Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day #5. Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The ferry was packed. So packed that some of the unfortunate people who weren’t in 1st class didn’t even have seats. As I stood in the mile-long line for baggage check-in, I couldn't help but wonder how they were gonna squeeze that many people on the boat. There were soooo many platformed shoes... I zoomed in on my camera and snuck a close up of my favorite: Barney purple Birkenstocks on stilts.

The ride was between 2 and 4 hours. Not totally sure because I was asleep for most of it. When we disembarked, we had to fight thick gauntlets of flying bugs at every light along the narrow hallway. Young girls were screeching and swatting and stomping around in their platforms. We boarded old buses that were a bit run-down for the 3-hour ride from Colonia to Punta Del Este. Does it ever amaze you the positions you can fall asleep in when you are beyond exhausted? So glad I brought a pillow!!!

El Viajero Hostel is awesome! Located in the heart of town, 2 blocks from the bus stop 4 blocks from feisty Brava Beach. It is such a relief to be somewhere for more than a couple days. I will be spending 4 nights here. It’s paradise!!! Somewhat built up though, unfortunately. High rises and hotels line the beach. But it really is beautiful. Many of the more affluent Argentinians flock to Punta del Este for the New Year holiday. It’s very expensive here. I made a quick trip to the market for some cheese and tomatoes to make a sandwich with. Even at the market, prices were astronomical!! 70 pesos for jam?? 150 for cheese?! Well, I hadn’t really read up on the currency here yet… assumed they used pesos. Didn’t realize that they use Uruguayan pesos, not Argentinian, which are exchanged at 24 per $1 US. Aaahhh! So things weren’t that bad after all.

When I came back to the hostel there was a very sweet lady scrubbing everything in site. This place is extremely clean, especially the kitchen. A skinny grey cat sauntered around. My sandwich hit the spot, especially with all that lemon-scented mayonesa slathered on. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my condiments ;) After a nice long nap, I was so excited to finally go to the beach! The entire beach was crowded with very beautiful and tanned people for miles. I spotted what appeared to be a surf break down a ways so I headed that direction. The surf was small but really feisty. All shapes and sizes of boards were out there – most with lots of duct tape patchwork. I spotted a rental shack and ran over to check out the prices. “$25 per hour” said the very tanned and freckled Uruguayan boy. “Whaaaat?? I could buy a board in 4 hours for that price!” I told him. He said he would give me a deal: $30 for 2 hours. Just then a bearded man with a bright blue rash guard exited the ocean with a 10’ Walden. A lady posed for a photo with him. “That’s Juan, Uruguayan longboard champion” the boy told me. Of course I had to get a photograph too! He’s a celebrity!

Back at the hostel that evening I met the girls in my room who had only woken up a few hours ago. It had been a long night of partying – you could tell by the smudged makeup still on their faces. 5 of them are Brazilian! In fact, everyone here at the hostel is, with the exception of maybe 2 or 3 people. And I am totally fine with that. Brazilians are the best ever!!! Bursting with life and passion for everything, and super friendly. Most of them speak English pretty well. There is a group of 5 here at the hostel that are particularly awesome. They met at a fraternity when they were in college in Sao Paulo, and are now traveling together over the holidays. Smart, good-looking, really nice, and very talented at pool. One of them – Diego – lives in the Ipanema beach town of Rio and might be able to host me for couch surfing while I’m there! How perfect is that?! The area he lives in is like the Union Square of Rio. They are teaching me new words in Portuguese. If you want to say someone is “the man”, you say “Papai da ---” and insert whatever it is they’re the man at. “Papai da sinuca!” means you are the man at pool! Another word, “crackudo!”, refers to something that’s so good it’s like crack. But they told me only to use this word with people I know, because it can also mean someone is a crazy crackhead and a stranger might be insulted by it. There were a few Papai da crackudo’s in the hostel. A couple of middle aged men who were pounding cervezas, singing at the top of their lungs, and dancing all over the place.

