The final part of our journey on the Big Blog Exchange was to write a manifesto of our experiences whilst overseas and what, if anything, we learnt whilst away. This is my uncut version. I hope you enjoy it………………
So I’m back in Melbourne suffering from the post travel blues, wishing I were still in Argentina. I had such an amazing trip and I’m still processing all the amazing things I did and saw and all the great people I met along the way.
So what did I get up to and what did I learn from this experience?
I was lucky enough to be away for 3 weeks in total so there will be plenty more blog posts coming about all the amazing things I did, and there were lots. But here’s a quick summery for you.
My first stop was Buenos Aires. A crazy hectic city that is full of life and you can find things to do anytime day or night. I stayed at the Hostel Suites Florida right in the centre of the city. First I went on a city tour which included areas like Recoleta, La Boca, the old port and the Casa Rosada, I went for tango lessons and then a tango show and dinner with Rosario, the Argentinian blogger from At Blue Heaven, I went to Rosario’s house for a traditional Argentinian asado (BBQ), I had drinks with the Hostelling International staff, I did a spot of shopping at the market in Recoleta, and I went to the Recoleta cemetery were I saw the grave of the legendary Eva Peron (Evita).
I then headed off on the long bus journey (21 hours) to my next stop at the very north of the country, Iguazu. I stayed at the Hostel Inn Iguazu, which was just out of town and even had a swimming pool! Here I got to see the magnificent waterfalls from both the Argentina and Brazil sides, I also did a boat and safari tour on the Argentinian side, went to an animal sanctuary where I got to see a toucan, and saw three countries (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) in one view from the Trois Frontiers.
I then flew back to Buenos Aires, and back to the Hostel Suites Florida, and did some domestic stuff like laundry, I then went to the leather area in BA called Murillo 666 where I managed to get myself an amazing leather jacket, I went for another asado with the Hostelling International staff this time it was outdoors at the Naval Club in Olivos, I went to San Telmo and shopped at the market and watched tango dancing in the square whilst enjoying a beer, I then went off to Colonia in Uruguay for the day, one the way I met a Brazilian guy and we spent the day together looking at all the amazing old buildings, that night when back in Buenos Aires I went to Club One – a giant nightclub – with friends I’d met at the hostel. The next day we all went for a beautiful lunch to cure the hangovers, and I then met up with the lovely Agostina to go around the MALBA art gallery. I then went off to discover the El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookshop with Erick, a fellow travel blogger I met at the hostel. This is possibly my favourite bookshop in the world – it’s set in an old theatre and is quite simply stunning, and definitely the best place to catch up on blog posts.
That night I again headed off on the bus to Mendoza. The company was Andesmar and we played bingo, which I somehow managed to win and scored myself a bottle of wine as the prize. When I arrived in Mendoza after 14 hours on the bus, I checked into the Hostel Suites Mendoza, and then went off on an afternoon winery tour where I got to sample and buy some amazing wine from the region. We also stopped off at the olive oil factory and I got a few bits and pieces from there too. The next day was the Alta Montana tour, a day tour up to the mountains and the border of Chile. This was an amazing trip which ended with a walk in the snow around the Aconcagua mountain which had some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
I was supposed to go white water rafting the next day but the river levels were too low so instead I organised a bike tour around the wineries with the various friends I’d met around the country and who luckily had all arrived in Mendoza at the same time. This was not only a chance to sample more wine, but was a hilarious trip on bicycles around the wineries. Luckily it was only 3 or we may have not been too steady on the bikes after that.
That night I took the bus back to Buenos Aires and back to the Hostel Suites Florida. When I arrived I headed back to Recoleta and had a great lunch in the café overlooking the market with Dorcas, a lovely lady I met at the hostel. We then did some more shopping around the market before heading back to the hostel and heading out for the night on the pub crawl with Alejandro and Guido. This was everything I hoped it would be and more. It was a great night out to three bars and one nightclub on the crazy train with a great group of people from the hostels.
The next day was my last in Argentina so it was spent nursing a bit of a hangover, buying a new suitcase, packing up all my shopping and clothes and then a great dinner for my last night with Dorcas and Erick. The next morning I headed off to the airport to start the long trip home back to Melbourne.
So more important that what I did whilst away is probably what did I learn?
I can’t say that this trip changed my view on the world as such. I’ve travelled a lot already so this wasn’t the first time I’ve been somewhere foreign on my own. But there were a few things that I did discover/remember or become aware of.
Jet lag will always get you no matter what you do. As much as I thought I’d escaped it, I really didn’t. It wasn’t so bad going to Argentina but coming home it’s hit me hard and a week after arriving back I’m still only just getting over it. Jet lag for me means my brain does not function as it should, simple things become very hard, I zone out a lot, and generally I’m just slow. I think the 16 hour time difference and god knows how many time zones I crossed made a big difference this time.
