28 Signs You’ve Been to South America

Llamas in Chile are like cows in the US

Traveling through South America has a way of staying with you.

If you still wear your alpaca sweater everyday or have acquired a hankering for pork rinds, you probably have spent some time in South America.

I find that every time you travel, you adapt a little bit, or a lot, to your new surroundings in ways that may be hard for you and your less-traveled peers to understand. Don’t feel bad. It happens to the best of us. I’ve compiled a list of character traits to help pin down the people who have spent a good amount of time in South America. Leave a comment if you can think of anything to add!

You know you’ve been to South America when…

  • You crave arepas and empanadas when you’re drunk instead of pizza and lo mein.

    Arepa con huevo, a Colombian delicacy
    Arepa con huevo, egg arepa, from Cartagena, Colombia
  • you’ve realized that they weren’t lying when they said that you can’t flush toilet paper.
  • muscle memory has you throwing away toilet paper in the bin instead of in the toilet.
  • you, or someone you know, have a cool Salar de Uyuni photo as your/their profile or cover photo on Facebook.
photo credit- Blake Matich
photo credit- Blake Matich
  • you start calling ketchup “tomato sauce” because in Spanish it translates to salsa de tomate.
  • you’ve either worn, held, fed or eaten an alpaca/llama.

    Only costs a few soles to hold a baby alpaca in Peru
    Holding a baby alpaca in Cusco, Peru.
Alpaca hair makes a warm material for clothing in Peru.
Rocking my warm alpaca sweater from Peru.
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posing with a llama in Chile
Alpaca dinner
Alpaca dinner
  • you know how to score prescription pills from the pharmacy, without a prescription.
  • you’ve never been so sunburnt.

    Intense sunburn from an Ecuadorean sun.
    Nearly a year later, and I still have those tan lines.
  • you have, or know someone who has, crapped your/their pants…in public.
  • you have, or know someone who has, been robbed.
  • you recognize the value of the currency instead of having to do math to figure out the dollar amount.
IMG_1937
Chilean money
  • you bring along chicharrones for a bus snack instead of Doritos.
mmmmmm
mmmmmm
  • coca tea becomes an acceptable substitution for coffee.
  • you’ve found all kinds of weird flavors of Lays potato chips.
they really do taste like pollo a la brasa from Peru
they really do taste like pollo a la brasa from Peru
  • you’ve literally been eaten alive by mosquitos.
IMG_0404
not as bad as the people who look like they’ve had a herpes outbreak on their calves, but still
  • you’ve had nightmares from malaria pills.
  • if you can’t talk about poops with someone at your hostel, you don’t want to be their friend.
  • you were seriously impressed by the street produce.

    Large avocados found in Medellin, Colombia
    AVOCADOS THE SIZE OF YOUR HEAD
  • the thought of putting on shoes other than flip flops or hiking boots is daunting.
  • you’re in a public place and immediately try to struggle with Spanish when talking to strangers, before realizing that you’re home now and can speak English.
  • you don’t fear insects anymore.
  • you hide your iPhone under your pillow before leaving the room.
  • you see a sign that says “areas” and you think “arepas.”
  • someone tells you it’s 23 degrees back home and you can’t believe they’re having such nice weather in December (only applies to Americans using the Imperial system during the winter).
IMG_4190
kill me
  • you think it’s acceptable to wear your alpaca sweater daily (after all, there is no warmer material).
  • your cabbie stops at a toll and you prepare yourself to be searched by the police.
  • ponchos are a warm and sensible fashion statement.
IMG_4212
being a weirdo with matching ponchos
  • you’ve made friends with at least one stray/hostel dog or cat.
Found a dog to play with in Salento, Colombia
Made good friends with this good boy in Salento, Colombia
Randall, the house pup of HI Arica
Posing with Randall, whom I met in Chile.

IMG_2951

 

by Rebecca Bellan

 

 

The One Way Ticket

If you’re as restless as I am, buying a one way ticket is the best way to start your journey.

Nothing inspires and ignites me like getting ready to travel.

A wise man at a sticky dueling piano bar in Boston once told me that there are two types of people in this world: those who know their culture and try to push the limits of it, and those who don’t know their culture, and explore unfamiliar worlds in the hopes of finding somewhere they belong. I suppose am the latter, absorbing the parts of different cultures that I like and rejecting those that I don’t. I consider myself to have a chronic and recurring case of wanderlust, otherwise known as “the travel bug”, which makes me hunger for new experiences. It all started when I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain junior year of college. I got my first taste of what it feels like to be an individual in a new society, and I became addicted, booking as many weekend trips around Europe as I could.

Last year, I felt it was time for another spontaneous adventure. I booked my first one way ticket to Sicily, Italy and decided to the figure the rest out once I got there. Of course, I wasn’t completely irresponsible; I frequented the site http://www.workaway.info/ to find someone to host me in exchange for free labor. I find sites like this one, helpx.net and wwoof.net (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to be great outlets to find people who encourage travelers to stay for a while and get to know their culture through mutually beneficial relationships. In Sicily, I worked for two months at CCly Hostel in Catania, where I slept in an 8 bed dorm with other travelers and volunteers and basically ran the hostel, doing everything from making breakfast to checking in guests to cleaning toilets. While I was there, I met so many awesome and inspirational fellow travelers, and I was able to really get to know the island of Sicily, while also taking a long weekend trip to Istanbul, a few weeks teaching English in Poland, terminating in a few more weeks touring the south of Spain (more on last year’s trip in another post).

Now, my restlessness has gotten to me again, and I feel the need to visit the uncharted (by me) lands of Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. My bank account will probably only allow me to stay for three months or so, despite rarely having to pay room and board because I will be volunteering my way through the four countries. But experiences are worth more to me than almost anything else. As skeptical philosopher David Hume said, the self is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions…”  I intend to experience this trip hard and fast (thank god for adderall), absorbing as much as I can as quickly as I can.

Check out my next post to see what and how I packed my one backpack. I don’t want to call it a “packing tips” post just yet, because, as I’ve never been south of the northern hemisphere before, I have no idea if I’m doing this right. Trial and error, folks!

**UPDATE- Instead of Argentina, I went to Colombia, and couldn’t be more pleased by my decision. I felt that Argentina was too large of a country to try to fit into a few weeks, and I also wasn’t pleased with the idea of paying for an expensive visa to enter the country, an oversight in my prior research.

September, 2014

by Rebecca Bellan