I desperately needed money, so I started walking along the main strip Ave Galero, looking for an ATM that wasn’t (a.) broken, or (b.) out of money. I saw a group of people huddled around an ATM and overheard them speaking English, so I decided to try that one. Someone in the group turned around and looked at me kind of funny. “I feel like I know you from somewhere” he said. But he didn’t look even vaguely familiar to me. Then another guy walked in from off the sidewalk to join the group, and he said the same thing – “I know you from somewhere!!” We all stood there staring at each other for a second, then we realized how we knew each other… we had gone to the same college AND worked at a summer camp together!!! That is a CRAZY small world right there. I could not even believe it. Julio Medina and Mark Mendizabel… of course I remembered them! Just needed to jog my memory a bit. We all went to a cute little organic juice bar and ordered fresh blended jugos and veggie sandwiches. So excited to have found some long lost friends… and in the far away land of Uruguay, of all places! Dad, this is another good sign for you that I will be ok J

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day #4. Buenos Aires.

I think I had a mini stroke today. Woke up pretty early. Around 10. I really need to get an alarm clock – can’t figure out how to get my phone onto Argentina time so I can’t use the alarm right now. Decided to try my luck at the Brazil Consulate, despite the fact that I don’t actually have an appointment until January 9.

It was horrendously hot. The one thing that saved me was the occasional water shower from above as people watered their plants. This happens all the time. In fact, it’s hard to walk anywhere without getting dripped on at least once. I’ve been noticing that pretty much everyone has tattoos. I was surprised at how many women have them. Usually it’s just a small doodle on the back of their neck or shoulder blade… a lot of them squiggly and uneven, like an amateur did it at home with a wood burner. Everyone smokes too. And you can smoke anywhere, even inside. Crazy!

I read in a blog that it was located alongside the very wide Ave 9 de Julio highway that runs all down the center of the city. So I figured I’d just keep walking down it until I saw a Brazil flag. After getting lost for a bit and going to the “other” Consulate (the one for locals I think), I finally found the right building. I walked in and saw several young friendly looking attendants at the windows. Awesome!! Maybe they will be more lenient with the rules, I thought. The security guard pointed me over to line 5 which had no one in it. That was kind of weird to me because all the other lines were half full.  An old, slumped over lady with a fresh perm shuffled up to the window. No smile, no hello, no nothing. I showed her my documents. “Appointment?” She growled. “No senora, por favor…” she cut me off with a tirade of Spanish, flinging my passport back at me underneath the window. I think she was saying something about Americans just thinking they can walk in without an appointment, as she jabbed her gnarled index finger at the “United States” lettering on my passport.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I shed a tear or two after I exited the building. It was just really disappointing to me as it throws off my Brazil itinerary a lot. But, there’s nothing I can do about it so, I am trying to follow my own advice: don’t stress over things that are out of your control. So I went for a walk to clear my head. Drank an ice-cold pompelo soda – incredibly refreshing! My new favorite! And only 30 cents too.

Took a cab over to Puerto Madero so I could book a ferry to Uruguay that evening. Normally it only costs $50, but since it was high season and all they had left was 1st class, I had to pay $100. The ferry was to depart the harbor at midnight. Whew…. Gonna be a loooooong day. I did a little self-guided walking tour around the port. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco’s embarcadero, except without all the smelly crabs everywhere. It was more elegant. There were 2 pirate ships to admire, and a white walking bridge with what looked like a giant Carnival Cruise fin sticking out of it. The sun was beating down on me, so I got a cab back to the hostel. It’s practically impossible to hail a cab within a mile of the port, because they are always full of passengers going to and from.

I was really craving something fresh to eat. Maybe an ensalada! Tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet onion from the market seemed perfect. A can of tuna and some cheap “mayonesa” went into the basket as well. A lot of Spanish words sound better then in English, and mayonesa is one of them. I hate the word mayonnaise. When I got back to the hostel, this curious little wiry guy from Chile was cooking up a dinner of rice and squash. He was the epitome of hippie, with some baggy linen pantalones, a wiry wispy beard, long hair, and a piece of jade hanging round his neck by some twine. I told him he was very healthy. He said he is vegan and “holistic”, whatever that meant. I explained to him that my mom is also “holistic”  - she doesn’t believe in hospitals or antibiotics. His eyes bugged out. “Ooooohhhh! No ant-ee-beeyotics!!!!!” He exclaimed. I guess he’s really passionate about that. I told him she is into herbals. He nodded his head knowingly and smiled. "Aahhh, herbals, siiii." He probably thinks my mom runs a dispensary.

