Sunday, September 15, 2013

A few travel observations on my 2 week Travelversary

I've been in South America for exactly two weeks now. In that span of time, I've managed to:
  • Visit two countries
  • Stay overnight in three different places (way more if you count naps on the bus)
  • Make several new friends
  • Lose my debit card and barter credit-card-purchased groceries for cash for survival
  • Go snowboarding, hiking, caving (the lite version), and scramble up several mountains
  • Survive a bout of diarrhea
  • Work off my Thesis Bauchlein (great German word for a little belly)
  • Learn a whopping handful of Spanish phrases, and learn to speak them poorly
  • Keep my 4 pairs of underwear relatively clean
When traveling, you expect to have stuff happen that is uncomfortable and/or unexpected, and you roll with it. But there are some surprising things I haven't managed to get used to yet. The biggest ones:

  • Spanish. I don't remember traveling without speaking the local language well being so difficult from past travels, but maybe it's because I've never done it alone before. It's taken me a full two weeks to stop being intimidated by just going to the store without a translator. My Spanish is way better than, for example, my Greek or Croatian or Polish, but I feel like I've had way more problems communicating with people here than I ever did while traveling around Europe. I'm trying to learn, but I've been stymied by my terrible memory compounded by my brain's bad habit of finding German words when searching for Spanish words that I've learned.
  • Throwing used toilet paper in the trash, not into the toilet. This is a required practice here in Malargüe, because supposedly the sewage system can't handle T.P. At first I found this extremely gross, then I reasoned it's no more gross than throwing used tampons in a trash can vs. the toilet. Still, old habits die hard and I keep praying my toilet doesn't overflow at some point from my occasional slip-ups. It already occasionally burps up unholy smells.
  • Dr. Bronner's. I remember it really being the magic soap while backpacking and camping in the past, so I brought a bunch with me to be my all-in-one shampoo, body wash, laundry soap, hand soap, etc. It only took 4 showers with it for my hair to start forming dreads. I'm tempted to run with it (plus it smells so good!), but I'm already almost out from doing sink laundry every few days...
  • Not having a desk. I never was one to do the whole "take the laptop to a cafe" thing, even if there were cafes with WiFi here or even if my battery would last long enough to get anything done. So the work I've done getting paper manuscripts revised, photos edited, and these blog posts written has been from sitting in bed, attempting the best posture I can manage, where I have some peace and quiet, power, and internet.
Nothing major, nothing serious, but interesting, the things that I didn't see coming, vs. the problems I expected. Travel...always an adventure!