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NAN’s Q&A on South and Central America

Jeff & I¬†came up with a handful of interesting and fun questions regarding our travels and then answered them individually. We wanted to share the results with our lovely readers ūüôā

Travel in general

  • What was your worst travel memory?
  • Favorite country & why?
    • L:¬†It’s a toss up between Ecuador and Argentina, I really liked Galapagos and the people of Ecuador are super friendly. That said, Argentina has everything from big city, patagonia, wine country. I am going with Argentina.
    • J:¬†Probably have to go with Argentina. Panama is close, but we didn’t spend enough time there. Argentina because it has so much that I really liked. Mendoza was awesome for wine, Iguazu Falls was one of my favorite stops, the Perito Moreno glacier was amazing and Buenos Aires was by far my favorite big city. This is also the country where we saw my first and only soccer game.
  • Scariest hotel or hostel?
    • L: I¬†disliked the Hotel Sue Candaleria in Bogota. It was the closest thing to a backpacker hostel stye we tried but still having a private room. It wasn’t great- tiny room, just shitty place if you had to¬†spend any time at all in your room. Oh, and the weird jail cell building we stayed at in Peru when we tried to spend a few days at the “yoga” place.
    • J:¬†To be honest there was nothing that was too scary at all. There were the crackheads and human dumps on the ground in Bogata which were a bit off-putting and our hotel on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz was basically a large ashtray – but neither of those were necessarily scary. I really don’t have a scariest place to avoid.
  • Where do you wish you would have gone?
    • L: For South America- Brazil. And probably one other one that I backed away from was Cuba. Looking back, we probably would have been fine and I¬†should have taken the risk and gone there.
    • J:¬†Ahhhh, great fricken question. My biggest regret is not going to Torres del Pine national park in southern Chile. We were so close too! When we were in El Calafate for the glacier we were almost there. It just wasn’t on our radar. A few people we met later on the trip that were doing something very similar said that national park was the HIGHLIGHT of there trip. Runner up is Arequipa, Peru and second runner up is Tayrona national park in Colombia. Third runner up is try Auywasca¬†in the jungle :0
  • Favorite thing you did?
    • L: I know everyone says that it’s hard to pick just one. I think what my¬†favorite part is that looking back on the amount of places we went, things we saw and did, and people we met, made this my favorite “trip” yet. So not one place but the entire thing packaged together.
    • J: Jeff actually didn’t answer this one. I suppose it was accidentally overlooked. As a result, we will go with my answer above. I think we can both agree to that ūüôā
  • Best unexpected/unplanned stop or location?
    • L: Going to see the glacier in El Calafate Argentina. It was awesome. 2nd to that is the Salt Flats. We didn’t plan to go there,¬†but it was really really cool!
    • J:This is tricky because a lot of our trip was unplanned – pretty much anything after Argentina except for Machu Picchu and the animal refuge. However -the one trip and place that stands out was our sail from Cartagena to Panama and the two days we spent in the San Blas islands off the east coast of Panama. These islands were incredible. When I look back at our pictures – which shockingly there aren’t many – I can’t believe how pretty they look. The actual sailing part is a bit over-rated, but very memorable due to our 40hr non-stop open water sail, the captain “beached” the boat and we had a heck of a time getting out of Panama because we didn’t properly enter the country.¬†
  • #1 tip for future travelers
    • L: Learn the language. It’s so important and can really improve your experience.
    • J:¬†Spend some time and effort to learn the language of the country you will be spending 6 months in. The people in all the countries we visited were great. But I know that I would have been able to enjoy myself much more if I spoke their language. Not investing the time and energy to learn made me feel like an asshole sometimes and was frustrating.
  • Hardest part of traveling?
    • L: Being¬†constantly on the move can get tiring and wear on you. It’s fun to see alot of places but it takes time and effort to plan your route, where to stay and manage to a budget. Sounds like it’s easy when you don’t work but honestly, I didnt expect it to be as challenging at times. Think about for 6 months straight not having place to call home and not knowing anything about the next place your headed to. Even if you plan minutes before you arrive or weeks, it still takes time and effort.
    • J:¬†It’s a grind. I didn’t realize or think that it would be. I thought “oh …cool, we will be sitting on the beaches sipping margaritas all day long” –don’t get me wrong, we did our fair share of that, but really it’s a grind. Mentally and physically it’s taxing. We spent on average 3 point something days per city. That means we were constantly booking another hotel, another activity and another way to travel. Updating the blog, reviewing TripAdvisor. I am NOT complaining AT ALL –not one bit, but it was much more work than I thought it would be.
  • What was the most challenging experience or activity?
    • L: Machu Picchu hike for me. It was tough, but I am so glad we did it.
    • J:¬†Probably the hike 80km to Machu Picchu. But a close second, I kid-you-not was staying at that Hari Krishna weirdo place for 3 nights. After the first day we both wanted to leave. We just thought maybe it would get better.¬†
  • Most rewarding activity?
    • L: Learning and getting certified to dive. It felt good to learn something new and then use it in our travels. 14 dives and counting…
    • J:Probably getting our scuba diving certification because that is something that will continue to reward us for the rest of our lives – assuming we go scuba diving for the rest of our lives.
  • Anything you would do again or go back to?
    • L: More volunteering, like really volunteering ūüôā ¬†The animal refuge was an awesome experience and I would like to do something similar again.
    • J:¬†I would definitely volunteer at the animal refuge again. Or some type of animal place. I’d be shocked if we didn’t do something like that again in the near future. Volunteering in general. Panama ..kind of everything we did in Panama – Bocas del Toro, Panama City and San Blas are all places I would be open to going back to. Argentina as well.