The tomato/cucumber/onion salad was amazing. The tuna…. Not so much. It was like tuna soup. The more I strained it, the more tuna shards went down the drain. So I had to eat it like that. I tried to give the Chilean boy half my onion to put in his rice and squash stew, but he backed away with wide eyes. “No!! No ant-ee-beeyotics!!!” It’s just an onion, I assured him and stretched my hand out further. But he continued to insist it was antibiotics. Haha, what a character! I had a few hours to kill, so I booked a few flights and planned a quick jaunt down to Patagonia for 6 days while I wait for my Visa appointment. Feeling better about it now. Everything will work out J

Monday, December 29, 2014

Day #3. Buenos Aires.

7 am. That’s what time I went to bed today. I didn’t really believe the other hostel peeps when they said that Argentinians in Buenos Aires stay up until the wee hours of the morning. But they do. They definitely do. They have the stamina of Sea Biscuit.

After that delicious curry dinner we headed out to the Palermo district, an area known for it’s awesome all-nighter parties. The ladies here have beautiful style. Most of them wear these short little sundresses that are so cute and accentuate their svelt but curvy bodies. At night when they go out to party most of them change into tight, high-waisted shorts and crop tops. The only thing that I detest are the shoes. Everyone wears platforms. It’s like mini Elton Johns running around everywhere in these little ugly hooves. Absolutely hideous. They come in every color too. I even saw a girl wearing a bright blue shirt with matching bright blue suede platforms!! Where do you even get those?? There is a pretty big goth sub-culture here too. I saw a guy with 2 girls on each arm, everyone clad from head to toe in black. He even had fangs. They started talking to the British girl in our group, and commented on how awesome her accent was. “We love your accent!” they exclaimed in broken English. “So much better then US accent.”

We hung out at a beautiful outdoor restaurant in Palermo and met some locals who invited us out with them and their friends. It was 2:30 am and the streets were packed with young people heading to their favorite club. If you get there before 2, I was told it would be dead. I honestly didn’t think I was gonna make it much longer… bed was calling my name. But then we all started dancing, and I suddenly forgot how tired I was. The locals were really nice and were pouring their favorite drink – champagne and Red Bull. It really seemed like only a few hours passed, and when we walked outside, it was daylight. DAYLIGHT. What???!!!!! Oh nooooo! I didn’t mean to stay up all night! But it was worth it. At least that once. But tonight I want to see some live music or watch some traditional dancing. And go to bed at a decent hour. Need to get up early so I can go to the Brazilian consulate tomorrow.

“Slept in” until 2:30 in the afternoon. So did Tom. He went out swing dancing last night and came in after I did. How do these people keep this schedule every day??! I’m already worn out. Made myself some oatmeal and headed to the market. Thought maybe I would spend 30 min there, but 30 min turned into 3 hours. It was phenomenal. Yesterday when I arrived, it seemed the city was kind of dead. Well that’s because they were all inside sleeping getting ready for their big party night. But on a Sunday afternoon, everyone is out dressed in their Sunday best! The street was lined for a mile with colorful displays. There were tons of leathergoods (Argentina is known for its cows), sparkling handmade glass and jewelry, and even empanada coin purses. I picked up a few souvenirs and reveled in the balmy afternoon sunshine. It was hot, but not too hot. Every couple blocks or so there would be a pop-up sausage or steak sandwich grill going.  All the stands serve their goods with chimichurri sauce and “salad”, which is a fresh salsa made of onions, peppers, tomatoes, and Italian dressing. The smells…. Ahhh the smells! Made my mouth water. And of course, live music. So much music!! I was in heaven! There was an energetic guitar duo of 2 young boys and a cute old man rocking out some “Pomp and Circumstance” on the accordion. But my favorite was this tall, very dark bald man who sang while playing complex salsa rifts on his bass. I’ve never seen anyone play bass like that AND sing at the same time. I thought it was impossible - what a talent! Everyone was dancing. I love how strangers that are standing next to each other will turn, smile, and without hesitation begin to dance. The joy on their faces is infectious! Well, mostly joy. Except for one rather large elderly lady seemed very upset at one of the musical selections. She waddled up to the stage and started yelling at him, waving her finger around in the air, before waddling back to her seat completely out of breath. Had no idea what that was about, but the tall dark man didn’t miss a beat. He just laughed and played even louder. Music is so powerful. It brings people together in a really special way.

