On January 18, I boarded a flight from São Paulo, Brazil, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Two hours later, Feng and Mark also left Brazil and flew back to Ottawa. That was the plan, not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
So, what did I learn during these first 10 days of solo travel?
- Feng and Mark are the only people in the entire world who can take a decent picture of me. DSLRs weren’t designed for selfies and most of the time, I’m not in a quiet place where I can set up the timer and leave the camera where it is, even for ten seconds. Travellers and tourists all seem to use their camera phone. My Nikon is regarded as a weird, old-fashioned clumsy device. Window reflections are my new best friend.
- You probably think that I have 24 hours a day of complete self-indulgent freedom but in fact, travelling alone is surprisingly time-consuming since—duh!—you have to do everything alone. Feng and I normally split routine travelling tasks like withdrawing/changing money, finding accommodation and itineraries, buying water and groceries, etc.
- People think I’m either Brazilian or Colombian and they are completely shocked when I assure them I’m definitely not.
- I don’t get hit on by guys and cat calls aren’t that common. Despite stereotypes, Latin men know where their dick should be—i.e. in their pants, unless otherwise required. I I don’t feel particularly scared or uneasy, it’s not like I’m the only woman walking around in the street, anyway.
- Speaking Spanish all the time is kind of weird. It reminds me of when I first came to Canada and couldn’t speak much English—your brain is perpetually trying to process information, looking for the right word, etc. When I’m with Feng and Mark, I use Spanish as a “working language”—I get the info I need and I translate it. But now, I’m just… speaking Spanish, period.
- I’ve seen other travellers but I haven’t been very social. At most we had a two-minute chat over directions or travel plans. This is mostly my fault because I’m not staying in hostels—it’s easier to meet people when you sleep in an eight-bed dorm…–but I’m working in the evening and I’d rather book hotels/apartments where I’m alone.
- I don’t feel lonely because I have “missions” and plenty to see and do. When I’m sick of wandering around alone, I just go back to the hotel and work for a while. I do interact with many people throughout the day, it’s not like I’m a hermit.
- I blend in relatively easily, i.e. people aren’t staring at me wondering what the hell I’m doing here.
- I miss Mark a lot when I see other kids. I miss showing him stuff and answering his questions. I miss holding his hand. I chatted with him a few times on Skype and he seemed just fine, which is great—I don’t want him to miss me. I made sure to explain several times before I left that I wasn’t mad at him and Feng, that I was just staying to work, write and because I like hot weather and he seemed okay with this honest explanation but I have no idea what he truly thinks.
- I miss Feng’s confidence, his ability to process information and solve problems, and his sense of humour. Hell, I even miss the way he bites his nails when he’s thinking.
And no, the trip ain’t over yet…!