Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the friendships in our life. Deep breath, I promise the introspection will only be momentary. The friends who you’ve know your whole life. The silly Frenchman who you became best friends with instantly. The friend who flies down to Chile to adventure together. The friend who is the wisest person you know …
The friend who is an awesome host and lets you crash at their spot in Santiago. Thanks dude! The friends you probably didn’t ever expect to see again until you are reunited in South America. The friends who text to much in group texts. And of course, the friends who just coincidentally have the same butt tattoo.
Each brings something unique to the table, that otherwise wouldn’t be there. A quote from Into The Wild frequently pops in my head when traveling solo “Happiness is only real when shared.” Now I’m not getting all soft, but it is often true.
Ive been a bit preachy on solo adventure, so now let’s reflect on the pros of travel companions.
- When you think of something funny but can’t share it with the people around you, so instead you awkwardly laugh to yourself
- Having someone to patiently wait for you while you “try” all the ice cream flavors. You’re welcome Frenchies
- Not being alone at 8am in a bus terminal when your bus is cancelled and you haven’t slept
- Scooter buds on a remote island
- Singing partners for Ja Rule while cooking
- Not having to ask strangers to take touristy photos
- Frenchies to make dinner on alternating evenings while the Americans poo poo on their cooking
- People who have soap you can borrow
- Not feeling as bad when the bunk bed creaks because you know the person below you
- Not feeling as bad when you throw a pillow at someone snoring, because you know them
- Coffee dates
- Drink dates
- Dinner dates
- Dance partners
- Cheaper entry because you’re in a group
- Someone to eat late night food with and support poor decisions
- Someone who makes poorer decions than you and makes you feel better
- Feeling comfortable in silence when speaking is just too much effort
- Chess adversaries
- Someone to bring you toilet paper in your most vulnerable moments
- In general just having people to share everything awesome that happens everyday
Upon arrival to Santiago I was #blessed to have not just any travel companions, but the dopest/illest travel companions possible. Squad name is “So Close,” for so many reasons you’ll have to ask me about another time. The team was as followed:
A man I have already given too damn much praise to. So I will give him no more and only complain about how indecisive the French can be, how crap of a chess player he is and how is cooking is garbage. Unfortunately all of that is untrue, except for the indecision. Obviously when you’re traveling your always pressed for time, so every moment of indecision counts.
After a week in Buenos Aires together, manouel and I were ripped apart like twins separated at birth for over a month. Fate put us back in loving arms in Santiago after he travelled with fam and I went down to Patagonia. Our day of reunitition when spent in parks of Santiago, under perfect weather conditions for chess. He won.
Mathieu, taking a lengthy work sabbatical to bike South America is clearly the better half of the croissant couple. He hails from Paris and grew up with Manouel. Like most people on the road, he was fed up with his work-life balance and sought a more laissez-faire lifestyle. He is appreciatiave of street art and a great running companion in the hills of Valparaiso. Mathieu arrived in Santiago on a fair tempered Friday afternoon ready for anything. His chess abilities far exceed that of Manouel and I, and he was humble yet unrelenting in demonstrating this. A man with a quick knife in the kitchen and a quicker wit on the street, he was an essential component of So Close.
Nicolette, former colleague, lasagna extraordinaire and first and foremost friend, came down to South America on a vacation from the greatest company on the planet, stok. On a two week vacay, she was here for “a good time, not a long time.” She arrived with clear eyes, full hearts and definitely not ready to lose. In reality it was red eyes after a long day of flying, a full single heart and not hearts, but definitely not ready to lose! The main objective of her two weeks was to live the South America life and pack as much adventure into two weeks. My main objective was to make sure she didn’t quit and went back to SF because her bosses would not have forgiven me. My secret objective was to actually convince her to quit and live the dream. Nicolette is the funny bone and liver of So Close, with her incessant upbeat attitude and ability to process whatever challenges we may face.
I meant to just add the group pic, but we’ll leave Ricky Martin impersonator as well.
Together we set off on a week of ruckus beginning in Santiago. Energy was high on the Friday our two new amigos arrived. After strolls through town to get the foreigners adjusted, we embarked on a weekend of non stop fun. Myself after a month in the wildnerness of Patagonia was equally ready for some city thrills. During the day we roamed the city streets and our evening stomping ground was the notorious Bella Vista. Fortunate to have these friends, because Bella Vista is not for the faint or solo travelers.
The highlights of the evenings was probably the first at Chocolate, a place we might as well be regulars at. If you want to go someplace you are guaranteed to get your dance on, go there. You will be joined by Ricky Martin or Enrique Iglesias. The highlight of the days in Santiago was definitely our first sat in which we spent 4-5 hours in a 3 block radius. We were self described not feeling very smart that day, and we’re up for any self indulgence. Time was passed with ice cream, art stands, bookstores, waffle sandwiches and slacklining. Probably one of the silliest days in recent memory.
