Hiking the Mt. Fitzroy Range

Niki and I eventually met up with Jason and Mary Kay. We spent a day running errands in El Chalten. El Chalten is a really cute, but touristy mountain frontier town. From what I understand, the town has only really been around for 16 years, as Chile and Argentina have on-going disputes for the land here in Patagonia. Argentina simply beat Chile to the race to lay claim to Mt. Fitzroy and quickly built up El Chalten. We ate good food and prepped for our camping trip. The plan was to hike 3 hours each day, making our second day very relaxing. We started hiking late (7:40pm) our first day and intended to arrive to our first campsite while it was still daylight, before 11pm. Well, we meant to do a loop, in the shape of a triangle. Instead of going along the “hypotenuse” of our trek’s triangle, we walked the wrong way out of town. By 11:20pm, we had our headlamps on and couldn’t figure out why we were walking along two lakes, so decided to just turn around and camp for the night by the lake, despite the park ranger telling us to only camp in designated campgrounds. It turns out we had a beautiful setting for our first night and I’m glad we went off course!

The next day, we back-tracked and went to a viewpoint of Cerro Torre, even though the needle tops were enshrouded in clouds. Then, we retraced our steps to our campsite, had lunch and went to our next proper campsite, which was our intended location for our first night. I had wanted to get up at 3:30am to view the alpenglow on Mt. Fitzroy, but had a cold, which unfortunately encouraged me to ignore my wake up call and sleep a few more hours. At 9, we hiked up to the Mt. Fitzroy viewpoint, which, if lacking in early morning light, was made up for by a crisply blue sky that provided a stricking contrast to the rocky spire of Mt. Fitzroy. It was stunningly beautiful.

The only thing that detracted from the experience was the constant slew of horseflies that buzzed incessantly in our ears. And so it was that hiking the Fitzroy range turned me into a villainous murderer. I felt like a 7 year old boy, taking pleasure in killing fly after fly, if only for reciprocity for the extreme annoyance that they provided all the hikers.

Torres del Paine

I arrived in Punta Arenas Chile very early in the morning and waited for my friend, Niki to arrive. Once she arrived, we took the bus to Puerto Natales, which is the base for trekking in the nearby Torres del Paine National Park. Niki had suggested that we do this hike shortly after we completed the Annapurna Circuit a few years ago and I’m glad she recommended it! We spent the day renting gear, figuring out logistics and buying food.

We had wanted to hike the full circuit, but due to time constraints, we opted just to do the more crowded, and more popular ‘W’ trek. We hiked west to east. Our first day, we took a catamaran across a beautiful turquoise lake, which we later learned would be dotted throughout the park. It was somewhat of a contrast – riding on a boat on waters that reminded me of the ocean around Indonesian islands, and yet, there were massive, glacier- covered peaks looming in the background. We met up with a really sweet Dutch girl, Moniek, and after lunch, hiked up to Glacier Grey. The hike was beautiful and the moment I enjoyed most was coming to the crest of a hill, looking out, seeing a beautiful turquoise lake with a massive glacier field at the far end of it. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before and I thought it to be quite stunning.

Winds were intense. In fact, the wind is quite brutal in all of Patagonia. Trees grow looking wind-blown, that is how fierce the wind can be. At one mirador (viewpoint), we stopped to take pictures of the glacier and each other. I was wearing a backpack and probably all-in, weighed maybe 165 or so pounds. At one point, I jumped straight up and landed about 6 inches in front of where I had lifted off. That is how intense and strong the wind was. Our hike continued until we reached a nice viewpoint where we were able to see the glacier even closer. We hiked back and returned to camp at 9:20pm. The cool thing is that this is the further south I have ever been during the month of December and the sky is still a bit light at midnight. So, returning to camp at 9:20pm meant that the sun was still up, which is a little trippy.

