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Monday, June 06, 2011

This is it.

I have been home for a week now long enough to "mostly" adjust to being back home now. I am still having some issues with adjustment back to normal adult life here. Whats ironic is the most trouble I am having is the food here. It is tearing me up inside! I guess I am just not used to all the chemicals/processed stuff we have here. I am in the process of looking for a job and settling in. Getting bank stuff arranged and all that "normal stuff". I will still write this blog every now and again but, since I am no longer traveling I have to end this somewhere and get started on this book printing process!

I just thought I would add some final thoughts and do a final recap of my 575 days (19-ish months) away. My fondest memory of my entire Australia trip if I had to pick only one would be singing slightly drunken karaoke with my mate Josiah from Boston. I loved it so much because I am a horrible terrible singer with a bad voice but that night I just didn't care at all and I got on stage and let loose. The crowd ate it up when we sung "Lost that Lovin' feeling" and I loved it! I loved getting out of my comfort zone and doing something new. I may never do that again though haha I don't think I could top that night.

My fondest memory from Thailand was just hanging out with The Wolf Pack and all the great times I had with those guys who will be lifelong friend's now. In Laos I loved relaxing and driving around on my motorbike like a local. In Cambodia my best memory is the massage I got by Nika the blind woman and having the power go out to the entire city every night. It was really peaceful actually. As was the golden temples of Cambodia.

In New Zealand my greatest memories were all the friendships I made and all the new jobs and skills I got. I can't even begin to narrow it down to one thing there is way too many and I will have countless life long friends there for sure.

In Chile my best memory is the awesome party we got to go too with our great CS host Jordan and his amazing hospitality to Ben and I which I will never forget. In Bolivia the Salt Desert sure was amazing. In Peru I loved the food and of course Machu Picchu was absolutely amazing and breathtaking. In Argentina my favourite memory by far was all the great times I had with the sugar active Couch Surfing group there and the tango lesson I took. Because that was really out of my comfort zone but I did it anyway and really enjoyed it!

What can I say about Colombia? I loved every minute. My up's and downs and crazy times, fun times all of it. Even when I had no money I was having fun. The Colombian people are by far some of the nicest people I have ever met. So kind and caring and giving. Willing to help out a random gringo like me. Their Spanish is so clear there and the country is so beautiful! The safety has much improved and there is so much to see and do. Almost untouched by tourism and has so much to offer I just love it there! The Salt Cathedral was by far my favourite though.

It is so hard to narrow it down to just one favourite memory from each country but I am trying for you. I experienced so many amazing things and places I will never forget. Saw so many amazing sunsets/sunrises and things I can't even begin to accurately describe for you, you just have to be there. I met SO many amazing people all along the way. My life will never be the same again and it is forever changed for the better.

I have so many countless people to thank for making my 19 months so special and amazing for me. My family, friends back home, friends I made along the way, All of my CS hosts and friends, I have to thank all the random strangers who helped me out along the way just out of the kindness of their hearts. I must thank the strangers who helped me and became good friends. Most especially I need to thank Sandradee Makejev (my amazing now lifelong friend from Sydney) and Bernie Czislowski my good mate from Queensland.

I have to thank tons and tons of people from CS in New Zealand and most especially Vikki Neal who helped me out tons! My list of people to thank is endless! So many people to thank all over South America! Without Couch Surfing my trip as it was would not have been possible.

My best mate Ben deserves a special paragraph all to himself. I randomly met him on the city bus in Sydney in December 2009 and since then we have been through thick and thin together. He truly will be a life long great friend of mine I will never forget or lose touch with no matter where we end up in the world. He has helped me through countless situations and I will be forever grateful for his friendship. I like to hope he feels the same way about me.  Thanks a lot mate! :) I wont forget our good times together (and our bad ones) we always managed to make it through!

Last but not least I need to selfishly thank myself. I chose to go to Colombia and in the process of that trip learned that you can't believe everything you hear and read about a country. I had an amazing time there and everyone was great! This has been a great ride and it is over for now but maybe not forever. I have learned so much about myself and about life. I am closing this chapter of it but will always remember all of it forever.

The biggest thing I learned while I was away was perspective. Don't bitch about the little things and be grateful for what you have. Be grateful for hot water and tap water you can drink and toilets you can put toilet paper in. Be grateful for Walmart and good clean sanitation and cars and money and westernized life styles. Because many many people in this world can only dream about what you have. I have experienced the worst so I can be thankful for the best. Thankful for my friends,family,health and my life. I am one of the luckiest guys alive.

Remember always pack your own toilet paper. Thanks for joining me on this ride it has been fun sharing it with you. Traveling with Tyler Volume Two will start up when I decide to start traveling again. For now I leave this journey with a full passport and a brain full of memories and experiences I will cherish forever.

