State of the Odyssey Address

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January 23rd 2012
Published: January 23rd 2012
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So here I am almost just past the halfway point in my travels. I am behind in blog posts but not in stories to tell. Maybe one day I will catch up, who knows.

So 7 months in and I have been to only 3 countries. At the beginning of my trip I imagined I would have covered a lot more territory at this point . But I guess I have always been the slow steady type. If you were to ask me what would I have changed up to this point in my trip I say nothing. I spent almost six months in Colombia, never thought I would have been there for so long. Four of those months at Manos Amigas and Let's Go Volunteer working with the kids, which so far is the highlight of my trip. If all works out I will end up there before I return back home. Bogotá is the cheapest place to fly in and out of in South America and it is only 3 hours away by bus from Ibagué and Manos Amigas, so for now the plan is at the beginning of August to have Bogotá be my final destination. Of course I am fluid with my plans and keep my options open so we shall see what happens.

As far as plans go, I really only had one plan I wanted to do and that was carnaval in Rio de Janeiro or Salvador Brazil the top 2 places for carnaval. After studying more about it I found out Salvador is more or less just one big giant party and that Rio is the only place that has the parades and the samba schools competing against each other so I decided I wanted to go to Rio. Of course that was before I found out that a hostel in Rio for carnaval runs about $120 a night 6 night minimum. Ouch. So in 2 days I would have blown my budget for the week. I guess I could dig in and pay for it, but then I would have to cut my trip short. As it stands I have more time than money so I guess I won't be able to make it to Rio for carnaval.

However I may have the second best option, which is to be in Brazil for carnaval. Just being anywhere in Brazil has to be good, its Brazil after all. 😱

And being in South America there were 2 things that I wanted I wanted to do by the end of the trip, be somewhat fluent in Spanish and learn the metric system. Neither one of those seem to be working out for me. I have gotten better at Spanish in my time here but I just can't seem to totally grasp it and become fluent. I can understand a lot more than I can speak and I can have small conversations. I know just enough Spanish to get by, but I can't seem to cross that threshold to having real conversations. My retention level is very low. It is frustrating to me to hear a word and I know that I have heard it before and know the word, but just can't remember what it is.

As for the metric system, I would like to be able to convert the temps and distances instantly and not have to think about them. I know that Las Vegas usually is 41' C (105'F) in the summer and it gets to 460 C(115oF), but in the winter it gets down to 0o C (32oF) and if I were to use an oven I would probably want it at 177o C (350oF) sotemperatures aren't so much a problem, it is distance and weights. But in all fairness I haven't really taken the time to study the metric system, I guess I just expect to one day wake up and know it. Hope it happens soon.

My next country to visit is Brazil via a brief stop in Peru. I am planning on riding a boat on a river to the Amazon River into Brazil and then work my way down down the coast of Brazil by bus. The river boat isn't some luxury cruise. I will need to by a hammock and you string it up on the deck of the boat and that is where you sleep. An Amazon Cruise for $17 a Day. Hammock Not Included The price does include 3 meals a day but that is just rice, beans, and some meat pretty much every meal. I will have to bring some water and whatever fruits and snacks with me. I am estimating the whole trip by boat will take about 10-12 days. I'm not sure if I will do it all at once or break it up as there are 3 cities along the way I could stop of for a day or so to get some rest. It takes about 2-4 days between cities along the river. One problem will be how to spend the time on the boat. I so far have 3 books to read. The Game of Thrones, Killing Pablo, and Lisey's Story a Stephen King novel. These are the most interesting books I have found so far in my travels.

Most hostels have a book exchange and other backpackers give away books. When traveling you can't be picky about what you read unless you want to lug a few books around with you. So you are at the mercy of what the book exchange holds. The most important criteria for me to read a book is it has to be in English. Duh, I'm monolingual. After that I will just read whatever I can get my hands on. So I am saving what I think are the best books for my river travel.

Nowadays there is the Amazon Kindle which can hold hundreds of books and it is fairly cheap, about $80 and doesn't take up much space. It is a backpacker's dream. I did find the biggest flaw with the Kindle. You see I am a crazy combination of cheap and poor and with the Kindle you have to actually buy books, can you believe that?? And when you buy an eBook there is no physical book to make, print, bound, ship, and take up shelf space so you think that it would be cheaper than buying an actual book right? Well think again, it's not. If I want a book I get one at a book exchange or go to the library. However, I did find out that you can check out eBooks for a Kindle from a library. So before I leave for my next trip I will check into what the library has as far as eBooks. I know you can't get every title on an eBook, but if they have enough titles than I may have to get me a Kindle.

When I am cruising along the Amazon River I will hopefully be able to talk with some people and learn a few words of Portuguese along the way but otherwise I will have a ton of time to kill and reading is one of the ways to pass the time. I imagine that there aren't any outlets on board so I will have my iPods charged up. I have an iPod shuffle (15 hours of battery life) on which I have podcasts of This American Life, The Adam Carolla Show, and The BS Report with Bill Simmons. I also have 2 audio books, Adam Carolla's In 50 Years We'll All Be Chicks and Sarah Silverman's The Bedwetter-Stories of Courage Redemption and Pee. I also have my iPod classic full of songs and some podcasts (with maybe 20-25 hours of battery?) and then there is the iPhone 4 which is essential to me. It is my translator, flashlight, photo album, instant camera, compass, notebook, calculator, watch, schedule planner, calendar, map, currency converter, weather guide, alarm clock, metric to US converter, and checkbook. I can also check emails, surf the web, play games, has all Prince albums, 3 movies (Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon, and Graffiti Bridge of course), and a few videos and cartoons. And guess what, I can even make calls with it, via Skype as I'm not going to pay for an international plan, I just use wifi. Although for the river trip I will probably just use it for the camera to make sure I have enough battery power to last the trip.

As far as time to spend in Brazil, well that's open. When I was last there in 2008 it became my favorite country, so I could see myself staying there for the rest of my trip. The country is beautiful and then there are the women. I mean hey, I fully intend on finding my wife in Brazil. And talking to people on this trip most people seem to say that Brazil is one of their favorite countries. The one problem with Brazil is that it is expensive compared to the rest of South America. Rio de Janeiro is expensive and Sao Paulo is even more expensive, said to be about equal to New York City as far as prices. But I would be happy in some seaside village or just some small town. Or maybe I could work for some hostel to help stretch my money. I will just have to wait and see how much do I really love Brazil.

Of course Argentina was nice as well when I was there in 2008, just not as nice as Brazil. I want to go to Patagonia and I used to work with a guy in Vegas who retired back to his home in Argentina and I would love to drop in and see him. So the plan is to stop back in Argentina. And if Brazil gets too expensive that may happen sooner rather than later.

I wouldn't mind ending my trip in Colombia, but it could just as easily end it in Brazil or Argentina. We shall see.


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