Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gap Year Q4 Summary

I’m still technically traveling so I won’t do a full year recap yet, but the little gnomes that compute my statistics have been hard at work on Q4!  And yes, I’m behind on the blog as usual.  There will be more blogs on Chile and Peru (and even Seattle!) coming up!

Total time spent:  91 days and 91 nights
Start:  Afternoon of Wednesday, April 13 at Quito Airport
End:  Afternoon of Wednesday, July 13 at Seattle Airport

Continents visited:  3
1.  South America:  81.7%
2.  North America:  12.4%
3.  Oceania:  4.4%
In transit between continents:  1.5%

Regions visited:  4
1.  South America:  81.7%
2.  North America:  7.9%
3.  Central America:  4.5%
4.  Polynesia:  4.4%
In transit between regions:  1.5%

Countries visited:  8
1.  Chile:  24.58 days / 25 nights  (27.2%)
2.  Peru:  22.33 days / 22 nights  (24.4%)
3.  Colombia:  21.67 days / 22 nights  (23.9%)
4.  United States:  7.33 days / 7 nights  (7.9%)
5.  Panama:  4.08 days / 4 nights  (4.5%)
6.  Argentina:  3.75 days / 4.5 nights  (4.4%)
7.  Paraguay:  2.75 days / 3 nights  (3.1%)
8.  Uruguay:  2.00 days / 2 nights  (2.2%)
In transit between countries:  2.5 days / 1.5 nights  (2.4%)

And just for fun – time spent in countries that drive on the:
1.  Left side of the road:  0%
2.  Right side of the road:  100%

Border crossings:  10
-  8 border crossings by air
-  2 border crossings by ferry (Argentina to Uruguay and back)

Airports visited:  16 (up from 10, 13, and 15 in Q1, Q2, and Q3, respectively)
Panama City, Cartagena, Medellin, Armenia, Bogota, Buenos Aires (Ezeiza), Buenos Aires (Aeroparque), Asuncion, Santiago, Punta Arenas, Easter Island, Lima, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, Fort Lauderdale, Seattle

*My flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago also landed to pick up and drop off passengers in Puerto Montt, but I didn’t get off the plane so it doesn’t count.

Airlines flown:  7 (compared to 5, 6, and 9 in Q1, Q2, and Q3, respectively)
Copa, Avianca, Aerolineas Argentinas, Sky, LATAM (formerly LAN), JetBlue, Alaska

1.  Friends & family:  27 nights  (29.7% - Santiago, Asuncion, USA)
2.  Airbnb:  17 nights  (18.7% - Colombia)
3.  Hotels:  13 nights  (14.3% - Peru as part of a tour group)

Other types of accommodation:  hostels (11 nights in Panama City, Cartagena, and Montevideo), guesthouses (10 nights in Buenos Aires, Punta Arenas, and Lima), camping (7 nights on Easter Island and the Inca Trail), lodge (2 nights in the Amazon jungle), homestay (1 awkward night near Lake Titicaca), and in transit (including 1.5 nights in airplanes, 1 night on a bus, and 0.5 nights in an airport.

Bathroom situation:
1.  Private bathroom:  49 nights  (54%)
2.  Shared bathroom:  42 nights  (46%)

And now, for some less statistical lists…

Top 7 Experiences (in chronological order):
I know I did a Top 6 for the first three quarters, but I just can’t narrow down the best for Q4.  So I’m adding one to the list.  And besides, this makes it Top 25 for the year instead of a random Top 24.  So yeah.

1.  Colombian wedding – I met Martha & Thiago in Namibia last July and they invited me to their big straight wedding!  The food was delicious, the dancing fun, and their friends and family were so nice.  I was so pleased that I was in the right region at the right time!
2.  Buenos Aires – I’ve already gushed about it, but I fucking loved exploring Buenos Aires.  It’s a gorgeous city and I can’t wait to get back to explore more!
3.  Santiago’s museums – Santiago had the best museums in Latin America.  As a nerd, I was in my happy place.  Thank you, Chile!
4.  Punta Arenas – Near the bottom of the planet lies this little city.  It was cold and refreshing, and it was so pretty – I felt like I was in Scandinavia.  I will return one day – I even kissed the toe of a statue to ensure that!
5.  Rapa Nui – Easter Island was interesting, friendly, and beautiful.  There was history, scenery, and a great swimming beach.  Bring on more Polynesia!
6.  Inca Trail – I was a bit nervous about this rough four-day hike, but I did just fine and enjoyed actually exercising and feeling healthy-ish for the first time in ages.  It was also the best way to get to Machu Picchu.  I felt like I really earned my visit at the sacred Inca site!
7.  Seattle – I hadn’t been back to Seattle in four years so I was long overdue to visit my old home city.  It was just so nice to see all of my old friends again, and my good mate Elcid (from Australia) even came to meet me there for the week!  We ate at all of my favourite restaurants, had a trivia team reunion, and took advantage of some new laws that had been passed since my last visit…

Bottom 5 Experiences (in chronological order):
7 tops but only 5 bottoms.  Something isn’t right here.  Or is it?