Met up with some new friends at the hostel after that and we wandered around the city, taking it all in. We ran into some ladies selling homemade tarts – strawberry and lemon merengue. Elina from Boliva and I shared a slice of the fresa (strawberry) and it was divine! The crust was buttery and crumbly… so light. The middle layer was a delicate airy custard. And on top were the sweetest fresh berries smothered in jello. By now I had run out of time for the bus tour. We’ll save it for another day.

That evening I finally tried the famous Argentinian steak. Everyone who travelled through this country raved about the beef here. I’m not a big meat eater, but I was looking forward to seeing what all this hype was about. There are a lot of steak restaurants to choose from. They’re everywhere, and very popular. They hand you a menu that basically lists 15 different variations of beef along with a tantalizing selection of sides. I ordered the smallest steak they had, and we all shared this dreamy fresh creamed spinach, fried potato slices, very cheesy mashed potatoes, and halved tomatoes with balsamico. Of course, the steaks were served with 3 different sauces: green chimichurri, red chimichurri, and that “salad” I was talking about earlier. We started the meal with white beans and garlic oil, soaking up every last drop with warm crusty bread. The meat arrived on sizzling platters. My “small” steak was actually pretty huge. Everyone got really excited. All conversation ceased and for about a minute, the only sound was the clashing of forks and knives. I took my first bite and it was…….out. of. this. world. So tender it melted in your mouth. Succulent. Bold, rich, and grilled to perfection. I was very impressed. Despite this, I still couldn’t finish it all – think I ate too many sides. Stephen from Denmark gladly helped himself to the rest. Here is the craziest part of the dinner: all of those sides, steaks, and 2 bottles of really amazing Malbec… for only $15/person!!! No wonder some of the guys said they had eaten there every night for the past 5 days.

My luck was to continue. Kathleen invited me out to watch some tango that evening. She had a lesson around 8 and said all the locals start trickling in the later it gets. She, however, was only staying until 2 am. By the time we finished dinner it was already midnight. I invited everyone but, can you believe they just want to sit around every evening in the hostel??? No way. You couldn’t pay me to sit around in the hostel. I’ve been noticing that people are very addicted to their electronics too. When I left for the market a guy was on his ipad, and when I got back 3 hrs later he was still there! I don’t really get it. Time is so precious to me when I’m traveling. And it’s so much more fun to actually talk to people then surf social media.

Anyway, sorry for little rant there. Back to tango. So I took a cab over, paid only $6 to get in, and found Kathleen at a corner table. She looked great. Little grey jeans, sexy black top, and these cute “training” healed boots. When you’re learning, it’s better not to wear high heals. Makes sense. She introduced me to her dancing partner, Carlos. I loved the atmosphere in the Tango room. It was dimly lit with red low lights down the side, a big wooden dance floor in the center, and gaudy table coverings. The locals were trickling in, and they looked stunning. Especially the woman. Argentinian girls really are extraordinarily beautiful. The men…. eh ;) Kathleen said the divorce rate in Argentina is high – around 50%. It’s because the guys are notorious lady’s men, she lamented. It’s all that eye candy!! It’s everywhere!

You should have seen the outfits. There were all different styles – some wore long flowing pants, some tight short tube dresses, and others more traditional long flowing skirts with dramatic angled hems and open backs. But the one thing every single girl had on in common was a pair of sparkly, peep toed high heels. Did I mention how stunning they were?? I sat there with my mouth gaping open, taking it all in. Kathleen explained the dance to me. You find a partner, and you share 4 dances together. The first 2 are slow whereas the next 2 are much faster. The very last one, you just let it all out and get crazy. If a couple dances more then 4 (a “set”) then they are “together” and the other guys should leave the girl alone. I was totally content with my verbal lesson and watching the talented dancers glide across the floor. But Pedro wouldn’t have it.

