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What I Wonder When I Wander: Have we lost our travel mojo?

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This is something I never thought I would say, but it is a confession I must make nonetheless. After five months of three straight housesits, I don’t know if I have what it takes to get out and travel again.

But that is exactly what is going to happen in November when we fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina! For those of you not signed up to our newsletter (and if you’re not, why not? Sign up to get it here.) we recently announced that it is finally time for us to travel to South America, starting in Buenos Aires! Technically, because we are spending the whole month of November in the city, we won’t be ‘traveling’, but the balancing act will return. In smaller cities and especially at these beach houses we have been housesitting lately, maintaining a balance between work and social lives is easy, but in a city like Buenos Aires, we will be jumping head first into a schedule that has us out exploring the incredible city all day, eating dinner at 10pm, going out at midnight. At the moment, we’re in bed by 10pm.

After the month Buenos Aires, we will probably jump right on the trail, traveling down to Patagonia, back up into Mendoza and then on to the rest of South America for six months or more. For those of you reading this who have not done long term travel, the ‘trail’ is this magnetic path that most travelers are drawn to travel on and no matter how often you hop off to do that ‘off the beaten path’ exploring, the trail pulls you back. After all, those places that lie right on the beaten path are usually the best, if also the easiest, places to visit while on the road.

dani preparing for south america
Getting ready to hit the road again

We do our best to go beyond and explore further out regions and even popular cities in more detail, but in the end, we want to travel as much of South America as we can while we are there, so much of it will be on the trail. And the thing about the trail is, once you are on it, it’s like a roller coaster of experiences that come flying at you day after day, week after week. Getting to a place, putting down our bags, unpacking only the things we need for the next day or two, exploring, spending the day doing something adventurous or relaxing after too much adventure (or wine) the day before. We stay a few days, or longer if we like it, and then it is on to the next place we have been reading or hearing so much about.

This freedom is exhilarating. In fact, sometimes, travel is about more than seeing the world. Packing up if you don’t like a place, just picking up and moving on, feels like acting out a sort of rebellion against the static lives we used to lead, against that sinking feeling in your stomach on a Sunday night when you allow yourself to remember that tomorrow is Monday and it’s back to the grind. It is even a rebellion against that excitement you allow yourself to feel on Friday afternoons, hours from the weekend, a giddiness which every week feels more like the last day of a school year the more you hate your job.

Booking bus tickets for a Tuesday afternoon, going snorkeling on a Thursday morning, and working full-on on a Sunday all sort of justify the reason why we left to become nomads in the first place. The freedom to use our days the way we want to, the way we prioritize. That’s an incredible feeling.

That kind of travel comes with sacrifices as well. When housesitting, we make healthy food, work out everyday (currently doing Insanity – have you done this craziness?), and have a set work schedule for more than a few days at a time. Squeezed on a bus for 20 hours or exploring an unfamiliar city all day makes motivation for those things hard to find. When we housesit, or live in an apartment, we take on clients, work on new projects; we are proactive. When we travel, it’s all about keeping up, not getting ahead.

housesitting in Costa Rica
Enjoying the comforts of having our own kitchen in Costa Rica

So, why in the world do we even want to do this? Why do we want to get back on the road?

That’s easy. Aside from all that freedom, seeing the world is addicting. As we travel, we each become obsessed about visiting places we never even thought about before. I never had an inkling to visit Jordan, or Egypt, or to spend a month (or more) in Istanbul and don’t even get me started on my recent obsession with traveling through Eastern Europe, either. But before any of that can happen, we have to visit South America. Our obsession with traveling this part of the world has been there longer than anywhere else.

I have dreamed of this trip since I first fell in love with speaking Spanish in high school, or maybe even earlier when I saw Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas traipsing through the Colombian jungle in Romancing the Stone, but definitely since I read my first Isabel Allende novel and Pablo Neruda’s poetry and memorizing every word of every song on Shakira’s Donde Estan Los Ladrones album. I am bursting with excitement at the thought of watching people dance the Tango in Buenos Aires, I have always had this crazy interest in spending time in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I want to walk through vineyards in Chile and Argentina and learn everything I can about New World wines, get drenched by the spray off the massive Iguazu Falls, eat lunch sold by Bolivian ladies wearing Bowler hats and of course hike to the top of Machu Picchu.

After five months and three housesits, I am healthier, more fit and more productive than I have been in ages (we both are!). My question is whether I am going to be able to successfully balance what I have been feeling like is the ‘new me’ with all the travel to come. Have these months in the sun been to enough solidify this new found work ethic or has it made us a little bit soft? Only time will tell, and any words of encouragement can’t hurt (hint hint).

