Well, we’ve been away for almost a year and I have a few thoughts to share about my life on the road after being in the States a week ago.
1. Clean Panties! I carry seven panties and three bras with me. Wayne and I “officially” do laundry about every three weeks. That leaves quite a few days with the dreaded leftovers. I’ve spend a lot of time washing these items in the shower or sink, but there’s nothing like a good washing machine with hot water! BTW…hot water is a treat and very hard to find! I’ve taken way too many freezing showers.
2. Toilet paper! For the past year, I have carried toilet paper with me everywhere I go. You never know when you’ll need it (like hiking) or when the public or hostel restroom won’t provide it. My worst case scenario was the Nicaraguan hospital where I was a patient – everyone must provide their own! Really! Also, in Central and South America, the plumbing systems cannot handle toilet paper being flushed so it must be placed in the trash can next to the toilet. You can just imagine the smell and sometimes you get a nice visual that you weren’t expecting.
3. Bathrooms! Most places that we stay are clean and we always try to get a private bathroom, but public toilets are a lot to be desired. Wayne and I are always commenting when we walk out of fantastic bathrooms (probably only equivalent to McDonald’s in the States!) because it’s always so exciting to be able wash your hands with soap and have a cloth to wipe them dry. You still can’t flush your TP! The hike to Machu Picchu had the worst toilets on the trip. It was just a glorified hole in the ground where you have to place your feet in a certain spot so you don’t miss! Let me tell you, a lot of people miss! I won’t give the details as you can only imagine! Also, in Bolivia, I’ve never “exposed” myself so much due to squatting just about anywhere. This is what they refer to as “Baños Natural”. This pretty much means dropping my drawers on public streets right in the open in front of anyone. I would try to minimize the number of viewers, but there were always a few watching me.
4. The Gym and working out! Oh, how I’ve missed being able to go to the gym and go outside for a run. It’s really hard to find places to workout, especially in bigger cities. I don’t have much time during the day to make it across town to the nearest gym and a lot of places are a little dodgy for me to go alone. There are tons of stray dogs, narrow roads, bad drivers, and I don’t want to get lost. I’ve been doing Pilates online for 6 months, but it’s never the same as a good sweat! We did join a gym for 4 weeks in La Paz which was great even though the equipment was from the 80’s. See #1 for how my workout clothes smell.
5. Grocery Stores! In South America we’ve been able to get the most delicious fruits and vegetables. We usually shop at the markets and the selection is beyond your imagination. The stalls can go on forever and it’s like a maze to find your way around. However, I do miss how nice the grocery stores are at home. I spent some time in Kroger and Publix this week – everything is so clean and you can find exactly what you want. The grocery in South America is considerably more expensive than the ones in the States, hence the reason for shopping in the markets!
6. Travelling with my husband! We’re together most of the time which can be hard on anyone. We’ve probably had 4-5 huge fights where I’m going back to KY and he can continue travelling, but we make up pretty quickly and life is back to normal. I’ve always said if we can travel together and spend almost 24 hours a day together, then we can handle anything. I know that’s true now! This is the first time in a year that I haven’t seen him for 2 weeks and it’s been hard. I miss him!
7. Family and Friends! Luckily we’ve met some really nice people on the road that we now consider friends. Some are working, like me, and others are just travelling or vacationing. But, it still doesn’t replace being around my awesome family and friends at home. I sure do miss watching my nephews grow up. This is the hardest part of this adventure for me.
I wouldn’t change the last year of my life for anything. I’ve learned more history, geography, sociology and life lessons in the past year, than I’ve learned in my first 40 years. Most of the sites I’ve visited I couldn’t find on a map before, but now I feel like a South American travel expert. Wayne has forced me to do so many things out of my comfort zone and I’m so thankful for that. If I were making the decisions, we’d never go anywhere. If you read the United States travel advisories, you would never leave your front door which I was previously doing. I’ve learned to open my mind and accept new and exciting challenges and it’s been great!
While I’ll never love living out of a backpack and wearing the same smelly t-shirt and underwear for days in a row without a shower, I’ll always love travelling to new places. This has really been the adventure of a lifetime and I’m glad it’s not over yet!
Next stop – back to Costa Rica, then on to Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, maybe Suriname and the two Guineas, Ecuador, and to revisit some of South America that we missed first time around.