eliveltonWorking as an EP for AIESEC Mizzou in Brazil was without a doubt the most life-changing experience of my college career. If you’re looking for an adventure that will give you confidence in a global setting, an international network of ambitious, like-minded young people, and professional working experience abroad for an affordable price, AIESEC is the perfect fit.

What was I thinking!?! After studying Portuguese at Mizzou for two years, I wanted to put my skills to the test and spend a summer completely immersed in the language and culture. AIESEC offered an unbelievable deal: internship matching, accommodations, and membership in the largest network of globally minded students in the world for only $500—how could I refuse? I hopped on a plane two days after finals in May 2013, and my entire world changed.

Advice on planning your trip:

  • Stay as long as possible, especially if you are trying to learn a language. It usually takes at least 4 weeks for your listening and speaking skills to synch up with your new environment.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask any questions. AIESEC Mizzou will be with you every step of the planning process. They are an unbelievably caring, proactive group of people who will do whatever they can to ensure your success during your internship.
  • You will need to pay for your flight and any activities outside of your internship. Save, save, save! There’s no better way to spend your money than travel.


The City: Fortaleza, Brazil

Fortaleza's best beach, Praia do Futuro

Fortaleza’s best beach, Praia do Futuro

Admittedly, I chose to spend the summer in Brazil’s 5th biggest city for one main reason: the beaches. Fortaleza is located on the Northeastern coast, just below the equator, where the locals enjoy perpetual summer. I spent my weekends with new friends drinking coconut water and watching gorgeous surfers on white sandy beaches while listening to Brazilian reggae. It was paradise…sometimes.

I realized shortly after I arrived that Fortaleza is one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil. I had to constantly be on my guard, and I rarely traveled alone. I don’t regret my decision for a second, but I wish I had done my research beforehand so I could’ve taken more safety precautions.

Advice on choosing a city:

  1. Narrow your decision down to a few places based on the internships.
  2. Choose a city from the list that fits your criteria (lifestyle, cultural offerings, safety, etc.).
  3. Educate yourself. Download an app for a local newspaper (Fortaleza- “O Povo”) or set up Google Alerts for English articles about the city. This will acquaint you with the social, political, and economic climate of your new home. The payoff: you’ll be able to have intelligent conversations with locals, and you’ll have a better sense of security from knowing what to expect.

    Downtown Fortaleza

    Downtown Fortaleza

The Job

IMG_2579After spending two years in the J-school, I needed a break from journalism and a fresh perspective. I chose to teach English at a nonprofit for children. It ended up being the hardest thing I’ve ever voluntarily done, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

My NGO, Projeto Alegria da Criança, was located in a favela 40 minutes outside the city. Upon arrival I found out I was the first English teacher in almost two years, and none of my coworkers spoke English. I taught more than 100 students aged 8 to 22, Mondays through Fridays. Most days were frustrating. I lost my voice frequently, and I was discouraged by poor attendance, the language barrier and bad behavior. Despite all of the challenges, my students and I developed a very special bond, and I keep in touch with many of them to this day. Although they aren’t fluent, they developed an understanding of how many opportunities come from learning English. That alone was reason for me to spend my summer learning with them.

Advice on selecting an internship:

  • Choose something you’re passionate about, but don’t be afraid to go beyond your major. You can use this experience to qualify yourself in something you don’t study, and this will make you a well-rounded leader.
  • If you’re considering teaching language courses, try to have at least basic knowledge of the native language. It will make your job so much easier, especially if you are working with children. Also, download a few teaching guides and activities before you leave. Most nonprofits will have you create the lesson plans independently.
Some of my wonderful students at Projeto Alegria da Criança

Some of my wonderful students at Projeto Alegria da Criança

AIESEC Culture Abroad


“Host an intern. The world in your home.”

AIESEC members know how to throw a party. Every week the Fortaleza chapter organized special events for interns like pool parties and nights out. They also hosted monthly gatherings so interns had a chance to meet each other in a supportive, collaborative setting. I met people from so many different corners of the world that I feel like I have a friend in just about every country. I plan on taking take full advantage of my international network when I travel in the future.

Advice for being an EP abroad:

Attend as many AIESEC events as you can. It’s one of the best ways to meet people and work out any problems you’re having. Also, bring an American flag and some small gifts to give away at the end of your internship. They’ll come in handy.

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From the UK, to the States, to Brazil

My Second Family

I was extremely lucky to be placed with a loving host family that called me their “American sister/daughter” almost immediately. The generosity of my Brazilian mom and sisters has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. They helped me learn Portuguese, took me to parties and family gatherings, and always kept me safe. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Advice for living with a host family:

  • Be very clear with AIESEC Mizzou about your living expectations and preferences in the interview process.
  • Let AIESEC Mizzou know if your living arrangement isn’t working out as soon as possible. One of my intern friends had a host who didn’t provide any food, so AIESEC they gave her a monthly stipend. Something can always be worked out.
  • If you’re trying to learn a language, don’t speak English at home! Your host will be absolutely crucial to developing your fluency and confidence.
  • Research the country’s home customs before you leave. Your relationship with your host family can make or break your experience. Always be respectful of their rules.

    My beautiful Brazilian mom and sisters

    My beautiful Brazilian mom and sisters


Reunited with my best Brazilian girlfriend for the opening World Cup game, Brazil v. Croatia (June 2014)

Reunited with my best Brazilian girlfriend for the opening World Cup game, Brazil v. Croatia (June 2014)

I definitely experienced reverse culture shock when I returned to the US. I was disheartened by the all of the excess in American culture after living so simply for a summer and constantly being humbled by my students. Eventually I learned how to maintain my global perspective while still enjoying college life, but it took some work.

Since returning from my summer with AIESEC…

  • I visited a fellow intern in her home in Temuco, Chile.
  • I returned to Fortaleza for a second summer where I experienced the World Cup and reunited with my friends, family and students.
  • I found a job after graduation with a travel company in San Francisco. They valued the skills and insights I developed from my AIESEC experience above most things on my resumé.

Advice on transitioning back from your time abroad:

  • Never think of your return as going back to “real life.” This will give undermine your experience by giving it a dreamlike quality. The truth is an AIESEC internship is one of the “realest” experiences you can participate in because you serve other people and develop a sense of purpose in an international environment. What you achieved overseas was very real and will continue to inspire your daily decisions and future plans.
  • Keep in touch with your new AIESEC friends! They will be the people who can best relate to you, and you might even have the chance to visit them someday.
  • Pay it forward. Be open to volunteering for AIESEC Mizzou and consider hosting an intern in the future.
AIESEC gave me an incredible international network; enjoying the World Cup with my Irish and Canadian friends

AIESEC gave me an incredible international network; enjoying the World Cup with my Irish and Canadian friends

This is you’re chance to do something amazing with your semester or summer—don’t let anything stop you! In the words of one of my favorite Brazilian authors, Paulo Coelho:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

–The Alchemist

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact me:

You can also read more about my experiences abroad with AIESEC under the “Blog–> Travel” tab above.

Weekend getaway to a famous nearby beach, Jericoacoara

Weekend getaway to a famous nearby beach, Jericoacoara



Why I’m Still Hung Up on Rio de Janeiro

Everything they say about Rio de Janeiro is true, except for all of it.

When the plane landed I felt like I was touching down in the center of Earth’s largest movie set. The illuminated Christ Redeemer stood watching over me in every corner of the city in a glorious display of omnipotence. His blank stare was too ominous to be welcoming, but His constant presence was too familiar to be disturbing. I made a conscious decision to think of Cristo as meu amigo instead of a foreboding figure watching my every move from the top of Corcovado. In retrospect, this choice was a positive and significant one.