The next day, we hiked up the middle section of the ‘W’ into an area called the French Valley. It was a cloudier day, but the coolest part of this day’s hike was that we saw a peak with large glaciers on it. You could hear the glacier moving and cracking. We were lucky enough to watch a section of the glacier crack and fall off the mountain. I was able to catch part of this quasi-avalanche on video. This glacier fed into a river that we walked along. Oh, that’s the other really neat thing. Water around here is pure as glacier melt – literally. I haven’t bought water in well over a week, as when I’m low on water, I just dip my Nalgene in the river. I love being able to do that!

The third day was the most difficult day of hiking for me, as I woke up in intense pain during the night. I have had a pinched nerve somewhere in the upper left quadrant of my back for months now. Months ago the doctor told me that it resulted from sitting (and let’s be honest, slouching) all day (yay office jobs!). Carrying 2 backpacks for the past two weeks has probably somewhat

exasperated the problem and hiking the ‘W’ was just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I woke up in the night in the most intense, piecing pain I have ever felt. I felt paralyzed because I literally couldn’t move. I wanted water and would try to lift my head 3 inches and I would collapse back on my mat in pain. I was really nervous and scared because I really felt paralyzed in that the pain was so intense, I literally couldn’t move. I wanted water and couldn’t drink it ’til the morning when Niki woke and could get it for me. I also was really afraid of my ability to leave and hike. I managed to fall back asleep and when I woke, Niki helped massage my back, which helped enough for me to be able to move. Standing up was better and I was able to walk, gaining mobility as time went on. We packed up and hiked on. On the way, we passed a Korean tour group and stopped them asking if anyone had a painkiller stronger than Ibuprofen. There was a doctor who was able to tell me that my back wasn’t broken (I knew this) and then lifted my bag and said, “too heavy”. Then, EVERY single person in the group lifted my bag and said “ohhh!!”. One man gave me some orange painkillers. I have no clue what they were but definitely needed something strong. They must have helped, as we were able to finish hiking without an issue.

The next night, I was afraid to go to bed, thinking I’d wake up in severe pain again, but all was well. We did the last section of the ‘W’. Niki’s knee was inflamed from an earlier injury, so she ended up having to rest halfway and I continued up to see the towers. It was a stunning backdrop and a beautiful setting. All-in-all, the ‘W’ is a beautiful hike; it’s short, not too difficult. We did hike between 10 and 15 miles each day, but it’s manageable. There were refugios along the way, where people could opt to stay in private rooms or dorm rooms and hot showers and meals were available. We camped (it was MUCH cheaper), but did have 2 meals at the refugios, which made this the most flash-pack-y of a backpacking trip I have ever done.

Then, we made it back to Puerto Natales where we began to realize just how difficult it is traveling in Patagonia around Christmas. We were supposed to meet up with two friends on Christmas Eve, but due to transportation limitations, we had to move on to El Calafate today and will have our friends meet us here in a few days. We were lucky to get on a bus. Buses fill up days in advance here and we were only able to buy bus tickets for both us and our friends because of cancellations. We got lucky in that regard. So, we’ll see what is available to us on Christmas Day, but I think I’ve learned my lesson about traveling on a tight schedule around Christmas in a Catholic country….

Oh, and it is really cool to be so far south and have it be light so late. It’s still somewhat light ’til midnight (barely though), so I took this photo one night before bed when it was still plenty light out. I hope everyone back home is having a good time celebrating Christmas with your families! I am thinking of home and miss my family dearly. Feliz Navidad!

Niagra on Viagra: Iguazu Falls

Ahh, Iguazu Falls. Hands down, the most impressive natural wonder I have ever seen. Yes, it’s touristy, but right or wrong, the most impressive places on earth usually are – and in this case, for good reason.

I flew with Steph, who I met in Punta del Diablo, and we had hoped to go to the Brazilian side on our first day and the Argentinian side on our second day. In the end, we only went to the Argentinian side – both days. We inquired and were told we would have to pay the $150 visa for entering Brazil, and for a few hours, it certainly wasn’t worth it. Later, we talked with a German guy who told us the Brazilian side wasn’t nearly as good. Plus, what we saw on the Argentinian side was breathtaking enough.