Over and out for the last time. Your traveling Texan,Tyler

Thursday, June 02, 2011

South American Reflections

Now that I have left South America it is time for a little recap. I started with Ben in Santiago Chile and we arrived and got to our awesome host, Jordan's house. He was an English teacher from New York and he was really cool he helped us with Spanish (because at the time we knew zero Spanish) and he took us on a food tour of Santiago which was great. We really had a good time there the only hiccup I had was thinking that everyone would speak English in South America because boy was I wrong! I had some issues the very first day with the language barrier but, once I started learning Spanish I got it all sorted thank God.

From there we went to the coast of Chile to a city called Valparaiso and had some great seafood and a great time. Not much to tell there we just had a great host Peter and met some great people and really enjoyed it. We left for the Chilean/Bolivian border from Valpo. Once we got there we left from San Pedro Chile (a city I really liked but took us 26 hours on the bus to get there!) into Bolivia for our salt flat tour.

After I paid my 140 USD for my friggin entry visa fee i got to go into Bolivia and take our salt desert tour with Ben (he was 140 USD richer than me at that point) :(  I had a really good time with our guide and our group on the tour even though I actually enjoyed the lead up to the actual salt desert more than the salt desert itself. Although we did get some pretty amazing pictures there. We also stayed in La Paz the highest capital city on the planet and I had a lot of trouble breathing there! it was like being on the top of a mountain all the time!!

Next we went from Bolivia into Peru and spent some time in Lima and Cusco with some great couch surfers. In Lima we saw a laser light/water park show that would blow anything Vegas has out of the water (no pun intended) they had big water fountains on timers set to shoot up to music and not only that but they had laser lights timed to go with this as well it was totally amazing! It only cost us 1.50 USD to get in and we loved it. There was even a water "maze" we got to play in and all the locals were laughing at us white guys getting wet haha.

Cusco was my favourite city in all of Peru, the history and architecture all the Spanish influence and it was just a really awesome place! We stayed there before we decided to go to  Machu Picchu. That in and of itself really is a world wonder! It is so hard to get up there and expensive and our tour was not amazing due to some of the shitty things that happened but after all the walking and hiking and effort it was totally worth the money to go up there and see that amazing city on top of a mountain and I have the passport stamp to prove it :) The only other place we went in Peru was Lake Titicaca. It was beautiful and amazing and huge there. Sure the town we stayed in was a total tourist trap but just being there was great. I saw one of my top ten best sunsets ever there I wish all of you could have seen it overlooking everything wow!

Ben and I flew from Lima to Buenos Aires Argentina where I again had to pay 140 USD just like in Bolivia and Chile only because I am American. As a German Ben doesn't get charged a penny but, our country does it to them so they charge us right back. I hate our travel policies! Anyway B.A. was a lot of fun and we had great times with couch surfers (they have one of the most active couch surfing groups in the world) and we met some amazing people there. We took a tango lesson and had a great time that is until I got my wallet stolen :( it was also kind of expensive in Buenos Aires by South American standards but other than that bump in the road everything else was great there and we did manage to see an amazing drumming performance there!Also, in Argentina they had very very strange door keys. Big golden keys like they were from the 1800's or something and they were square!

Ben and I split up after Argentina and I decided to go to Bogotá Colombia since I didn't get the visa to go to Brazil (only to the airport there where I met Jessica in the terminal) so it was a lucky stopover for me hehe. Once I landed in Bogotá I went straight to my CS hosts house and he ended up being a really nice guy but at first I bought into all the media reports and I was really scared of Colombia which is ironic because it ended up being my favourite country in all of South America and not a single bad thing happened to me at all! If anything, people were extra nice to me and I would totally recommend that Americans (or anyone) travel there!

I traveled in and around Bogotá I saw a church in an underground mine made out of salt. I saw an amazing view of the whole city of 8 million people and I saw a bunch of cool cities around Bogotá.  I met some amazing couch surfers who helped me with tons and tons of stuff and were some of the nicest people I have ever met including my second host Marcela who was amazing to me! I had great food for super cheap and got to see this beautiful country and for sure I will be coming back to see more of that amazing country since I only saw just a bit of what it has to offer and not to mention that is where I want to learn proper Spanish in Colombia. I loved it there!!

My only regret is that I ran out of money so I had to come home earlier than I planned (even though I made it a surprise and my family didn't know) I wish I had more time for South/Central America (like Ben does) and while I did learn A LOT of Spanish (considering I started with basically zero Spanish) I still want to go back to Colombia and learn proper Spanish and take some classes and maybe even teach English there.

Until next time yall,Tyler