different, not because it is what they truly want.

4.  The majority of Americans are INSANELY MATERIALISTIC, and this materialism is one our worst qualities and one of the top reasons our society is so broken.

These are my strong opinions which I cannot compromise.  My fault is that I have unfairly judged and insulted some people who don’t deserve it.  I am sorry.  From now on, I am going to try harder to remember #1 when I am tempted to make overarching statements about certain lifestyles.

But, if I am forgiven, I must ask for the same respect in return from now on.  If I am able to reconsider my views to be more accepting of your decisions, than can you stretch your mental limits to ponder accepting mine?  Also, can we all get offended less easily?  To be quite honest, I’m probably always going to think that you’re a bit boring, and you’re probably always going to think that I’m a crazy hippy.  Right?  Now that I flat out said it, who really cares enough to be offended?  Not this girl.

So that’s that.  I’m sorry for harsh words of the past.  If you have a more “normal” life and are content with it, I don’t begrudge you that.  Please don’t begrudge me of my crazy nomadic one, because I have never been happier.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost

*For the sake of this post, I’m using American/Americans to refer only to people of the U.S.A.  I realize this is ethnocentric and usually try to avoid it, but for now it’s easier.

OUR BLOG IS ONE YEAR OLD!!!

Just wanted to send a quick thanks to our readers.  When we started this blog last February, we got a lot of different feedback such as:  How are you going to pay for it?  Do they speak English there?  Those aren´t safe countries to travel to!  You are riding on BUSES?!  There are drugs EVERYWHERE!?…  Along with others.  To be fair, there were encouraging people, but I think this post will be about rubbing it in the faces of all our doubters.  So here is to nearly 4 amazing months on the road, and over 5 months left until we have to return to the U.S. of A.  But we won´t be returning to real life, because real life is for chumps.  We hope that the adventure will last forever, because these are our lives we are talking about, and we want to make the best of them.  So again, thanks for reading and hopefully everyone enjoys hearing our stories as much as we enjoy telling them.  Here´s to another great year for La Aventura Project!

1/3 Highlights

As of January 27, we’ve been in South America for three months!  That’s about 1/3 of the total time we’ll be down here (assuming money lasts) so it’s quite a milestone.  Sometimes I feel like we’ve been on the road forever and other times it feels like it was just yesterday we landed in Medellin.

To celebrate our 1/3-iversary, let’s list some fun stats!

Days in South America:  95

Dollars Spent (not including flight): $3005

Countries Visited: 3

Books Read: 8 (Carrie), 7 (Zach)

Number of Laundromat Visits (not including hand-washing): 3

Bacterial Infections: 1 each

Things We’ve Lost
iPhone (Carrie)…The Infamous Bird Poop Incident
Water bottle (Zach)…just left it at a Couchsurfer’s house
Glasses (Carrie)…stupid lake
Sunglasses (Zach)…stupid ocean
2 rings (Carrie)…two separate places
1 shirt (Carrie)…I think this girl on our first WWOOF farm thought it was hers because she always wore orange!
Dr. Bronners soap (Zach)…”It’ll turn up!” he says
Umbrella…who knows???

And now, since it is Awards Season, we hereby present to you….

The 1/3-iversary Superlatives…a.k.a. the Best Of “So Far”

Favorite Food: ceviche (Zach), llapingachos (Carrie)

Favorite Beverage: Colombian coffee

Most Missed Food: Graeter’s ice cream and peanut butter (Carrie), Mexican food and cheddar cheese (Zach)

Most Missed Event: holidays at home

Most Missed Activities:  watching Oscar films (Carrie), cooking/baking, snowboarding

Most Annoying Phenomenon: loud music and movies on buses

Favorite Activity: The Inca Trail

Nicest People: Colombians

Favorite City: Cuzco

Most Times We Said “What a Crazy Place!”: Huacachina

Best Beach: Canoa

Best Shopping: Otavalo

Best Person We’ve Met: Oso the dog

Scariest/Coolest Experience: the eruption of Tungurahua Volcano

Most Authentic Cultural Experience/Cutest Kids and Puppies: WWOOFing at Finca Campo Bello