We went on the boat ride – which takes you fairly close to the falls and that was an exhilarating, if very wet ride. The rest of the time we were at the park (we went twice, because it’s big enough to warrant about 5-7 hours there and we only had a few hours our first day), we walked on the various “trails” and just stared at the beautiful enormity that is Iguazu Falls. I highly, highly recommend checking this place out.

A video of Devil’s Throat

Uruguayian beaches

Ahh, Punta del Diablo. Everything that La Paloma wasn’t. Sandy roads, a handful of small cafes and restaurants, beautiful beaches with waves for surfing, occupied hostels. I read somewhere that this town is akin to a Thailand beach town from a 1970s Lonely Planet. I wouldn’t know, but it was a great place to relax for a couple of days. Shortly after I arrived, a foursome arrived at the hostel and I started chatting with them and asked the typical traveler questions – “where are you from?” Much to my pleasant surprise, they were from Denver!

The next few days were pleasant – spent with various groups of travelers and consisted of laying on the beach, eating seaside empanadas, drinks in the bar at night. I haven’t exercised on this entire trip, so my 2nd day in Punta del Diablo, I tried renting a surf board with a Canadian that I met. All boards were rented (it’s a small town), so in lieu of surfing, she and I and a British guy did some circuit training on the beach. My time here was mostly uneventful, although two Brits nearly drowned my first day. They were messing around in the water and got caught in a riptide, started panicking and from both their versions of the story, they thought they were nearly on their last breath. Fortunately for them, a surfer swam over to them and was able to rescue them. Then, my last night, one of the servers tripped just outside a glass door and crashed through the glass door and cut herself up.

That night, the Denverites initiated a beach bonfire. 11 bundles of wood, some really, really awful wine (I don’t recommend the “Tannat” variety of grape…), we had a party. A few Uruguaians joined us with a 4 string guitar and we sang the typical songs everyone in the world seems to know – I’m Yours, Hotel California, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Wonderwall, etc.

The next day, I headed to a small place called Cabo Polonio, recommended to me initially by a college classmate. The way others described this place made it seem so unique it couldn’t be missed. To get to Cabo Polonio, we took a bus, which dropped us off on the side of the road, where these large 4×4 trucks were waiting. After a 20 minute ride through sand dunes and along the beach, we arrived in Cabo Polonio. It was pretty cold, the sky was gray and the wind was blowing and it reminded me of a sparsely populated area of Maine or Maritime Canada. We arrived (I was with the 4 Denverites) and decided to rent a shack rather than stay in one of the 3 hostels. The entire town is without electricity and the main attraction is candle-lit dinners, decent surfing and Uruguay’s second largest sea lion colony.

We ambled around town – there are no property lines – houses are seemingly randomly built anywhere. We walked along the shore and spent a long time watching the sea lions, which I found to be incredibly entertaining. Just off the coast of this small seaside village is an island, completely full of sea lions and while walking around town, it sounds like there’s a great party going on – just around the corner, but it’s the sea lions barking up a storm on their own exclusive island. It’s almost hard to describe this place, so I hope the pictures do it justice.

The tricky part was finding our cute rustic little cabin at night. We paid attention to the landmarks that we could on our way into town, but in the darkness of night, we got lost. There are no roads, no street lights, no house lights. After stumbling around for a bit, we eventually found our house.

I had arranged for a 6:45am bus from the road outside of Cabo Polonio to eventually get me back to Montevideo so I could catch the ferry back to Buenos Aires. I was told to simply show up in the sandy “plaza” at about 6am and a dune-buggy truck would arrive. Well, that didn’t happen until 7:30 and I was worried that I would miss my bus to Montevideo. However, I got lucky and my connecting bus was late, so I made it to Montevideo without further ado. I did however, get to watch a stunning sunrise, which was well worth it.