  • What was your best meal?
    • L: Hmmm, these are always hard. I had an awesome time dining at Central in Lima, Peru for the second time. The food¬†was awesome. AND we met the world famous¬†chef, AND it was free!
    • J:This is a tough one. Really tough. We had unbelievable food in Lima, but the “closed” door dining in Buenos Aires was definitely the most memorable, specifically at Casa Coupage. The food, the wine the local – everything was spot on.
  • What was the worst meal?
    • L: ¬†We had a few really bad pizzas in Ecuador, they just don’t have the same cheese. I can’t recall an exact place but I know it didn’t compare to what we get in Chicago. We are really excited for some Lou’s¬†during our quick stopover in Chicago next week. Oh and when Jeff got the “cuy” in Peru, aka guinea pig, it was so gross. Yuck.
    • Even harder. We had some really strange meals during our time on the road. Italian restaurants were consistently over-priced and just overall terrible. But in terms of just straight up bad or disgusting…I don’t know. We ate really well. It was one of the reasons we spent so much dang money. But I have to pick. So I will say Casa Senae from Buenos Aires. It was our 3rd “closed” door dining restaurant. It was OK and completely overrated for the price. The food and the service was eh. I don’t know if it’s fair to say it was our worst meal, but definitely the most disappointing based on our expectations.
  • Biggest surprise about the food?
    • L: There was not a ton of veggies if you are trying¬†to eat on the cheap. Just lots of rice and bread!¬†
    • J:¬†Honestly? I hate to say this…but…the just wasn’t that good. You hear these stories about Argentinian steaks and Peruvian cuisine and this and that. The argentinian steak houses in Chicago are better than any argentina steak or steakhouse we ate at in Argentina. The peruvian cuisine in Peru was fine – but again, places in the States are doing it better. And it’s not that cheap. Sure, you could buy street food or go to some local market and get something cheap – – but you can do THE SAME EXACT THING in ANY big city in America. Bottom line I wasn’t impressed and this whole thing about South America being so cheap and you can eat for “like $5 a day” is a bit of a joke. Kind of pissed me off to be honest.
  • Favorite alcoholic drink?
    • L: Maracuya sour-so dang good.
    • J: Maracuya pisco sour. maracuya = passion fruit. pisco is a type of alcohol made from pisco grapes. the cocktail is made with egg whites, pisco & simple syrup (and passion fruit juice). I could drink 8-12 easily.
  • Food you wish was in the USA?
    • L: Maracuya, aka passion fruit- I can’t find it yet here in florida which makes me wonder if you can get it back in IL… I am still on the search. Also, the ¬†ceviche and quinoa in Peru was really really good. I don’t recall either being that good back home. I am sure there are others I am not thinking of and Jeff will probably have a few good ones and I will agree. ūüôā
    • J:¬†I can’t for the life of me figure out why Trits – a frozen dessert treat from Costa Rica – hasn’t made it’s way to the U.S
  • Newest favorite fruit or food?
    • L: I loved trying all the various fresh fruits in the local markets. Guanabanana, maracuya, narajena, all just so yummy. Also, I really didn’t like papaya but forced myself to like it and now I actually do. Plus it’s pretty good for you.
    • J:¬†We had a bunch of great stuff while on our trip. Countless new tropical fruits that were all really delicious. But what has grown on me the most is readily available here and I am pumped about it. And that is coconut. I like the juice, i like fresh coconut – flavor my rice with it — whatever, I love it now.

