January 5th-June 20th
Truly the trip of a lifetime. Katherine had just graduated from college and I had just asked her to marry me. We decided the most appropriate thing to do would be to buy one-way tickets to Ecuador and go backpacking all over South America. We visited 6 countries in a little over 6 months time. Those countries included: Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. All of the writing you see about South America on this site comes from this trip. We travelled by land, boat, train, and foot from the time we landed in Ecuador until we departed from Chile. No plane rides. A trip like this is what makes you a real backpacker. We were constantly on the move and had no real agenda whatsoever. We made our own decisions every step of the way and stayed away from groups and anything that made us feel like tourists. We avoided anyone that looked like us or spoke English. We slept in hospedajes, alojamientos, night buses, bungalows, hammocks, and under the stars. We got sand flies, jungle fever, chicungunya, diarrhea, and alcohol poisoning. We ate rodents, bugs, horse meat, and chicken feet. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we had a really nice time.
South America has got to be the most backpacker friendly place on the planet. It could not be easier to get around this continent. From any city in any country, you can take a bus to the capital of that country. From that capital, you can take a bus to the capital of any other country on the continent. And then from that capital, you can take a bus to any city in that country. The bus systems in South America are crazy efficient. Some of the bus terminals were bigger than many airports I’ve been in, and closely resemble them with baggage claims, food courts, and shopping malls inside them. We spent 6 months traveling and din’t make a single hotel reservation. There are affordable hostels and place to sleep in every city. You can just show up in any random town you spotted on a map and have no trouble finding a room for the night.
Spanish is an easy enough language to pick up what you need to get around. I know people who have gone a lot further, for a lot longer, speaking much less Spanish than I do.