Summertime and the Living is Easy

The view from my Medellin apartment

Medellin, Colombia

Yes – I am alive!!

Thank you to everyone who has been asking when my next post will come out and apologies for my natural procrastination that has delayed it.

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been doing this crazy trip for so long and have simply gotten the hang of running around, or if it’s that each Latin American city isn’t as different from each other the way each European and African city I lived in for the first six month are, or if it’s combo of both, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve plateaued the past three and a half months — hence, my lack of blog posts.

At first I found this calm deeply disappointing, as if the thrill was gone, so I did a lot to fight it, but recently I’ve found an appreciation for the simple ‘living’ part of this trip and not just the excitement of ‘traveling.’

This plateau really started two months ago, in the middle of our Cordoba, Argentina stay. I’d had a great weekend with Barbara, Matt and Jimena in Mendoza and a fab weekend in the country with fifteen friends celebrating the 40th birthday of my BFF, Emily.  But with two and a half weeks left before the next move, I got super antsy. I felt like I would be wasting precious travel time sitting in this boring city.  So, I booked a solo trip to Chile.

It’s not that I’d been dying to visit Chile – I’d honestly never considered it before that month – but ever since we got to this continent and started the second half of our journey, we’ve all been talking about what we’re going to do at the end of Remote Year, so I felt the clock ticking and the pressure to DO something.

So, in less than eighteen hours from booking this trip, I arrived in Santiago. Within thirty minutes of checking into my hotel, I remembered that I hate solo travel. It’s lonely and I alway feel lost. Ya, I know, boo hoo, poor me.

Regardless, I went to all the places, saw all the things and finally met up with friends who were visiting the city on the morning of day four.

The Virgin Mary atop San Christobal Hill – Santiago, Chile
Palacia de La Moneda (the Presidential Palace) – Santiago, Chile
The changing of the guards – Santiago, Chile

That afternoon, I traveled to the port city of Valparaiso.  Two friends, Katie and Chris,  joined me the next day and we stayed in a funky hotel made of shipping containers. Again, we went to all the places and saw all the things. Exhausted, I flew back to Cordoba to pack and move with the group to Lima two days later.

View from my hotel room – Valparaiso, Chile
The Winebox Hotel – Valparaiso, Chile
Sitting in a ‘tree’ in the most graffitied city in the world – Valparaiso, Chile

*Just an aside: I love group travel days when all fifty of us transitions from one city to another! It’s always a massive pain in the ass getting packed and moved out by 9am on a Saturday morning and super disconcerting arriving late that night in the dark at your mysterious new apartment with selected-for-you new  roommates, but the in-between is super fun! Often, it’s the only time I see certain members of our group as we tend to scatter throughout each city. But on the last Saturday of every month, we gather at an airport, catch up, drink too much in the lounge and on the flight — occasionally getting cut-off by humorless flight attendants — laugh and reconnect. It’s juvenile and I just love it!

Ok, back to Lima. Lima is cool. It’s surprisingly the most cosmopolitan, American-like city we’ve lived in so far, with an outdoor mall set into the cliffside overlooking the Pacific, complete with a Banana Republic, Gap, TGI Fridays and a Chili’s. My apartment was modern and my roommates, Bridget and Tora (both Aussies) are good friends of mine. It was also the month of my birthday! But it felt very similar to to Buenos Aires, which lovely, but kinda repetitive.

As I was turning an unremarkable 51, I was feeling the slow slide to serious middle-age with nothing to look forward to. So, I decided to turn it around. I threw myself a “Reverse Quinceneara” where I pivoted and began making my way back to 15! With the help of my Latina friend, Jimena, I rented this beeeeeauuuutiful dress for $35, got myself a dashing escort by the name of Rufus Peabody, donned this sparkling tiara, danced with every boy in the room and had a freaking blast

The morning after.

Oh – I also went to Machu Picchu and drove quads around Peru’s Sacred Valley with Emily, Barbara and Bridget (from left to right).  That trip rocked!

An Aussie (Bridget), a German (Barbara) and two Yanks (Emily and me) trekked 15 whole feet to Machu Picchu!
Macchu Picchu!
And drove quads through the Sacred Valley!