1.  Ridiculous heat – Just like in parts of Asia, the heat in Panama City and Cartagena was ridiculous.  I could have melted at any given moment.
2.  Bus ride between Medellin and Salento – Despite the driving being fine, the road being smooth, and the trip being not entirely too long, the curvy road made me come close to vomiting.  Fun.
3.  I lost something – I hardly ever lose anything of mine. I had lost a snorkel in the Galapagos and had to pay $40 to replace it, but it wasn’t mine, and I didn’t forget it – it just wasn’t tied to my backpack tight enough.  While changing money at the Bogota Airport, I set down the bag with my green ceramic elephant souvenir that I bought in a market in Armenia, Colombia… and forgot to pick it back up.  I was already through security when I realized my mistake, and the dude on the walkie talkie said it wasn’t there anymore.  I was so mad at myself!  Luckily the elephant was only 30,000 Colombian pesos, which is roughly US$10, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I was more upset that I actually lost something.
4.  Paraguay’s visa fee – US$135 to enter Paraguay and they didn’t even provide any decent tourist attractions.  Bah, humbug!
5.  Lake Titicaca homestay – Our homestay on Lake Titicaca was just awkward.  No, I don’t want to herd sheep and it’s hard making small talk when the family speaks no English and barely speaks any Spanish (they spoke the native Aymara language).  I also want a flushing toilet.  Sigh.

With the exception of the lost elephant which I was really kicking myself about, there were no major mishaps in Q4.  Woohoo!

Top 3 Places I Could Live (in preferential order):
1.  Seattle – I spent the last week of the official year in Seattle with friends, and I had forgotten how much I love the city.  I just wish it was a few miles north in Canada instead of the USA.
2.  Buenos Aires – I’ve already gushed about how much I love Bs As.  I want to move there.  One day, when my Spanish is better…
3.  Santiago – I LOVE LOVE LOVE Santiago, but it’s in third place because of the constant threat of earthquakes and, more importantly, the air quality.  I would constantly be sick with allergies.

Top 3 Places to Visit Again (in preferential order):
1.  Buenos Aires – 3.5 days was not enough.  Not nearly enough.  Take me back for more!
2.  Patagonia – Punta Arenas was a starter, but I really want to go to the national parks in the region, and go when I can see penguins!  The next South America trip is going to be heavy on Patagonia.
3.  Polynesia – Rapa Nui (Easter Island) was fascinating and I can’t wait to see what the other islands of the region hold.  Anyone want to go to Tahiti?  Cook Islands?  Samoa?

Top 3 Accommodations (in preferential order):
1.  Colombian Airbnbs (Colombia) – Yes, I’m cheating here, but I had 4 Airbnb accommodations in Colombia and I loved them all.  They weren’t badly priced either.  Good work, Colombia!
2.  Lina’s Tango Guesthouse (Buenos Aires) – This cute little guesthouse in the San Telmo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires was exactly that… cute!  The owner was a doll too!
3.  Camping Tipanie Moana (Rapa Nui) – This place is a camping hostel – a cool concept.  The tents were nice, the staff helpful, and the bathrooms clean.  It wasn’t loud, but it was social and I made some friends to hang out and practice my Spanish with!

Just like in Q3, I stayed in a few friends’ homes in Q4.  They were obviously my favourite accommodation (not only because they were free!) so I’m not including them in this list.

Q4 makes this one year!  Gap year over!  But I don’t have a job yet… so I’m still traveling, albeit domestically in the USA.  Maybe I’ll go somewhere else new too?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that I wouldn’t mind a Q5 of the gap year, though I really ought to get back to reality.  I’ll get my CV out there soon, but first, let me take a selfie.

With the “Bienvenidos a Panama” sign in the background, this was the first selfie taken of Q4 – right when I arrived at Panama City airport.  Instead of taking an expensive taxi, I figured out the unmarked path to the main road to take a cheapo bus.


  1. You didn't come to Rendezvous so that you could work on that CV and now you say it isn't out yet!!!! Shame on you.

  2. I don't know who this is, but I've been putting this all together for ages now... and the CV is finally perfect and out the door! Cross fingers!