It’s funny, when you meet someone in a hostel in South America, you have a lot to talk about. Or nothing to talk about, but a desire to talk. Traveling solo brings together many people that may have just walked past each other on the pavement. I’ve met hundreds of people in hostels, conversed through a thousand conversations and now call many truly awesome people friends. This must be one of the best things about traveling and why once you’ve traveled, you yearn to set off again.
Jarrod and I met at Kamala Hostel in Montañita, Ecuador. I’m not sure what day it was and i don’t know what day we all left, but inbetween, many conversations were had. We share a belief that an extended overseas adventure is necessary to grow as a person. He was near the start of his 6 month trip and i was near the end. I’m intrigued as to what makes people- myself included- spend so long overseas, so after a few beers in the rave cave, i decided to get to know Jarrod a little bit more.
What made you decide to start traveling?
I have always had the desire to take an extended break from everyday life and experience a completely different world. It was a promise to myself that I would not do the standard “High School – University – Fulltime Work”. I believe some form of travel for an extended period of time is necessary for all people who are privileged enough to have the opportunity.
Okay straight into it. Tell us about your last holiday?
Haha, my last trip reinforces all stereotypes of an Aussie Bali holiday. 10 days in a villa with my best mates, very little was seen and a lot of Bintangs were sunk. Most nights we woke up to an absolutely trashed apartment with someone passed out on the floor or someone with his leg half blown off by a firework. One night even missing our 200kg front door… Still don’t know how that one happened. I guess it’s a type of trip you have to do once with your mates, but we can’t see ourselves doing it again anytime soon.
Sounds awfully familiar.. And where is your next holiday destination?
I am lucky enough to already have my next trip planned around my brothers wedding Nov 2017. He is getting married in Maceio, Brazil. I only experienced Rio De Janiero during the Olympics and have much more of Brazil to explore. I’m really looking forward to getting to know Brazil more and not many better ways than a Brazilian wedding!
Now where’s your favourite destination and why?
Colombia is my clear favourite! Before travelling to many other countries, I didn’t know why I had so much love for Colombia, but i’ve come to realise that the people and culture are what make a country so special. The locals are so proud of their country and could not be happier to share it with me. Colombia has everything; perfect weather, beautiful beaches, vast mountains and jungles, amazing vibrant cities and an interesting recent history.
I’m intrigued by people’s lists. What are your top 10 must see destinations? Which ones have you done?
Machu Picchu, Peru (Done)
Rio De Janiero, Brazil (Done)
New York, USA
We met as solo travelers, but in small groups at the time. Who do you usually go traveling with?
South America was my first extended trip and I decided to do it solo. On a trip longer than 2 months, I believe this is the best way to do it, as your plans will very rarely match someone else’s. Things happen and change; when you are on your own you adapt to the changes exactly how you want. However, I believe both solo and group travel have their pro’s and con’s- there is not one better way to travel.
Were you nervous about traveling solo?
I generally wasn’t nervous coming into the trip, but there was definitely days. It was an excited nervous when I thought to myself “I have no clue what I am exactly in for these next 6 months”. It is a long time to be away in a world completely different to your own, so I would be lying if I said there were no nerves, but they were filled with excitement.
What advice do you have for other solo male travelers?
Be open to all experiences. I think a lot of people end up staying in their shell too much because of the horror travel stories that are out there. Some of my favourite memories I have made came from situations that may sound a bit hairy to my parents. Take calculated risks and enjoy all the experiences that come your way.
What are the biggest challenges you personally face whilst traveling?
There is no doubt you are faced with many challenges (especially travelling alone). The biggest challenges are when I have felt sick. Especially throughout South America when I would have to converse in a foreign language to find help. These experiences can be exhausting, but in the end, makes the experience all the better.
Tell us about a frightening experience?
Well i had a crazy bearded fellow Australian yell “F**k you C**t” whilst i was in the bathroom. That may sound normal, but he was definitely not joking.. The other experience was on the “Crazy Dave Tour” outside San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia. Learning about that prison from a “crazy” man who had lived in there for 14 years and is also still on parole was one shock. But to have a child of the prison (someone who was born in there and then had no choice but to live there until 18) come up to me and demand my food; that was an anxious moment. If anyone does not know about this prison, I very much recommend reading “Marching Powder” or at least research how this prison works.
