Six Months

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I’ve been gone for six months. I’ve spent the past three days chilling out in lovely Arequipa (much of the time with a hostel cat named Dumpling) and today I celebrate that little travel anniversary by taking an all day bus to Cusco. Woot! While I sit, listen to podcasts, and wait, you can look back at where I’ve been since late last August.

Hong Kong

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Hong Kong was a really fun first stop and the perfect place to acclimate to solo travel because it was so easy to get around and I met such cool people almost immediately. Lan Kwai Fong was probably the only drunk backpacker area I actually sort of enjoyed (sorry, Pub Street in Siem Reap and Khao San Road in Bangkok). I ate dim sum at the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. I visited another country in one day–Macau. The first week of my trip was a success thanks to Hong Kong.

Vietnam

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Vietnam was such a beautiful country and home to one of my favorite cities so far, Hoi An. I got a bunch of clothes custom made there. I trekked in Sapa. I spent the night in the middle of Halong Bay. I survived crossing streets in Saigon!

Cambodia

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I got to see the famed Angkor Wat but Koh Rong might have been the main highlight in Cambodia for me. I also loved sleepy Kampot, even though it rained the entire time we were there. The food wasn’t great but the people were wonderful.

Thailand

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There are no photos of me in Thailand so playing the part of Mar for the purposes of this post is an appropriately grumpy cat in Bangkok. Thailand didn’t work out for me but I don’t hold it against the country. I think it was just a mix of unfortunate circumstances that tainted my experience. To be fair, I really didn’t like Bangkok, but I was also tired and recovering from a bed bug bite attack. I missed Ann and Lucy, who I’d left in Siem Reap. I got sick in Chiang Mai. All the unpleasantness was worth it, though, because it led me to check for flights to Bali.

Indonesia

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I spent a whole month in Bali and loved almost every minute of it. I used chilled out Sanur and the Big Pineapple hostel as a base. Some wacky older Australian ladies backpackernapped me to both a “midget wrestling” match and a fancy pool with a swim up bar. I ferried over to Lombok and checked out the Gili Islands. I loved Ubud so much that I left and went back four days later. I spent a lot of time on the back of a motorbike or at the beach. I bought my favorite pair of baggy pants which I’m wearing as I write this. Bali was great.

Singapore

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I only spent five days in Singapore but I picked a great hostel (pod beds and fast WiFi!), took advantage of a couple of very interesting neighborhood walking tours, and ate foie gras and black truffle flavored dumplings. Plus, I got to revisit the best airport ever.

Los Angeles

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Between Asia and Latin America, I visited friends and family during an extended LAyover. I got to drink good California wine, eat good California cheese, and take part in an impromptu college reunion. It was December and it was cold. I had forgotten what cold felt like! I had missed sweater weather.

Mexico

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After a rocky start in Mexico City, I discovered amazing San Miguel de Allende where I met fantastic people and had my weirdest Christmas ever: at the rodeo! Then I spent six whole weeks in lovely Puebla where I ate, learned some Spanish, ate, lived with local families, ate, and ate. I managed to squeeze in a few days in Oaxaca before catching a flight to my next destination. Overall, I really loved Mexico and I didn’t even make it to a beach.

Peru

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I haven’t been in Peru very long but I’ve already done a lot. Lima surprised me by being a big city that I didn’t hate. Between Paracas and Huacachina, my transportation vessels included buses, boats, dune buggies, and sand boards. I enjoyed Arequipa and am looking forward to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca.

Special thanks to my Kelty Redwing 40 liter backpack, my international phone data plan, and of course, my passport for getting me this far!

Eat my dust!

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After Lima, I spent three nights in Paracas. This was probably too much time, especially because the last day and a half was marred by a crazy sandstorm. Initially, I was excited for Paracas. It’s a very small beach town and I haven’t been to a beach since Bali in November! My bathing suits had been sadly stuffed in the bottom of my backpack for months. Unfortunately, Paracas was no Koh Rong. The water wasn’t clear and the whole place smelled like fish. I ate some pretty great seafood while I was there (conchitas a la parmesana twice!), but I don’t want that aroma in my face all the time. So instead of the beach, I spent most of the time in a hammock or by the hostel pool. That is, until the sandstorm closed it down.

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Better in the Light of (the next) Day

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Welcome back, humidity-induced big hair.

I’m in South America! Wild. I landed in Lima early yesterday morning and did what any sleep-deprived nomad wants to do most after an overnight flight: get a vaccination! Since I plan to go to Bolivia, I needed a yellow fever shot and according to intrepid travelers on the interwebz, the clinic at the Lima Airport is the easiest way to accomplish this task. As the first medical type thing I’ve had to take care of on this trip, it was shockingly fast and simple. Also, the least scary or painful shot I’ve ever gotten. I turned my head during the process because I am a big baby with a weak stomach and before I knew it, the nurse was taping a cotton ball to my arm. I had to ask if she actually did it! She did, and I have the big yellow card to prove it to the Bolivian visa authorities.

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After my morning shot of fever prevention, I found the Green Taxi stand that other intrepid travelers on the interwebz recommended and told the young woman there I had to get to my hostel in Miraflores. I was reminded that even we progressive ladies of the 21st century fall victim to institutionalized sexism now and then; as I followed the woman outside the airport, I assumed she was taking me to my driver. She was my driver! What a way to start my day: vaccinations and shame.*

My first impression of Lima was that it’s a little grimy. And congested. It smelled. The sky was full of smog. I know now from experience not to expect much from big cities–they’re just not my thing, most of the time. I wasn’t worried. My expectations were low. Plus, I had already booked a bus to my next destination for tomorrow, thinking two nights in Lima would be more than enough. If I actually liked it, I could always build in more time later since my return flight to Mexico City departs from here.

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So Much For Doing Nothing in Oaxaca

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Five intensive weeks of filling my brain with rudimentary Spanish made me tired. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to do anything in Oaxaca other than unwind. My last night in Puebla was spent drinking too much tequila and beer with my friends and being talked into going to a Luche Libre fight night.

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It might have been the alcohol, but Lucha Libre was SO FUN: the costumes, the audience members with musical instruments creating their own soundtrack, and the obviously choreographed “fighting” made for surprisingly great time. The next morning, not so much. I had gone to the fight with fellow students from Livit as well as a new friend from my Puebla hostel, Riana from Canada. She happened to be heading to Oaxaca the next day too so we forced our hungover selves to chug some Gatorade and make the 4.5 hour bus ride south. It was not super pleasant, but we arrived.

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