On 13th August 2015, I landed at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador with a pocketful of money and barely any Spanish. I had neither a plan nor much of an idea about Ecuador. I chose Ecuador because it gives visa-free entry to Indians. I stepped out of the airport and the Andean wind gave me wings. I knew I had the freedom I needed to truly explore this magnificent continent of samba and San Martin, Pele and Patagonia, Amazon and the Galapagos, Incas and Guaranis, Machu Picchu and Mapuche. Little did I know that I was stepping into a year-long love affair that will take me to Brasil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Cuba.
Why Latin America though
Latin America comprises of 20 countries from Mexico to the southern tips of Argentina and Chile including the Caribbean Islands. It is a part of the world that is woefully ignored by Indian tourists and travellers. So, why did I skip Indian travellers' (glorified tourists rather) favourites Western Europe and Southeast Asia and went to Latin America?
Curiosity! How do people live on the other side of the world? What do they grow and eat? Their languages, legends and folktales? What kind of music they dance to and what are their poisons of preference? The changing landscapes, vast oceans, expanding glaciers, soaring peaks, isolated islands and a vast jungle and its deep-lying secrets. I travelled throughout Latin America with a child-like enthusiasm. The second reason to pick Latin America was Spanish. One language from Mexico to Antarctica bar some exceptions. The final reason was the cost of travel. Latin America is almost as cheap as India.
How I paid for 12 months of travel
Aah, the question we love to ask: "How did you pay for your travels?" First of all, it was a budget trip with the usual shenanigans like public transportation, hostels, Couchsurfing, cheap restaurants, local beers, camping and hitchhiking.
But, travelling costs money. I landed in Ecuador with some savings and decided to take it one day at a time. I travelled for three weeks without a care in the world. On the 21st day, I made the mistake of checking my bank balance. I knew something had to be done. I spent some time at the Plaza de la Independencia contemplating on how to make money. That is when it struck me.