Next up is a couple of days in Iguazu Falls on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side!

Punta del Diablo (the dark clouds are from a nearby fire)

Punta del Diablo beach

Cabo Polonio

Sea lions!!

Our rustic little cabin

Gray sky over the beach at Cabo Polonio

Morning sunrise over Cabo Polonio (you can see the lighthouse to the right)


I took an overnight bus from Mendoza to Buenos Aires and immediately headed to the ferry terminal and caught a ferry to Colonia, Uruguay and then a bus to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I initially planned on heading straight to the beach, but realizing that I had more than enough time here, decided to hunker down for the night in Montevideo. I wandered around the city with two Canadians that I met on the bus from Colonia to Montevideo. We had probably my best meal here yet. One guy got a steak that looked absurdly good and the other and I shared a paella. I’d have preferred steak, but he was jonesin’ for some paella and it was a dish for two. And it was good and I’m always happy to eat fresh seafood.

The day was fairly relaxing, which I needed after 24 hours of bus-ferry-bus travel.

We cooked dinner in the hostel and stayed up to 2am talking, and as I fell asleep around 3am (very early for this part of the world, mind you), the local Argetinians and Brazilians staying in the hostel were still partying quite loudly. I imagine they left around 4am to go to the bars and ambled back around 10am, which was when I woke up for breakfast.

I left for the bus terminal and headed to La Paloma. At the bus terminal, I bought some Pringles for my ride and as I got my change back from my $200 Uruguayian note, I realized that my precious Pringles cost me $7. In a country that not only has soap, toilet paper, and paper towels in every bathroom, but also allows you to flush your toilet paper down the toilet, I suppose I should have expected some dearer prices, but my goodness!

I arrived in La Paloma and was honestly, pretty disappointed. My hostel in Montevideo recommended a cabana by the beach. It sounded perfect and the price was right. As the bus left me in the dust at the side of the road, I wandered across the street to a campground and was shown my “cabana.” Unfortunately undeveloped experiences are somewhat lost on me, since I don’t speak the language and honestly, this campground wasn’t so different from an American one. I walked along the beach and to the center of town hoping to find surfers galore, but the beaches were mostly deserted (but not in the cool, beautiful Indonesian kind of way) and the town, more or less a ghost town. So, I decided I would rest up, leave in the morning and head to a different beach. I took advantage of not being able to communicate with anyone by going to bed early and catching up on some much needed sleep!

La Paloma campground:
La Paloma beach:

RV at the beach:

A few random observations

Riding on a bus in the middle of the night through the Pampas, I’ve realized how similar to the American Midwest this is. It’s vast and flat. There are John Deere stores in every town we pass through and the towns seem to have a laid-back Midwestern, albeit Argentinian, quality to them. Houses are modest, but generally include a garage and often, neatly manicured lawns. Cars are parked outside the homes in the sleepy residential areas and the vibe seems very congenial. And, of course, at 11pm, the streets are not barren of people – most people are probably just heading home for dinner!

The other thing that I love is that there are dogs everywhere! But, they’re pets, not street dogs. And in Buenos Aires, walking around during the day, I think I passed about 5 dog walkers with no less than 10 dogs each in the span of an hour. Apparently, dog-walking is all the rage in Buenos Aires. In other areas, the dogs aren’t leashed and seem content roaming freely. But, it does make me miss Wilco dearly.

This country also seems to be very family-oriented, which I like. People here seem to adore their children and both men and women are quite doting and attentive to their children.

All people greet each other with a wide grin and a kiss on the cheek – regardless of gender.

