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Archive for March, 2013

We’re Back!

We are back from our writing hiatus and back in the USA where the Chamborres Expedition began 15 months ago. Following its usual form, time has condensed itself and the long weeks away from home now seem like just the blink of an eye. As our plane landed in Florida, Amy voiced her feeling that it seemed as though our travels never happened. The human brain has an amazingly odd way of perceiving time. So what does it feel like returning to our home country after traveling for so long?

January 15, 2012 - On our way to Spain (photo on left)March 19, 2013 - Back in the USA (photo on right)

January 15, 2012 – On our way to Spain (photo on left)
March 19, 2013 – Back in the USA (photo on right)

Since our first stop back in the States is New York, an international destination and a new city to us, it honestly feels like we are still exploring the world. In addition to that sensation, we are excited to catch up with our family and friends. We had butterflies of anticipation the night before leaving Panama. Mike’s dad, step-mom and siblings met us in Fort Lauderdale for our layover which was the perfect way to feel welcomed back home. We have been staying with friends in NYC, another way to have a “soft” introduction back to life here and yet continue to ride out the adventure. However, there are a few things that have caught our eye so far.

The Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.

The Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.

Our first observation was that despite many people’s image of the US, our country is not so “vanilla” after all. Standing in the line for US citizens & residents at the Customs and Immigration check, we were pleasantly reminded about the diversity of our country. The mix of people in line was as eclectic and varied as any international youth hostel that we stayed in, and it was even more diverse than the line for foreigners. The last few days in NYC have only further amplified this notion with the many different languages we have heard spoken on the streets. We may take a second trip “around-the-world” later this week by visiting each of the countless ethnic communities that make-up this enormous city.

We needed a few more lines here for the "countries you've visited" questions

We needed a few more lines here for the “countries you’ve visited” questions

The next thing we noticed is that Americans are loud. Perhaps it’s that we’re back in an English-speaking country which means we can again understand most conversations happening around us, therefore making it seems loud. And we are in NYC where people may in fact be more boisterous than the West coasters we grew-up with. Regardless, it’s something that caught our eye (and ears) almost instantly.

We’ve also become aware that people are glued to their “smart” devices. Americans, more than any other culture we have witnessed, are unequivocally addicted to technology (Japan comes in close second). People are constantly on computers in coffee shops, staring at cell phones on the subway, clicking photos with iPads, headphones glued to their ears. Is this constant connectivity a bad thing? We’re not sure, but it is something that has really stuck out to us during the past few days. When we tell people that we don’t have a cell phone where they can reach us, they look at us in astonishment. Some people comment on how liberating it must be, and others get a touch of fear in their eye as they imagine life without their phone.

It is glorious to be back in a country where we can get our hands on any cheese, any wine and any international food that our hearts desire. We have been seeking out our favorite dishes from our trip, have had wine and cheese nights, and enjoyed delicious American-made microbrews. For food and beverage lovers, the US has to be one of the best places to achieve a varied palate via international fare.

We found a phở place in NYC that rivaled the real deal from Vietnam.

We found a phở place in NYC that rivaled the real deal from Vietnam.

Although we’re back, in a way it still feels like we’re on the road. It is exciting to see friends and family, and challenging to begin processing the past 15 months. There is a lot of uncertainty in our future and endless possibilities. We want to remain conscious of our journey and continue to incorporate positive changes into our lives that we learned on the road. If there is just one thing that we have brought back from our travels, it’s the idea that you don’t have to separate your “life” from your “adventures” by taking a vacation. Life is an adventure; a different expedition for each of us, but all ending in the same place.

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Don’t fret! By final chapter, we don’t mean final post. But the end of our expedition is near. As you read this, we are en route from South to North America via ship through the Caribbean Sea headed towards Panama. We are a bit afraid to tell you what type of ship for fear that you may think us “martini explorers,” so we’ll save that story that for another day (hint: it rhymes with snooze). After we land in Panama, we will have 10 days to explore, which used to sound like a long vacation in one country and now seems like nothing at all. When we board our flight out of Panama City, we will be bound for the US of A. Home. Well, almost home. First, we will be stopping in New York (our long overdue, first ever visit to NYC!) and then will be on a flight to Denver at the beginning of April.

It feels surreal to have our flight home booked. It goes without saying that we are incredibly excited to see our family and friends, but at the same time, we are anxious and nervous about transitioning from a life of nomads abroad to ________ (meaning we don’t exactly know what the future holds for us). We figure that if we just keep following the same goals that we set for ourselves when we set off on this around-the-world adventure (living in the moment and stepping out of our comfort zone), we’ll be just fine.

