10.03.2009 - 11.03.2009
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With this post I conclude my 6 month trip throughout South America. It's weird to think how quickly time has passed as I traveled and experienced more than I could ever imagine. The trip in many aspects changed me in ways I am aware of at this moment and ones I may not even notice. It's crazy to look back at pictures of Patagonia with Jon Matzner during the winter months and remember my excitement, anxiety, and overall disbelief, to name a few of my emotions, as I embarked on what seemed like such a ridiculously large amount of time away from home. However, as time continued and the flow of everyday life became second nature, the once infinite amount of time backpacking slowly dissipated until I finally met my parents for the last leg of my trip. I remember sitting on the bus heading to Rio contemplating and reminiscing about all my past adventures, good and bad, that had taken place, and it was definitely an emotional moment as I realized that my days in South America were numbered, and as I let my parents decide on the itinerary, my time planning ever aspect of the journey was finally over. Thinking back I remember great moments that both defined me and as well as my trip such as hiking solo in southern chile and finding myself all alone the first night, having the luxury to watch the sunset over glacier grey with the only noise being the echoing sounds of massive ice structures cracking and crashing into the water. Spending time with Jon and his family while we ventured through the vineyards of Mendoza, seeing whales and penguins in Peninsula Valdez, trekking along the Perito Moreno glacier with crampons tightly attached. Meeting Josh from Melbourne and making fools of ourselves in Porto Arenas, Ushuaia, and Buenos Aires. Taking my first round of Spanish classes, living with a family, and meeting some great friends while I experienced all BA had to offer. The biggest culture shock of my trip was the crossing from Argentina to Bolivia. The change in scenery, lifestyle, customs, food, and people completely blew my mind and I will never forget stepping off the bus in Villazon, crossing the border into Bolivia, and having the sense that I just stepped into a completely different world. Having my valuables stolen on the bus from Potosi to Sucre. More Spanish classes and family stays in Sucre, having the pleasure to be a part of the two Israeli's honeymoon on our trip along the salt flats of Uyuni, which contained some of the most breathtaking views on the trip, and the insanity that is La Paz, including the most dangerous bike ride in the world. Having the opportunity to sleep over in the Floating Islands was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will always remember, the Incra trail, 4-day trek in northern Peru, Christmas in Cusco, having my wallet stolen in Cusco, New Years and my Bday in Lima, getting a virus while in Lima but luckily during my stay with one of the most generous families I've ever met. Heading into Colombia was surreal from anticipation as I had been looking forward to visiting it for so many months. Traveling all throughout Colombia with Mark experiencing the salsa capital, zona cafetera, carribean coast, medellin, and staying with Ivan and his family in Bogota. Issues with my visa to Brazil, spending a week in Florianopolis surfing with another Assuie, Cadeyn before Ihla Grande. The amazing week in Salvador for Carnaval, a party that will never be matched. And finally, spending the final two weeks of my travels with my parents, the two people that probably lost the most sleep during these past six months, and being able to share a piece of my new world with them. And similar to Europe, where my trip ended in full circle from the beginning, starting in Athens and ending atop the same mountain for sunset 6 weeks later, even that trip feels like just yesterday, yet seems so long ago. Ending in Buenos Aires and especially Bariloche brought back nostalgia for those initial feelings I had six months ago and the endless activities, adventures, friends, and experiences I hold on to while arriving back in Bariloche for one last time, and how fitting for it to be my favorite place I visited, this time, 6 months later - no snow-capped mountains, no skiing, but instead lush trees, bright blue lakes, and fly fishing.
Even though we only had a little over a day to spend in Bariloche, that time was still sufficient to truly appreciate all this beautiful town has to offer. Staying at Llao Llao was all I could have wished for, considering my first encounter with the resort was from a bike ride Jon and I did our first day there, and I remember thinking to myself that one day I'd be back to stay in South America's nicest resorts. The resort is unbelievable, and while there was a little pressure from my mom hoping the change of plans was worth the trouble, the minute our driver turned the final corner to reveal Llao Llao perched on a hill surrounded by the Andes, my parent's gasps spoke for themselves. The following day would be spent relaxing by the pool, my dad playing golf, going into town, and taking a chairlift in order to view Bariloche from a height that National Geographic ranked Top 10 for best views in the world. Everything about our last few days was perfect including the weather, which can usually be difficult to predict in Patagonia. With no wind and a cloudless sky, everything seemed crystal clear and untouched. Had I not picked up that book on Patagonia in the bookstore that day in BA, we wouldn't have made Bariloche our last stop, but I guess those types of things are what makes traveling so fun. Having the flexibility to change plans on a dime resulting in a possible life-changing experience or just an amazing time, demonstrates how powerful a quick decision can be.
As I conclude this momentous life journey, and now 8 months of travel, it saddens me to think that only 3 months left of travel await me. However, I must not think too far in advance and only focus on the present as my trip with Jessie to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, eat some amazing food and learn to cook it, and have the opportunity to better understand the people from the opposite side of the world is something that can't be taken for granted, and for that reason, we will be doing our very best to see as much as possible and keep you updated on all it. So until next time, I hope everyone is safe and healthy, keep me posted on your lives and new developments, it's been great visiting some of you while I've been back in Dallas and NY, and the next you hear from me will be in Thailand. Wish us luck!!