Jun 4, 2024 6 min read

The Traveler, part 8: Exploring Latin America

The Traveler, part 8:  Exploring Latin America

So, Latin America: After living in Southern California for forty years, and being surrounded by a growing population of Mexicans and South Americans, I was not enamored by the culture. Europe; Asia, now they were new to me, but Mexican food and the language were almost a part of my daily life. Plus, my experience with Mexico was limited to the rough border towns, which were poverty ridden, and a few resorts in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

But after living in, and enjoying, the Yucatan (east side) Peninsula area of Mexico, I had a more open mind. Puerto Morelos, our home for 15 months during COVID, was very chill, plus the beach and Caribbean waters made it heavenly. Now that COVID was ending in June 2021, I planned to visit other parts of Mexico, then head south to Ecuador.

Oaxaca was first since so many people raved about their “mole,” a unique Mexican dish they were known for. It’s a smallish town and easy to navigate, and the week I spent there made me recognize that YES, it was a cool place, and one I would consider returning to.

It was also further west than I had been, so I took advantage of cheap bus tickets and went to the coastal city of Puerto Escondido and the very rustic town of Zipolite, which its notorious nude beaches, which I definitely enjoyed. The one good thing about Mexico is that “anything goes,” could be a National motto, but that same motto can be a downside, too…

Mole (mol-ay) looks strange, tastes great, and comes in several different varieties!

Mexico City was next on the list, primarily just to see how crazy one of the largest cities in the world could be. I stayed with a friend I met in Puerto Morelos, and she was nice enough to tour me around, plus pick me up at the airport when I had a business trip to the US.

She was also very proud of her country and took me 70 km south to see the still active Popocatepetl volcano, which was smoldering, but not dangerous, plus a town that has even more fans than Oaxaca: San Miguel de Allende, a very popular expat magnet. Even with short times in those two cities I grudgingly recognized that there were some places I liked, but, Europe still beckoned.

My room in Zipolite (MX) was literally right ON the sand, for less than $20

My flight into Ecuador was one of the most memorable ever as I descended into the most green forests I have ever seen. The ground below literally glowed, and from above I could see evidence of major ground movements, which made sense since Ecuador is on the Ring of Fire seismic area.

“Lost Relationships”

As permanent nomads, it is easy to lose touch with friends back home. Usually it is caused by a lack of having things in common. When we live the same life for years or decades, we gravitate towards people with similar interests. Maybe the kids were a bond; maybe sports; maybe work. But when all those links are severed sometimes there is not enough of a hook to keep the friendship alive.

For me, two of my closest friends are my oldest term friends, going back 50 years to high school days. Even though travel is not a common bond, our long history and friendship is. Casual acquaintances are the most likely to suffer, but deeper friendships will possibly still connect you, even though they cannot always understand the nomadic life.

Just as you/ we/ I cannot understand their same old, same old life. Different strokes, as they say.

“NEW Relationships”

On the other side of the equation are the new friends we meet on the way, and I have new friends, nomadic and stationary, that I will probably stay close to forever.

We met (American from Connecticut) Paul in Croatia as he was trying to figure out the best way to get there from Albania. We kicked around options via Facebook Messenger and when he finally arrived we hit it off, including Kat.

The three of us paled around regularly and coffee, desserts, and travel were part of our bond. He was a new nomad and very open to our experience and guidance, but now, four years later, he is a pro—and we have connected with him in FIVE different countries, which is always a treat. Along the way we have met with a few other people, single and couples, multiple times, and it’s always fun to compare notes.

Nice view, right?

As I arrived in Quito, Ecuador, I was blown away by the room I was staying in for about $12 USD per night. I had my own room, private bath, plus a pano view of Pichincha mountain, a “stratovolcano” at 4700 meters (15,696 feet) in height. I guess Kat’s concern about elevation was legit since the town of Quito is 9000 feet above sea level itself!

The air in August was crisp and this was my first visit south of the equator—even if it was by only 15 miles, since I was strategically right at the northern/ southern hemisphere border.

That thrilled my inner geek to the extreme!

Along with my great room, cheap price, beautiful few, I was also blessed to meet Edison, my AirBNB host, who came in wearing a motorcycle riding suit—and we formed an instant bond. At half my age, which bothered neither of us, we found that we were kindred spirits with bikes, women, love, and business, and we are still friends today.

He introduced me to his friends in town and I was able to get a motorcycle for three days, so we took off on of the most magnificent rides in my entire life. (link). The geologic activity in Ecuador created cliffs, rivers, landslides, and the largest mountain in the world—Chimborazo—at 20,500 feet. BUT, if you read the fine print, Chimborazo is even taller than Mount Everest when measured from the center of the planet, so it gets the Blue Ribbon as being the tallest mountain on Earth.

The mountains and cloud cover never got old

Our two day bike trip took us near it, plus to the Amazonian city of Banos, one of the closest towns to the Amazon River entry. My wanderlust is not what it was decades ago, and I have learned what inconveniences I WANT to endure, and which I don’t. I decided to pass on a boat river run, and, in hindsight, have some regrets.

Another cool Ecuador experience: straddling the northern and southern hemispheres

My few weeks in Ecuador left a permanent mark and stands as a great memory. I bused to the very popular expat community of Cuenca along one of the most visually exciting roads I have ever been on! Some narrow, some rough, but mostly a panorama of different colors, cliffs, and elevation changes.

I also straddled the northern and southern hemispheres and got to watch water circle the drain clockwise, then counterclockwise, within just ten feet of each other. And I also got to hike to the top of that amazing mountain I viewed from by bedroom window, enjoying llamas, alpacas, and other herding animals on the way.

While I was doing my thing, Kat was doing hers in Ohio with her family. The time we spend on our own was healthy for us, and she got to know her son’s new family very well after living there for two months. As summer was ending, and Labor Day holiday (only in the US) around the corner, it was time to rendezvous again. We knew that Peru was our spot, but had to strategize when to meet, where, and what to do then.

Many people think that being a NOMAD, however they define it, is easy, but it has lots of nuances, twists and turns. Figuring out destinations, flights, trains, buses, etc.. can be challenging, but experience IS a great teacher. She was coming from Ohio, I was coming from Quito. For me, my flight was just a few hours, but hers was much longer.

Next stop: Lima, Peru, and beyond.

Thank you for reading and make sure to subscribe. We're constantly exploring new destinations and share our stories, tips, and the beauty we discover along the way.


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