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I spent the next two weeks doing all of the Marvelous City essentials. Mornings started with a run down the famous tile sidewalks of Ipanema and Copacabana alongside the most gorgeous bodies in the world.


I spent the afternoons laying on my kanga in the sand with new international friends. We held a caipirinha in one hand and tijela de açai in the other. Hours passed by as we soaked in the displays of carioca pride like surfing spectacles, unabashed PDA and remarkable displays of amateur soccer talent.


Kanga: a Brazilian beach staple that you can use as a towel, cover-up , or blanket.


Ipanema beach, THE coolest hang out on Earth.

I ascended up the Sugar Loaf via cable car to watch the sunset over the magnificent cityscape that I truly believe God & Man designed side by side. There really is no major city that comes close to the geographic beauty of Rio.

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I sped through a favela on the back of a motorbike to the beats of Brazilian funk so I could climb to the top of Dois Irmãos, the greatest view in the city.


I attempted to fit in among the world’s craziest soccer fans at a Flamengo vs. Botafogo match in the notorious Maracanã stadium. IMG_9443

I was danced the forró with a Brazilian model who kissed me so hard I almost suffered amnesia and lost all my motor skills. I sambaed alongside people from every walk of life in the street parties of Lapa, and they encouraged me with smiles and kisses to be unashamed of my foreign identity and level of Portuguese fluency. Everyone was Brazilian those nights.


I can sit here all day and describe Rio de Janeiro in all its wonder, extravagance and exoticism, but it won’t do the world (or my memory) any good. The truth is, the romanticized version of Rio just doesn’t do it justice, and it’s not representative of my real experience. It’s dangerous to characterize Rio as romantic and life giving when the city suffers from insurmountable acts of corruption and exploitation. While some might see something like children playing soccer with a Coke can in a colorful favela as a sign of resilience and characteristically high Brazilian spirits, this perspective essentially glamorizes poverty. The relentless idealizing of Rio is evident in Oscar-winning movies like Orfeu Negro or the abundance of favela tours offered by hostels in the area.


Rocinha: Rio’s most dangerous favela sprawls behind the iconic peaks of Dois Irmãos. The favela was depicted in the Oscar-nominated movie City of God.

These feelings and realizations caused me to become considerably disheartened when I was there. Could I legitimately enjoy my vacation when so many people suffered at the expense of giving tourists like me a one-sided, dazzling view of Rio? I looked to my family in Brazil for guidance.

My Brazilian sister Rachel warned me that Rio was highly concentrated in powers of candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion based in Catholicism and indigenous African beliefs. According to her, since the mystical energy had been continuously cultivated within the city limits since the 18th century, Rio is a very spiritually volatile city. She said if I believed something good would happen it would manifest itself in a particularly beautiful way. However, if I I believed something bad would happen, the negativity would surely sneak up on me when I least expect.

Of course I threw my head back and laughed a little as she stood staring at me from her doorway in Fortaleza before my departure. But it only took a few minutes in the city to realize the gravity of Rachel’s words. While I don’t necessarily believe in the power of candomblé, or any practiced religion for that matter, her warning on connectivity and positive thinking truly did affect every aspect of my trip.


For example, a few minutes after I arrived in my hostel, my return flight was cancelled. This non-coincidence allowed me the time to fulfill all of my desires in Rio so that when I left I was completely content and grateful. I got to experience the ugliness and beauty in all of its entirety. Most importantly, it connected me to three particular people I needed most in those two weeks: a friend from home, a friend like me, and a friend to inspire my future.

Nathalia was the connection to home that I was deeply missing this past summer in Brazil. After getting to know her for three years in Portuguese classes at my university, she made the bold decision to move to São Paulo after graduation and find a job. Her adventurous spirit inspires me daily. Sharing our first experience in Rio together, a city we had been dreaming and learning about side-by-side for years, meant the world to me.

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Jorden is the principal character in my most serendipitous story from 2014…and trust me, after traveling for 7 months, I have a LOT of them. My roommate in Argentina met him at her hostel in Patagonia, and she never mentioned him to me until we ran into him at the San Telmo market for five minutes in Buenos Aires. I don’t think I spoke a word to him besides “hello.”

Fast forward to three months later when I was spending my first day in Rio completely alone. I was about to turn in for the night when I noticed a table of Australians drinking caipirinhas at my hostel. Jorden stuck out to me for an inexplicable reason. Next thing I knew, a power of intention came over me that suppressed any apprehension I had about trying to make a connection.

That’s Greta!” he said as I held a picture of my roommate out in front of him…and the rest is history.

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Maybe it’s not fair to call Jorden my “like me” friend. After all, he’s been to 47 countries at the age of 24, and he is a way better surfer. But Jorden was a communications manager, works to live, and knows how to make lasting relationships, even when he’s on the road (he also loves Ja’mie). These are all qualities and experiences I identify with and aspire to strengthen thanks to my incredible “mate”.  [You can read his amazing travel blog here!]

Finally, Theo reminded me of all the reasons I was excited to return home. Maybe it’s because he was the first foreign person who understood every single one of my American pop culture references no matter how cerebral or obscure. Theo’s creativity is explosive, and his wackiness is indicative of his genius. How appropriate that I went with him to see the Salvador Dalí exhibit during my stay…IMG_9332

Theo had such a positive, fresh perspective on the world, one you might not expect from an ex-Israeli soldier. He wants to be a copywriter in New York City, and after studying advertising for four years, I have no doubt that he’ll follow his bliss to the Big Apple and hit it big time. His energy was contagious, and I have seen it transform me in small ways since returning to the USA.

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With the three of them by my side, along with countless other adventurous people I met in Rio, I was able to take the city at face value and enjoy what it had to offer beyond the glitzy tourist “check boxes.” I fell deeply in love with Rio de Janeiro, warts and all. I know my work, passion for Brazilian culture, and working knowledge of its society will take me back there someday.

People always ask me what it was like to return to “real life” after being gone for so long. The truth is, Rio was probably one of the “realest” experiences I had all year. I understand now that I’m still hung up on Rio because it has spiritual significance in my life. There, I learned how to let a city’s pace affect my decisions and lead me to the souls I needed most. I think everyone has a specific place in this crazy world that is meant to completely take them. You just have to be open to finding it through whatever means this impulsive, beautiful universe sees fit.


Sex Culture at the World Cup

The media can’t stop talking about a darling Mexican coach, American hero, ferocious bite, humiliating loss, pre-Cup protests, or even the not-at-all-suprising fact that LeBron James attended the final in Rio…so why are so few outlets talking about sex?

The sex culture at the World Cup says everything about the evolving world of dating, sports fandom, and gender equality. Never before has the world had so many fans using dating apps on their mobile devices. Brazil is arguably the most stereotypically sexualized country to host the tournament. And we’re all waiting to see if Germany will experience a baby boom in April 2015. Sex has so much to add to this narrative.

I’m keeping it light with this post and sharing some of my observations from the host city of Fortaleza about of the World Cup dating culture. More to come later…



I watched my first World Cup game in a popular seaside restaurant usually frequented by Brazilian beach bums. This time, however, everything about everyone was different: the languages, the jerseys, the alcohol selections… It was heartwarming, really.

