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Life on the Road, South America

I spent days going back and forth on whether I would bike the "Most Dangerous Road in the World” with Ol. I agonized over my decision. I interviewed fellow backpackers that we had met on our journey and I read blogs. It seemed like I learned that someone in every group gets hurt. There were stories of lots of broken wrists, arms, and legs, and those were the minor injuries! I read one harrowing story of a girl who broke her back when her tire hit a large rock and she was thrown off the bike. Luckily, she fell onto a small ledge and did not fall to her death. Sadly, she was paralyzed from the neck down.

Still, I might have done it if it wasn’t the rainy season. All of my research said that the rainy season is difficult. I don’t like to go fast on a bicycle and I heard that it was more difficult when riding slower. Also, the fog and rain make for poor visibility. The concierge at our hotel sealed the deal when he told me that the rainy season is only for crazy people to bike the "Road of Death". He said that he does not have the courage to do it even in the dry season.

So, where would I spend my day? The spa. Across the street from our hotel was a spa. I walked across the street and asked if they had any packages. They did! I would get a manicure, pedicure, two hour massage, one hour facial, and a haircut. All for less than $100 USD. I would enjoy my day and I wouldn’t slow down my dare devil husband.

Since we have been traveling for many months I was long overdue for some pampering. Though my understanding of Spanish is limited, I understood the head shaking and eye rolls as my beauty team looked at the condition of my feet, nails, and skin. At one point I had three technicians working on me. While one was applying a gooey mask, another was filing my nails, and another at work on my toes.

As my cuticles were being pushed and cut I was beginning to think that I would have been in less pain if I was with Oliver who was biking the perilous, “Death Road”.

But, by the time I settled into my massage, I knew that I had made the right decision. I was hoping that Ol made the right choice on his adventure.

It is this balancing act that has made us a good travel team. I know my faults and weaknesses as well as Ol’s. We both have compatible strengths that have kept us safe and happy while on the road. I try to minimize any perils or bad experiences by doing a lot of research. Hence, my day at the spa and not whizzing down a jungle road. Ol is much more relaxed and goes with the flow. Not much bothers or worries him.

We have learned from our mistakes and have learned what works for us. For example, after Ol made a couple of hostel or hotel reservations that were epic failures, I now do the majority of the travel planning.

He knew that cleanliness was my main criteria in a place to stay. I won’t stay at a place unless it scores at least a 9 out of 10 in cleanliness. After Ol’s second booking mistake, he learned that a private bath is essential, unless that just isn’t a possibility (usually when we are in a remote location with no other options).

I assumed that I wouldn’t have had to spell that out! The same with a non-smoking room. He and I have lived together for over thirty-five years, so it seems like he would know some of these things! Anyway, over the past seven months I have learned to better communicate my feelings, thoughts, worries, concerns, and fears. Therefore, I think that I have become a better travel partner, and there are fewer surprises along the way.

We have tried several different travel apps and hotel reservation websites. We usually check two or three sites and compare prices before we book anything, We have found that with their deals of the day and “Genius” discount usually has the best price. With it, we are able to check in early and check out late, which is a big help when we are waiting on a flight or a bus.

Depending upon the country, we usually stay in three or four star hotels or hostels. In Colombia and Bolivia, where prices are better, we were even able to even stay in some five star hotels. We have also used HomeAway and AirBnB and stayed in some very nice vacation rentals. I now regret that I didn’t take at least one photo of each property so that we could do a quick montage of the places we stayed (I’m going to do this on the next leg of our journey).

We have also camped in pristine wilderness, slept in rental cars, slept on overnight busses, and three times we have had to share a room with fellow travelers that we didn't know. This was a little awkward, but not bad because the alternative would have been camping outside in a very cold environment.

So, as the designated Travel Agent I usually do the research on our next location or activity. I present Ol with options and budgets and we both make a decision. If something isn’t in the budget, but is really important to one of us, we talk about it and try to make it work.

