South America Living

The Best & Worst of 4 1/2 Years in South America!

by Molly McHugh, Former Editor/Publisher of South America Living.           About the Author

We’ve done it… been there, all over the place actually and it was pretty darn cool for the most part. What am I talking about? My son (now 15 years) and my (age not important…) 4 1/2 year adventure living and traveling on the South American continent.

Blake & Buster on Their Solo Journey Trekking Into the Colca Canyon.

Blake & Buster on Their Solo Journey Trekking Into the Colca Canyon.

Was it rainbows and sunshine everyday? Sometimes yes! But most often, no; though overall an experience of value, with little money spent (under $1,700 USD per month for most of the time) and many irreplaceable memories made.

If you want to travel or live cheaply as we did, be sure to get your free copy of our new eBook: Cheap Places in South America & Budget Travel Tips.

If you happen to be travelling from the UK, you have these three fantastic airports to choose from: London Gatwick, London Heathrow and London Stansted. The official airport parking agent is Gatwick Parking. Heathrow and Stansted also offer parking for those not traveling by bus.

The Best of Our Adventure

  • Hands down the people we met and kindness we were shown on so many occassions. In general, South Americans like tourists and are sincerely interested in who you are, where you come from etc.
  • Being befriended by the wife of the Chilean consular in Mendoza, Argentina on the bus out of Santiago after being robbed of all our possessions days earlier (read below!). She insisted we stay with them (me incredibly embarrassed as we were budget travelers and had our two dogs!) and we did for around four nights while we recovered and got a new bank card sent. Lovely home (of course) and much fun chatting and getting to know our new friend who’s brother (her family was Colombian) had been a professor of Economics at Harvard University and daughter a student at Stanford. It’s a small world once you get out in it…
  • An absolutely amazing trip to the Galapagos Islands that included a free 3 day/2 night stay on the luxury boat M/V Santa Cruz and 15 days of exploring the islands. The M/V Santa Cruz has large luxury tours and smaller groups who sail around in Catamarans. More information on M/V Santa Cruz tours can be found on their website: M/V Santa Cruz

The Worst Experiences!

  • Getting robbed in the bus station in Chile – private bus station with security guards present – was really shitty. It was a grab and go, late at night, and when I ran after the guy screaming (he had everything: laptop, passports, credit cards!) Blake followed close behind. I could have caught him or caused enough of a commotion to possibly make him drop the bag or someone else intervene but when I looked back realized our little 4 month Chihuahua-mix pup and my son were in the street and in danger of being hit by a car so had to stop.
  • A few really rude (one telling my son he was going to leave our dogs out on the road in the middle of nowhere, for no real reason!) bus drivers. Another one in Bariloche stole our camera out of luggage (my fault, should have been strapped on me or in my purse) and then was unable to take photographs during our three months in Patagonia. Argentine customs would not allow our new camera to be sent to Esquel from Buenos Aires… and we couldn’t afford a three day trip to go pick it up.
  • Having to leave Uruguay and close my hostal business two months early (spent all winter preparing for summer season to make some decent cash) due to my son gone missing (safely returned after 5 days) and a very unsafe situation afterwards. As a foreigner you don’t have the same protections as do nationals of a country, and only thanks to the intervention of the U.S. Embassy did the situation end with our lives in tact and my son not dissapeared forever.

A teeny, tiny snapshot of 4 1/2 years of living and traveling in South America.

Photograph by Blake McHugh (setting camera on a rock, using timer!), all rights reserved.

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