You Can’t Do It All

If you look at a map of South America, the bottom half is pretty much Chile and Argentina, and the top half is pretty much Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia with Peru and Ecuador hugging the west coast. Why do I give you this quick little geography lesson? Because when we started our trip, we planned to go to South America. Like, the continent. Not just a few countries within it, not just the south and the western coast. We really intended to go to this northern half of South America. We wanted to spend time on the beaches of Rio, or venture into the Brazilian Amazon. We wanted to climb Roraima in Venezuela. We wanted to go to the Bolivian salt flats and Lake Titicaca.

But we were absolutely crazy to think it all could be done in four months. We’ve been traveling at a steady pace and haven’t even gotten to half of what we planned. In fact, in the four months time we allotted to South America we’ll cover only four countries—Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador—, and in one of those countries, Peru, we didn’t even manage to make it to many of the places we had wanted, like the Cordillera Blanca, Colca Canyon, and the aforementioned Lake Titicaca.

With just four weeks left now in South America, we can already see the finish line for the South American leg of the trip. For the longest time, we were still trying to figure out how we could fit Bolivia into these four weeks, but in the end, we decided that we weren’t interested in rushing through the country (if that’s even possible on their notoriously bad buses) just to tick places off our list. Instead we’re spending our time finishing up Ecuador and then heading back to Argentina to visit Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Mendoza (probably everyone else’s first three destinations in Argentina) before heading back to Santiago for a flight out.

So what we’ve done is already begun to plan our return trip (or trips). We’ll come back in the dry season and go through southern Peru and into Bolivia. We’ll dedicate a month or two to Brazil. We’ll do a combined Colombia and Venezuela adventure. We’re not sure when these trips will take place, but the itineraries are already being set.

It always feels like that when we travel, like there’s never enough time to see and do everything you want, and that while you’re enjoying the trip you’re on, you’re already setting the stage for the next trip … and imagining how much easier it will be the second time, how much better you will do it now that you know how things work and the layout of the city and so on and so forth. In reality, however, we still haven’t been back to the same place on vacation twice. There’s always too many new and different places we haven’t visited yet. It’s funny how it works like that.

And though we didn’t “accomplish” everything we set out to do, we’re happy with the way things have worked out. Sure, we might have missed a few things that will have you shaking your head; How could we not have seen Lake Titicaca, the favorite lake of every person in the world? How did we not worship the sun on a Brazilian beach? How did we miss shivering under the stars on the salt flats? We probably would have gasped in horror too before we actually started out on this trip. But since we’ve been going, we’ve learned that travel really is about the journey, that you can’t plan it too carefully (or you can but you have to be okay with it when your plans go up in smoke), that it’s better to enjoy a “wasted” day doing nothing than to miserably spend a day checking off the must-see sites. And, hey, it’s not like we haven’t seen an amazing number of incredible places: Torres del Paine, the Galapagos Islands, the Inca Trail, Perito Moreno glacier … these were priority sites that did not disappoint in the least.

So like I said, we’re not complaining that things didn’t turn out exactly as we thought, we’re just etting you know what our plans are for the next time.