Biggest Party/Least Authentic Cultural Experience: Loki Hostel

Biggest Personal Changes: dreadlocks and eating meat (Carrie), actually speaking a second language (Zach)

Favorite Country Overall: Ecuador

Goals for the Next 2/3rds of the Journey

1. Save money and get ahead on our budget in Bolivia!

2. Find a WWOOF experience where we actually get to farm!

3. Do more filming!

4. Improve our Spanish!

I know, I know, we really need to stop losing things and wash our clothes more!  Do you like this silly little superlative round-up?  Should we do one again after 2/3rds?

Clarifying Our Goals

It recently came to my attention that despite all the blogging we’ve done, the main goals of our trip/documentary are still kind of unclear.  That’s a problem!  Despite the fact that our trip is largely unplanned as far as day-to-day specifics, we need to have a solid overall purpose.  So I forced myself to sit down and write out the three main elements of our project.  I hope this helps you understand the project more!  Here they are:

1. Volunteering:  WWOOFing is something that we are all very excited about.  I know it is agricultural volunteering vs. working mainly with people, BUT many of these farms are benefiting local communities in awesome ways (e.g. teaching sustainable agriculture to villagers, starting income-generating activities in their areas, and helping prevent environmental degradation (which is a HUGE problem in south america)).  WWOOFing is going to provide us an opportunity to help on organic farms, learn all about their methods so we can spread our knowledge, and get to know the local people.  As far as volunteering in orphanages and other places, we DEFINITELY plan to do that.  But from everything I’ve read, the easiest way is to just GO and find places that accept help once we’re there.  Many organizations that organize volunteers like this charge a huge overhead (which doesn’t go back to the community) and are merely cookie-cutter volunteer tourism which is very questionable as far as actual impact and sustainability.  I feel like these trips are a great way to start volunteering, but that I am past that now that I have more knowledge of global development.  We will have a more authentic experience by having our couchsurfing hosts and the locals we meet help us find smaller places we can volunteer (there are TONS of opportunities beyond those few that are big/rich enough to have an online presence in the U.S.).  So a huge part of our trip and the documentary will be about volunteering.

2.  Learning: In all my trips and volunteer experiences I have learned so much more than I have taught or contributed.  I have learned more than in my entire college career through traveling.  It is amazing.  We are going to learn a new language, new cultures, see new sights, learn how to survive in developing countries, learn new skills, learn about farming, etc. etc.  That’s why the trailer emphasizes our desire to learn more than the volunteering aspect.  I feel now that’s it’s actually naive and pretentious to assume that we will HELP SO MUCH and do SO MUCH GOOD, when in reality we will be the ones gaining so much knowledge.  The documentary will emphasize the power of travel as education and encourage others to travel.

3.  Self-discovery through travel: Do you remember your early 20s?  I don’t think it’s uncommon at our age to be slightly unsure of yourself, not sure of what path you want to take, questioning the status quo and struggling to realize WHO YOU ARE.  Is that a bunch of psychobabble or do you remember feeling like that?  Well, we think that travel is a great way to experience the world and help define who you are and what you want to do in life.  As Melissa says in the trailer “The 3 of us really want to DO something; we don’t feel satisfied with the idea of graduating college and starting a career in America right away.”  So if we don’t feel satisfied doing that and we have the opportunity to do something different, why wouldn’t we?  I count my blessings every day that I am in a position with no debt and nothing holding me here and that I am ABLE to do this.  I think God wants us to follow our dreams, rather than stick with what “most people” do just because it is normal.  We expect to learn a lot about ourselves and the documentary will tell the story of our psychological journeys of self-discovery, as well as our physical journey.

I know that these goals still sound a little vague, but it’s impossible to really plan such a long adventure down to the details!  We are so excited to see what happens as we go with these goals in mind!