The world is full of places that you absolutely must see or things that you should definitely go and do. They are hyped up like a Hollywood Blockbuster but the reality is that they are never going to be able to live up to the carefully crafted photographs and tourist brochure sales pitch. When you do go, they are often filled with bus loads of other tourists together with touts, tacky souvenir sellers and tawdry, over-priced bars and restaurants.
Often, between the little plastic models and camera flashes, you get a glimpse of why these places are popular – they are stunning examples of natural beauty or testaments to the abilities of humanity. Walking around to the far side of Uluru, away from the crowds and surrounded by flat desert for miles around, we began to get a sense of the natural majesty of this huge rock. Unfortunately, unless it is a large rock surrounded by flat plains, it’s often difficult to get this sense of place.
We found that the magical experiences that made our last trip came when we least expected them, in places not renowned for their stunning natural beauty or impressive neo-classical architecture. Being given sweets and nuts by a lavish wedding party as we wandered through a random Indian town; serenaded by our homestay host on a starlit canoe ride home after a night at a local bar; or weaving our own textiles in Laos, our favourite memories are of places that you’ve never heard of before doing things that we’ve never done before.
For our new nomadic lifestyle we’ll be seeking amazing experiences rather than just sight-seeing. Yes, we want to visit Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls, but we know there is more to South America than the famous attractions, and if we miss them then that’s OK.
We haven’t planned our Latin America trip – not knowing where we will end up is part of the fun – but we do have a list of things that we would like to try and experience:
1) Hablan muy bien español – We have already started learning and will do a Spanish course when we get to Buenos Aires. We hope to spend at least a year in Latin America so this is definitely possible if we stay focused.
2) Learn Tango in Buenos Aires – We’ve always wanted to learn how to dance and where better than tango obsessed Buenos Aires.
3) Learn Salsa in Colombia – If Simon can manage the tango without falling over, then we’ll learn some new moves in Cali, Colombia.
4) Horse Ride – I used to ride regularly and want to get back into it, and Simon wants to learn too (provided he can find a way to not have his balls crushed). There are lots of riding opportunities in South America, and it’s a great way to explore.
5) Scuba Dive – We learnt to dive on our RTW trip and are keen to get back amongst the fishes. The Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras and Belize all seem like great options.
6) Learn to Sail – If we can find an affordable course then we’d love to learn to sail, and perhaps even get a crewing position on a yacht. If you have any tips on good places to do this, let us know.
7) Jam with Local Musicians – Music is everywhere in Latin America and Simon wants to be a part of it.
8 ) Meet Interesting People – When you travel as a couple you can become a bit of a self-contained unit, so we want to make the effort to meet new and interesting people. Couchsurfing should help with this.
9) Complete a Multi-Day Trek – We loved our first experience of multi-day trekking in the Annapurnas, Nepal. Hopefully we can handle the tough hikes to Choquequirao, Peru or Ciudad Perdida, Colombia.
10) Improve Photography – We want to take great travel photos, create another photo book and learn to make interesting HD travel videos.
11) Become Digital Nomads – A big focus for us will be figuring out how we can keep travelling; how we can become location independent and make a living anywhere in the world. Simon will be developing his freelance web design/development, we will work on making this website fantastic, and explore a number of other online projects.
12) Volunteer – We’ll be on the look out for interesting volunteer opportunities, where we can contribute to the local community.
13) Say Yes – We read Yes Man by Danny Wallace on our last trip and it resonated. We want to say yes to everything, take advantage of every opportunity, and enjoy the crazy experiences that come our way.
Despite what some of you may think we aren’t going to spend the rest of our lives lazing on beaches (although that will be an important part!). These are just some of the things we’ll be getting up to. For more on our travel plans read How We Plan to Travel Forever.
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