Travel: Research or Wing it? How do you prepare for your trips?
I am someone who likes to do their research before they go. I found the countries I researched, I saw a lot more of. Other backpackers recommendations are always the best for information, so trying to talk to as many people who have been before and having a list of ideas of what you want to do is the best way for me to get the most out of my trip.
Even with the best research, long term travel plans can sometimes go awry. Did you misjudge anything?
I feel like there are differing opinions on recommended travel budgets.. I don’t think any travel blogger has factored in the price of drinking or they all want to write the lowest recommended budget to get more hits on their page. South America is cheap, but when you have social drinks and a couple of big nights a week, this adds to an extra $15-25 a night. Especially when travelling alone, there is no better way to get to know everyone than heading down to the hostel bar, so i kind of misjudged my budget.
What’s the greatest thing about traveling?
The friendships you build! I now have friends from every corner of the world. The people you meet whilst travelling all have a certain positive buzz to them that we all share. This makes it so easy to get to know everyone in such a short amount of time. Everyone is very open to talking to everybody at the bar or club- so different to back home where it can be “clicky”. Backpackers are a very diverse bunch of people and you can learn a lot from them all.
Australian life is vastly different from many countries. Where has been the biggest culture shock?
The biggest culture shock was the Potosi Mines tour. We went underground with some of the workers in one of the most dangerous mines at 4400m altitude. The majority of the workers drink the whole day swigging a 96% alcohol drink (forget the name) and smoke underground all shift. We all had a little try of this special drink and it sure had a kick.
The mine was totally unorganised and the workers let off dynamite wherever they believed to be best. They didn’t even believe in Engineers to recommend where to use the dynamite as “experience is better than education”. 14 people die in these mines each month from accidents alone and it is not hard to see why. The life expectancy of these miners is 47 as they have no safety equipment and are constantly breathing in toxic chemicals, in addition to the copious amounts of alcohol they drink.
This day taught me a lot about the Bolivian culture without actually having to say anything- just witness it first hand. I have a brother in Australia who works in the mines and he spends half his time doing safety paper work.
Tell us your favorite traveling story so far?
My first week travelling (in Colombia). I spoke very little Spanish, but one thing I did have was a lot of drunken confidence. I saw an extremely gorgeous Colombian girl named Carolina sitting with her group of friends and totally embarrassed myself with my attempt at Spanish. At least I knew “Bailiamos” (Let’s Dance) and used that phrase when things got real awkward.
The following night, I met Carolina and her friends Perry and Ruddy (the DJ at the rooftop bar). I had an absolutely wild 2 nights with her, going to back alley parties in Cartagena, oftentimes where I was the only white person. She seemed to know everyone in these places including the security guards and I was getting some extremely weird looks from everyone. I very much did not know what I was getting myself into as I could hardly even speak to her, but I just embraced this “Colombian experience” and went with it, kicking on until 7 in the morning, despite my 8:30 bus to Santa Marta.
Recently I ran into Perry in Thailand, not knowing she was in the same country. She told me that she and her boyfriend had set themselves up in Cartagena running an Airbnb and she is hoping to gain full-time work as an English teacher. I just find it absolutely crazy how that all came together!
Quick Fire Answers
Fav food: Blame Canada Burger from Bar Luca, Circular Quay
Fav drink: A nice cold Pale Ale
Fav country: Colombia
Fav activity: Wakeboarding
Biggest Fear: Losing passport
Hometown: Wollongong, Australia
Jarrod felt like something was missing and took 6 months off to travel the world. He decided to do it solo and gained friends the world over. He has taken nothing for granted and tried to experience all he could- from drinking himself into a stupor in Bali, to exploring the mines of Bolivia and as many beaches, temples and hostels in-between. The world is ours to explore, so get out there and wander.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Get to Know Me. Click here to meet more travelers in the series.