South America Trip : FAQs

Q: Do you speak any Spanish?
A: A little rusty high school Spanish, we know enough to order food in any taqueria in California. We’ll be picking it up by necessity while we travel!

Q: Why South America?
A: Because, it’s there. Because we’ve never been there before. We wanted to go on a long trip, for 6 months, so the scope of South America seemed to fit. We personally know very little about South America, so it’ll be exciting for us to discover and experience it.

Q: Do you have an itinerary?
A: If you imagine South America as a clock face, we’re starting at 11 o’clock, in Columbia, and going counter-clockwise to end up at 3 o’clock in Brazil. We plan to visit Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, roughly in that order.

Q: How much planning have you done?
A: Surprisingly little. Celia spent a week reading through the Lonely Planet guidebooks for each country to get a sense of what we might be interested in seeing in each country. We did minimal research on the internet, just to see what visa requirements and health precautions applied to each country. We talked to some friends. (As I’m typing this, I just realized that I haven’t even looked up the weather forecast for Bogota, for when we will arrive.)

It’s very unusual for us to do so little planning for travel: I usually overplan. However, I think the luxury of having 8 months has made us slack off, that we don’t have the time pressure of a the usual two-week vacation. Then again, South America is a very expansive continent . . . . It’s also been busy with work, and then the move, and a couple of other trips, so it’ll be very novel for us to wing it!

Q: Do you know anyone there?
A: By luck and circumstance, our friends Carolina and Mike recently moved to Bogota, Columbia (where Carolina is from). So we’re landing on an alien continent into the welcoming embrace of friends. That’s incredibly reassuring as we start our long trip into the unknown. Celia’s cousin-in-law Simone is from Brazil, so we look forward to meeting her family there!

Q: Have you ever traveled for such a long period before?
A: Ten years ago, Joe and I took a 6-month trip through Asia. So some things we know to expect, like Celia getting tired of wearing the same four shirts over and over again. However, we were familiar with Asia, and have family there. This trip will be different, because for the most part we’ll be alone amongst strangers.

Q: What about your jobs?
A: We conceptualized this 6-month South America trip in 2010, after Joe liberated himself from his job. Joe has been patiently waiting for Celia to wrap up her most recent contract, which finished this past May. This South America trip is also a reward for Celia for the past 18 months of an intensely challenging gig. After we come back, we’ll be looking for work, since the bills will have to be paid!

Q: What are you doing with your house?
A: A month before our departure, we decided we would rent out our place while we were away. In that same month, we also went to Yosemite with Joe’s brother’s family (great fun!), and then drove a car for a friend who was relocating from the Bay Area to Maryland (also great fun!, since we’d never driven across country before). This short lead-time made it incredibly hectic and stressful, as we had to pack up and move everything out of the house into storage. The timing has been crazy, but we made our choices!

Q: Wow, 8 months traveling in South America, I’m so envious.
A: For most of our peers who are upright and responsible adults working at regular jobs, and raising their children to be likewise, this trip sounds like a fantasy come true. If we had children, we would probably wouldn’t be able to do this trip, But since we don’t have children, we are leveraging our flexibility to travel for long stretches. It does take a lot of work, organization and planning to make this work.

Now that the arrangements and logistics or leaving home are just about done consuming us, it’s finally kicking in: the trepidation, the impending homesickness, “OMG, why are voluntarily exiling ourselves?! Leaving our friends, family and home for 8 months and living out of backpack! Are we crazy?”
Hopefully the excitement of travel will kick in when we land, as it usually does.

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