April 29, 2012

88 Days In South America

After 88 days touring around Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Peru, here are some of our lasting impressions and memories.

South America is the land of creepy window manikins, Mercedes Benz buses, and walking breast-feeders.

South America is on a BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) basis.

South Americans love mate, coca leaves, soccer, family, Coca-Cola, religion and their plazas. The order is debatable. South Americans also love music from the motion picture Rocky. We’ve lost count how many times we’ve heard “Eye of the Tiger”.

We’ve seen various creative forms of barbed wire.

Most of the souvenirs here are fakes produced in mass quantities. "Do you want to buy my alpaca sweater? It's one of a kind that I hand knitted". Okay lady, but I've seen 500 exact replicas of your hand-knitted alpaca sweater across 3 different countries.

People can’t add. In stores, the workers have to get a calculator out to add up 22.00 + 4.50.

They don't refrigerate milk, eggs, meat, chicken or butter. Somehow it works.

No matter where you are, or how small of a town you’re in, everyone knows California.

Just about everybody here could use a good pedicure.

Vehicle smog emissions are shocking, but South Americans use compact fluorescent light bulbs everywhere…including in the most inappropriate places like century-old church chandeliers.

The hit song of the summer has been “Au Si Te Pego” by Michel Telo. Even though it’s a Brazilian song written in Portuguese, it has completely infiltrated all of South America. It’s hard to go a day without hearing it on the radio, being sung, or as a ringtone.

Pizza and sandwich shops consistently list “Americano” as a flavor. Every time, the “Americano” would have anything but typical American ingredients. When’s the last time you had a pizza with ham, green olives, eggs and spam?

South America is dusty, broken and a little ghetto. Even the Eternal Flame at the Maldivas monument in Buenos Aires had stopped working. Even though it is rough around the edges, the South Americans own it and that’s part of the charm. It’s a passionate and rustic place with pockets of absolute beauty, a rich history and a cast of characters.

On a restaurant menu in Cuzco, we found this quote:
“You got here...all the way from your beautiful country…wow…it is a huge accomplishment…once in a lifetime…for some…really!!! Enjoy it to the fullest…and this is just one of the tasty moments your life will give you…how lucky we are!

We talk about that all of the time…how lucky we are. We have made it successfully through 3 months in South America. We are safe and healthy and happy.

We’ve been asked by people back home, “What’s it like to wake up every day and not have any obligations?” This question makes our eyes bug out. Steve summed it up best by saying that he has more obligations now than he ever did back in the US. Yes, it’s wonderful that we don’t have to go to work and that we’re off playing in these incredible places. But we also wake up every day needing to find a roof over our heads, food that won’t make us sick, and transportation to places we know nothing about. Our days are full of decisions that either lead us to harm or lead us to safety. It is a big responsibility.

Among the backpacker crowd, there is a funny but clear designation between "traveling" and "vacationing". Before this trip we had never distinguished between the two, but now we are absolutely certain that we are traveling. Vacationers get to stay in nice places and spend money on trendy dinners and bottles of wine. Travelers nit-pick every expense.

We are proud to say that so far we've spent the biggest portion of our money on activities. We've worked very hard to pull that off. Here's how it's broken down:
Activities – 38%
Lodging – 25%
Food – 23%
Transportation – 13% (not including flights)
 Internet, Toiletries, Souvenirs and Laundry – 3%

Would you believe that we keep running into people that we know? It turns out that the backpacker circuit is quite small and everyone seems to be moving in a similar direction. It’s always fun to spot someone on the street after not seeing them for weeks. It makes us feel connected.

We have spent every waking moment with each other for 88 days straight. The longest we were apart was for 2 hours in Arequipa when Katie visited the convent and Steve didn’t. We have come to rely on each other more than ever…it was a lonely 2 hours for both of us.

We never know what day of the week it is.

Given the amount of carbo-loading we’ve been doing with white bread, you’d think we were prepping for some major athletic event.

We are bringing the egg-over-easy on everything back with us to America. We are looking forward to eating salads and not having to brush our teeth with bottled water.

It is a sad reality, but we have become untrusting of people. Even when someone walks up to us offering help, we immediately think they’re either trying to rob us or sell us something. We have had one eye over our shoulders every day for the past 3 months.

After using up a lot of our lotions, shampoos and toothpastes, our backpacks are feeling lighter than ever. We could run a 100-meter dash with them on, if we ever needed to.

We have had the perfect mix of city and nature…flipping every week or so from one to the other. We have been to every capital city and bused our way through the countryside of every country we visited. But even so, there is so much land we still did not cover. South America is a BIG place!

We really hope that we don’t forget too much of our Spanish before we make it to Spain. Are we sad to be leaving South America? Not really! We had an absolute blast, but we are too excited for the next phase of our trip. Until next time, South America! Hasta Luego!



  1. So the one thing I am always ask by my people at work is this: "its great to hear about 2 people so in love that they are able to spend every waking moment with each other. Don't they get fed up with each other?". My initial gut reaction was "well sub, would you want to spend every waking moment with your spouse?". Then I remember our current society and tell them that I'm sure you both have your moments are there are times you do your own things. Well, you blew that assumption out of the water. I am thrilled to death that I can tell them that yes you do spend every moment together and that their idea of life together with someone is altered. Thank you for proving that love can endure. I hope you guys have an even better time in Europe. :)

  2. Which is better Pepsi or Coca-Cola?
    ANSWER THE POLL and you could get a prepaid VISA gift card!