As for these last few months in South America, they were as spectacular as any other part of our journey, but were quite unique in that our friends and family played a major role in this portion of our story. We had visitors come from the States to travel with us; we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in years; we stayed with family to celebrate the holidays; and we met up with various parents, siblings, and cousins of friends from back home. Our Shout Outs page is dedicated to some of the special people that helped make our trip all that it has been, and our time in South America certainly would not have been the same without all of the amazingly generous people we know in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia.

While our travels abroad are nearly at an end (for now), there are still countless stories to tell and pictures to share. We have decided to take a blogging hiatus during our last few weeks of our trip to maximize every moment. After all, even travel writers need a vacation sometimes. For the next two weeks you won’t be receiving any new posts from us, but with 92 posts there is plenty of old material for you to re-read! We are not sure what will become of our blog in future months and years, but rest assured that The Chamborres Expedition will live on beyond our return home.

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After nearly four months in South America, our time here is drawing to an end. We chose to spend our final weeks enjoying Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. We booked a flight from Cali to Santa Marta with the aim of exploring Tayrona National Park.

Unfortunately for us, our flight that was supposed to arrive up north just after 9pm was three hours delayed. For most people that travel regularly in the US, a three hour delay is fairly routine, annoying yes, but not a big deal. Apparently, this is not the case in Colombia. The flight delay turned into quite an ordeal. First, the captain came out to the gate to personally announce the delay and explain the reason; a flight attendant had fallen ill and could not make the return flight. The crowd exploded in an angry roar; from that point on, it was impossible to hear any of the announcements being made about the delay. Can you imagine an airline providing a reason for a delay other than “technical issues”?! Every time an airline official tried to take the microphone, the complaints from the crowd got louder. Then, our luck changed. Our delayed flight turned into some free food. To try and calm things down, the airline decided to give out sandwiches and juice. After 14 months of traveling, we will take any free meal we can get!

When we finally did arrive in Santa Marta, it was after midnight and there were only a few taxis still lingering around at the airport, so we had to share with a stranger. The driver told us, “no problem, I just need to drop this guy off in a neighborhood nearby.” What he didn’t tell us until we were already on the road was that the neighborhood is the ghetto of Santa Marta. As we drove further into the barrio, the driver slowed down to ask some rough looking guys for directions. This is when we both thought, “Great, almost done with Colombia and now we are going to get robbed in the classic taxi scam that we have heard so much about.” But oh, ye of little faith, we were wrong and thirty minutes later were finally safe and sound at our hostel and ready for some sleep.

The next day was spent gearing up for our Tayrona camping trip. Canned tuna, fruits & vegetables, 18 liters of water, bug spray and a bottle of rum all made the shopping list. It wasn’t until we got back to the hostel and started packing up that we learned some dreadful news: bringing alcoholic beverages into Tayrona National Park is prohibited…nooooooo! But being the optimists that we are, we decided that there are worse things in life than being in the Caribbean with a bottle of rum that needs to be consumed in an expedient fashion. The next morning, we fought through some mental fog and made our way by bus to Tayrona National Park.

Tayrona National Park

Getting into the park itself proved to be a bit of a process. First, they search your bags for plastic and styrofoam, neither of which are allowed inside. Next, you go through a police check point where you get questioned and searched again, this time for drugs, weapons and alcohol. Once you’ve made it through both of these steps, then they let you fork over the 38,000 Pesos for the entrance ticket; a colorful wrist band gets slapped around your hand and off you go to hike to the beach. The walk itself was beautiful; it cuts through the dense jungle, in and out of coconut groves, up to viewpoints of the ocean and finally onto the sandy white beach, however, it was a very sweaty and exhausting journey and we were glad to find a place to camp at the end of the trail.

Camping Tayrona

When we departed Santa Marta for Tayrona, we didn’t know how long we would stay, but the tranquil beaches and awesome camping spot made us want to hang around a little longer. There isn’t much more to do in Tayrona other than lounge on the beach and hike, and that was plenty enough for us. Both are right up our alley. Part of the beauty of Tayrona is that each beach is its own cove, all of which are strung together by footpaths through the jungle. Every day we explored a new spot.

Beaches of Tayrona

While many campers choose to set-up  near the beaches, we opted for something less crowded, more laid back, and a lot more affordable. We found a campsite nestled in the jungle about 10 minutes walking from the sea. Being away from the water meant longer hikes every day to the beaches and archeological sites in the park, but we didn’t mind one bit. Even at that distance from the water, Tayrona is so remote that we could still hear the crashing waves from our tent at night, and during our daily treks we crossed paths with some of the craziest ants we have ever seen! Countless ant super-highways were strewn about the jungle.

Hiking in Tayrona

Eventually our food and water ran out, and while we would have liked to stay longer, we decided to hit the road and head west towards Cartagena and Playa Blanca, another rustic beachfront locale. With our days in Colombia numbered, we think back frequently on a slogan we heard when we first arrived in Bogota: “Colombia – the greatest risk is that you won’t want to leave.”

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