It is now month #10 of the trip and month #4 in Latin America. We’re in Medellin, Colombia where the jungle (and yes, the drugs) are all around. So much so that guys we met were given a gram of cocaine by their landlord as an apology for their simple plumbing issue — like that was normal!  I guess I’ll be thinking twice before thanking someone with a basket of mini muffins in Medellin.

Narcotics aside, this is a beautiful city with a dark history that it’s working really hard to overcome. In spite of people like me writing things like the previous paragraph, they are doing a really good job of it. The place is booming! The people are friendly and very grateful for the recent influx of tourism.

It’s still a bit more of the same, but this time, instead of frantically running towards someplace else because I feel I should, this is the first month I don’t have a side trip planned. Honestly, there’s nowhere I’m dying to go from here — and I’m weirdly happy about staying put for a month. I’m realizing that there may be something to be said for visiting a series of similar cities after all, as I’m finally getting comfortable with the ‘living’ part of this adventure.

My apartment actually feels like home, so I feel less pressure to be running around the city. l I finally have working wifi in the living room so I’m not camping in my bedroom just to be online. It is open and airy and — though I’ve luckily had this every month so far — my roommates, Emily, John and Julia, are awesome.  A lot of the time we simply hang out watching The Amazing Race, drinking wine and eating McDonalds on our terrace with a fab view of Medellin. Then, John and Julia (both age 28) go out partying and Emily and I go to bed by 11:30!

I’ve also integrated into the local community more than I have previously by taking two weeks of daily Spanish classes at a local language school. For five hours a day I’m with people I’m not traveling with, which is new and strange. My classmates are from all over: Dubai, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them.

Getting my studying on at the Toucan Spanish School.
Class field trip to el mercado to try out our Spanish in the real world. I got an avocado.

Unfortunately, just like home, I’ve had some painful dental issues which have made me housebound for a few days, but just like home, I have a regular dentist who I see more than some of my travel mates.

So, ya, it’s summertime and the ‘living’ part of this journey has materialized and it’s surprisingly easy.

Check in with me next month to see if I still feel the same!

Till next time,

Loren

Loren’s HotFlashes:

Loren’s HotFlash #1:  It may be worth a trip to Latin America for medical and dental services as they are waaaaaaay less pricey than the US.  My friend, Megan, broke her leg in three places and needed surgery with an overnight hospital stay. Total price: $3,000 USD.  I got a dental implant, surgery on another tooth and 2 crowns. Total price: $2,500 USD.  Ka-Ching!

Loren’s HotFlash #2:  Unless you are a true foodie, the fancy, unidentifiable, ‘adventurous’ food at famous restaurants is a waste of $150+ per person. The meal I had at Central in Lima (#4 restaurant in the world) was fun and interesting, but seventeen courses of bite-sized ground ants and fish scales served in papaya foam and artisanal dirt from the Andes just isn’t worth it for someone like me who, if given her choice, would eat $2 dirty-water dogs (hot dogs from NYC street vendors) for lunch and $11.99 platters of fried bar food with Happy Hour cocktails six out of seven nights of the week.

Fried piranha skin! Kinda taste like fishy chips.
I have no earthly idea what this is.
… or this

Loren’s HotFlash #3:  Solo travel is great if you are happy with hostel life where you meet lots of new people or if you really enjoy alone time. Otherwise, it can be uncomfortable and lonely.  I’m just too old for hostels and, frankly, I’m out of deep thoughts, so all that ‘me time’ in a strange city simply leaves me feeling vulnerable, conspicuous and untethered in a way I never do being alone in my home city.

Loren’s HotFlash #4: There’s no whining in group travel! Though solo travel can be weird, group travel with the wrong people can be a disaster, so chose your crew carefully!  I’m soooo lucky to have always selected easy travel mates because the stories I’ve heard from others who have not are enough to make me want to stay home. If you’re the whiner (as I sometimes heard myself becoming at certain points: i.e. not being able to breath while walking home in Cusco), check yourself unless you want your travel companions to push you off Machu Picchu, or at least, never invite you on their trips again.

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It may as well be 1983

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