Six months of travel wisdom

OR: Things I learnt. Some of these are really trivial, others are more meaningful. I am proud of every single one.

How to choose and book Greyhound tickets really efficiently.

How to keep track of my possessions

To be happy in my own company, at a restaurant,  bar, or show

To be (more) patient

To contort my body into the prime comfort position on bus and train seats

To not (completely) lose it when things go wrong

To spot a postbox at twenty yards

To determine someone’s level of craziness (and potential danger) within ten minutes

To act accordingly to maximise my own safety

What kind of people I want to spend my time with (not you, hostel drunkard!)

To speak and understand basic Spanish

To haggle (just about)

To take better photographs

To describe in words some of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen

To make good meals out of limited ingredients, sparse kitchens and the deadline of checkout to keep in mind

To complain less (or at the very least to realise that my complaints will be ridiculous to someone else) NB. Perhaps not having someone always there to complain to also helped.

To navigate my way around new cities and use local transport

To calculate currency conversions in my head

To budget effectively

To ask for what I want

To do what I want, when I’m worried about what other people think

To challenge my beliefs

To try new things; recklessly and relentlessly

To curb my materialism and think about the things I genuinely want to own

To read amazing books that inspire me to think in literature

To not get burnt!! Yes, it only took 24 years.

To realise what sort of place I want to live in

To meet people who completely change my mind

To shed a lot of inhibitions and concerns about privacy

To pee off the side of a boat,  behind a rock in the desert, or in doorless cubicles.

To sleep on buses, trains, floors, hammocks, a boat, airport and in tents and a luggage rack.

To carry everything that I need

To throw away the things I don’t

To treasure the parts of home I respect the most

Adios to South America

I‘m currently spending a few more lazy days in Cartagena before sailing across to Panama via the beautiful San Blas islands; after a little over six weeks, it‘s almost time to say goodbye.

My trip didn‘t originally include time in South America, but I‘m really glad I came. It is more different than I could have expected, leaving me continually surprised and inspired.

(Inside a mud volcano, just outside Cartagena)

The countries I visited remind me a lot of Zimbabwe, from the brands sold to the places they sell them, the colour of the grass, and the absurd weights people manage to carry.

My impressions of Brazil are obviously coloured by Carnaval – it would be nice to see what Rio is like during a more normal time of year – but it remains one of my favourite cities I‘ve visited. The Pantanal was definitely furthest outside of my comfort zone, and while the scenary and wildlife were simply amazing, I don‘t think I‘ll be heading back there.

(The geographic centre of the South American Continent in Cuiaba, Matto Grosso)

Into Bolivia and my first taste of Latin America; I saw such a range of urban and rural landscapes here. I saw, and then ate, my first llama (not the same animal!), witnessed the indigenous culture that is still alive and kicking, and started to see the same travellers in different places – I officially joined the Gringo Trail.

Peru saw me become more confident, in both getting around on my own, and in speaking Spanish. I took lessons in Cusco and have been chatting to locals as much as I can. The country is full of adventure, as well as jaw-dropping natural beauty, and I would definitely come back here.

And now Colombia! The heat is very welcome, and the pace of life slows way down. People here seem more relaxed – there‘s no shocked stares if you wear shorts – and there‘s also a larger mix of different ethnicities. After Bolivia and Peru, the variety takes a little getting used to.

I‘m very excited to see what Central America has to hold!