How 3 Months Backpacking Latin America Became 16

February 3, 2019|Lena Scheidler

This is a guest post written by Julie from Why not Ju She traveled around Latin America for 16 months and had a really amazing experience doing so.

If you are still looking for inspiration on what to do during your one year trip read what Julie has to say. I asked her to describe her trip and to talk about her budget. I also wanted to know one thing she learned, her greatest challenge and what it was like being back home. Julie also shares her top 3 travel essentials.

Before handing over to Julie I would like to let you know that I have asked other people about their trips (read about Nina’s European adventure or Zenja’s around the world in 182 days) and I have many helpful resources if you want to start planning your own unforgettable trip around the world (or a part of the world). Head over to the RTW Travel Planning blog category. And subscribe to my mailing list for regular updates, tips and free downloadable resources.

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I’m Julie behind the blog Why not Ju. I’m a 25 y/o girl from Norway that loves to go and get to know new cultures.

I’ve just got back from almost two years in Latin America where I’ve been backpacking on a low budget. Low budget because I always try to stay on the road as long as possible; I enjoy the adventure of it all.

I’ve come to appreciate the backpacker lifestyle, and I’ve volunteered and couchsurfed when I found suitable Couchsurfing hosts. I love Couchsurfing not just for the fact that it’s more budget-friendly, but for the fact that you get to know locals and hear the day to day side of life in the place your visiting. No two Couchsurfing experiences are the same, and I have one unique and fun story for every one of the places I’ve couchsurfed, as well as new friends.

Other than that, I try to find cheap accommodation and a lot of times I’ll be walking the streets to check out where I can get the most affordable bed for the night.

Preparing for My Travels

About two years ago, the 4th of January 2017, I set out on a backpacking adventure. Not long before I decided to go, I bought my one-way ticket.

I’d been traveling alone around Europe, and even a bit in Asia, but never long term. The most extended trips I’d gone on, were for about one month and a half.

After I finished my studies in Norway, I took a job as a cleaner and waitress with a cruise ship company. I started working on the route along the Norwegian coast. That way I got to see some of my own country, at least from the window, while working 10h days. I also cut out all my expenses as I was living and working on the ship.

I moved out of my apartment in Oslo, and when I didn’t work or travel, I stayed with my parents.

My Travel Budget and Plan (Before the Trip)

My initial plan was to travel to Cuba, then to fly over to Mexico and travel my way down Central America until early February. Then I wanted to fly down to Rio de Janeiro for the carnival, and spend one month in South East Asia afterward. Then I planned to fly back home, maybe start new studies, and travel more, who knows?

I assumed that I would be broke after 3-4 months of traveling. I thought that my budget of about 2300 US$ would be gone and that it would be a decent amount of time spent on the road.

You guys are about to read how much my planes actually changed.

Recommended for you: Nina Out and About’s Accidental Europe Adventure (more inspiration from another blogger)

My Adventure

After two fantastic weeks in Cuba, I flew to Mexico where I had aranged my first Couchsurfing of my journey. I started out traveling fast, and I moved around every 2-3 days. I went through Mexico in 7 days, then Belize in 5. I spent two weeks in Guatemala before I went to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica. I basically went through every country in Central America in 4 months, and I loved every bit of it.

Like I wrote earlier, I wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro for the carnival. However, somewhere between Belize and Guatemala, I figured that I was having way too much fun. Also the fact that the plane tickets down to Rio de Janeiro turned out to be way too expensive at the time. So with that decided, I went on traveling.

 

Want to do a trip around the world?
Start planning NOW!

Using the RTW Travel Prep Checklist including 50+ planning tasks

People at home started asking me when I was planning on coming back, and what I was really doing down in Latin America. I was delighted with living my days exploring and checking off bucket list items like; bungee jumping Latin Americas biggest bungee jump, rafting, taking my PADI diver certification, hiking volcanos, seeing real flowing lava in a volcano crater, surfing and sailing in the Caribbean, or just lying on a beach.

From Panama, I sailed to Colombia where I took my first volunteering job as an English teacher in a little town a couple of hours outside Bogota. I choose this experience for various reasons. Until that point in my travels, I’d mainly used Couchsurfing as a way of saving on my expenses. I was ready to settle for more than a couple of days in a place, and I thought it sounded like a really nice experience, which it was. I ended up spending two months in Colombia before I went to Ecuador for a month.

I went into Peru thinking that it might be the last country on my trip. I started to see the end of my budget, that so far had lasted me four months more then I had planned. After spending about a month in Peru I arrived in Lima, finding that I really liked the vibe of the city. I found another volunteering job. I spent two months bartending at a hostel in the center of Lima, with ten other amazing travelers.

