Six Countries; One Backpack

And How I Came To Hate Dulce De Leche.

I’ve made a tradition of sewing onto my backpack the flag from every country I visit. This is the one of two traditions I have when traveling.

To quote a literary eminence “I’ve been to countries and cities I can’t pronounce and places in the world I didn’t know existed.” -Pitbull

Guilty of P.U.I. (Planning Under the Influence):

Ruben, Gabriel and I, had always talked about going backpacking through South America, but for years it was just that. All talk. That changed at dawn on January 17 of 2013, when, while still drinking since the night before, we went back to the subject. Tired of putting it off and obviously intoxicated, we bought one way tickets from Miami to Montevideo, Uruguay, leaving on July 20th. The next day as we laughed about our drunken impulses, decided to start planning our trip.

We visited Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. We spent countless hours on buses, days without showering, and more moments when we legitimately feared for our lives than we will ever admit to. But it was by far one of the best experiences of my life. It was also the first time I saw the Southern Cross Constellation, or Machu Picchu, or the Andes.

[If you ask me, two of the coolest things I’ve done on my travels are also the simplest, like standing on the Equator or standing on the Prime Meridian. I seem to enjoy standing on imaginary lines.]

When we got to Uruguay the locals we met, insisted that we must had the flan with “dulce de leche” for desert and with reason. It was a real delight. Then we got to Argentina and people there also suggested some desert with dulce de leche, and it was also good. We crossed to Chile, and guess what, there was more dulce de leche. Now at this point we are fed up with dulce de leche, literally. And then we get on a bus for a 40 hour ride to Peru, and at every… single… stop… on the way, there were people selling pastries, all which contained dulce de leche. After we got to Peru, we bowed to never even speak of dulce de leche again.

My favorite tradition when visiting a country for the first time is buying a book from a local author. These are the books I bought while backpacking through South America.

This post is the preamble for a series of entries with which I plan to share the experiences that marked my stay in the countries I’ve visited. I figured I didn’t want to cluster all countries into just one post, but I would much rather give them each the amount of attention they properly deserve.

-El Nel

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” -Pico Lyer

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