A stunning Brazilian woman passed my table, and a sort of hush fell over that side of the restaurant. I could feel the eyes in the room giving her an up-down more invasive than a TSA check. A confident Costa Rican man who was apparently unperturbed by the amount of drool on the floor approached the beauty. A few minutes later she and her sisters were at his table giggling while his googley-eyed friends tried to talk to them in Spanish. Everyone went back to watching the game…that is, until another gorgeous woman walked in.

croatiaThere’s nothing peculiar about a woman being picked up in a bar. However, the toxic level of sexual tension that night was suffocating. Women were being catcalled in 20 different languages per minute. Hadn’t these tourists seen a woman before? What was turning them so savage? It took me a day to figure it out…



The next night I went to a popular, local Friday night party. It’s always packed, but this time it was full to the brim…with men. An old friend from Fortaleza griped to me, “All of us Brazilian guys thought this World Cup would bring beautiful women from all around the world to our city. We were wrong. It’s only men!

wcup-fans-flag_2942373kI was awakened. This place was a jungle. Men were scurrying around the party introducing themselves to any woman who looked at least somewhat available. It was the reverse version of that age-old, stereotypical scenario of desperate females flaunting themselves in order to secure a mate before a younger, more attractive female threatened to push them out of the competition. The tables had turned, and the women were living it up. Essentially it was survival of the fittest, and in the World Cup dating universe, “fittest” usually means “most outgoing”…hence the obscene amount of bottle service.

The guys who couldn’t muster up the strength to talk to the Brazilian women stood on the edge of the party as their brave brothers picked up whichever ladies their bad Portuguese and foreign charm could get them. Watching the spectacle was like chaperoning a junior high school dance. The goofy cool guys danced with the tentative, giggling girls as the dejected dorks stared longingly at all the action.



If I’m really oversimplifying, Brazilian women wanted foreign men, and foreign men wanted Brazilian women during this tournament. Those poor Brazilian men and foreign women were forced out of the Beautiful Game of dating and into each other’s arms…unless they decided to fake it.

The birth of my new alter ego, Audriana

The birth of my new alter ego, Audriana

I’m spending the summer in Fortaleza to improve my Portuguese, so my Brazilian girlfriends adore turning me into an honorary brasileira. On the night of the Germany vs. Ghana game, they bestowed a new identity upon me: Audriana, the daughter of an American man & Brazilian-German woman who is living in Fortaleza with her Brazilian aunt.

Lo & behold, more men were automatically interested when I introduced myself in Portuguese, faked a bit of an accent, and pretended not to understand everything. I am by no means endorsing being someone you’re not to get a man. This was simply my once-in-a-lifetime Sasha Fierce experience.

But I wasn’t the only one faking it. One of the largest papers in São Paulo published an article during the Cup about the widespread phenomenon of Brazilian men pretending to be gringos in order to score girls. They would speak in broken Portuguese, learn a few words in a similar language like Italian, or risk it all and pretend to be British or American, praying the girl didn’t understand English. The results were more humiliating than they were successful.

My favorite imposter was a man I met from Rio de Janeiro. He changed his hometown from Chicago, to Atlanta, to Tuscaloosa all in a matter of minutes. When I told him I was American, he bowed his head in shame.




Tinder, the easiest dating app ever created, exploded in Brazil a week after the start of the World Cup. Usage within the country increased by 50% during the tournament. My Brazilian girlfriends could not stop talking about all of the (mostly blonde) foreign men they were meeting. Someone even made a Tumblr account dedicated to all of the gringos using Tinder during the Cup.

I downloaded it. Please withhold any judgment; it was solely for research purposes.

Though I was greatly amused by the sheer amount of men who chose to represent themselves with nothing but sunglasses selfies, the straightforward bios were the real treasures.

“No Portuguese, only English.”

“World traveler looking for a Brazilian girl to show me a good time”

“1.97 meters”

IMG_8207The traditional online dating dance of reassuring the woman she was not being catfished was not customary at the World Cup. These men knew they were up against rich, brooding tourists from all across the seven seas, so most skipped the small talk and wrote something like, “Hello beautiful! Let’s meet at FIFA Fan Fest in one hour!” (Note: I did not meet any of my lovely Tinder matches.)

Honestly, Tinder didn’t carry as big of a sleazy reputation during the Cup as it does in the USA. I know plenty of people who enjoyed classy nights out during the tournament with their Tinder matches. For example, my friend matched with a British bloke who was solely interested in dancing, kissing, and buying all of her friends drinks that night. Now that was a match made in heaven.

Maybe Tinder is evolving into something more serious and less taboo in other countries. Maybe it took an international sporting event to make people fall in love with the app. Or maybe some would say these hopelessly romantic notions should not be associated with the process of swiping a stranger’s face to indicate if you do or don’t like them…


Tinder use exploded in Brazil during the World Cup


My personal favorite











It’s come to my attention that many male fans associate the World Cup with a certain mystical sexual experience, especially in a sexualized host country like Brazil. It’s this widespread belief that during the World Cup, anything can happen in the games, and therefore anything can happen in the bedroom. There’s camaraderie between the guys who consider this an absolute truth. And they say women are the ones who never stop believing in fairy tales…

Soccer fans pose for a photo with a woman whose body is painted with Germany's national soccer team colors, at the end of a live broadcast of the World Cup match between Portugal and Germany, inside the FIFA Fan Fest area on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. Germany won 4-0. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

When, say, a Brazilian woman and a French guy would start making out at FIFA Fan Fest, a group of Argentines a few rows back would start cheering. If the Frenchman suffered the misfortune having to watch her walk away, the Argentines would welcome him with open arms, consoling him with beers. I saw some extremely tender moments and countless blossoming bromances during this tournament.

At the USA vs. Ghana match after-party I enjoyed a conversation with a Ghanian man who was half my size, standing at at a friendly distance, and talking mostly about his lovely girlfriend and Stanford degree. I held back a sigh of relief and thought, “Oh my god, finally a super interesting guy who simply wants to talk to me!” But this was the World Cup. The bros circling us assumed our new friendship could only lead to one thing.

Bromances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup hit a historic high

Bromances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup hit a historic high

A guy from New Zealand apologized for interrupting us as he placed a caipirinha in my hand. Delighted but weary of his kind gesture, I started asking him a bit about his World Cup adventures. Before long, he turned to my Ghanaian friend and said, “She’s way better looking than me, I’m going to leave you two be now. Cheers!!”

The New Zealander winked, gave him some kind of knowing pat on the back which I assume has a translation in Bro Code, and he disappeared into the crowd of tourists attempting to samba. What on Earth would motivate a guy to buy a drink for a woman who he strongly suspects is already a sure thing with another man? Is it a sport? Is it a move? Was he simply a Good Samaritan legitimately concerned that I hadn’t sipped enough drinks to enjoy spending time with his new bro? The two of us could not stop laughing about it.



argentinaThe “manpalooza” that is the World Cup is getting all sorts of conflicting reports this year. Some would say it was a single girl’s paradise.

There’s something inspiring about seeing two people share a kiss after a match even though they can’t communicate. Sometimes all a man would have to do is say, “You’re beautiful!” in whatever language seemed most suitable or sexiest, and a few minutes later he and his new paquera would be dancing, pantomiming, laughing, and exchanging digits.

I even witnessed people fall in love. For example, my Brazilian friend met an Aussie at the Fortaleza FIFA Fan Fest. A week later he invited her to stay with him in Rio for the final. She left that day. It was straight out of a movie.

