So What Are You Doing In South America?

Evita in Buenos Aires
That’s Evita. Apparently some people think it’s a man eating a sandwich.

The weather in Buenos Aires has been pretty grim this week, so I haven’t done any exploring worth talking about. (To the fridge…to my desk…to the fridge again…you get the idea.) So I’ll take this post to answer a question I’ve been getting a lot lately:

What exactly are you doing in South America?


Although it may come as a disappointment to some, I will not be looking to reprise my role as a carny in South America. I won’t be teaching English, or working as an extra, or recruiting participants for drug trials.

Those days are behind me.

They say that teaching in Korea is a great way to save money; they’re right. We’ve put aside enough money to travel for four months through South America without working. If opportunities arise, we’ll consider them, but this trip is all about being unemployed. Except when it comes to…


I have a degree in this. A degree. Yet instead of writing my story, I’ve allowed it to languish, unfinished. I focus on the blog, on reading novels, on exercise, on walking to the fridge, on buzzfeed, anything but writing. Well, enough. I’ve decided to not only start back up on it, but to finish it. If nothing else, I’ll publish it as an ebook.

In addition, I’m going to amp up my freelance writing. I’ve only dabbled in it so far, but I’d like this to change. And what better time than when I’m otherwise unemployed?

San Telmo Market
This lady’s boredom reminds me of why I’m happy to be job-free for the moment.

Studying Spanish

We started our trip with six weeks in Buenos Aires specifically so we could take Spanish classes at the beginning of our trip. Neither of us has ever studied Spanish, but after wrangling with Korean for two years, it’s a welcome change. We chose Proyecto San Telmo based on their location (two blocks away from our apartment) and prices – $500 Argentinan pesos for 10 hours a week. That’s roughly $107USD per week, and that’s for two people. We’ll be taking lessons for 4 of our 6 weeks.

Our lessons are taught entirely in Spanish, which has been sort of like trying to doggy paddle in rough seas. But, surprisingly, we’re taking it in bit by bit. Even though I still sound like I’m choking on my tongue when I try to roll my ‘R’s.

The Route

After much debate, we’ve settled on a rough outline for the trip. Here’s how it looks:

August 26th – October 5th: Buenos Aires, where we’ll study Spanish and run our first half-marathon on Sunday, September 9th. Eeek. That’s really soon.

October 5th – October 10th: Rosario, Argentina. We’ve got tickets for the Wallabies-Pumas rugby match on October 6th, so we booked five nights in the city.

The following dates are all tentative

October 10th – October 20th: Iguazu Falls & Salta

October 20th – mid-November: Bolivia. Destinations undecided but may include the salt flats, Amazon, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Sucre, and some sort of train journey that Jared found. I tried to Google it but all I discovered was something called the “Death Train,” which I really hope isn’t what he’s talking about.

Mid-November – 1st week of December: Peru. We’ll focus on the coast, but include a side trip to Macchu Picchu. We won’t hike the Inca Trail as it requires advance planning and the kind of gear that we just don’t have.

December 9th – 19th: Ecuador. We have flights from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Chicago on the 19th of December. If we don’t get to do anything else in Ecuador, I’m determined to see the Galapagos Islands.

If you’ve got any advice for travel or want to meet up in South America, please get in touch! I know we’re missing out on a lot, but our priority is to take our time and enjoy it.

Shop front in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
And the whole way through South America, I’ll be that creepy gringa taking undercover photos of kids.

And then…?

Our flights out of Ecuador are actually return tickets. If we’ve got enough money, we’ll fly back to South America on the 30th of January. Then we can explore more of Ecuador, working our way through Colombia and Central America.

If not…who knows?

Hopefully, by then, we will.

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  1. Go to Mendoza if you can. SUCH good wine. Amanda and I did a pairing lunch at Norton. It was our big extravagance (besides the 16 bottles of wine we bought to bring home…) but so much fun and just worth it.

    1. That is so tempting…I am 2 days away from being able to drink wine again (holding out until the 1/2 marathon is completed) and I’m thinking that I might just morph into a total lush. I may even look at doing a 2 day trip to Mendoza from BA while we’re staying here. You are convincing me!

  2. I highly recommend Lake Titicaca, especially the Peru side! The floating islands and homestay were a highlight of my trip last year.

    Yes, it requires planning, but coming from the least prepared-worst shape person in my group, I finished the Inca Trail. As long as you have clothes, water bottles and running shoes, you’ll be fine. I rented everything else and survived. A little worse for wear, but survived!!!!!

    Have a great time!

    1. Yes! We are nearly 100% sure that we’ll visit, and it’s good to hear endorsements from people who’ve been before. And the more I think about it, the more open I am to doing some sort of trek along the Inca Trail – one of the ones that doesn’t require booking months in advance. If you can hire stuff, it doesn’t sound as insurmountable. By then I think I’ll be in travel mode, too, so I’ll be motivated to give it a shot.

  3. Hey, coincidentally I’m planning a similar trip to South America when I finish my stint here in Korea and was wondering just how much money you are allocating for 4 months? I have looked at one organised tour for 2 months, which comes in at $6,500 US dollars. This seems a little on the pricey side, I think.

    1. We’re looking at about $8000 each, but that number is a little deceptive. It includes our one-way flights to Buenos Aires from Korea (about 1,6200,000 won each, booked through Soho Travel in Korea) and our return flights to the US from Ecuador (about $650USD each). So excluding flights, the budget is closer to $6000 per person, but we don’t intend to spend it all – should be considerably more than we need, and we’re not traveling on a shoestring. $6500 does seem expensive for 2 months, but I suppose it depends on what it includes. Hope that helps. When do you leave Korea?

  4. What an amazing opportunity. This would be the perfect time to write about your experiences. Have you ever read The Writer’s Digest Guide To Query Letters? It might help with media pitches for potential articles. Good luck!!

    1. I haven’t read it, but I’d like to track down a copy – pitching is my least favorite part of writing, but it’s got to be done. Thank you for the advice!

    1. What a weird coincidence! Can’t believe you’re an IU grad, too. Yes, we’re still in BA, would be great to meet up before you go! When are you free?

    1. I’m pumped to get to Salta. I keep forgetting that there’s more to Argentina than Buenos Aires, since so far we haven’t been out of the city! Sad.

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