Pedro was the short, 70-something-year-old gentlemen who took it upon himself to be my private tango instructor for the evening. He had a wrinkled, weathered face that was still so handsome and little black square glasses. He was a-DORABLE. As he pulled on my hand and crooned Spanish at me, I couldn’t say no. He barely came up to my chest, but Pedro was masterful at the dance. I felt like I had 2 left feet. Almost lost my balance a couple times too. Tango requires a lot of core strength, because most of the time you are on the tippy toes of one foot. It’s a very different kind of dance. The best ladies in the room often had their eyes closed, because they’re really feeling the music and reacting to their partners subtle movements. Pedro didn’t mind my clumsy gringa-ness at all. There were a few times when I nailed it, and when I did, he would let out a “yesssssssss! eso!” After each dance, Pedro would kiss the top of my chest (the only part he could reach) and ask me for “un mas!” What a sweetheart. My very first tango!! I told Pedro I needed agua and collapsed back in my chair at the corner table. Carlos advised me to take smaller steps and keep my shoulders squared. “Just relax!” he said.

It was 3 am and way past Kathleen’s bedtime. We were about to leave when, suddenly, a very showy couple appeared and there was buzz in the tango house that there would be a special show. Apparently, they do shows for a living and have quite the reputation in the tango community. Of course we had to stay!!! They were exquisite. I’ve never seen anything like it. When he would lift her in the air and spin, the room would erupt. They truly had mastered the art of tango.

What an incredible, beautiful night. I think I am in love with tango.

Day #2. Buenos Aires.

I am alive!!! My inbox is already being flooded with e-mails and messages from concerned people. My google account thought I was a hacker trying to break in, and it took forever to get that straightened out. So it's taken a few days to get this published.

The flight to Buenos Aires was amazing. I planned some more of my Brazil trip, ate delicious raviolis, watched a movie about Frankie Valli (I freaking love his music btw, Sheeeeeeeeery bay-yay-bee), and finally… took my ambien/wine and slept for SEVEN HOURS. When I woke up, we were beginning the descent.

The taxi to my hostel cost about the same as a ride to SFO - $45. It was about a 20 min ride. I asked the driver for “musica por favor!” and he turned on some latin pop. We tried to have a conversation but my Spanish is so terrible. I think he said something about having 2 wives..

The hostel is great. Clean, quiet, in a good area - San Telmo. My roommates are really cool! Kathleen is from Ireland, probably in her late 30’s early 40’s. Says her company shut down in Ireland so she decided to travel for the past 2 years. She loves Buenos Aires and has been here for 2 months, basically just living here like a local would. Weekly tango lessons are her favorite. I really admire her!! A woman of her age, traveling alone, not really freaking out about the job thing… that’s just rare to see. She inspires me.

My other roommate is Tom from Beijing. Again, he’s kind of a rare breed. A middle aged Chinese man who works in finance back home. I’ve not really encountered many Chinese people so far in my travels, especially not at hostels. They’re usually on the big tour buses and stick together. He’s 4 weeks into a 6 week stint here... a short trip for him. His favorite was when he lived in Buenos Aires for a year. It was supposed to be 5 years, but learning the language was too hard and he went back home early. “What does your family think about you traveling?” I asked. “They think I’m crazy” he said.

I rode a bus over to an area known for it’s great money exchange rates. But I was confused about what I should do. All the locals kept coming up to me yelling “Cambio?!” and they would whip out these calculators trying to show me what they would give me in pesos for my US dollars. Well being the paranoid American that I am, I chose to exchange at a hostel. And those bisnatches only gave me 9 pesos for 1 dollar. The locals would have given me 13!!!!! Dangit. At any rate, I still felt really rich with 2700 pesos in my pocket.

Just kind of explored the hood a little bit, saw a beautiful cathedral and what looked like the town center with water fountains and statutes. Was soooo exhausted so took the metro back to my hostel to relax and get my bearings. That’s always the hardest thing about the 1st day of travel. Just learning the public transportation is a challenge. But they have a really great metro system here and tons of taxis, so I should be golden!

