A Writer, in South America

by littlesarahbigworld

This blog used to be an outlet for my writing, with maybe a few occasional photos thrown in. As examples, or proof, or to illustrate my words. Photos were the compliment to the writing.

Now photos dominate, and sometimes it feels like this space is a relentless, oppressive, compulsive documentation of my every waking hour.

Don’t get me wrong, Friends–I love capturing the small, gentle, simple moments of every day life. I like being able to communicate visually.

But maybe this isn’t the outlet for that?

We’ll see. In the meantime, some long-overdue words. A feast of words, Friends.

(from my travel journal in South America, mostly unedited, but with parts left out)

Friday, May 4th, 2012 – Day 1
(airplane: SLC – Houston)

I have to say, I’m excited to be traveling again. I think I must be one of those rare birds, because I actually ENJOY traveling–cramped quarters, strange people, random and bad snacks and meals…I love the little routines I’ve developed, after years of traveling solo. Never getting to the airport too early, always bringing socks, buying trashy magazines that I read cover to cover…I always board with my left foot first and disembark with my right, saying “Left for Lenore” and “Start off on the right foot.” (Lenore is my father’s mother who died when I was about 5). I like to think that grandma will watch over me and protect me.

I guess flying by myself to visit Cousin Em when I was 12, 13, 14 years old I always felt so grown-up, so mature and independent, and I’ve never lost that feeling.

There is no time I feel more littlesarahBigWorld than when I travel alone. I like that feeling.

*       *       *

Friday, May 4th…continued…
(Houston Airport)

Having to check myself so that I don’t literally inhale my steamed vegetables and fresh spring roll. They feel that nourishing, like drinking down a glass of water.

Cheap, too, for airport eats ($6.29). I’m very proud of my good decisions.

*       *       *

Sunday, May 6th, 2012 – Day 3
(somewhere in Buenos Aires)

Is this how couch surfing works, then? You pick someone based on a hunch, and then you’re stuck with them, for better or for worse?

I feel antsy, and like I have no control. Not over what I eat, or when, or where we go.

*       *       *

Monday, May 7th, 2012 – Day 4
(café Anamora – BA)

I’m shocked at how impressionable and unsure I am. Ordering a coffee when really I just want tap water, just because the waitress suggests something.

*       *       *

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 – Day 6
(bus: BA – Mendoza)

I want to make better choices…I have this vision of a timeless woman. The woman I want to be. Someone who wakes up early, eats well, uses her time wisely. I want to be an early riser, lead a simple life. Slow it down.

Wednesday, May 9th…continued
(Mendoza – Plaza Ind.)

Bad day. Very cranky. Ankles and feet still grossly swollen. A nap helped a bit, but I don’t know what else to do…

Hungry after the nap, so I tried to eat in a restaurant, but the waiter gave me the menu in English and then disappeared. I left after 10 minutes…

…Really, I just wanted to say “fuck you.” So angry, or I guess “hangry.” I bought a banana and a small coke from a little shop, so now I’m at least not on the verge of tears. I’m going to go to the Carrefour…and I’ll probably just get some chips or nuts or something.

This is the worst country in which to be vegan. Worse even than Spain. At least in Spain they had falafel.

*       *       *

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 – Day 7!
(Hostel Lao, Mendoza)

Went for a run in the big park here, San Martín. The lake smells like depilatory cream. It took me a moment to place it–my first thought was “middle school,” then “shoplifting,” then finally “Nair.”

I’m glad those three thoughts occupy the same space in my mind.

*       *       *

Friday, May 11th, 2012 – Day 8
(van: Mendoza – Santiago)

Random recollections from Mendoza:

-stray dogs everywhere. Maybe the “shop dogs” in BA were strays, too? But they matched.

-sweeping the sidewalks with dried palm fronds

-almost no pedestrian lights, so you just watch the streetlights, but the cars want to hit you, I swear

*       *       *

Monday, May 14th, 2012 – Day 11

Last night I had a low moment, a lull. I realized that I still had 2 weeks of travel, and that seemed so overwhelming, like a lot of money that I was going to spend, and for what? I was feeling uncomfortable in our CS stay here, not knowing where I was going to sleep or what was expected of me.

But I rallied, wrote a letter to Eric, came out of my shell, bought wine and chocolate to share.


Our apartment/CS reminds me of Boing! and actually so does the whole city, very artsy, grungy, chaotic. There is more beautiful, vibrant graffiti here than I’ve ever seen before in my life.

*       *       *

Wednesday, May 16th–Whitney’s birthday–2012 – Day 13
(CS stay: La Serena)

Wishing I’d stayed in Valpo. Woke up still drunk but feeling positive, lots of good thoughts and a sense of well-being. But traveling together is hard, and Brett’s sick today, and irritable.

I was just getting to know people and make friends when we left, just getting into a routine. But of course the ticket was already bought, and I’ve got to make it to Lima by the 27th, and Cuzco before that.

