Want to survive a trip to South America (or any foreign Country)?
Then this article is for you.
It was less than a month after I wrapped up my last University class (FINALLY!) that I decided to book an impromptu trip to South America.
I had a decent idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do when I was down there, but in general, it was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of trip.
And I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it….
However – as with any epic adventure, I did learn a few things along the way.
Here are the top 3 things NOT to do on your next big adventure…
1. Don’t eat random street meat without knowing what you’re eating.
Well – if you’re super adventurous and open to eating a wide array of animal parts, then you can skip this tip.
If you’re like me and your stomach gets queezy at the thought of eating something outside of the standard North America meat dishes, then read on…
I can still remember the smell of the “meat” as if it was yesterday…
I was chowing down on some Peruvian BBQ and I’ve got to be honest – I was loving it.
I remember shoving a bite of the skewer into my friends mouth. Her immediate reply…”This sh*$ is not normal”.
I ate a couple more skewers before I asked what I was eating. Turns out it was cow heart.
Now for some people, this is totally normal and they wouldn’t have flinched an eye. It definitely could have been worse, and in the moment, I managed to be OK with the fact that I ate way more cow heart than any human should.
It wasn’t until the next day that I really regretted my decision.
Whether it was the fact that I was eating street meat from a tiny stand on the side of highway that ran straight through a little village….
Or the fact that the meat (is “heart” even considered meat? Hmmm) was most likely in the hot sun for hours…
Or the fact that my body just couldn’t process that much of a foreign substance…
I was ILL.
Like – super duper, sick trooper ILL.
Thankfully it rolled over in a day or two and I survived – YEAH!
Moral the story –Think before you eat roadside meat… In ANY country.
2. Don’t keep your passport in a random plastic bag.
This might seem obvious, but at the time I thought I had the perfect travel system down.
I had all of my important things in a simple plastic bag. How could that plan back fire?
I was with a group of travellers and we all shared a taxi to a hostel. I hopped out of the car and quickly ran in to see if there was room for us.
When I walked out of the hostel with the update (yes, there was room) I was surprised to see my fellow travel buddies standing on the side of the street with our backpacks.
I immediately asked if they grabbed the little plastic bag that was on the ledge above the backseats. They looked at me with blank stares and my stomach immediately sank.
I started shuffling through all of the bags only to find that my passport was indeed still in the back of the taxi. I had no clue what taxi company we had used. All I knew is that I was determined to get my passport back.
I stood outside of the hostel and roamed around the area for a few hours and sure enough, the taxi drive pulled up and handed me my plastic bag.
I definitely dodged a bullet, but had caused myself (and everyone I was travelling with) a ton of added stress.
Moral of the story – Keep your passport and important travel documents in a safe or on you at all times. Or at least have a system that involves a legit purse or bag that won’t easily be left behind.
3. Do NOT assume that transportation is available on a whim.
Here’s a quick story to highlight what I’m talking about…
When I first arrived in South America, I quickly decided that hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was a must. Rumour on the back-packing circuit was that you had to plan ahead and secure a permit to hike the trail. (In efforts to conserve the land, only so many people are allowed on the trail at any given time.)
I tried to book a tour approx. 2 months in advance and I quickly discovered the Inca Trail routes were already booked up.
Not to fear though – I didn’t need to hike the trail to see the ruins.
I went to Cuzco, the stunning city closest to Machu Picchu, in hopes of finding a last minute trek and at the very least, visiting Machu Picchu on a day tour.
Now this is where I “messed” up. I spent 5 amazing days in Cuzco. I met a great group of travellers, the food was tasty, the city was vibrant and scenic.
Once I got to the city, I was ok with not hiking the Inca Trail. I would simply plan a day trip up to Machu Piccu and explore the ruins.
Turns out, you have to plan the day trips in advance. When I went to book my train ticket up to the famous ruins, I was told the train was full for the next 3 days. I was flying out the next day.
I’m sure there was a way for me to get up there, but at that time I made the decision to enjoy my last day in the city and simply plan a trip in the future where I would do the whole sa-bang! Inca Trail and all.
This is an adventure I’m still looking forward to and I’ll be sure to share the details when it happens.
Moral of the story –
If you want to do something, plan ahead (at least a few days in advance) and make it a priority to figure out ALL of the details (transportation included) to ensure it happens.
The list of what NOT to do can go on and on, but today I’ll leave it PG rated.
Enjoy your adventures 😉