Our home base in Santiago was Hostel Ventana Sur. A quiet but warm little spot in quaint Barrio Italia. Breakfast was breakfast and beds were beds there. But the atmosphere of the people there made it what it was. A perfect place to cook nightly dinners and hang out with fellow travellers. Damn the dog next door though who has an innate ability to bark 24 hours a day.
Monday brought the end of the weekend and a bus ride to Valparaiso. Valaparaiso is a artsy hip bohemian little coastal town about an hour west of Santiago. There we spent our days roaming the street art covered roads, talking life and admiring the work.
Our hostel in Valparaiso, Casa Volante, was one of the coolest I’ve stayed in thus far. Decked out in the local artsy flavor, it’s located at the base of one of the hills, and just a few blocks from the water. It is deceivingly big with more people staying there than we were able to meet. Only thing missing was a good spice assortment for cooking, but this proved to be kind of and upside as we were forever to be creative with dinner. Hand ground pepper wasssup Massimo Botura! Also the creakiest beds and floors I have ever seen!
The company of awesome people there per usual made the place what is was. When you travel for long enough you begin to see the same people everywhere you go. There are only a few routes in South American backpackers take, and at this time of the year everyone is heading north. WINTER IS COMING. this hostel featured a healthy number of rad French folks as well. Mathieu and Manouel were in heaven. Nicolette and I were in a French immersion program. So many French in Chile! Not many Americans… but I like that. I didn’t come here to learn English, nor French for that matter, but I know you’re picking up what I’m putting down. After hours, everyone congregates in an outside veranda for socializing till the wee hours. mon-wed are not big going out nights for Valparaiso, but that just means more space on the dance floor.
We returned to Santiago after a few days of bohemian chillin. At the point we reach the part of the plot where everything goes wrong before a final resolution. The drama before the climax, the crux of the story where the protagonists feel almost certain defeat.
Nicolette and I had purchased bus tickets to Mendoza after Valaparaiso. This was going to be a main feature of her trip – wine country cruisin and living the good life. So on our supposed last night with the Frenchies, we went out with a bang, assuming this would be the last we would see of each other. Sleep would come on our 10 hour bus ride to Mendoza through the Andes. Well we underestimated the Andes, for when we arrived at the bus terminal 8 am the next morning we were greeted with an unfortunate truth that the pass through the mountains was closed because of storms. The words that fit this situation are “you’ve got to be kidding me,” “no fucking way,” “wtf,” “shut the front door,” “yea right dude,” “holy hell,” “god must have a plan for us,” “why does he hate us?,” “I’m so tired,” “this isn’t happening,” “I would kill for dennys breakfast right now.” So we found wifi and went into the situation room, aka in front of a McDonalds. Try as we might to find a new destination, there was no where to go. Ultimately it was time to cut our loses and head back to the hostel in which we technically still had a few hours until check out. To make matters worse it was rush hour and impossible to get on trains, let alone with giant backpacks. Alas, we persevered and made it back to Ventana Sur just as breakfast was going. As we were going inside, our true fate hit us like a brick wall of puppies and kittens. We should go to Easter Island! Why not?? High off our newfound purpose in this trip, we tried to find flights. Unfortunately our dreams were crushed by $1000 price tags. Ok, fuck it, let’s just get some sleep and figure it out later.
After a day of mindlessly wandering Barrio Italia with the sillies, it was time for another nap. As I was waking up from the nap and snuggling with good ol Manouel, just happy to see him again, I decided to give the flights another look. To my half awake surprise the price had dropped to below $350. BUY BUY BUY! Pounding on the bathroom door I notified nicolette that our dreams have come true. There was a reason the bus was cancelled. Now I’m not a god fearing man, but this did feel like fate! With a little finagling, Nicolette also found an itinerary that worked for her. She would head over a few days before me and return a few days before. Boom baby!
We proceeded to enjoy house money now having a few more days with our homies. More of the same. Including going to a house party hosted by the lovely San Franciscan’s Courtney and Eric, where we learned the greatest game ever! You put an alcohol bottle box in the center of a circle of people. Each person has to attempt to pick it up with just their mouth. If you succeed you rip a piece off, if not, ‘al seco’ or ‘bottoms up!’ This continues until there is either no box or no people. Ours turned into an Olympic showdown with one representative from each country. Nicolette (USA), Mathieu (France), and someone name I’m forgetting (Chile). Well call it a tie between the US and Chile. A very good showing by the viajaros considering how outnumbered we were. As long as France didn’t win everyone was happy.
I will leave this off here to focus on Easter Island next time. Friends are just the best aren’t they? Hey, why don’t cha go give a friend a hug or a smooch right now! Snoochies,