The End of my Travels

Well, this is the end of the travel tales.

I was just thinking – maybe in the future I will avoid random stock market entries at Ecuadorian airports in light of the whole market crash as of late. I did like this summary courtesy of the Globe and Mail:

“Hi, TD Waterhouse? I’d like to know what your return policy is please.”

“What do you mean, sir?”

“Well, I bought some stocks and they all plunged in price. I’d like to return them for a refund.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, sir.”

“Oh no? Let me speak to your supervisor. I don’t get this sort of runaround at Wal-Mart.”

I am happy to be back in Canada. Edmonton was awesome. I found a cool place to live just off Whyte Ave. Enter random Edmonton fun, like the huge mall. I shot a 9mm Glock at the mall. Fifty rounds that totally wiped out some sketchy zombie on the target. Well, after I first wasted a full 10-round clip on the wall, the floor, possibly the roof and other places that were nowhere in the neighborhood of the zombie target. And then there was the deadly roller coaster at the world’s biggest mall* with the world’s biggest indoor theme park made me almost pass out but was fun and not deadly.

*well at least as of 2004.
The whole Asian boom has not been good for anyone clinging onto a turn-of-the-millennium ‘world’s biggest’ title’. Good thing that I like 2004. I think that The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and Jet were all really popular then. And Modest Mouse became mainstream. And I lived in Grande Prairie. Fun stuff all around.

Like 'a Christmas Story' is so many ways....

Anyway, the end of the blog. What I ended up with was this:

23,600 rambling words condenses to this...

Wordle is the program that Kyle and Phoebe showed me today that summarized words (copy/paste into the box) based on frequencey. It’s very cool.

Now, some random travel notes….

Quick dry clothes – what a bad idea! Laundry services for about $1 per kilo were available everywhere at almost every hostel. Same day delivery. So trying to hang ‘fast dry’ underwear is lame because… it’s not that fast drying. Especially when it is cold, high elevation and heater-less like Bolivia.

Small backpack – a good idea. 35L for everything. I hated it at first because it really restricted the amount of gear available. But it was a good idea it turns out once I got a day bag to take some of the pressure off. Of course now I need another one thanks to United. Waitta handle baggage, guys.

Packsafe (TM). Pictured. I porpose remnaming whatever the name is to the Mega Chain Paranoia Jailhouse Edition (Bryan TM). I was so clueless beforehand it crossed my mind that this may be a good idea. I saw two out of the tens of thousands of obvious backpackers. The scream ‘freakshow transporting jewels’ or ‘I just escaped from a maritime fishing line’ or ‘I love paying bribes Senior.’ I am so glad that I did not buy one of these. All the hostels have lockers available so it is totally unneeded.

bad idea!

Plane Tickets. I have had good luck with changing airports, times and dates when in Mexico and the US. It is always a few hundred dollars, but it’s worth it. I stuck out this time. The fine print said ‘unchangeable’ and ‘non-refundable.’ Lame. Next time I will verify this for sure, especially given buying round trip tickets is generally so cheap – so if they are movable it’s way better than a pair of separate one-way tickets.

Proof of onward travel. Like I mentioned here previously, this is made to be circumvented in reasonable situations. Why buy an unneeded bus ticket just to appease some airline desk jockey?

Wireless Internet. It’s everywhere. Internet kiosks are still very common, but they are slow and inconvenient. In the hostels the computers can often be relics. I was at a great hostel in El Calefate in Argentina when I made the decision to buy a netbook. The hostel had 2 PCs side by side. They were so slow that I would make one window go on one PC, then another one on the other machine go. Every click caused the hourglass of death to crop up for five seconds. It was like racing turtles. It was not bandwidth it was just old 486 machines trying to go. My netbook is great.

Buses were generally about $5 per hour of travel everywhere but Bolivia and Ecuador. I enjoyed my trips for the most part too.

HostelWorld is an awesome site for finding places to stay. HostelBookers is reasonable but is weighted down with reviews from idiots. HostelWorld gets around this by telling you how many reviews each individual has posted which gives a sense of perspective. The real time feedback loop is so much better than a guidebook like Lonely Planet.

People were awesome and I was really fortunate to meet so many awesome travelers and locals. Of course a few of them suck, but that’s life.

The Big Mac Index is alive and well. As if July 2011 the details for the aforementioned burger are:

*$4.84 Argentina
*$4.74 Colombia
*$4.73 Canada
*$4.07 USA
*$4.00 Chile

A European Guy asked me what ‘Canadian food’ was. I told him just a lot of different food from a lot of different countries. He was unimpressed. His follow up, which may be most effectively re-told with a beret and a terrible attitude, is:

Sooooo… what food you like?? Le McDonalds!?! Heh? Is that it?

I spent 3 weeks in the ‘big cities‘ – BA, Santiago and Bogota. There was then another 4 weeks in other cities with over a million people – Mendoza, La Paz, Guayaquil, Quito, Cartagenia, Medellin. The other 8 weeks were in smaller towns usually. Or on the bus. It made for a good mix.

Languages. The continental Europeans give me an inferiority complex. Their linguistic skills are absolutely amazing. As for the British… well they’re in the same boat as me, with English and some scattered odds and ends. Fluency is rare. It’s interesting what has happened with the European university degrees. They are now 3-year undergraduate degrees, often combined with a 1-year or 2-year master’s degrees. So there are a lot of grad degrees granted after 4 years of total studying with is a strong contrast to the North American system.

I missed foosball – it was nearly as ubiquitous as I would have thought. And chess too, but that’s on the geekier end of the spectrum so no surprises there.

I was hoping to find a Carl’s Jr in the airports on the way back. That would have gotten me back to normal size quickly. But no luck! There is now a Canadian franchise in Kelowna apparently, but I don’t like Kelowna so that’s not happening.

Their motto is the unfortunate ‘don’t bother me. I’m eating.’ This was taken off in Idiocracy, a movie that I like. The movies gives CJ’s the classy new slogan of ‘@*#! you! I'm eating!!’

Anyway, thanks for reading!

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