Of course, there were plenty of people who were all about the one-night stands. It was unbelievably easy to pick up other people simply by saying, “Where are you from?” Women were mostly confident that if the man was foreign, he was staying in a nice, safe hotel and would use protection. There is a stereotype here that foreign men treat Brazilian women better than Brazilian men do. Whether or not that’s true is a separate post altogether.

Fans kiss after watching Brazil play Mexico in their 2014 World Cup Group A soccer match at a public viewing area on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Landau (BRAZIL) ORG XMIT: SRR701



20 Things Americans Will Miss in South America & 19 Ways to Look on the Bright Side

South America is a magnificent destination for travel and living abroad, but the Land of the Free is guaranteed to have a hold on Americans in some of the most ridiculous ways. After weeks of hiking the Torres del Paine, chilling on a beach in Fernando de Naronha, and watching pink dolphins play in the Amazon, it’s likely you’ll be dreaming of novelties like mac n’ cheese boxes, driving your automatic car, and HBO.

If there’s one thing living in South America has taught me, it’s that there’s always a bright side to every problem and inconvenience. So instead of just listing 20 things you’ll probably miss about the USA, I’ve included a positive side to (almost) every circumstance. Once you learn to love the differences between the Americas, your culture shock will evolve into appreciation and a fresh perspective.

20 Things Americans Will Probably Miss

  1. Peanut butter: Just typing the words made my heart skip a beat. I promise I’ll be back for you, my love. Brad1brad 2braddles
  2. Driving & traffic safety: When you’re in a Montevideo taxi holding on for dear life, or zooming up the side of a Peruvian mountain in a bus that resembles an Inca artifact, you will feel a strange sort of nostalgia for those pesky American police men who would pull you over for not wearing a seat belt.
  3. Free refills: Don’t take those irritating serial refillers at your favorite local restaurant for granted.
  4. Ice cubes: Milk down here is sold out of cardboard boxes and not refrigerated until opened. Juice is fresh-squeezed but warm. The worst culture shock is definitely Bolivia where cold drinks are non-existent.
  5. The customer is always rightattitude: If you spend enough time in LATAM you will begin to think the service in the US is some sort of Mr. Rodgers make believe. If I found a hair in my food the manager would beg for my forgiveness and give me a free dessert. If I wore a pair of pants a few times and the button popped off I could return them, no questions asked. Was it all a dream? In South America if you have an issue at a store or restaurant, oftentimes the service will argue or tell you to deal with it in their own special way.will
  6. Big o’l country breakfasts: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” does not apply in LATAM. I will kiss my sister’s feet next time she wakes up early to make us waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, and fruit salad. In the meantime, I will continue to sip my lonely coffee in the AM and fantasize about IHOP. tumblr_m8x5oauTo11qfs9g4o1_400
  7. Being able to call yourself “American” without feeling like a bigot: Venezuelans, Bolivians, and Argentinians will refuse to call you “americano” and instead will use “gringo,” “extranjero,” or “estadounidense.” Estadounidense is adequate, but it’s difficult to explain to them that “United Statesian” just never caught on. The Brits named us “Americans”, so why don’t they take it up with them? Your new nationality is “foreigner” for the time being, try not to let it get to you.
  8. Super-sized everything: Can someone PLEASE express me an ACTUAL large coffee, stat?!? Even an XXXL Icee from Shell will do.
  9. American music (the right way): American music is so pervasive in South America, so how could you miss it? I miss it because people don’t  know how to dance or sing to it, and it can be strangely frustrating. What’s worse is when people have no idea how inappropriate and/or lame the song is, and they play it over, and over, and over, and over…daftpunk
  10. Drinking out of cans & bottles: I close my eyes and drink that cold beer straight out of a can, and I’m transported right back to those blessed Indiana lake houses with all my old friends. I open my eyes and my Brazilian friends are all staring at me wondering why they are willingly passing time with such a barbarian (see #17).
  11. Concert culture: Especially if you’re in LATAM during the spring & summer, you should probably stay off social media during Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza season. It’s simply too painful. What’s even worse is trying to explain to your new friends why missing the Mr. & Mrs. Carter On the Run Tour is just so unbearable…(see #9)beyyyyygiphy
  12. American football & baseball: There are a few people down here who watch the NFL, but if you’re into America’s favorite pastime, just forget about it!
  13. Speed walking: If you consider yourself a slow walker, you’re an athlete in South America. If you’re a New York City kind of walker, you are an Olympian in South America.
  14. General trust in the police: Our system is by no means perfect, but Chile is the only country in South America where you have a 99% chance of being thrown in the slammer if you try to bribe an officer. If you’re robbed down here, chances are you can kiss your possessions goodbye, so always be careful.superbadgiphy
  15. Napkins: The “napkins” would be more suitable to wrap a Christmas present than wipe that delicious, messy llama locro or Ecuadorian ceviche off your face.
  16. American pizza: The NY v. Chicago style battle is completely irrelevant here. Even if you’re a diehard Chicagoan, something that resembles NY style pizza will bring tears of happiness to your eyes. Argentinians love to say their pizza is Italian when in fact the cheese is 5x thicker than the crust. The worst offender by far is Brazil—-they generally do not include tomato sauce, instead people squirt drops of mayo & ketchup on top of each slice. breakingbad
  17. American manners: Even if you’ve been living in a frat house for the past 4 years, “bad manners” will shock you. Your mother taught you to always let people off the elevator before you enter, never reach over someone at the dinner table, never stare at people, etc., etc., but those rules don’t always apply here because each country has different etiquette. Do your research!manners
  18. Finger food: People use forks & knives for everything, even pizza. So imagine how barbaric the US would seem if you were a South American at a 4th of July BBQ…which puts #17 into perspective.ryangiphy
  19. American holidays: It doesn’t matter if it’s Independence Day, Memorial Day, or even National Doughnut Day. You will feel left out and a bit disoriented throughout the day. By FAR the worst day to miss is Thanksgiving. If you’re in LATAM on this day, consider cooking a Thanksgiving feast for some Latin American friends, and be prepared to compromise on a few ingredients…
  20. Cell phone data plans: You’re having an heated argument with an infuriating Israeli tourist in Cafayate about whether or not “Llorando se fue” is originally a Bolivian, Brazilian, or Pitbull/J.Lo-ian song. You have 2 options: Continue to argue relentlessly or seek out the nearest Wi-Fi zone, probably a McDonald’s. Not constantly having Google (& Instagram & FB & Snapchat & YouTube & Yelp, etc…) takes some getting used to…sadly.kris

