When I got my US visa, my plan was to visit New York and watch The Lion King. A pricey trip to watch a broadway show. I’ve done a lot of adventures alone but I haven’t watched a concert or a play alone.
What else to do in the US? Frankly, the country doesn’t excite me because the prevalence of US media/culture/pop music made the country too familiar to be interesting. Hostels are pegged at $50 a night (!!!!) and public transportation was not conducive for tourists. I decided to visit some high school friends in Los Angeles, California then…explore South America. Backpacking around US didn’t seem cheap enough and it was logistically challenging (you need to rent a car to drive around or have someone to show you around).
I hope The Lion King will be waiting for me. Or they’ll just come to Manila for a show. I missed them when they performed in Singapore.
Why South America? I could have done the Central Americas, such as Mexico or Guatemala but I found the lure of Machu Picchu and the Salt Flats more alluring.
I recall discovering Machu Picchu from a forwarded email in Edsamail when I was in high school (Age alert! Age alert!) which contained a flash attachment showing photos of the lost city of Machu Picchu. I didn’t do a lot of travelling back then. The photos were surreal. No, it did not provoke me that “I have to go there someday” feeling, Japan was still my eternal dream country to visit. What appealed to me was the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel background music of the flash presentation. Machu Picchu became a solid goal when I started page 2 of my bucket list.
I learned about the Salt Flats in Uyuni, Bolivia from the firstvideo of Matt Harding of Wherethehellismatt. A YouTube video put Bolivia in page 2 of my travel bucket list.
Now that I have some concrete destinations, I need to figure out the two crucial factors: time and money.
Time and Budget
I started grad school last year. Grad school allows only three absences - excused or unexcused. Due to the shift of the Academic Year of UP, the vacation months are in June and July. June is summer in the US, it is the start of peak season in Machu Picchu and it is the start of the winter season in Bolivia. (That weather plays a huge role in this trip). I can only commit less than three weeks in total (including flight dates) because of limited leaves. I also have other trips planned for 2015, I can’t use everything in just one big trip.
Airfare is the killer. If I fly with South America as my first and last stop, a roundtrip fare to Lima costs at least $3,000 (check KLM and Emirates via Skyscanner). Very painful. That can be 3-4 weeks in Europe (excluding airfare). Contiki trips costs at least $5,000. I just can’t think of popping $8,000 for a three-week trip, excluding tips, souvenirs and extra expenses. Not yet. I started saving for $6,000-$7,000 after my EU II trip. I had to cut some fat from my budget because I still had to fund 2014 trips, tuition fee and still save for this trip. Saving was easier than I thought sinceI was not a "Makati girl" anymore. Working in the UP campus just cuts socializing costs (no movies and incidental shopping, parking is free). For some reason, my expenses just dropped - less clothing expenses, less food expenses and generally, it cut the fat on my spending.
Planning (Remember, planning is half of the fun!)
Research entails time (that’s why I always say time is an important factor in travelling). If you want to craft your itinerary, then allot time for specific research goals. This is not randomly clicking 20 things to go to blah blah about travelling in Facebook or getting lost in all the travel blogs. Choose specific websites or blogs about South America. Start reading. Your brain will explode with all the information so I recommend good old MS Excel to note costs and a pen & paper to jot down itinerary ideas and travel tips. Yes, I still use pen & paper, it is still effective for me vs. jotting notes in my phone or tablet. This reading requires HOURS of your time. A quickie 15-minute when you are bored at work will not cut it. This requires focus. While there is a lot information out there, that “A LOT OF INFO” makes researching more difficult actually. More choices creates confusion, that leads to indecision. Indecision accomplishes nothing. Choose a couple of websites (5 or less)
Some useful websites/blogs that I bumped into. All of these are personal choices.
The Ultimate Female Travel Packing List for Bolivia
So, Americas, here I come.
So, Americas, here I come.