For those of you who have been following me for a long time now, you’re familiar with how I do a balance/mixture of traveling both solo and in groups. There are perks and downsides to both.
When you’re in a group you tend to save more money (group discounts for transportation and lodging, 4 people sharing a cab fare instead of 1, splitting meals, splitting tips and taxes, etc.) and in some instances, more time (ex. 1 person waits in line to get a bus ticket while another person gets food for everyone). It’s also harder to lose stuff when you have people looking out for each other (everytime I lost something it was because I was alone; everytime where I ALMOST lost something it was because someone else in my group picked it up for me). However, in a group it’s much harder to meet other people and link up with fellow strangers.
When you travel solo, however, you can go at your own pace without needing to wait for others, you’re not tied down to other people’s preferences, and you have a much easier time making new friends anywhere you go (groups of travelers are less intimidating to approach than solo travelers). It can get more expensive to spend alone, but to understand what you’re made of when you’re on your own can be priceless for those of you still curious what backpacking solo is all about.
But why can’t you have both? With The Monsoon Diaries I’ve tried to marry the two concepts by giving group travel the “solo experience.” With all the perks of saving money and delegating responsibilities to improve travel efficiency while in a group, I also make a point for us to spread out our reach to strangers/locals and make as many new friends as possible. That way we can get the best of both words and not sacrifice anything. As for the inevitable disagreements and personality clashes while abroad, that can be resolved by prudent communication and giving everyone enough free time to roam a place on their own (something I learned to do the hard way). It can even also add to the experience of travel as “the sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour.”
Well, during the past few days of traveling alone I got so sleepy that I left behind my softshell jacket at my hostel in Colonia, Uruguay. I didn’t even realize I had lost it until I was already in Buenos Aires (the weather is so warm here I didn’t feel like I was missing anything…until it was too late). The irony is that I had lost a similar jacket 3 years ago in the Philippines when I did my first trip in Southeast Asia, and replaced that lost jacket with this one.
I was about to acknowledge to myself that it was a lost cause and I had to go buy a new one (important for the cold weather in Antarctica and Ushuaia! and a good softshell jacket can be wicked expensive!) when I suddenly remembered I had struck up a routinely polite “hello-where-are-you-from-and-where-are-you-going” conversation with someone in my dorm at Colonia that lasted no more than 5 minutes. That 5 minutes happened to make a big difference as she ended up friending me on Facebook shortly afterwards and I was able to message her about my missing jacket shortly after arriving into Buenos Aires. She immediately responded by acknowledging that she had it on her and she could meet me in Buenos Aires the next day for an hour to pick it up.
No need to freak out. No need to be so hard on myself for losing something. No need to spend $70+ USD on a new jacket for Antarctica.
Now I’m not quite sure where to conclude with this; traveling solo led me to lose a pretty expensive piece of clothing, but it also allowed me to redeem myself by getting it back with a 5min conversation with a complete stranger. In the end, I was able to not only get my jacket back but also a great story. I think solo travel wins with this one.
Part of my group arrived today at my hostel in Buenos Aires, though, so switching to group travel for the next week. There’s also been reports of the police being on strike in Argentina for the past 2 days, leading to mass looting and at least 10 people dead…if that’s the case then we haven’t seen it yet.
Anyways, last night in Buenos Aires:
I told you I’d get a better shot of Palacio Congreso.
Buenos Aires at night:
Even the subways has character:
And then the next morning:
Had to visit the massive Retiro Train and Bus Station:
One of the widest avenues I’ve been on, Av de Liberatador:
Then Simon and Anderson (who both just flew into Buenos Aires today) and I stopped by one of Buenos Aires’ must-sees, the Recoleta area and its world famous cemetery:
We found Eva Peron’s gravesite after nearly an hour of searching:
Then we took a brief coffee break at La Biela cafe nearby:
When we returned to our hostel we found out we happened to be lodging right next to the headquarters of the New Communist Party of Argentina, so we took a little tour of their fascinating graffiti along their walls:
And finally we ended our night over 6 different cuts of steak for 4 people plus a bottle of Malbec (divine), beef tongue, and dessert at a restaurant called 1880s:
Tomorrow our group will be one step closer to Antarctica: heading to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world.
– At time of posting in Aeroparque Bs. As. Aerodrome, it was 73.4 °F – Humidity: 64% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clouds and visibility OK