All in all, this is a very civilized and developed nation and aside from North America, Europe and Australia, is the most western country I’ve been to. But then again, one of first comments in my trusty Lonely Planet is “Forget everything you’ve heard about the challenges of travel in South America. Argentina is different. It’s easy.”
I don’t know how well you can see it, but this container of chips made me laugh – it’s American made complete with English, but they slapped a sticker on it in Spanish, and then put a yellow sticker to cover up the words “Gluten free.” I’m guessing by the amount of bread they eat here, there aren’t too many gluten-sensitive people.

Mendoza, Maipu and Malbec

Mendoza was great! If you know anything about me, you know that I love red wine, and Malbecs in particular. Spending time in the vineyards of Mendoza was definitely on my culinary (err…. booze-y) bucket list. The first day, I visited two wineries and an olive oil farm, which was more focused on the tours than the tastings. After a casual touring of the Maipu region (just south of Mendoza were the wineries are), I went back to the hostel and went out to dinner with 7 others. We went to an all-you-can eat buffet restaurant where we sampled Argentinian barbeque, pasta and salad. I’d probably say it was akin to a Ponderosa in terms of quality, but it was reasonably priced and convenient for 8 people.

The next day, our group somehow tacked on 4 more girls, and 12 of us hopped on the bus and headed south to Maipu. We rented bikes from Mr. Hugo and were promptly greeted with very healthy pours of wine. We eventually got on our bikes in search of a winery. However, after biking for 10 minutes, we decided we were hungry, and had lunch at a beer garden in the middle of some vineyards. It was relaxing and good. We finally visited two wineries and focused more on the tasting than the tours. The wine was good, the setting was beautiful – sitting on a second floor terrace with views of vineyards to the east and the Andes to the west. We finally ambled back to Mr. Hugo’s where copious amounts of free-flowing (and free!) wine greeted us. Below is a wine glass (duh) in the vineyards of Maipu.

I was excited, because we passed by a bodega (winery) called Traipche and I’ve had their wine in the states, so that was pretty cool to see a brand that I recognized. Below is a picture of the Traipche vineyards.

I’ve learned that the Mendoza region is home to over 1,200 wineries and the environment is great for grapes, as the soil is dry, it hardly rains and yet, fresh Andean water is pumped in to water the plants as needed. The city of Mendoza, though it is technically in the desert, has aqueducts running alongside every street. Given that every street is tree-lined, you’d never guess.

At one bodega, on our tour, they asked if we knew the difference between corks and synthetic corks. I correctly answered that there is no difference and that synthetic is even better as wine can’t get “corked” and can stay fresh longer. The conversation, however, reminded me of a funny SNL clip – Cork Soakers. Go to Hulu and type in “SNL cork soakers”. I promise you will laugh. Below is a picture of our assembled group of 12 at our final winery of the day.

The next day, I spent some time in the park watching the runners and walkers and bikers and regretted not bringing running shoes. Biking from winery to winery doesn’t quite count as exercise. But, I think hiking in Patagonia should right my gluttonous wrongs of the past few days. Then, I took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, my bus did not have free wifi, as my first one did. It instead provided an opportunity to download pictures, read, and most importantly, sleep!

Ahh yes, that’s probably also worth mentioning. Meal times. Lunch is typically between 1 and 3pm. Dinner is eaten typically around 11, but you can eat as early as 9pm if you want. My last night in Mendoza, for instance, I ate dinner at 11, but it wasn’t filing enough, so at 2am, a few of us went to grab a pizza across the street. I am always one of the first to bed – and I’ve been going to bed at around 2:30am. This country is exhausting me. I don’t know how Argentinians can stay up so late, party so hard, AND maintain normal working hours; I haven’t figured out when they sleep just yet.

Next up is relaxing on the beach and surfing in Uruguay!

Buenos Aires to Mendoza

I landed in Buenos Aires in the morning and decided to rest my head in the leafy, tree-lined neighborhood of Palermo, which turned out to be a great choice, as this area has some great restaurants, and Argentina has a reputation for some good food.

