Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and suggestions.

So I am compiling a list of some of the questions that keep coming up every time I say I am going to South America backpacking alone. 

  1. Aren't you scared? Well, honestly I am a bit nervous, but I wouldn't really use the word scared. In fact my biggest worry is that I will not be able to pick up Spanish as quickly as I wish and I will be that person at the table who just smiles and nods.....because they don't understand anything. My other worries are more mundane - how do I actually get from Brazil to Ecuador? How will I make sure my gadgets (phone, samsung galaxy tab, kindle etc) don't get wet as I sleep on a hammock on the amazon river for three days? What is the longest I will have to go without wifi? What will life be like without whatsapp when I am offline?
  2. Make sure you don't end up being given drugs to transport! While many have inadvertently become drug mules I think I am one of the least likely options. Seriously who thinks giving the lone African girl with dreadlocks and a funny accent your very expensive drugs is a good idea? I am sure I will be under close scrutiny at all entry points - if for nothing else, for kind of sticking out:-) I do however assure all that I will be extremely cautious. "No, I cannot carry your cute little bunny to Bolivia to give to your long lost niece." I will also ensure that my backpack is sufficiently disorganized so as to deter anyone from sneaking in drugs in there - for fear that they will surely disappear
  3. Wow! South America! I hear the men are hot - like the ones on those shows on TV! I will have to report back on this. My previous experience abroad always makes me a bit wary of trusting TV. If we believe everything we see on TV then the average person on the streets in the US should look like Morris Chestnut or Angeline Jolie....
  4. Your mum gave you permission to go? Yep, she's cool like that. I also don't like to think of it as "permission" but more of "her blessings" to go on with the trip. 
  5. Bolivia? Why? Lots of reasons to go to Bolivia. First, it is the highest altitude country in the world. Rumor has it that I will need to take altitude sickness meds when there or have headaches and nausea. Apparently Bolivia has a terrible football team, but they always defeat other countries in their home territory.....cause they can't breathe:-) Second, it has the largest salt flat in the world (think Lake Magadi on steroids). Third, it is really really cheap - a consequence of being the poorest country in South America. Fourth, it has the largest indigenous population of any South American country with 60% indigenous population and over 30 ethnic groups (I guess in some books I am referred to as "native" and we have 42 tribes in I can dig for my other indigenous people! Wooop wooop! 
  6. Was it easy getting visas? No, not at all. It was a serious pain in the butt actually - and I only needed three of the six. There was one particular embassy I went to at least 7 times. I almost gave up when they asked for my great-great-grandmother's palm print.....just kidding, but really it was a process and a half for one of the countries while the other two were quite quick to get. I can't imagine if I had needed all 6 of them. Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador don't have embassies in Kenya so you get your visas on arrival.
  7. Will you wear one of those Brazilian bikinis and tiny clothes people wear at Carnival? In public? Ngai, I wish:-) I have African parents though, I live here in Nairobi and I have a serious job too when I am not globe-trotting. I will have to live vicariously through the other revelers. Maybe I will wear thong sandals:-)
  8. South America? Are there any black people there? Loads actually, but most did not get there on their own volition. 
  9. Do you speak Spanish? Well, it really depends on what you mean by speak. I know stuff like "Hasta la vista baby", "Tengo la camisa negra", "living la vida loca" etc. I am listening to a few CDs and trying to pick up some basics in the mean time. I worry though since my first country will be Portuguese speaking Brazil. Will all these words and phrases I am cramming into my mind really survive through the two weeks of disuse? Only time will tell.
  10. Wow, South America? You might even come back with a husband! A rich one with a huge cattle ranch in Argentina! No comment. 
  11. I wish I could do a similar trip! You can. I am hoping that through this trip, I can show loads of people (especially Kenyans) that such trips are possible on a shoestring budget. Backpacking culture hasn't yet taken off here and so people always think that such trips are only for the wealthy. I will be staying in hostels (not hotels) and also possibly couchsurf in some of the countries. I will be using public transportation to get around, eat at the most local places (everyone knows that's where the good food is found anyway), drink the local drinks and ensure that I do not get charged "tourist prices" anywhere. I will bargain in my limited Spanish. I will walk, I will hike, I will travel on small boats........and you can too.