Packing & Luggage

  • What did you pack that you wouldn’t?
    • L: I¬†packed two “explorer/fishing/hiking” shirts and definitely only needed one. I remember looking at it in my bag so often and saying why do I still have this…
    • J:¬†Ha – a ton of shit. But in all fairness we had some extreme weather changes. From 90+ degrees on the beach to minus 0 in the mountains – so we had to bring a lot of stuff. But a few of the things I packed that were completely unnecessary were: I packed 3 golf polos. WTF? I got rid of 2 within the first few weeks. I kept one..and even that wasn’t necessary. I brought meds for every type of ache, pain or whatever you could imagine. Very unnecessary. Bring enough ibuprofen, some probiotics and any Rx stuff you need. After that if you don’t need or take it regularly here you probably won’t while traveling. I brought almost 300 individually wrapped lens wipes for our glasses. Not even remotely close to necessary.
  • What didn’t you pack that you wish you did?
    • L: A comfy¬†sweatshirt or cardigan. Either would have been nice in the colder temps.
    • J:¬†flip flops. don’t ask. I am an idiot. t-shirts. still an idiot. and tank tops. I spent so much time reading about what to wear in the dessert and in the mountains. You could go crazy learning about all the latest and greatest clothing technology with anti-odor properties and wicking this and wicking that. Sure some of it came in handy, but if you’re spending as much (or I should say little) time in those areas as we did just pack what you find most comfortable
  • What do you think the other person’s favorite article of clothing was and why?
    • L: Jeff loves his ex officio¬†travel¬†boxers. But once we got into warmer weather he went commando, so now I would say it is his tank tops. Toss up between the orange one or bulls. And my answer for my favorite clothing is my pink and white shirt. It was my “go to” everytime we went out to dinner or tried to dress it up a bit.¬†Now in warmer climate, I really liked my Athleta dress.
    • J:¬†Ha. Oh boy. When we were in Santiago Chile we went shopping for some clothes. At this point Lindsay had some really basic ..I’ll call them “middle-aged mom clothes” — no offense to anyone out there with these – but they were like plain cotton-stretch tank tops and single colored canvas shorts from Old Navy. It was so basic and so boring. I kept saying things like…hun, we’re literally in South America — an entirely different continent, you can wear whatever it is you like or are curious– Anything. No one will care and who cares if they do. So yeah, we went shopping hoping to pick out some weird, fun and new stuff. For whatever reason Santiago has a ton of stores in their downtown –a ton. Lots and lots. One day we went into most of them. Of all the crazy things she could have picked out Lindsay went with this sweet soft-cotton t-shirt with a graphic that said “free spirit”. Kind of funny. She would always make comments such as “Jeff..I am wearing a graphic tee…wtf?!?” and “oh, who is that chick with a graphic tee on? is she over 30 years old?” and “do you think people think I am from New York with this graphic tee?” Essentially she was playing it off like she didn’t really like it and was making fun of herself….BUT…deep down…somewhere down there…Lindsay LOVES this shirt and it’s secretly her favorite. ūüôā
  • What did you miss most from home?
    • L: Mr Tripp! I think he would have loved to come with us! And family & friends. We often¬†found ourselves talking about how we missed hanging with our fam and friends. Luckily and fortunately we met great people along our travels and had a lot of fun. We also had to great mini vacations with our parents in Colombia and Costa Rica. It was nice to change it up from just Jeff and I.
    • J: For sure friends and family. Big shout out to Viber for helping us keep in touch. Also missed our cat, Mr. Tripp. And after that it was the food, especially Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza. South America is a long way from making good pizza. Some other things were the ability to flush toilet paper. Most places you threw that used TP into the waste basket. I missed good wifi connections. And we have the best customer service in America. Sometimes you couldn’t tell if the workers in SA gave two shits or not.
  • Could you travel full time for a living?
    • L: I think so yes,¬†but with planned breaks between. For example, being in Florida for the past two weeks has been really nice. Relaxing in a nice home, somewhere we know and with people we know. But now I am ready to take off for our road trip across the US. I just started reading¬†4hr¬†Work Week and it’s pretty inspiring. I am only about 15% in and already it is influencing how I think about going back to work full time. Travel now while we are young and forget the classic retirement route. Think about how you spend your time and do you feel excited about it? I know that going¬†back to 2 week vacations would be very very hard for us.
    • J: If I could travel the exact way that I wanted I definitely could. if I had to travel the way we just did for 6 months I am not sure how long I could last. I suppose for the right price I could.
  • If you could go anywhere in the world, where to?