20 Ways to Look at the Bright Side

  1. Peanut butter: Each country has their “peanut butter.” In Argentina it’s dulce de leche. In Chile it’s rosa de mosquete. Learn to love it and remember there’s an entire aisle of peanut butter waiting for you at the finish line.
  2. Driving & traffic safety: Allow me to introduce you to the most thrilling form of transportation in some South American cities: Moto-táxis. For half the price & time of a traditional taxi you’re zigzagging between cars and buses on the highways and arriving in style with an extra dose of adrenaline. The sheer amount of lawsuits an option like this would unleash in the USA would give any insurance company night terrors. Enjoy the ride!audreygeorge
  3. Free refills: Calories, calories, calories…
  4. Ice cubes: The ice cube drought will compel you to go to a bar and order a caipirinha with ice galore. You will not regret it…unless you drink five too many.
  5. “The customer is always right” attitude: By the end of your trip few things faze you. You’ll be rocking an Irie attitude in the US while everyone else is fussing over what you now deem “the most insignificant worries in the universe.” Life without instant gratification & guaranteed satisfaction can do wonders for your stress levels, and you’ll have that Latin American attitude to thank.dorygiphy
  6. Big o’l country breakfasts: The big meal in South America is usually lunch. Most people go home for an hour or two to eat with their family, and then they go back to work until the end of the day. Rarely do you see people eating alone. That’s the way it should be! Good riddance dehumanizing, 30-minute lunch breaks.cadygiphy
  7. Being able to call yourself “American” without being shamed: Everyone born in North, Central and South America are Americans, and that’s a truly beautiful relationship. Once you embrace this concept, South America will start to feel a little bit more like home, and you’ll be a better ambassador for the United States.
  8. Super-sized everything: Calories, calories, calories…
  9. American music (the right way): Congratulations, you are now the token American friend who is automatically an EXPERT on American dances. Your new friends basically think you have Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, and Madonna’s moves written in your DNA. Enjoy your new title and relative club fame while it lasts…your college friends are waiting on the other side to shame you the moment you’re reunited.leogiphymichellegiphy
  10. Drinking out of cans & bottles: Drinking out of a cup IS more sophisticated than drinking out of a can or bottle. Plus this method will force you to drink less. So once again…calories, calories, calories.
  11. Frequent concerts: The international music scene in South America is gaining momentum, especially in Santiago, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá and Medellín. If you’re not in one of these cities, there are so many new genres to fall in love with. After a while, those local tango, Brazilian reggae, bossa nova, pasillo, funk, and merengue shows might have more appeal than elbowing a bunch of high schoolers and gasping for air at an American music festival.
  12. American football & baseball: Soccer is your new football, because down here Football is soccer, and football is not Football. It’s the world’s favorite sport for a reason. Even if it’s not your thing, go see a game or a watch party for the cultural experience. The hype is absolutely unreal.obamafutebol
  13. Speed walking: You are in a land where you are literally encouraged to slow down and smell the roses. It’s hard to shake the “time is money” mantra out of your system, but once you manage to stop thinking you have to be everywhere right away you’ll feel observant and even at peace (see #5).lionkinggiphy
  14. General trust in the police: I have been forced to be more cautious in South America. I never take my phone out on the street, I always try to walk with a friend at night, and I memorize exactly how to get somewhere before I leave my house. Which gets me to thinking…why didn’t I do this in the USA!?! Danger is lurking everywhere. I like to think that this experience in LATAM will help me avoid future threats all over the world.
  15. Napkins: The quality of these “napkins” will force you to be more environmentally sustainable and less messy with your food. Your mother & Mother Nature will be so proud!
  16. American pizza: There is absolutely no bright side to this. Sorry. breakingbadgiphy
  17. American manners: There’s a giddy feeling associated with abandoning the manners you were taught as a child. When you learn new etiquette you blend in better and are in a better position to make friends.
  18. Finger food: You don’t have to use those sad excuses for napkins (#15).
  19. American holidays: When else will you have the amazing opportunity to celebrate Carnaval in Brazil, Inti Raymi in Peru, or Corpus Christi in Venezuela? South Americans know how to throw a good party…you’ll most likely be wanting to bring back some of these holidays to the States.
  20. Cell phone data plans:  There’s something to be said for not being connected to the entire world every minute of the day. Your smart phone without a doubt takes away from the spiritual potential of travel. It’s time to unplug.alice

Salta & Jujuy in 12 Days

International travel can be an extremely personal, spiritual experience that is most meaningful when left out of the public sphere and safeguarded in your own memories. However, sometimes not sharing your knowledge with the world is just plain greedy. Pachamama taught me better. After spending countless hours reading traveler reviews online before my 2014 adventure and returning virtually unscathed, I’d like to contribute to this growing culture of passionate travelers in South America with advice on how to get the most out of a trip to Salta & Jujuy, Argentina.

The northwestern provinces of Salta & Jujuy are essential destinations if you want the complete Argentina experience. The desolate landscape, prehistoric rock formations, and enduring indigenous culture seems worlds away from the more widely recognized Argentine hotspots like Buenos Aires, Patagonia, and the Pampas. It’s precisely what makes this place so precious.


Cerro de Los Siete Colores, Purmamarca, Jujuy, Argentina

In this post I will include my itinerary and general travel tips for those considering traveling to Salta and/or Jujuy. I will include hostel information, but my recommendation is to follow this outline and make hostel arrangements when you arrive in each pueblo, especially during the off season (March-October). This takes pressure off in case you find yourself enamored by a certain area or a new people you meet along the way. I believe it makes for more meaningful travel when you take the backseat and allow the trip to work out the details for you.



My recommended schedule: 1. Salta 2. Humahuaca 3. Iruya 4. Tilcara 5. Purmamarca 6. Cafayate 7. Salta (other areas worth researching: Cachi & Atacama Desert)

Safety: Generally it is a safe area, but buy a lock if traveling with expensive electronics just in case. If traveling with a large backpack, always take out important documents and expensive equipment before stowing your bag under buses. There are plenty of stories of switching backpacks minutes before departing for the next city. YOU MUST KNOW BASIC SPANISH PHRASES or travel with a Spanish-speaking friend. People generally do not speak English in this area. If you are a woman traveling alone/group of women, always ask your hostel or local tourism offices for taxi driver recommendations. Unfortunately this is an increasingly popular area for sex-traffiking, and it is best to know who you are riding with at all times.

Food: When in this area you HAVE TO try llama, empanadas with quinoa, fried goat cheese, asado, locro (a delicious, affordable stew), alfahours (a chocolate cookie-like dessert)

Drinks: Coca leaf tea, Torrontés (a regional white wine)

Health: Most of the journey will be through regions with extremely high altitudes. If you struggle with altitude sickness, bring medicine with you and plan your schedule so you can rest before and after long hikes.

Best time to go: Carnaval week (same time as Mardi Gras each year, Feb or Mar) for a very authentic, indigenous celebration of this national holiday (will be more crowded and expensive, plan ahead); March-October for the “off season” where travelers enjoy mild days and cool nights, low prices, and plenty of peace & quiet

Coca Leaves: The coca leaf is a traditional herb that has a caffeine-like effect, curbs the appetite, helps with digestion and remedies altitude sickness. It is illegal everywhere else in the country besides the Jujuy & Salta provinces because the plant is used to make cocaine. COCA LEAVES ARE NOT COCAINE and WILL NOT HARM YOU. You will see men & women chewing on them 24/7, and some add “bica” (a natural, white powder) to add more strength. You should definitely give it a shot when traveling through the region, especially if you are experiencing dizziness and/or nausea. Just don’t try to bring it back on the plane.


Coca leave tea, a natural stimulant that remedies altitude sickness

Locro, a scrumptious regional stew

Locro, a scrumptious regional stew

DAY 1: Buenos Aires -> Salta

Hostel: Backpacker’s Suites & Bar, $7USD with breakfast (cheapest), 4/5 stars, Clean, fun atmosphere, helpful staff, $10 deposit for sheets, far from bus station

We opted for the 2-hr flight over the 18-hr bus ride NOT because we can’t be road warriors (the continental buses in Argentina are actually awesome), but there was only a $10 difference.

THE KEY TO THIS SPECIAL DEAL: We bought our $205 round-trip tickets through the Aeorlineas Argentinas ARGENTINA/Español page. The company charges more for foreigners, so when you get to the welcome screen opt for the “Argentina (Español)” option. It’s best to check-in beforehand, print/bring your boarding pass, and not check any luggage. However, we “cheated the system” three times from Buenos Aires and never ran into problems. It’s important to note that you have to pay with a credit card (no American Express), but you will still be getting the ticket for at least 2/3 of the “foreigner price.”