My initial observations are that everything here is REALLY, REALLY expensive (except the wine). Granted, I’m used to traveling in places like Southeast Asia and India, where the average price I paid for a room at night was $3 and a meal was about the same price. I’m currently on a ~16 hour overnight bus ride to Mendoza and the price for a one way ticket is nearly $100. Just a little more than I had bargained for, but I’ll make up for the prices by drinking more wine. 🙂

The other interesting thing is that roughly 95% of the population is of European descent, so for once in my life (other than while in Europe), I look like just another white Argentinian. And, if I’m not walking around with both backpacks, I apparently look like a local, judging by the number of times I’ve been asked for directions thus far.

I arrived in Mendoza and visited two wineries and one olive oil farm. As I adore Malbecs, this region is such a treat for me. I even learned some new wine facts today, such as a rose (well at least the one we sampled today) is made from malbec grapes, and has a pink color only because the skins are kept in the wine for a very short amount of time. And champagne can also be made from malbec grapes, but the skins are removed while the champagne ferments (hence, the lack of pink or red-ish tone).

I like Mendoza. It’s about as far from the mountains as Denver is, but the mountains feel about 4 times taller – literally. The city is a bit more relaxed than Buenos Aires and I really like my hostel. I will put some pictures up soon, but felt that I should post something before long.

The next adventure: South America!

I only write in this blog when I’m traveling and that’s just what I’m about to do. I leave on Saturday for 1 month in South America. I’ll be spending time in Argentina and Chilean Patagonia. I might swing by Uruguay and I might visit the Igazu Falls, in which case, I’ll cross the Brazilian border.

I will post updates occasionally and will post on Facebook when the blog has been updated.
I’ll also be meeting up with 2 friends – Niki, who I spent a LOT of time with in SE Asia two years ago and a new friend, Mary Kay, from Denver. I’ll be alone for the first 2 weeks, then with Niki for 1 week and then with Niki and Mary Kay for the last week.
I’ll miss my Denver friends, my dog Wilco, and am sad to be spending my first Christmas away from my family. So, while I journey on, Merry Christmas to all!

Final Thoughts

So now I’m on my way home, flying over the Pacific as I type. I honestly can’t believe how quickly these past few months have passed, but on the other hand, I feel so fortunate to have experienced so much in such a short period of time. I just finished watching a movie on the plane – a nice, no-brainer chick-flick and there was one line it that really resonated with me. It basically said that life is half what you do with yourself and half about who you spend your time with. I can’t iterate enough how much my personal experiences were shaped (mostly for the good) by the people I was with. Had I done this trip completely alone, it’d have been awful. But as I’ve said before, and I’ll say again – that’s the best part of traveling – meeting people.

In the past 109 days, I’ve taken 2 overnight plane flights, camped on a beach for 2 nights, spent 5 nights on bus, took 2 overnight train rides and slept in 59 different beds (yes, I counted). I’ve taken 18 separate flights (well, by the time I get back to Chicago). I can’t even count the number of buses, tuk-tuk rides, rickshaws, motorbike rides, etc that I’ve taken. I walked 150 miles in 14 days, trekked to 5416 meters, rock climbed in Thailand, surfed in Bali, climbed south east Asia’s tallest mountain, white-water rafted in Bali, saw orangutans in the jungle, climbed a sulfur-spewing volcano in Sumatra, experienced new cultures, met amazing new friends, saw beautiful sunrises and sunsets, relaxed on the beach in “paradise,” did yoga in India, discovered new food, and through it all, had such an amazing time.