And I did the same all over again in Cusco. This time volunteering with my boyfriend from Argentina, who I had met in Lima.

After five months in Peru (yes, I went way past my visa of 3 months), I traveled Bolivia, visited Uyuni, the biggest salt flat in the world, and then volunteered a week in La Paz in another hostel before I met up with my boyfriend and headed for Sao Paulo.

Sao Paulo was where I spent my first Christmas away from home. We’d planned to spend it at a friend’s place, but we actually spent the Christmas eve in a bus, somewhere in between the Bolivian border and Sao Paulo. The Christmas morning we arrived, and the 5 of us crammed into one room, filled with matrasses for a couple of days.

 

We started new years in Rio de Janeiro. And now you might be thinking, oh she finally made it to Rio! And yes, that was what I thought too. We spend New Year’s there, and we decided to stay for a while. We actually found a small apartment in a favela close to the beach, a more or less safe favela, but a favela. Then we got jobs at a beach bar, along the famous Copacabana beach. Yes! Definitely the lowest paid job I’ve ever had in my life, but with that money, we managed to stay in Rio. We even celebrated carnival; yes I made it to the carnival in Rio, just one year later.

Then in May after laying 14 countries behind me, and too many hours in buses to count, I went back to Norway. To see my family and friends and, of course, make some money for my next adventure.

My Favorite Travel Essentials

Packing Cubes

I wouldn’t know how to live out of a backpack without some good packing cubes. Less time spent unpacking and repacking every few days. Packing cubes have made it so much easier for me, and I never pack my backpack without them. Packing cubes are a super cheap travel essential that will safe you a lot of stress. Buy your set on amazon.com

Travel Towel

My travel towel dries faster, and takes up way less space in the backpack than a normal towel. It’s an absolute must. Just make sure you buy a travel towel that is big enough. I did the first months of my trip with a super small one, not very practical.
For your trip you need a good travel towel. Buy it now on amazon.com

Portable Speaker

A portable speaker might be a weird travel essential, but every time I didn’t bring it with me since I bought it in 2014, I’ve regretted it.
Buy your portable speaker now on amazon.com

A Lesson I Learned

I think I’ve learned to see past the everyday problems and worries I used to have at home. I’ve learned to enjoy and be in the moment, and I’ve become way more low maintenance. My dad can attest to that. Not that I think I was that high maintenance, to begin with.

Also, I’ve learned Spanish and Portuguese, languages I did not know at all before I started traveling.

Read what other travelers have learned during their trips around the world.

My Greatest Challenge

I think that to keep on traveling for the amount of time I did, at times was a big challenge for me. Not because of money, loneliness or homesickness, although I did miss my family from time to time.

I felt the pressure from society, and myself, to go back to my “normal” life and back on the track that, to me, people expect me to take. By that I mean, start saving up money again, go back to university, and just get settled.

I still haven’t gone back on that path, something I think I will do when I’m ready, but for now, I’m enjoying, what for me right now is freedom.

My Favorite Destination

This is a hard one, but one of my favorite destinations is Peru. I spent five months there after all. It has a little bit of everything; from big city life to the most deserted places I’ve ever been, delicious food, beaches, mountains, glaciers, jungle, deserts, wine, amazing and interesting history, and culture. I can’t really think of something Peru can’t offer you.

My Favorite Accommodation

A little heaven on earth piece of paradise is how I would describe the hostel I stayed in on the north coast of Colombia. It’s called La Brisa Tranquila (the slow breeze).

If you are visiting Colombia during your trip stay at La Brisa Tranquila, you won’t regret it. Book it on booking.com

Want to do a trip around the world?
Start planning NOW!

Using the RTW Travel Prep Checklist including 50+ planning tasks

Returning Home

I went back home for three months; then I went traveling again. Still, I can say that there are a lot of things that, I probably found important before, that I really can’t be bothered worrying about now. Like, makeup, having the newest clothes (though I still like to dress nicely), for certain people to like me. I will say, I’ve definitely become happier and more content with who I am. Other than that, I’m still the same person.

About Julie

Julie is the girl behind the blog Why not Ju. She is a 25 year old girl from Norway with a passion for backpacking and getting to know the world. She focuses mainly on low budget travels, and wants so inspire others to follow their dreams, whatever they may be. On her blog you can find information about how to travel low budget, especially in Latin America.

You can find her on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

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Authors Note:
This post is a guest post, it might contain affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by buying products through my links!

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to help bussy millennials plan an unforgettable trip around the world, through stays with locals, without wasting valuable time and money.

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to help bussy millennials plan an unforgettable trip around the world, through stays with locals, without wasting valuable time and money.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

Amazon Disclosure

The Social Travel Experiment is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Affiliate Disclosure

Posts on The Social Travel Experiment contain affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by buying products through my links!

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