I spent the last month traveling through South America. I planned to keep a journal while I was there, but I didn’t. I planned to write a blog right when I got back, but I didn’t… I am not really sure why I waited 2 weeks to write about my experiences, but I guess I did.
Most of my posts on this blog have been about experiences that have lasted 1 to 5 days in the wilderness. During my trip to South America, I took a few hikes and went on a couple outdoor adventures that lasted a few days. So, I figured the best way to present my backpacking adventure is to break it up into a couple different parts.
So, here is Part 1 of my trip. It begins after my plane lands in JFK airport in New York City.
It was a strange experience entering a US airport with intent to leave the country. JFK is a massive airport, and once I found the TAM airline terminal I felt like I was already out of the country. The quality of the terminal was worse than any other terminal I had ever been in, and the fear of the unknown began to set in as I found a seat to wait for the departure into an adventure I couldn’t possibly know the outcome of.
As I sat and listened to the people working at the gate shouting out boarding protocols in Portuguese, the people on my flight began to fill the empty seats around me. I quickly felt like an extreme minority as the conversations being held around me were not a language I could even remotely understand.
After boarding and take off, I felt even more out of place on an airplane full of Brazilians. I began to second guess myself. “What was I thinking,” and “I’m in over my head” began running through my mind. I began to recall all the warnings that family and friends had given me before my departure. Things like, “you’re going to die” and “you’re traveling to South America by yourself?” also repeated in brain.
When I landed in Sao Paulo, I felt like I was running around frantically to catch my connecting flight to Rio De Janeiro. I felt like a chicken with my head cut off passing from desk to desk holding out my ticket to people and following their hand signals as they rambled a slew of words I couldn’t understand.
I finally made it to my gate and sat down on my plane. I felt completely overwhelmed at this point. Before I left home, I was hoping for this “culture shock” to hit me, but I had no idea what to expect from it, and here I was, with 2 hours in Brazil under my belt and I was losing it. I had no idea what the next 30 days were going to throw at me, and I was getting to the point where I didn’t know if I wanted to know anymore.
The flight from Sao Paulo to Rio is about 90 minutes. A middle aged Brazilian man sat next to me during this flight. After about 10 minutes of flying, he turned to me and started asking me about my trip in English.
I told him my plans and he told me he was on his way back from Istanbul in Turkey where he had spent a week alone. He told me he had been to all the places I planned to go on my trip in his country and on his continent. He told me the feeling of worry would go away and that South America is very safe. All the cities I was going to are very safe, and extremely beautiful.
We talked about traveling all over the world. He had been to over 40 countries and told me about his trips. He reassured me that I would have a wonderful time.
Before I knew it. I was in the Airport in Rio. My worries had disappeared with the man as we parted ways. I felt a sense of relief about the trip as I pulled my luggage onto my back and took my first “real” steps into South America.