DAY 2: Salta -> Humahuaca

BEST OF Humahuaca: Best place to buy handmade, Argentine tapestries & clothes (many pueblos peddle cheap goods from Peru now), great local food, incredible scenery in the Quebrada

Bus: 5 hrs, $11USD one-way, stops in Jujuy & Tilcara, no transfers

Hostel: Hostel La Humahuaca, 2/5 stars, $7USD with breakfast (cheapest), Great location but very dark & service is hard to come by

Arriving in Humahuaca in the evening was like walking onto a Hollywood set for an old western movie after hours. It was surreal walking through the silent, empty streets and gazing at the fearsome indigenous warrior monument overlooking the pueblo.


Monument to the Andean warriors in the area who won independence from Spain in the 19th century

Had we left Salta earlier in the day it would have been possible to spend one night in Humahuaca. However it was one of my favorite destinations and was worth getting to know.

DAY 3: Humahuaca

The thing to see in Humahuaca is the Serranía Hornocal in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. It’s like a giant sand art mountain flaunting 14 distinct colors and hidden between the mountains on the edge of the pueblo.


In order to get there you walk to the market on the edge of the pueblo and pick up a “taxi” (usually a 4WD pick up truck). The roundtrip is $30USD split between the passengers. In order to ensure your safety and save some $$$, try to organize a group of 5 at your hostel, ask your hostel owners for the name of a good driver, and ask tourists in the market if they’d like to accompany you if you haven’t secured a full car.

Make sure you go in the morning or late afternoon. Drivers will usually not take tourists to the Hornocal around noontime because of the sun intensity. WEAR SUNSCREEN.

DAY 4: Humahuaca -> Iruya

BEST OF Iruya: San Isidro hike (4-6 hours), home stays, local food, remoteness

Bus: 4 hrs, $7USD roundtrip, no stops, no transfers (bring a blanket or jackets to your seats if traveling before sunrise or after sunset)

Hostel: Home stay (read below)

The only way to arrive in Iruya is through Humahuaca. The road to one of the most remote pueblos in Jujuy is breathtaking, but also narrow & unpaved. Therefore, the bus schedule is very rigid. Most people leave Humahuaca at 6am, arrive at 10am, and leave at 2pm. We opted to stay the night, and it was one of the best decisions we made.


The lookout atop the pueblo—-it takes about 20 minutes to reach the top

In Iruya it became increasingly clear that tourism in this region of the world is a necessary evil. It wasn’t teaming with souvenirs and vendors like other pueblos, but the signs were all there. People are generally friendly & helpful when you approach them speaking Spanish, but otherwise they will look right through you and go on with their daily routine.


Locals who will voluntarily approach you, however, are women with flyers for home stays. There are a few hostels in the pueblo, but we ended up paying $6USD per person for a private room in a delightful woman’s house. If you want a truly authentic experience go with this option.

There are a few hikes, the best being San Isidro. The path takes you through the mountains and sheep pastures to a neighboring pueblo.

En route to San Isidro

En route to San Isidro


DAY 5: Iruya -> Tilcara

BEST OF Tilcara: Cave tour, most accommodating pueblo for tourists in terms of hospitality and accessibility

Bus: 6 hrs total, transfer to Humahuaca, bought ticket to Tilcara for $2USD, bring blanket or jackets on bus if traveling before sunrise

Hostel: Club Hostel, 4/5 stars, $9USD with breakfast (cheapest), Great location, helpful staff, and lots of open space to relax and make new friends

Unfortunately my stay in Tilcara is full of regret, largely in part because we skipped the tour of the caves (las cuevas). The tours REQUIRE a tour guide and cost $10USD per person. The hike typically lasts 4 hours and takes you to some of the most beautiful hidden sights in Jujuy. If interested, go to the tourism office in centro before 3pm and sign up for a tour. You do not have to pay ahead of time.

Instead we hiked up to Garganta del Diablo, a very disappointing waterfall that is located at a painfully high altitude. My disappointment probably is largely in part to the fact I saw the original Garganta del Diablo only 3 weeks prior, but all-in-all, not worth the trouble. It costs $2USD per person to enter the waterfall sight.

There are also some ruins en route to the waterfall, but it costs $3USD to enter, and the ruins are artificial reconstructions. ESPECIALLY if you’re planning a trip to Peru, you might want to take a pass on this attraction.

Seen in Tilcara: The world if everyone/thing chewed coca leaves

Seen in Tilcara: The world would be a happier place if everyone/thing chewed coca leaves

DAY 6: Tilcara -> Purmamarca

BEST OF Purmamarca: Salinas Grandes tour, Cerro de Los Siete Colores

Noteworthy restaurant!!!: Peña el rincón de Claudia Vilte (try the locro or cabrito)

Bus: 2 hrs, $5USD, no stops, no transfers

Hostel: A local church had a few private shacks for $7USD per night, and it was actually pretty comfortable. Purmamarca is known for it’s exotic, hidden hotels if you want to splurge a bit.

The streets of Purmamarca are completely packed with budget souvenirs from Peru from 9am-5pm, and tourists can be seen and heard on every street corner. After spending nearly 5 days in extremely remote pueblos, we welcomed the hustle and bustle but remained watchful of our tourist etiquette.

Many people go to Purmamarca to access Salinas Grandes, an ancient salt desert 690 feet above sea level. If you are going to Bolivia, skip it. Salar de Uyuni is the most breathtaking salt desert on Earth. Otherwise, Salinas Grandes is worth the $10USD. Pick up a “taxi” near the bus station and find 3 other travelers to go with you to save money and ensure safety. ***You will definitely be feeling the altitude as the car swerves up and down the mountains, so bring a remedy like coca leaves.

IMG_7051 IMG_7037The best times to go to Salinas Grandes is early in the morning or at 4pm. You will be allowed 30 mins to an hour to explore and take pictures. It’s one of the greatest photo opps in the Northwest. However, trucks harvesting the salt will sometimes interfere with the serenity and extraterrestrial beauty of the desert. Hopefully you go on a better day than we did.


The other attraction you need to know about is Cerro de los Siete Colores, the trail that takes you through the hills in between the pueblo and Quebrada de Purmamarca. It’s named for the 7 distinct and vivid colors of the rock formations. For the most breathtaking views take the hike early in the morning or in the late afternoon. The hike lasts about 4 hours.

Cerro de los Siete Colores

Cerro de los Siete Colores (around 3pm)


The best restaurant in Purmamarca, Peña el rincón de Claudia Vilte


Guests enjoy live, regional music every night at Peña el rincón de Claudia Vilte

DAY 7: Purmamarca -> Cafayate

BEST OF Cafayate: Epic wine tasting and gorgeous bodegas, Torrontés (a white wine that only grows here), tours of La Concha

Bus: Pumamarca to Jujuy (1.5 hours), Jujuy to Salta (2.5 hours), Salta to Cafayate (4 hours), you must transfer buses at each of these points. The bus schedules are synchronized so you’re never waiting more than 30 mins in between.

Hostel: El Balcon, $7USD per/night (cheapest), 3/5 stars: Good location, awesome asados, attached to a 24-hr convenient store, management is a little iffy

This day was a doozy, but it was high time to leave Jujuy and explore Salta Province. The city of Jujuy is notoriously boring and dirty, and we had plans to explore the city of Salta at the end of the trip, so we opted to travel all the way down to Cafayate. One thing to look forward to on this bus ride is the amazing scenery between Salta and Cafayate. I must’ve stared unblinkingly out the window for an hour completely taken by the grandeur of the deep earthy colors and geometric shapes formed into the ancient mountains.

