South America Recap (Why I Love This Continent and Why You Need to Visit)
South America was definitely one of the best unsuspected surprise because I didn't really know what to expect but I was definitely blown away by everything these past 4+ months in this amazing continent. To be honest, I wasn't even that adamant about traveling through here. I knew I wanted to see a few of the main attractions such as Patagonia and Machu Picchu. I didn't know much else about South America. My views about the continent was a bit clouded by the negative connotation Americans have about it such as it being extremely dangerous, especially for a solo female traveling, and a taboo about untraveled land. Neither of these things were true and I cannot wait to head back.
They absolutely amazing! They live such happy and full lives with so little. It makes you rethink about what you value and how spoiled you are with the things you have in your life. It definitely made me rethink it all. I realized how little I really need to live a filling life. I am going to try and implement this into my life when I reacclimated into "real life." You see the living conditions they have and how little money they make and wonder how they are so happy and always with a smile on their faces. It's something you definitely want to try emulate. Even when they don't have much or can communicate with you, they are still so gracious and helpful. They are really curious about where you come from and love that you are there visiting their country. Of course, there are always some bad apples but they shouldn't scare you away or think everyone else is like that. Overall, I have found them the sweetest, funniest, and liveliest people!
Nature, Nature, Nature
The number one reason I wanted to come to South America was because I wanted to hike and see beautiful landscapes. I was really missing this after 6+ months of traveling through Europe. I was a bit sick and tired of just touring cities and seeing cathedrals after cathedrals. I was ready to do some activities and be active, where I thrive. This was exactly what South America provided. During my 4 months, I hiked a total of 1 month. So 1 out of 4 days I was out hiking and being with nature. I can't get over how amazing each hike and each trek was different. However, it really did wear down on me because by my last 3 weeks in Colombia, I was just pretty over it and just wanted to rest and lay out on the beach with my cocktail. Some of the main highlights were definitely the most beautiful and best trekking I have ever done. From Patagonia to Salkantay, you will find yourself in every different terrains and climates. So come prepared with your hiking boots (and maybe camping gear)!
Easy to travel
You might have heard many stories about unpaved roads and broken buses but I found South America to be really easy to travel around, especially for backpackers. The reason for this is that there are buses going to every city, which means you can plan and book everything last minute and travel for cheap.
The buses are also unexpectedly very comfortable! I prefer sitting in a bus than on a plane. They recline pretty far back and the chairs are big. You can even pay a bit more to have your own bed! Some bus companies are better than others but I have never had a bad experience with any buses in any of the 5 countries I traveled in.
Cheap cheap cheap (well mostly)
Before I go further into this, I must warn that Chile and Argentina are not cheap. Their prices are comparable to American prices... Don't be fooled when the prices increase exponentially between Chile and Bolivia, for example.
However, in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia you can live pretty cheaply. Hostel range around $6-12usd a night, you can get a 'Menu del Dia' (Menu of the Day) for around $3-5usd, which includes a soup, a main entree (rice, fries, salad, and salad), and a drink. You can also haggle for everything so if you feel ripped-off on a taxi, HAGGLE! You can always lower that initial price.
Everyone speaks the same language
Every country in South America speaks Spanish! So if you are able to learn a bit of Spanish before heading out, you can keep improving it as you travel. You don't have to try and learn the top 10 phrases for each new country you travel to. This makes traveling a bit easy and also trying to learn a new language easier as well. My Spanish definitely got a lot better from my 4+ months here. I would recommend doing a few weeks of Spanish classes when you first get into the continent. This will help you travel around, haggle, and make friends with locals.