The thing is, even with the best intentions, life finds a way to intervene.
I recently heard an episode of The Art of Manliness podcast that had Bernie Roth on as a guest. Mr. Roth is the co-founder of the Stanford Design School. He spoke about many things but one that caught my attention was his view that humans ‘can’t really plan long term.’ His philosophy is basically to take care of the day-to-day things and the big picture items will take care of themselves.
What does this have to do with travel? Well, as much as we planned a year-long, country by country itinerary, sometimes the day-to-day took us elsewhere. Sometimes we got lost.
We wrote about our Paraguayan ordeal. While stuck at the smallest ‘international’ airport ever, we were lost. But we found a way. We had to take a different path than what we had originally planned. We ended up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From BA, the ultimate destination was to reach Machupicchu in Peru but in order to get there, we had to figure out how to cross approximately 2,400 miles and at least three countries.
We do watch our budget and so my wife began to do her travel planning wizardry. (On a side note, Irene is actually incredibly good at travel planning. She routinely saves us 25-40% off our flights/buses/AirBnBs, etc. When you’re traveling with a small army of 5, the total savings really add up.)
Irene figured out we could take the scenic route and spread our travel time to Machupicchu over the course of a week, for less than what it would cost to fly directly from Buenos Aires.
We’ve crossed borders with cars, ‘combis’, buses and planes. What a treat it was to cross between Argentina and Uruguay via a boat! The trip took about an hour, the boat was comfortable and the kids loved the unique experience. Once we arrived at the ferry terminal, we got a local taxi to take us to our AirBnB and then back into the beautiful, quaint town of ‘Colonia.’
By the way, this was the day Mexico beat Germany in the opening round of this year’s World Cup. We actually ended up having lunch next to another American family. They were cheering Mexico on as well!
Colonia del Sacramento
We’ve mentioned, ‘We could live here!’ many times on this blog but really, we could live here! And we really could but with one caveat: once we ‘retire’ or in the later part of our lives. Colonia is a small town. We spent the afternoon walking around its leafless trees and brick roads and without even knowing it, we visited the top 6 Trip Advisor Things-to-Do. What Colonia lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm. It reminds me of a smaller, still rustic Santa Barbara, California.
We rented an electric golf cart and off to the races we were. We explored all along the coast and even got to drive around an old bull ring.
We spent two days there and then it was off to Montevideo…
In Montevideo, we rented a charming loft AirBnB right in the center of the coastal neighborhood of Punta Carretas. As an aside, ‘charming loft’ is not very conducive to mommy/daddy time, if you can pick up what I’m putting down. It was a tough few days in that regard but otherwise, I really enjoyed the place!
We ended our three-stop Uruguayan adventure in the ‘Hamptons of South America’, Punta del Este. And gorgeous it was! The sunsets alone were worth the price of admission. We were there during the offseason and so it was cooold but this same coldness let us explore the area calmly without the crowds. Many Latin American countries have ‘enpanadas’ but we must say the most delicious ones we tasted, and we tasted quite a number of them, were here in Punta del Este.
One last (financial) note on Uruguay
It was surprisingly expensive. We had just come from Buenos Aires which many have heard is an ‘expensive’ city in South America. However Uruguay surpassed, at least to us, Buenos Aires’ cost of living. We had an ok dinner in Montevideo, in a restaurant similar to any beach-side cafe… and we spent over $100 USD. I don’t mind spending that on a dinner that’s worth it but at this restaurant we simply ordered burgers and a meatless pasta. Many restaurants, in both Argentina and here had a ‘cubiertos’ fee. When I asked what a ‘cubiertos’ (‘utensils’ in english) charge was for, I was told it was for the use of the table and time at the restaurant. Huh?!?! Anyways, this charge is on a per person basis so for the five of us, it easily added $20 USD to the meal and this is NOT the tip. We rented a sedan, filled half the tank back up – $50.
In summary, our initial plans never included Uruguay. We only got there through being ‘lost’ and in doing so, we discovered a beautiful country with warm people and gorgeous beaches.