Our hostel offered a $9USD all-you-can-eat asado, which ended up being the best one I had in all 4 months traveling in the Southern Cone. Hostel asados are worth splurging on if you’re on a budget. There’s no better way to share stories with other travelers and shamelessly indulge in the famous flavors of Argentine meat and wine.

View of central Cafayate from our hostel, El Balcon

View of central Cafayate from our hostel, El Balcon

DAY 8: Cafayate

After a day or road-tripping, we were ready to spend the day relaxing in Argentina’s most famous wine country. Cafayate is home to a wide range of wineries (bodegas) due to the optimal climate and altitude for wine grapes. The view of the clouds touching down on the Andes doesn’t hurt either.

In order to make the bodega rounds, you can rent bikes on the plaza for $8USD for 5 hours. The best way to discern if bike rentals is the way to go is to map out your bodega schedule and determine the distances. On the first day we split a taxi between 3 people and went to two distant bodegas; the total cost for the day was just over half the cost of 3 bikes, and we spent more than 5 hours in the bodegas, so we ended up making the most economical and relaxing choice. You can always try to walk and hitch hike too.

We started at Finca de Las Nubes, a picturesque little bodega a few miles outside centro. It is consistently rated one of the top bodegas in Cafayate, especially due to its scenic view and out-of-this-world Torrontés wine. The tasting tour (Spanish) was $3USD, and the price could be used toward a bottle of wine.


Finca de Las Nubes Winery


May in Argentine wine country: Harvest season ends in April, and the leaves are fresh with fall colors. Nothing beats it.

Next we headed over to Piattelli Winery for lunch by taxi. The luxurious spread of the winery was straight out of an American reality TV show. In fact, most everything reminded us of the United States: the architecture, interior design, expensive prices, and stellar service. They even give English tours. Then we discovered why…Piattelli is a new winery owned by an American construction mogul. The striking differences between the quaint, family-owned bodegas we had already visited and the growing giant that is Piattelli was a lot to take in. So we decided to absorb it all over some lunch.

Piattelli is the perfect place to dine with its incredible terrace view. I recommend you share the cheese plate and apple/goat cheese salad, and a bottle of the rich Cabernet Sauvignon. MAKE SURE they serve red wine to you at the right temperature. Sadly our experience was tainted when they served us a chilled Cab.

We walked & hitch hiked back from Piattelli, went to the famous Casa de Las Empanadas with some new hostel friends, and called it a night.



Lunch on the terrace overlooking the Andes


There are daily English tours of the winery at 3pm or by appointment

DAY 9: Cafayate

Slightly wined-out, we opted for a guided tour through Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas in the afternoon. For $15USD you can sign up for a 3-hour guided tour at the tourism office in the plaza. Most tours leave at 2pm and are given in Spanish. However, some guides do speak English, and the tours are usually full of bilingual tourists who can lend a helping hand.

The tour includes a bit of hiking but nothing too rigorous. Most of the time is spent getting in and out of the van. There are around 12 distinct points. Some stops like the Obelisco are simply photo opps. Others stops like La Garganta del Diablo are interactive.

It was one of the most touristy activities we did on this trip, but had we not paid for this tour we wouldn’t have seen some of the most beautiful, prehistoric sights Cafayate has to offer.


The original Obelisco, a prehistoric rock formation that shares its name with the famous monument in Buenos Aires


Our guide takes us through la Quebrada


Many of the stops are inspired by the recognizable shapes of the rock formations, i.e. the “Locomotive” pictured above

DAY 10: Cafayate -> Salta

Bus: $5USD, 4 hours, no transfers, a few stops

Before we left for Salta we wanted to squeeze in a few more bodegas within walking distance from the plaza. First we visited Winery Nanni, the only organic winery in the area. The tour (Spanish) was outstanding, and explained the reason they are certified organic is because they don’t use artificial chemicals or pesticides in the process. The bodega has existed since the 19th century. The family-owned company produces 50,000 bottles each year and only exports the product to Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The rest of the produce remains in the Salta province. If you visit this winery you must try a bottle of Bonarda Reserve, probably the best wine we tasted our entire time in wine country.

Winery Nanni

Winery Nanni

Next we walked over to El Esteco, a bodega with old Spanish grandeur and a luxury poolside lunch spot to go with it. We enjoyed pumpkin risotto, pumpkin ravioli, and pork chops over fresh vegetables with a bottle of their signature Torrontés. The restaurant is located behind the hotel on the right side of the bodega. Whether you’re a guest or not, you’re welcome to stop by for a decadent lunch while watching baby llamas prance about the yard. They had excellent service and a killer view of the Andes. It was an absolutely memorable experience, and a wonderful way to say chau to Cafayate.


Eating lunch on the poolside patio with our new baby llama friend, Clarita


Bodega El Esteco—-don’t forget to taste a few grapes on the way in…


Pumpkin risotto with some Torrontés at El Esteco

DAY 11: Salta

BEST OF Salta: Empanadas, gorgeous colonial churches, relaxing in the park

Hostel: Backpacker’s Hostel Salta, $7USD with breakfast (cheapest), 5/5 stars, Good location, amazing bar and dinner area in back, affordable dinner specials, friendly & helpful staff, fun atmosphere ***This is different than the aforementioned Backpackers Suites & Bar (4/5 stars)

After all of the buses and jumping around from one hostel to another, a relaxing day in Salta was exactly what we needed. Hostels here are the best in the area since it’s the jumping off point for many tourists. It’s easy to find employees who will help you book an excursion and point out fun things to do. We decided to lounge in the park and watch jugglers, explore the various colonial churches, walk to the mall and watch a movie, and eat as many empanadas as we possibly could. No regrets.


One of the many orange trees & the Salta Cathedral—located on the main square


The oldest church in Salta, Iglesia San Francisco

DAY 12: Salta -> Buenos Aires

It was hard to believe we were in the same country when we hopped off the plane in Buenos Aires, and I think this is one of the most beautiful things about Argentina. I hope my tips & advice have helped you plan your journey to one of Argentina’s greatest treasures. ¡Buen viaje!


The idea was unshakable, practically explosive, but I was holding out for a sign.

It was an absolutely dismal April day in the rather gloomy capital of Montevideo, Uruguay. Despite the hurricane winds, rain, and our suspected suicidal driver, my classmates and I could not hold it together for the life of us on our mandatory city tour. We erupted into sidesplitting laughter for almost two hours as the tour guide directed our attention from one dreadful place in his beloved city (“¡Eso es un lugar de muerte!”) to another (“¡Ayer la policia descubrió 100 kilos de cocaína allá!”). The absurdity was infectious and reminded me of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I managed to identify the feeling. I had saudades, a Portuguese term that more or less means a feeling of nostalgia and intense longing. It is one of those brilliant words that achieved such a level of perfection it can’t be adequately translated into any other language. Maybe I had saudades for a past experience or my loved ones some 5,000 miles away, but most of all I had saudades for a memory that hadn’t even come to completion yet. Is it possible to be blissful when you are acutely aware the moment will pass? In that van I began to think so…

Next came one of those rare moments where the vivacity surrounding me was muted by my own thoughts and determination. The time of waiting for a sign had expired; I was finally compelled to make a resolute decision and do what I was going to do all along. I texted my dad and shared the news.