*       *       *

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 – Day 14
(CS – Wilson/Jhamiel’s backyard, La Serena, Chile)

Feeling better. I like that I have finally reached a place in my life where I can be feeling low and remember that it will pass. Took long enough, but here we are. I always thought growing up meant getting older, weaker, less attractive, more boring, that it meant growing colder and closing yourself off. I never realized that there could be this relaxation and comfort, like I’ve finally grown into my own skin. And I never anticipated that if I’d only hold still and quit frantically thrashing about, then wisdom would slowly come to me, absorbed into my bones and my very being, like some sort of cosmic osmosis.

I totally dig it.


Yesterday, when I was feeling peaceful and content on the bus, I was thinking about how tonight my new friends in Valpo will be celebrating, dancing and drinking, laughing and talking, and I will not be there with them. I can picture so clearly that happy little space, and their merriment, but I cannot be there to share it with them. Life has pushed me forward, and I have to accept that. And I do accept that, and I wish my friends well.

I’ve noticed that Brett is calmest while eating, or right after eating, and least calm when needing to eat, or sleep, or use the bathroom. He gets anxious, moody, lots of nervous energy. And I just try my best to wait out the storm. I know I’ve been like that before, will (unfortunately) probably be like that again.

*       *       *

Friday, May 18th, 2012 – Day 15
(Café Colonia, La Serena)

Today is my 15th day, which means I only have 10 days left. Crazy! I didn’t think this day would come. I remember when I only had 10 days under my belt, it was the first day/night in Valpo, when I was overwhelmed, thinking of how much time I had left.

And now I don’t feel like that, I feel capable of dealing with whatever comes. Though, truth be told, I’d easily go home tomorrow, if I could. I’ve enjoyed my time so far, but I feel I’ve learned so much, and now the adventure and growth are kind of…plateauing. I can’t imagine gaining any more, and I’m worried about spending too much money.

I’m sick 😦 Josh was sicky, then Brett’s been pretty touch-and-go since Wednesday, and last night I felt like I had mold growing in my lungs. Then the sore throat hit, and it is so sharply painful.

*       *       *

Sunday, May 20th, 2012 – Day 17
(San Pedro de Atacama)

Dinner/drinks with an astrophysicist/músico from Santiago. I think it’s a romantic thing for him, but I just need a break from Brett and Josh.

*       *       *

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 – Day 19
(boat – Lake Titicaca)

We got to Arica, on the Chile-Peru border, early Monday morning. I made friends with an older french man, and we chatted pleasantly over tea and toast while josh radiated hatred for me. Later, when I tried to share with B & J what I’d learned about this man (our chat had been in French), Josh interrupted me to say how the man had smelled terrible.

I feel like I need to chronicle these events, to justify wanting to break away from them. Like I’m making my case…I think I’ll be happier on my own, though it might cost a bit more. There is a Romanian woman named Carolina on this island trip, and I think we will do Cuzco/Machu Pichu together, though I am worried about having enough time. We’ll see. I’ll talk to her about it. And she will listen to me and be kind. Which is really all I need.

*       *       *

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 – Day 20
(plaza – Taquile Island)

Woke up crying this morning. Because I am still sick, and because I didn’t sleep well, and because I want to go home. I’m done. I’m done traveling, touring, visiting, meeting new people, and especially spending money.

Maybe yesterday Sarah was right, though. Maybe I should just dive in, as I’m already into it pretty deep, financially.

I don’t want to regret, to feel like I’ve made another, terrible, expensive mistake. But I DO feel like that.

Maybe I would have regretted not coming, though, who knows? It’s too late now, at any rate, which is a sad, sobering fact.

*       *       *

Friday, May 25th, 2012 – Day 22
(resto – Aguas Calientes)

Hiked Machu Pichu this morning. With Brett and Josh. They were much better behaved yesterday, and in the end, it was easier to just go along with the flow.

Not feeling quite so regretful, after all. I’ll have to work hard to save up money again, but it’s summer, so there will be more light and energy to go around. And I know I can manage my time better.

*       *       *

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 – Day 23

(aeropuerto, Cuzco)

Last night I reached traveling zen. On the bus from Ollantaytambo back to Cuzco. We’d almost missed our train leaving Aguas Calientes and had to run through town, escorted by a series of running policemen and officials, relay-style. People yelled out directions as we sprinted through the market, making it onto the train just seconds before it left.

Brett and Josh were too sick from running to eat, but I was fine. Chatted the whole with a very talkative London girl that they’d met earlier, though my voice was going. Then a veritable cattle call trying to sync up with our “guide” and bus back to Cuzco. Then finally, onto the bus headed back, and there was club music playing and people talking, and we kept taking dirt roads and sharp turns and passing illegally going very fast on the highway…

And I didn’t care. I was fine. I buckled up, leaned my head back, closed my eyes. If I slept, I slept, and if not, well, that was fine, too. I was content just to sit.

Then at the hostel in Cuzco, sharing a room mad for 10. Josh is stingy with his computer, oh well. Brett might snore, people might come in and out, leave the door open, let in the cold. I knew I’d sleep what I could, try to rest, relax. That the sun would come up and I’d be able to get up, shower, eat breakfast and go.

And I did.

*       *       *

So now you know, Friends. Now you know.