If we have just purchased an expensive tour, rented a car, took an expensive flight, or are visiting an expensive area, we will try to stay in more affordable lodging to keep us on budget.

The only time this isn’t true is when we feel like we have been deprived of luxuries for too long. When we need pampering we will stay in a nice hotel, order room service, binge watch television, and try to do the things that we would do back home, like go to the movies. Occasionally treating ourselves and splurging is one of the most important things that we have done that has enabled us to travel long term without being homesick or getting tired.

Also, we each have our own duties while on the road. I usually write our blog posts while Ol edits them and curates the photos that we use. He is also responsible for stuffing the backpacks. We stuff our backpacks into water resistant carrying bags that we can lock when we travel. We do this if we are going to check our bags, either on a plane or a bus. Ol is also responsible for charging our electronics. Even when I fall asleep reading my kindle, I usually wake up and find it plugged in and fully charged.

My duties also include keeping up with our home’s bills and banking. Ol is able to keep in touch with his fellow attorneys who are helping to manage some of his cases while we are gone. We both FaceTime friends and family regularly.

I know that Ol has asked our Blog readers for feedback on things of interest. It seems that there is some interest in our food, gear, accommodations, and day to day living on the road. We will start including these items in future posts. The photos in this post show where we stayed, shopped and ate this week. We changed hotels and cities twice and the areas we stayed in were nice. We had some great meals and caught up on the latest movies. I also got to watch the Academy Awards in english.

We have found every major city has an area that is modern and as nice or nicer than any city in the states. We also like to mix it up and stay in historic areas. These areas always seem to be a bit rougher, but are a much more authentic cultural experience. When we stay In small towns and rural villages it is often like stepping back in time. In these areas the people seem friendlier and the pace of life is much slower. We have come to love the people and customs found in these small South American communities.

Our food choices are similar to what we are used to at home. The restaurants in the larger cities are very nice and in some ways even nicer than those at home. However, in rural areas the choices are sometimes limited. In these areas the standard meal is a protein, usually chicken, fried or roasted, with potatoes and rice. There are very few vegetables or greens and always lots of bread. Breakfast is usually included with our room and typically includes eggs, ham, cheese, bread, fruit, juice, coffee and tea.

We usually start our day around 8 a.m. eat the breakfast at our hotel and then try to do one activity like visit a museum, park or historic attraction. We then have a late lunch. We rarely eat dinner. The exception is when we have been hiking all day, or if we missed breakfast or lunch. Generally we are content with two meals a day.

I wish that we would have spent more time documenting some of our meals and food choices during our travels. This is probably the main area of our relationship where there is disagreement.

I am the adventurous eater. Ol, not so much. I actually think that we would have millions of followers if I just posted a daily video of Ol either looking at, smelling, or tasting a new food. It would be my version of the old TV commercial for Life cereal. In my show, It would be “Does Ol like it?” Viewers would just tune in for the daily facial expressions. This would have been especially great in the markets that we visited where we walked by the hanging heads of animals and other unrecognizable body parts (Ok, this is a warning the next photo is from a market in Peru and not for the faint hearted).

For those of you who think that you know Oliver, you would have to see him in a foreign restaurant, or with food choices that are different. His facial expressions can be hilarious. He has an onion face, an olive face, and just a plain “that’s disgusting” face. At home, we all just wait to see what face he makes when I cook something new.

So, during our travels, while I am dining on the best ceviche in the world, Ol is eating pizza. While I am eating amazing fresh fish that I can’t even pronounce, Ol is eating pizza. However, I do have to give him credit for ordering a King Crab pizza at one point.

So, on our next journey, I will start documenting more of our food choices. As our journey in South America sadly comes to a close, I will try to post more about our accommodations, gear and clothing, meals, and just our life on the road. And, I hope to serve as inspiration or a blueprint for anyone who wants to step out of the comfort zone and experience a life of adventure and travel.

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