Not even a second later I was back in the van as Lizzie tapped my shoulder. She shouted over the wonderful rambunctiousness, “Look, Audrey…Fortaleza!” A sign came into view of the “fortaleza”, a historic fortress atop the highest point in the city. Finally, we reached an undeniably beautiful sight in Montevideo. The doubt that was steadily seeping into my mind vanished; I was going back to Fortaleza, Brazil for the summer, job or no job. I started to cry. There are few things more reassuring than receiving a sign right after you decided to create your own sign.

My saudades for Brazil were killer since leaving, especially during my semester in Buenos Aires. My ears perked up every time I heard Portuguese, I would not shut up about the generally unknown social problems surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and I seized every opportunity to introduce caipirinhas to new friends. I knew deep down since August I would choose Fortaleza over almost all other summer prospects, I just needed a little push. But now that I’m here, I look back on that turning point in Montevideo with more clarity.

The transition back to Brazil has been surprisingly difficult. I see now that I chose to focus on my longing for Brazil in order to cope with my inevitable longing for Argentina and the United States. Now I know better than to compare the experiences, or any two experiences at all for that matter.

Mis queridos Miz Gringos, I have you to blame first and foremost for all these saudades I’m experiencing. I will forever treasure our time together getting lost all over the continent, jumping out of airplanes, making hilarious mistakes in Spanish, becoming wine connoisseurs at 21, getting to know each others’ outrageous families through our stories, boating under waterfalls, sharing asado, accidentally discovering nude beaches, learning how to survive in boliches, dining in pop-ups, and staring for a fraction of eternity into a bioluminescent ocean. But the memory I have the most saudades for presently is genuinely enjoying being present with you in the world’s most brutally honest city, Montevideo. Thank you for guiding me back to Brazil and filling me with all of this love!

The Miz Gringos upon surviving their Montevideo city tour

All my beloved Miz Gringos upon surviving our Montevideo city tour

The fateful van ride

The fateful van ride

My sign...all cred goes to Lizzie Johnson

My sign…all cred goes to Lizzie Johnson


The Case for Purposeful International Travel

The interesting thing about tragedy is we have to be able to relate to it.

-George Clooney in Half the Sky


If you’re reading this post it is safe to assume on a daily basis you are bombarded with raging politically charged Facebook statuses, retweeted prayers for the latest disaster victims, links to petitions and fundraiser websites for the new saddest story you’ve ever heard, and news articles saying that Mother Nature is going to blow us all to smithereens within your immediate family’s lifetime.

The media, particularly social media, exposes us to the world’s greatest problems and connects us with the networks to make a contribution to human progress. However, without a real connection, it’s easy to let these causes dissipate into the clutter that is your newsfeed. That is why I’m taking this time to make a case for purposeful international travel.


I’ve noticed international travel has been developing a bad reputation lately. Some of the most compelling arguments against volunteer work abroad include:

  • Your money would be better spent if it went directly to the project rather than wasted on your own airfare, hotels, etc.
  • Chances are the local people know more about building houses, irrigation systems, and other necessities than you do. You’ll just be slowing everyone down.
  • There is plenty of poverty in your own backyard. You don’t need to go abroad to help other people.
  • Traveling increases your carbon footprint exponentially.
  • Americans volunteering in the Third World perpetuates the idea that we are “saviors.” We shouldn’t pressure other cultures to adopt our values and way of life.

While these criticisms are justifiable at times and raise legitimate concerns, the good outweighs the bad. The momentum international travel creates is invaluable, especially in this globalizing world.

I think back to the movie Hotel Rwanda (2004) when Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) and American journalist, Jack (Joaquin Phoenix), watch footage of the genocide. Paul asks, “How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?” and Jack begrudgingly responds, “I think if people see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, that’s horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.”

When people witness a tragedy they are less likely to take action when others are perceivably present. This is the sociopsychological phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility. With the explosion of human rights campaigns on social media, this phenomenon is as relevant as ever. Think about it: are you really going to make a generous donation to a GoFundMe campaign that thousands of people have already posted on their Facebook pages? Chances are, you’ll sign a petition and go on with your day.

However, when you make a physical connection with the people you’ve been empathizing for from your smart phone, both of your worlds change. The physical reminder that there are people from “the outside” who not only recognize the injustice but also are actively actually doing something to eradicate it can be crucial to empowering those in need.


I was inspired to write this post after spending the past week crying in public while reading Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky. Kristoff and WuDunn believe gender equality in the developing world is the greatest moral challenge of the 21st century, and they fill the pages of their book with horrifying personal stories about sex trafficking, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality to support their argument. Despite the incredibly heartbreaking testimonies, to most these stories of honor killings, gang rapes and female infanticide still seem like a world away. This is exactly why the authors call for readers to deliberately nurture their love and passion for a specific cause by traveling to where they are needed most in this world.


My first mission trip to Brazil (November 2010)

Their book made me think back to my first international mission in Imbaú, Brazil in 2010. I wasn’t building homes or providing medical assistance, but I discovered the success of our organization’s foreign aid program was just as much about the donations as it was about meeting our beneficiaries in person. Too energized to lock that trip away in my memories as that time I “did a good thing” and “learned to appreciate what I had,” I spent the next three years learning Portuguese in hopes of going back. Today I’m preparing to spend my second summer teaching English in Fortaleza, Brazil. Essentially the people I met on my first mission had such a profound effect on me that my path naturally formed around them.

International travel changes you. Not everyone chooses to go back, but travelers return with social momentum. They’re usually compelled to make a difference in a very specific way, and this inspires more people to do the same. This kind of dedication rises above the clutter and is therefore key to the success of a social justice campaign.

If you’re an empathetic person then you DO care about climate change, disaster relief, finding cures, social equality and every other worthy cause. You can make yourself care more by purposely exposing yourself to one of these causes by going abroad and seeing the problems first-hand.

Maybe money and time aren’t on your side, or maybe you’re truly uncomfortable with the idea of going to an impoverished area abroad. I have a few ways to combat this:

  1. Donate money and or time to an organization that sends students on international missions. There are few things more infectious than a youngin who truly believes they can change the world. Help make it happen for them, and you’ll feel more connected to the project.
  2. Pick an area you’re interested in and learn the language. There are plenty of free learning tools online. Once you start learning you’ll be more inclined to making a future trip a priority, and you’ll be investing in a skill that will make your experience ten times more meaningful. Your unique language skills might even make you a perfect candidate for a sponsored trip, you never know!
  3. If you’re in college, consider studying abroad in a less glamorous location. Although I totally understand the appeal of picking a beautiful place (as I sit in a cute, little Buenos Aires café writing this post), study abroad is a great opportunity to expose yourself to formerly unimaginable poverty. Any experience abroad is worthwhile, so there’s no need to completely sacrifice your Parisian dreams. Maybe consider spending that spring break money on volunteering in Romania instead of Ibiza, or find something like a soup kitchen to volunteer at once in a while.
  4. If you have a family, make your next vacation a volunteer trip. Maybe you can’t travel outside of the USA, but cross a few state lines and have this experience with your kids. When you return home you’ll probably be coming up with ideas as a family on how to continue helping your new friends.
  5. Take the first baby step and join a cause in the USA to which you can relate (thanks for the freebie, George Clooney). Share your experience with those currently affected in order to develop solidarity and trust. Maybe someday you can take the next step and fight for your cause overseas.
  6. If you’re holding back because you’re afraid, DON’T BE! Trust in yourself and your leaders, and trade your trepidation for the unbending will to help others. You will not travel thousands of miles from home to be afraid of anything.