It’s 11.02pm in Cancun where I’m currently sat cross-legged on the floor of the dimly lit departures hall. The light above me flickers intermittently, casting an unpleasant and unpredictable yellow glow across my laptop screen. I can see three other people scattered across the marble floor, their various items of mismatched luggage scattered haphazardly around their sleeping forms, bags left like a trail of breadcrumbs for opportunists and fellow travellers alike.
You can spot a backpacker from a mile away. Worn Birkenstocks on blistered feet, faded leather bracelets lining sun kissed arms and the remarkable ability to settle into an untroubled slumber in even the most bizarre of locations. My travel companion fits neatly into this peculiar category, the light snores emanating from her sleeping body a fitting theme tune to the kind of exhaustion only days of non-stop travel can cause. I’m tired too. We left London nearly 48 hours ago, and aside from a few broken hours sleep in a run-down Lisbon hostel, we’ve been on the go ever since. And yet, I’m wide awake.
There are a few things preventing me from curling up beside my fellow travellers. I can feel the unbroken leather of my newly purchased hiking shoes biting into my right heel, the angry red mark left behind by the friction serving as a physical reminder of my newbie backpacker status. I’m also shivering. There’s something acutely distinct about the kind of cold produced by an air conditioning unit in foreign parts. It offers relief at first, that blast of recycled oxygen a welcome change from the stifling humidity outside, but the cold creeps up on you. It’s the sort that settles into your bones, leaving your teeth chattering before you’ve even had the time to clock that the sweat on your brow dried up a while ago.
Don’t get things twisted. While my numerous ailments don’t exactly lend themselves to a good night’s sleep, I’m pretty sure I could get over the aches and pains – I can’t have anyone questioning my backpacker credentials after all. What’s a little harder to kick, I’ve found, is the sense of anticipation. It’s akin to how you might have felt as a child on Christmas Eve, or a teenager before your first high school dance – a slow build of unbridled enthusiasm that’s making it difficult for me to concentrate on anything else. How’s a girl supposed to sleep when adventure awaits?
I should probably provide a little context. I started this blog over eight years ago as travel-enthused youth hoping to share my family adventures with anyone who might be interested – the few that have stuck with me during this period might well recall the days of globetrottingteen. In the years that have passed since, a lot has changed. I’ve gotten older (hence the rebrand), wiser (debatable) and moved away from home for university, leaving my original companions behind in search of new friends to explore the world with. While a certain *pandemic* and measly student budget meant that my travels these past few years have been more about hopping on the cheapest Ryanair flight available than venturing further afield, I never stopped moving. Last week, I left my job in travel publishing, packed up my belongings and said my farewells to embark on my biggest adventure to date. Tomorrow I’ll land in Medellín to begin six months of backpacking across Latin America. With high expectations, endless possibilities and a friend or two in tow, this trip might just be the best one yet.
While the name, face and date of this blog may have changed in the years since last my post, the sentiment remains the same: If travel is an addiction, I’m afflicted. And the next six months is going to prove it.
See you in Colombia…
One response to “Backpacking Latin America: the beginning”
When I saw this blog in my inbox, I was attempting to remember who you were as it wasn’t clear to me. I had an almost death crisis in Nov. and spent 2 months in the hospital and recovery place. During that time, as I struggled to keep up with all the emails, I unsubscribed from many blogs and organizations, and only kept a few. What a delight to read your post and realize it was one of my favorite writers, just with a new blog name. Best wishes for a safe and amazing 6 month journey! I look forward to reading about it.