No matter where you are in the world, or what the language is in the country you are in, if there is a TV on then people will always congregate around it and watch it, no matter what the program is or the language its in. In the case of Argentina it was a lot of football. Everyone would hang out together in the lounge area of the hostel and watch whatever team was playing and even pick sides. I will still laugh when I hear the announcer scream after a goal is scored – the word Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllll that seemed to go on forever. And poor Alejandro from the hostel, who’s team never quite seemed to win – despite an amazing penalty shoot out that seemed to last forever.
Whatever language someone is speaking, you always know when they are telling someone to F**k off. And for some reason it seems to be the first thing you remember in that language too. Why is it that swear words are so easy to learn and remember?
It doesn’t matter if I don’t speak the lingo, I can always make myself understood with my version of pigeon English and sign language. My serious lack of Spanish did have it’s issues but I always managed to get what I needed in the end and always managed to barter to get the price I wanted. I even managed to pick up the odd phrase and words along the way too. I’m still saying ciao ciao to people when I leave!
I think above all else, it was the people that I met on the trip that made it what it was. The first couple of days were good, but it wasn’t till I met people to hang out with that the trip started to take life and I started to have an even better time. It’s these friendships and random days or nights out together that in years to come I will remember about this trip more than anything else.
Dancing tango with Rosario and then meeting all her friends and going out to a nightclub and dancing to cumbia music. She’s such a sweet girl and I loved being able to meet the blogger I was swapping countries with. She made me feel so welcome and I really appreciated the effort she went to include me in things.
The drinks and the asado with the hostelling international staff, Silvana, Agustin, Andres, Leticia, Yaniis, and of course my HI Argentina contact, Cristian, who organised my trip for me, put up with all my changes and suggestions, answered any questions I had, sorted any problems I had out with ease, took me to the black market to get my money changed at a better rate for me, cooked a mean asado and put on a fantastic night out and is definitely a great asset to the hostelling international team.
Then there were the travellers I met. First was Sheila who I met on the flight from Melbourne to Sydney and kept me company all the way to Santiago before she headed off to Brazil. She was heading home to tell her parents she is engaged to an Aussie, that she met on a Contiki tour in Europe and is moving to Melbourne (can’t wait for her to arrive in November). Then there was Erick the travel writer who is in Buenos Aires for a month to learn how to tango so he can write about it for his book. He also applied to be part of the Big Blog Exchange but didn’t win unfortunately but it was funny to come across him in the hostel. I had a great time spending days hanging out and nights out dancing, and then laughing at his drunkenness and his obsession with Michael Flatley. On the boat on the way to Colonia, I met Everton, a Brazilian guy who lives in Buenos Aires. We spent an hilarious day together in Colonia exploring the old town in our golf cart that we rented to shelter us from the rain, and that I almost crashed when I forget to put on the handbrake. It was definitely the company that made that day which would have otherwise been a bit cold and dreary. Then there was the amazing Irish couple Emer and Sean who were always up for a good night out clubbing or a good meal. I met them in the hostel in Buenos Aires but then they were in Mendoza at the same time and we had a laugh on the winery bike tour together, and then an amazing lunch after to soak up the wine before I headed off. The husband and wide team, Sumita and Gautam, who are travelling the world together for a year, and who make love and travel look easy and so much fun. In Iguazu I met up with 3 girls from Ireland who were travelling together, Lynda, Tracy and Sally, we had a great night in the hostel chatting, then I ran into them in Buenos Aires in the MALBA art gallery. We then met up again in Mendoza and they came on the winery bike tour too. They are now in Melbourne and we’ve already caught up for rum cocktails and a gossip. Finally there was Dorcas, the New Yorker who is originally from Puerto Rico, who was as big a shopoholic and party girl as me. We spent some great days and nights together in Buenos Aires. There were others that I met – too many to name everyone – including the staff at the hostels, Jezebel at the Hostel Suite Mendoza who I spent most nights hanging out and chatting with, and especially all the guys and girls at the Hostel Suite Florida, who by the end were like family I’d been there so long. They were all amazing and helpful and I miss seeing their smiling faces every morning.
So I suppose I did learn something on this trip. You can be anywhere in the world and see so many things, but it’s the people you meet and the relationships you have with those people that make the trip what it is. I will remember the crazy funny nights out and random days I spent with people more than anything else. I also realise that I will literally talk to anyone when I am away, which I will say is a good thing. Even when we couldn’t speak the same language I managed to have conversations with people on the buses, taxi drivers, people in shops, or just people I ran in to along the road. Despite everything that has happened in my life over the last few years, I’m glad that I haven’t lost that attribute. That I’m not afraid to strike up a conversation with someone no matter who they are or where I am. I’m obviously careful and safety conscious, you have to be when travelling, but I find a smile and an attempt to be polite and chat is usually all it takes to make a friend, whether a temporary one in passing or ones that I will hopefully stay in touch with for years to come.
A massive thank you again to Hostelling International in the UK and especially in Argentina for such an amazing trip. The Big Blog Exchange was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and one that I am so glad I got to take part in.