It was 5 pm and I was feeling hungry, where should I go to eat around here?! I asked my roommates. Oh no, it’s way too early they said. Restaurants close around 4 pm and don't re-open until 7-9 ‘ish. This is why you always pack stuff like tuna, peanut butter, and granola bars. So then they asked me what I was doing tonight, and I said I have no idea. Maybe go to a show until 10 pm or something? And they were like, nooooo the clubs don’t even open until 10 and go all night!!! So, I guess I better take a nap then J

The evening started with Indian food around 9:30 pm. Some of the best Indian cuisine I’ve ever had. “Mash Curry House.” A group of us from the hostel went over. Damien and Denise from Ireland were there. They’ve been working in Australia for 8 years now. Over there, ER’s are known as Casualties. Pretty dramatic, don’t you think?? They even have a show called “Casualty.” But it isn’t as good as “ER”, they said. And it doesn’t have George Clooney. Something I am learning about Argentina is, service is very slow here. So if you are in a hurry, don’t eat out anywhere. During the hour-long wait for dinner, I enjoyed my first taste of Mendoza region Malbec. Amazing! I overheard Kathleen talking about her cousins. “You have 86??!” I asked incredulously. “Oh no!! only 81.” Wow, I only have 4. The food was definitely worth the wait. Mounds of steaming, fluffy basmati rice. Raisin specked naan with sweet chutneys. And finally, the curries. Spicy, tangy, loaded with fresh veggies. Everyone I was with raved about it. Too much meat lately, they said.

It is now past midnight and we are getting ready to go out. I am definitely not used to this Argentinian timing. But I did take a 2 hour nap so…… we’ll see how it goes!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day #1. The Airport.

The problem with a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveling style is that important details are sometimes missed. For instance, Brazil requires a tourist Visa that takes about 2 weeks to get in the states and several days to expedite in South America. So yea… that’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow. Oh! And Argentina charges a $160 reciprocity fee, which is another thing you typically do in advance so you can print the paper with the bar code. Again, I was caught off-guard and had to trek over to the Miami Airport hotel to do that last minute courtesy of their front desk staff ($20 cash fee for this service – ain’t their first rodeo!)

But hey! I’m here, my backpack made the connection, and I still have 3 more hours until my flight. There were some celebrities on the plane earlier. The entire Connecticut Warriors college basketball team. I sat next to a gangly freshmen who said his position was “left bench.” Are you serious?? I asked, and he said he was kind of joking but not really as he looked sheepishly at the coach nearby.  “Well, umm, at least you get to learn a lot!” I sputtered, trying to make the air less awkward.

Spread my Rio map out and did some quick reading through Lonely Planet Brazil. Marked a few things that I really want to check out. Told the freshmen left bench player that he should treat himself to a nice long backpacking trip when college is over. Gave him a few words of sagely advice, hehe poor guy. I am definitely not a travel expert, but here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.