    • L: There is a big part of the¬†US I haven’t seen and that is the reason we are doing that for the 2nd half of our trip. If flying was cheap, I’d really like to head to South Africa, Cambodia, or New Zealand and/or Australia.
    • J:¬†Ooooh, hard question. I am not sure. There are a ton of places I want to go. Washington DC, the northeast United States- I’d love to go to Fiji and those islands too. South Africa sounds awesome. I’m not sure I can say exactly.
  • What are u most excited for on the second part of your trip?
    • L: To see the smaller unexpected places of the US during our road trip. We will have the opportunity¬†to make ¬†unexpected stops in random places and I think that could be pretty cool. ¬†I am also really looking forward to being out west where I haven’t spent much time. Only have¬†heard how beautiful it is. Now that we have some hiking experience, I think we will enjoy our¬†time¬†exploring the National Parks & the mountains.
    • J:¬†Washington DC for sure and our two weeks in the Keys with a bunch of friends.
  • Would you recommend this trip(South America) to others?
    • L: Yes, there’s lots to see and do there.¬†The salt flats are amazing, Peru and Machu Picchu is fascinating, the wildlife in the Galapagos is unreal. I think more importantly I would offer the advice to take time off to travel. Wherever it is, just do it- you won’t regret it.¬†
    • J:¬†Yes, for sure.
  • Did or do you miss work?
    • L: At times in the beginning more than now. I missed feeling¬†a sense of accomplishment right around month 2 when we were in Argentina. But as time passed, I adjusted and changed my perspective and found that a ¬†sense of accomplishment came from other things so I think it was just a matter of adapting to the new lifestyle.¬†
    • J:¬†Yes and no. Missed the feeling of accomplishing stuff. Of being productive and this feeling that I have earned my paycheck. I missed the people and projects that we were working on. What I don’t miss was HAVING to wake up and HAVING to go into the office or catch a plane or whatever. If I never have to set my alarm for something I don’t want to do again I will be a happy man.
  • Do you think you did more or less than expected or originally anticipated?
    • L: More, when I ¬†look back at our pictures I’m always amazed at all the places we went. I could spend hours looking back at them because every time I do it brings a big smile and lots of memories.¬†
    • J:¬†I think that we hit it right on the head – maybe we did a bit more than I expected when I give it some thought. Central America (Panama, Costa Rica & Belize) were never really on my mind but I also thought that we could be gone for up to 9 months.
  • Have you changed as a result of the trip thus far?¬†If yes how, what about your spouse?
    • L: I’m not sure I have changed all that much. Maybe I am more relaxed and plan less. Either that or I just got comfortable with planning the day of or day before, which at that point is more doing than planning. I value accomplishing something each day, whether it’s learning something new, physical activity etc. For example, an ideal day for me is fully packed and being exhausted at the end of the day that you fall asleep within minutes of your head hitting the pillow. I think that’s a sign of a good day. Now, it’s all in moderation because at the same time I also enjoy a relaxing slow morning with coffee, homemade breakfast, some internet or reading a new book. This trip so far I have read 8 books. That’s more than I have read in the past 3 years probably. ¬†For Jeff, I think he realized that he has a lot of really great ideas and he needs to try them out before even thinking about going back to a reg 9-5 job. He’s engineered for it and I am really excited for him to change things up when we are back for good. This trip¬†has given him time to plan out some unique opportunities.
    • J:¬†Um…um…yeah I think that I have. But not much. It’s not like you go on a 6 month adventure and it completely alters 30+ years of things in the making. I didn’t like reading all that much when I left…and guess what, I still don’t. The changes are very subtle. Outside of some of the physical changes (my hair is long, I am much more tan and I am probably in as good of shape as I have been in a long time) there isn’t going to be a ton that people notice. My perspectives on certain topics have changed slightly.¬†
  • What if anything has changed in your relationship from when you left?
    • L: Not to get sappy on you guys, but Jeff and I get along really really well. Not to say we didn’t have any arguments because we had a few.¬†Maybe 2 or 3 and it was usually after a long ass day of travel. 28 hours on a bus can test your limits! We spend a lot of time together yes, but what’s really neat is that we have a lot of fun together. So¬†if anything¬†changed, it’s more of a confimration¬†that I wouldn’t want to do this trip with anyone else. We are on the same page and when you spend every hour of the day with someone that is pretty damn important.
    • J:¬†Yes and no. Nothing dramatic. We’re still the same ole stubborn Jeff & Linds – our way our the highway. So that didn’t change. The biggest change has been we’re more relaxed within our relationship.¬†

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