My time over the past 3.5 months was divided between Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Nepal, India and Thailand. I think it’s interesting to note that the 3 wealthiest countries (that I visited on this trip) are Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. I noticed a few differences between the wealthier countries and the poorer ones. For one, the wealthier countries tend to have more cars, whilst the poorer ones either rely more on motorbikes or foot for transportation. The other difference, which I find quite notable, is that in the wealthier countries, women play a very visible role. They have jobs and interact with the public. They are seen out at night – sometimes even alone. In Indonesia, Nepal and India, local women are seen from a bus window, or seen in groups, or seen with families, but they don’t run shops, they rarely interact with tourists and they’re hardly ever seen after the sun goes down. In most places, it’s ok being a western woman (sometimes alone) at night, but India, it just doesn’t feel safe. That’s probably due in part to the “staring” culture that’s more noticeable than anywhere else I’ve been. It’s just interesting, because I believe that women play a vital role to a country’s development and to me, I’d say that the developing countries should work on making a women’s role in everyday life a more visible and vital one.

As I’ve mentioned, the people that I met made my trip what it was. From meeting an aspiring dominatrix from Montreal to a chain-smoking Jordanian man in Singapore who had his passport confiscated and was contemplating escaping from the country to a British man nearly in tears because his Muslim Indonesian wife ran off with their two children to a tattooed British man who constantly reeked of alcohol and cigarettes, but knew great magic tricks and was a former member of the Iranian mafia who spent time in a Malaysian prison for human trafficking, I’ve met a few characters to say the least. Best of all are the friendships formed and the memories that I share with those people.

My top moments of my trip were:

Tubing down the river in Bukit Lwang with (Indonesia)

Reaching the Throng-La pass at 17,769 ft (Nepal)

Catching waves in Bali (Indonesia)

Motorbiking to deserted beach after deserted beach in Lombok (Indonesia)

Watching the sunrise from the summit of Mt. Kinabulu (Malaysian Borneo)

Rock climbing in Railay (Thailand)

Relaxing on the paradise island, Gili Trawangan (Indonesia)

Other cool moments include:

White water rafting for my first time in Bali (Indonesia)

Doing yoga (India)

Seeing orangutans in the jungle (Indonesia)

Climbing an active volcano (Indonesia)

And the only two low-lights that come to mind were:

Sleeping on the filthy floor of an over-crowded Indian train

Getting sick with stomach issues

But, I wouldn’t trade those “bad” experiences for the world, because it’s all part of the experience. Plus, I love that so much of what I experienced can’t just be seen on the Discovery Channel or from the view of a car window. I had to work to get to these places (especially on the Annapurna Circuit!), but that made the satisfaction all the more worthwhile.

And now that I’m nearly home, there are definitely some things that I’m looking forward to, and others that I’ll miss dearly. I can’t wait for consistently hot showers. I’m glad that I won’t have to carry my own toilet paper everywhere I go, but crazily enough will miss public squatters (though not the spraying on toes part of it – yeah, I think it happened every time). I’m looking forward to drinking tap water once again and not buying another bottle of water for a really long time. I’m happy that I’ll get a fair price when I walk into any store (and not the “white price”), but will miss the overall cheaper prices. I’ll be glad that when someone yells “hello” at me, it’s because they want to actually say hi to me and not because they want to lure me into their store… or in their taxi… or to their bedroom. I’m happy to have a diverse selection of ethnic cuisines available to me again, but will miss the amazing street food (especially Indian food). I’ll be sad that rent for my future apartment will cost more than an entire day’s activities. And I’ll most certainly miss the under $10 massages.

In sum, I can’t reiterate just how fantastic of a time I had on my trip. But, I think I’m also leaving at just the right time. I’m not jaded by traveling yet and really, really excited to see my friends and family that I haven’t seen in months! I’m looking forward to being in a home again, and not changing a bed every few days. And if you know anything about me, you know I’m looking forward to the food… and to cooking and baking – good thing it’s Christmas! I’m also excited about the winter ski season – I’m moving to Colorado this winter at the very least to ski for the season while I focus on my job search, but will also be looking for work permanently there, so I’m looking forward to exploring a new region of the country and establishing a new life for myself there.

Thanks for reading y’all! Your comments and happiness for me definitely meant a significant amount and kept me going during those harder moments that I might have glossed over. Have a great holiday season! J