I headed out from Australia last year to travel in Latin America. After teaching for fifteen years in Asia, and many more years of teaching and other careers in the US, I was looking for a place to settle down. For a variety of reasons which should no longer need so much explanation, I had no plans to return to the States. I do love Asia, but it made sense to check out the western hemisphere. I had done research on a few places that seemed promising, but the trip was pretty open-ended, which is the way I generally travel.
I planned on taking about a year, and I spent just a bit less than that. Going into such an endeavor feels daunting, but, like everything else, it is just one foot in front of the other. The changes that happen aggregate and they are hard to appreciate except in reflection. A year. It seemed so much longer and yet now just feels like a distant little memory. I want to write here about it because otherwise it will evaporate like smoke, retrieved a bit in photos and flashes of memory. I will start at the beginning and try to retrace my steps.
In July 2015 I left my job in Bangladesh, not quite knowing what I would do next. The plan was to spend some time in Australia with a friend while I sorted things out. One of the things to be sorted was my Social Security. I was 67 and I had been planning to wait till 70 to retire. It seemed pretty straight forward, but in fact, due to some complications, I was told by Social Security administration that I should start collecting straight away, and in fact, I would get a lump sum payment for the last six months, and even then I would be losing 6 months. I should have retired at 66. So, surprise retirement!
So, with the promise of a princessly sum of $1300 and an incurable wanderlust, I started planning my trip. I’ll be talking about how I managed on that amount (in the end I did have to use some of my savings) but that was part of the test. I would have to be frugal and travel by bus as much as possible. I can say it is possible to do such a trip on that budget, it just takes a bit more frugality than I mustered.
My route took me first to the US to see family and friends. Then it was off to Medellin, Colombia, from there I had no real plan, but I ended up traveling slowly through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, took a side trip (!) to Guatemala, back to Peru, and then finishing up in Mexico.
I will start with Colombia, in Medellin, where I found how little I knew about what I was doing, and how very poor my Spanish is. I sometimes fear that I have traveled too much to get that mind-blowing first day in a new country feeling. But I was wrong.