Heather’s List of Travel Tips:
  • Travel books are a garnish, not the main course. They’re great for maps, tourist attraction highlights, and the nitty gritty stuff like transportation and exchange rates. But if you want to eat the best food in town or chill at the coolest hangout spots, ask the locals. They will never (rarely) steer you wrong. Talk to other travelers about their favorite adventures. You will discover some hidden treasures.
  • Itinerary shminerary. I like to think of itineraries as extremely rough drafts. As in, have a list of the places you absolutely MUST hit up and explore, but don’t plan too far ahead. If you have lots of expectations, when those things don’t work out it leaves you disappointed and frustrated. Whereas, if you are more flexible, those little “surprises” can actually be awesome. Stephanie Gilmore, 6x world champ surfer, said it right. “It’s not the person who surfs the wave perfectly who wins, it’s the one who has the most fun!” She said something like that.
  • Pack light. I never do this. But you should. It will make life easier.
  • Bring a backpack inside a backpack. So you can have more room to bring stuff home!! (You’re welcome Melissa!) Plus some of the souvenirs will be delicate and you’ll want to carry them on. I know this doesn’t really go along with what I just said previously. 
  • Try not to bring anything you are super attached to. In fact, pack a couple neat things you can use on the trip and then give away before you leave – like a rad hat. The locals will be stoked! Before you put an item in your bag, ask yourself, “If this gets lost or stolen, will it shatter my heart??” And if you still want to bring it, at least put it in your carry on. I put my spectacular new Mikoh bikini (designed by Kelly Slater’s girlfriend ;) in my carry on because I would be GUTTED if it got lost!!!
  • Bring a big bag full of instant oatmeal packets. Easy, filling, fast breakfast that can be garnished with fancy things to make it less monotonous. Saves you lots of $$$ by making meals for yourself. My favorite thing though, is that by the end of your trip your bag is 5# lighter and you have a hole to now fill with more STUFF to take home!!
  • Buy a super thin cheapy Campmor rainshell that is 1 size too big. This gives you enough room to wear a daypack under it. While the other tourists are inside buying umbrellas and drinking hot toddies, you are charging fearlessly on through the storm... sightseeing, scootering, hiking... and your gear stays toasty dry.
  • Sedate yourself. For loooooong flights, my favorite recipe is: 1 Ambien + 1 glass red wine = drooling on arm/pillow/neighbors’ shoulder for 6-8 hrs. Warning: when you’re starting to feel sleepy, do close your eyes and refrain from engaging the neighbor in conversation. You won’t remember any of it, but trust me, they will for years to come :D
  • Write. Keep a small bound notebook with you to jot things down in as you go. If you keep writing contact info and other stuff on a million different little receipts and papers, half of them will disappear. I lost Allistair's e-mail (my favorite NZ Magic Bus driver) because of this and that was just a shame :/
  • Bring a pillow. That is my most exorbitantly space-containing luxury. But I sleep so much better with it!!! Especially if you’re hostelling it where the pillows can be suspect. And it makes those 9+ hour international flights so much more bearable.
  • Throw 2 more pairs of underwear in the bag. Just do it. You can scrape by wearing shirts multiple times…. But NOT underwear. And I refuse to turn it inside out like some people do!! One-time use only.
  • Break the ice. Talk to people. Smile. Ask someone a question they’ve NEVER been asked before. Push yourself. Get out of your shell and comfort zone. Have an open mind. Don’t judge things that are different. Get to know people’s stories. These are some of the richest experiences you will ever have in your life. 

That’s all I have for now! Bon voyage!

Plan: arrive in BA around 11 am tomorrow. Unload at the hostel and go to the Brazilian Consulate to apply for a Visa.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Starting a new blog ya'll.

Hi everyone!!! It's that time of year again! I'm embarking on another solo trip and will attempt to document my explorations through blogging! Hope you don't mind if I use the same one as last time. It's already set up, convenient, and I don't have to memorize another password. I know you all are groaning... like ohhh nooo not another one of Heather's long-winded accounts!! But my parents begged me to do it. Mostly because they know that's the only way they'll have a ballpark estimate of where I am :)

A little background info to get started. Whew! I'm feeling a little rusty here... haven't written anything other then research papers and study guides in a while. For those of you who don't know, I just devoted 2 1/2 years of my life to pure torture, AKA nurse anesthesia school. Ok, I exaggerate a little ;) But let's just say, I am sooooo glad that's over and I am ready to get back on the road again!

So to celebrate, I planned a little 5 week trip to South America. And by planning, of course I mean only the first few nights are booked and I have absolutely no clue what's happening after that.

It will all begin the day after Christmas in Buenos Aires. NYE will be spent basking in the sunshine of a Uruguay beach village. And from there, most of my time will be spent tearing up as much of the Brazilian coastline as I can squeeze in.

T minus FOUR DAYS!!!!! The night before I'm gonna be awake all night so excited... like back when Melly and I were little and we could never sleep the night before our road trip to Ohio to see Grandma. And mom would make us a bed in the back of the Ford Taurus wagon so we could rest cuz we had to get up at like 3 am. Wasn't that kind of illegal mom?? Anyways, I digress.

To do list:

-iodine tabs
-mace (do they let you check that in at the AP??) and/or brass knuckles
-an umbrella that doesn't collapse in 2 mph wind
-call Verizon and see if I have face time... is this an Apple thing only?
-hit up the ATM
-make wedge salad for Christmas dinner
-call mom & dad