Have you been to South America? Where do you recommend we go that’s off the beaten path? Do you know Buenos Aires well and have a restaurant/bar/attraction to recommend we visit? Do you live in South America? We’d love to meet up when we pass through! 

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Tags : What I Wonder When I Wander

35 Comments

  1. Hi Jess & Dani!

    I’m so excited for you guys that you are going to South America – especially that you are starting it in Buenos Aires! I’ve been a fan of your site for awhile now.

    My boyfriend and I were able to go to S.A. for 3 months at the beginning of the year. BsAs was definitely my favorite city to visit. We went to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

    Don’t worry, once you land in Buenos Aires you will be so excited and inspired to be there that you won’t be able to wait to see everything!

    I do recommend that you pace yourself a little bit especially with traveling and trying to work. We didn’t pace ourselves at one point and it was difficult. But for us we had taken off on our big trip with little planning and not physically being ready for it (there were reasons for it of course). But happily by the midway point, we had completely gained confidence that we *could* still budget travel internationally with both of us in our 40’s now (I turned 40 while in Chile). Nice to know we still can and look forward to much more!

    We are currently stateside and contemplating house sits. 🙂 Thanks so much for your article on house-sitting. I just signed up for one. I also just relaunched my travel site. I chose to update my website while on the road and work on my writing when I got back.

    Personally I think you should put your travel first and push back on work as much as possible!

    Here are a few places that we really loved on our travels:

    DO NOT MISS Perito Moreno Glacier (Patagonia – outside of El Calafate, Argentina) – 3rd largest freshwater reserve – it is mind blowing and my favorite natural sight in S.A.

    Torre del Paine (patagonia – just over the border in Chile – near Puerto Natales) – amazing mountains.

    I liked Santiago. our guidebook wasn’t giving it a great review. They have an incredible museum on human rights that will just move you deeply with the images and video. Put on headphones and listen to the audio from Allende’s final, eloquent speech to his people moments before he was killed.

    Valparaiso, Chile (on the coast; 2 hours from Santiago) visit one of PABLO NERUDA’S houses. Amazing murals and graffiti. hillside town with ascensores (trams up the hills)

    I hope you both have a phenomenal time!! Hopefully I will have a bunch more articles posted before you go and I will share what I can with you. Let me know if you have any questions!

    All the best.

    Lisa
    iLiveWhereIam.com
    Lisa – iLiveWhereIam recently posted..Tour Buenos Aires by Bicycle – Cobblestones and the Reserva Ecológica

    1. Hi Lisa, wow wow wow, thanks so much for all these recommendations about South America – so helpful! Glad our post on Housesitting was helpful. We’ve got a few things up our sleeve on that front, so stay tuned for that! Unfortunately we are not at the point yet where we can push back on work, but we’ll get into the right balance I am sure when we finally hit the road again. We’ve done it in South East Asia, Europe and Central America…we just haven’t been this slow before with five whole months of housesitting in between. Keep in touch with where you are and all the mischief you get up to as you travel! 🙂

  2. If you remember I had chatted online with you about my son being in Bolivia, after reading this recent newsletter I asked him what he would suggest in S.A. & aside from the usual Death Road ride (tour co is Gravity Assisted) and the Salt Flats he said, that an off the beaten track thing would be volunteering at Ambue Ari which is an animal reserve. He spent almost 2 months there and came back home exhilarated. There are other parks within this group CIWY – here are websites –

    http://www.intiwarayassi.org/articles/volunteer_animal_refuge/ambue_ari.html

    http://www.intiwarayassi.org/articles/volunteer_animal_refuge/home.html

    1. Hi Mary, yes of course we remember! Just reading about the salt flats gets us excited 🙂 and we’ll definitely see about checking out the animal reserve as well! We’ve been to a few now in Thailand and Central America but this looks incredible with all of these exotic creatures! Can’t wait to finally get down to S.A.!

  3. I just finished up South America! So excited you are going there and starting in one of my favorite cities in the world!

    I have a billion tips for you, especially for Buenos Aires (the guide I wrote for Indie Travel Media is going to be published soon), El Chalten, Chile (don’t skip Valdivia and plan plenty of time in Valparaiso), and Bolivia. I have Travel Tips pages on Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia, but reach out if there is anything specific you are looking for.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Columbus rocks! My 4 music obsessions

    1. HI Stephanie, yes we’ll definitely use The Travel Chica as a resource as we go, for sure! It’s so so so exciting that we can finally get down there! Just over one month left before we go 🙂

  4. I can totally understand the feeling. There are actually certain routines you learn to enjoy when you’re not constantly moving. But eventually the urge returns and you have to get back out there on the road. Seems like you may have stumbled upon the next ebook idea – How to travel again after you’re used to housesitting 🙂
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Bizarre superheroes and a Juicy Lucy: 13 sights and observations from Minneapolis and St. Paul

    1. It’s a constant pull between the travel gods who inspire us to get out and see the world, and the nesting angels who say, hey, isn’t it nice to develop a routine, make friends and get lots of sh*t done? They are both right, so we have to just go on balancing these two the best we can!

