How to travel like a pseudo-backpacker
*So I wrote this weeks ago and just never posted it. As an FYI, it was written on Friday, August 19th in Iguazu Falls, Argentina.
We’ve received a number of inquiries about what we’ve packed and how/why, how we plan our destinations and find what to do/where to eat, and general travel advice. As I wait for my family to arrive in our B&B in Iguazu Falls, Argentina (they have been traveling for forever, and their last flight was delayed, so I’m sure they will arrive in great spirits), I can’t help but reflect on how different this week will be perceived by them and by us. Even something like a plane delay, which 6 months ago unnerved me to no end, is treated differently in my mind. I look forward to treating this week as more of a “vacation” and less of an “adventure” and hope to ensure that my family has a splendid time in Argentina. In the meantime though, here are some tips and thoughts and lessons we’ve learned (usually the hard way) from our travels thus far. We hope you find them useful and applicable on your next adventure!
1. Always always always carry snacks and water in your handbag/backpack. And toilet paper. Seriously.
2. You will get sick – esp. something stomach related – so be prepared with some pepto and/or immodium and maybe even some antibiotics for the really bad stuff.
3. Bugs suck and can ruin a beautiful place. If you’re going anywhere outdoorsy (though we’ve had PLENTY of bites in cities), pack bug spray and use it constantly! Also, know that whatever you can buy in another country sucks compared to what we have available in the US, so pack enough.
4. Same goes for sunscreen.
5. Bring a jacket/sweater for buses and airplanes. They are almost always cold.
6. We are probably not the smartest with our stuff (for example, Tyler carries his camera around on his neck very visibly), but definitely be smart about what you bring out on a bus/train or while walking around. I’ve had plenty of side-eye glances at my old version kindle.
7. If you can’t speak the local language, at least learn how to say “I don’t speak _______.”
8. If someone happens to ask you what religion you are (not super common but it can come up), say you’re whatever the majority of ppl in that country are (and try to learn something about it beforehand so you don’t sound like an idiot).
9. Ladies – dress conservatively. Be respectful of the country and culture you’re immersed in. Plus you draw less attention to yourself and blend in better.
10. Minimal (or better yet – no) jewelry – unless you’re going to Western Europe and want to prove to the Italians and French that Americans do too know how to accessorize.
11. Be patient and try not to get angry when a situation isn’t going your way. Americans are known for having a short fuse, so if you can surprise a person, they’ll be more likely to help you.
12. Trust TripAdvisor – but only comments from people with at least 5 posts!
13. Eat as the locals do and where the locals do. You’ll thank me after your best meal ever.
14. If you ask if the ice/juice is made with filtered water, the answer will most certainly be yes, even if that’s not true.
15. Central and South America Rule: Whenever you can get your hands on a vegetable, eat it. You have no idea when you’ll be served your next one.
16. Bathrooms separated by a door to the bedroom should be celebrated.
17. Never underestimate the power of a McDonald’s visit to cure a bout of homesickness.
18. There is always somewhere to do laundry (or buy new underwear).
19. Regardless of hunger level, if someone offers you free food, eat it.
20. Just because a place says it has wifi doesn’t actually mean it functions at a level better than AOL circa 1998.
21. Time is just time. The bus will get there when it feels like it, the waiter will bring the check when he’s ABSOLUTELY sure you’re done even though he cleared your plate 1 hour ago, and 10 minutes can mean anything from 2-45.
22. Pocket knives are super useful.
23. Smell test an article of clothing after you have let it hang in the air for a night – might be reusable after a bit of airing out.
24. NEVER underestimate the power of a smile.
25. If you’re a contact wearer (like me) – bring tons of solution b/c for some reason, it’s REALLY expensive everywhere else and can even be difficult to find.