Since I last updated, I hopped on a bus to see Rio de Janiero, returned to Sao Paulo, had a three day lay over in Lisboa, and arrived at my next research site – Barcelona. I’ve been on the move a lot, and I wanted to paint a picture of what so much travel is like.
Living out of one bag (the Osprey Porter 46) in hostel dorms in different cities with different languages is much different than the life I normally lead. Go figure. I have much less privacy, everything takes more effort than it usually does, and I am constantly exhausted. The hostels I’ve stayed in have all been fine (the online reviews I have provided range from 84–97 percent). For those who are unfamiliar with hostels, they are basically hotels but instead of providing a room, they provide a bed in a dormitory that has anywhere from 4-12 beds, a shared bathroom, and a locker for your things. They usually cater to younger people (groups of backpackers, gap year students, and young couples) and often arrange tours and other activities for travelers. Here are a few entertaining tidbits from my travels so you can get a glimpse of what life traveling alone is like.
– One morning I was awoken to a 300 pound construction worker climbing onto my bed because he didn’t think it was important to use the ladder that was six inches away from his feet.
– Aforementioned construction work was part of a group of six 300 pound construction workers who drank heavily and snored even more heavily. Ear plugs are a must every night in a hostel.
– Getting around cities can be hard (especially Sao Paulo) so I spend at least 27% of my time working on transportation. This includes finding WiFi to use Google Maps, buying tickets for the metro, asking for directions, checking maps, and locating street names. Of this 27%, I would say 60% of that I have next to no idea where I am. It’s an adventure.
– I’ve become very good at asking for directions in Spanish and Portuguese. Unfortunately, I am much less skilled at understanding the response. For instance, I’m in a coffee shop right this very moment that may or may not have been recommended to me by the woman at the front desk of the hostel. She said it was to the left and on a corner (A la izquierda y está en la esquina). So I am nearly certain I’m at the right place. Regardless, good coffee.
– Even now that I’m in a Spanish speaking culture, I still haven’t broken the habit of saying “Thank you” in Portuguese. I have confused a lot of people here when a clearly American traveler speaking a moderate level of Spanish replies to something in Portuguese.
– Walking around cities, I have frequently been offered illicit substances for my consumption. A quick step and a firm “no” usually takes care of this. But it is impressive how bold these business people are.
– I take a lot of selfies.
– This morning, a loud Australian man walked into the dorm fifteen minutes before noon. His friends all exclaimed “Oh you made it back! We were a bit worried about you.” He’d been out all night. Upon his return, he suggested they go to the casino tonight.
– Finding food often takes the most effort. If I’m going out to eat, I don’t want to end up a tourist trap or get a bad meal, so research (often in a foreign language) is required. If I ask for a recommendation, it is always possible that I ended up somewhere else accidentally if there was a breakdown in communication. (Definitely happened in Portuguese, but I’m much more competent in Spanish.) If I want to make food, I have to find the grocery store (Onde fica o supermercado mais preto de aqui?) There’s limited storage space in hostels, so I only buy for one or two meals, and there’s also high demand for kitchen space.
I may have illuminated some of the struggles of traveling above – and there are struggles – but the trip has been amazing thus far. I’ve learned countless things being in these cities and getting to converse with people from different cultures. I could (and will!) provide a post with a long list of the highlights and the wow moments, but I thought some of the mishaps may be more humorous and more insightful.
I’ve just scheduled my next interview in Barcelona for this week, where I’ll be meeting with a group of professors who are working on gender issues on their campus.