    1. I think it’s the opposite for us now. Back in June when we were on the first of these three housesits, we were a little burnt out and needed the break. Now I think we’re way too laid back and relaxed, our travel muscles are a bit flabby 🙂 I am sure as soon as we land in BsAs we’ll be raring to go, though! 🙂

  5. We hear you! We’re into our very first house sit after nearly six years on the road and there’s a definite push/pull between the routine and control that comes with being in a house for an extended period of time vs. the lure of the freedom of the road–and all the routine-wrecking mayhem that comes with it. That said, if you can stick to a workout routine called “Insanity” then getting back on the road should be a piece of cake.
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Brand New Brews on the Beach – El Tunco, El Salvador

    1. Ain’t that the truth Karen! We are one month in, one month to go on Insanity and we’re taking that momentum and new level of fitness with on the road!

  6. Soo exciting. I recommend you go to a salenga when you are in Buenos Aires. Tango shows are so touristy and in the salengas you get to see real people dancing the most beautiful dance in the world. Don’t make eye contact with men though, as this is a sign that you are accepting their invitation for a dance (unless you can dance Tango Argentina of course). 🙂
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Tonle Bati and children with stomachs of steel

    1. Oooh thanks for the tip about the Salenga. We have heard about not making eye contact with men, and will be wearing shades AND closing my eyes until getting the hang of the tango 🙂

  7. We are currently debating whether to hit up South America or continue around the rest of Europe which we haven’t explored properly yet. So many choices.

    But you guys will be fine once you hit the road. Just take it slow and find your travel rhythm. We have found that we can’t handle the fast-paced travel like we used to a few years ago. Take it all in. If you miss something, too bad. You can’t do it all!
    Cole @ FourJandals.com recently posted..Great Market Hall in Budapest – Photo Essay

    1. Hey Cole – go to South America! 🙂 We are totally starting slow again, with a month in BsAs and then we’ll jump into the heavy travelling again. Best part is that will be in places where there is super cheap super delicious wine…:)

  8. Julia and I had a bit of rough return to the trail after our first housesit in August, so I can totally relate. The roughest part was not having that full kitchen and the ability to have a hearty breakfast, lol. It comes back eventually though and when you need those Eastern Europe/Balkan tips, we have you covered as we pretty much have been here since June!
    Scott recently posted..Should I Stay Or Should I Go

    1. Hey Scott, thanks! We are getting so excited, but the cooking is a huge thing I’ll miss. We will take you up on the tips for Eastern Europe for sure (whenever that time finally comes!!).

  9. Hola, Your upcoming travels sound fantastic. South American has long been on my dream list and for many of the same reasons–studying Spanish in high school, etc. But I know just how you feel too. I love getting fit and eating healthy at home and it is so impossible to maintain on the road. Good luck. And keep us posted how it goes!

  10. My girlfriend and I can relate and had this exact conversation last night after returing from a two week whirlwind of Prague, Austria and Germany. We have been living in Lithuania (need some baltic hints or tips?) for 20 months. At the end of October we start an 11 month backpacking tour through 26 countries, countless cities and hopefully many, many ‘off the beaten track’ gems. I am asking myself how our minds (let alone bodies) will react! But the adventure calls and we answer. And the payoff is exactly what you described : sitting in a small cafe on a monday morning planning what castle or national park/museum/gallery to see whilst people rush to compete for the 9 – 5 grind day. We are blessed to have the opportunity (and courage) to explore and ask for ‘more’. Maybe we will cross paths in S.A….we arrive in Colombia on the 12th November and travle through each country for 4 months 🙂 Good luck and like us, you will get your mojo back before you know it ! 🙂
    Jo recently posted..The Grass is Always Greener…………and a not so in-depth analysis of homesickness.

    1. Hi Jo, wow – 26 countries in 11 months is quite an adventure!! Just reading this makes me exhausted 😉 It sounds like an amazing trip though and it would be great to meet you two while you’re in South America – keep us updated on your itinerary, but since you are making your way down, and we are working our way north, we should be able to meet up somewhere 🙂 The more we read about South America, the more excited we get – I just wish we could travel and not work while we go 😉

    1. Mary – we are super excited to go to the Amazon, actually one of the things we’re looking forward to the most. We’re actually looking to take longer breaks now instead of traveling as fast as we used to; it was just not feasible anymore to deliver quality work and travel enjoyably at the same time. We had the energy to do it in our first years as ‘digital nomads’ but in year 2 we were tired all the time 😀

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