BY: Janine Mitchell
Change consultant / Expand the mind
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I’m super honoured to report that I’ve recently been asked to write a travel blog. I’ve been fortunate to travel to lots of places in my previous job back in the day when I was cabin crew. I thought the ‘travel bug’ would be sorted back then, but it never leaves you and I’ve done much travelling since. I’ve also recently started writing a regular blog, so I thought this would fit in nicely. The point I want to make is this. For a number of years I was in a stressful job that took a great deal of emotional energy on a number of levels. Sadly, there was never any real support and I regularly saw colleagues off with stress, often related to the job. I had done the job for a number of years and could have stuck with it, lived a career of quiet desperation or perhaps took some chances and consider doing something I love and that I am passionate about. I decided to take a couple of leaps of faith and hand my notice in. This was prior to me setting up my own business. In the meantime i took just under three months off, took the plunge and traveled to Malaysia, Australia and South America. I travelled independently and had the most amazing time. I will share with you here some of my journey. It was an experience I will never forget.
I have travelled to a number of places but South America had always been on my bucket list. I was unsure what to expect but had heard so many amazing reports about what a wonderful place it is. So, in 2013 I quit my job that I no longer enjoyed to start a new career and took some time out. This was my time to travel around South America. My itinerary involved me flying into Santiago, Chile. I then crossed the border by bus winding in and out of the Andes into Argentina, where I spent most of my time. I spent many hours travelling around this wonderful country before heading to Uruguay and finally Brazil.
This unfamiliar territory was soon to become a place of wonder and enlightenment. A place I would meet endless friendly people, a place where I would see many a sight and create many an experience that would be etched on my memory forever.
If you enjoy wine, Mendoza is somewhere that cannot be missed. The town itself is lined with pavement cafes and has a relaxed feel about it. Within that area, wine tours can be arranged. Or do something different and experience it for yourself like I did at a minuscule price by taking local public transport, a short bus ride away and hiring bikes to discover this wonderful part of Argentina. Just outside of the town you can hire bikes for a very cheap rate. There they will provide a map and show you the areas where you can visit the vineyards. There are also organised tours which take you direct to the vineyards and can be arranged at an inexpensive price.
So myself and a lovely German girl I had met travelling took our bikes and off we went, map in hand. It was an absolute scorcher of a day. We rode down tree lined roads where we found our first vineyard and then two further on. The various vineyards we visited were stunning. Large beautiful ornate terraces set aloft from gorgeous vineyards laid out as far as the eye could see, nestling in front of the Andes in the background.
While we were there we sampled some wines that were out of this world including Malbec, Syrah and various other wonderful wines that can only be described as a taste sensation. A number of large glasses were placed in front of us for us to taste. Sumptuous and divine red wine that you would expect to pay upward of £50 a bottle we were drinking for less than £5 for the whole taster session. By the end of the bike tour, with the taste of the wine combined with the heat of the sun, we were ready to call it a day and head back to Mendoza for a relax over a summers barbecue that was planned. That was certainly a day I will never forget.
From Mendoza I headed to a town in Southern Argentina called Bariloche on an 18 hour overnight coach journey. This is aptly named the ‘Argentinian lakes’. A beautiful town nestled in a natural park town situated at the foot of the Andes surrounded by lakes and mountains. It is a popular ski resort in the winter, and a place for mountain trekkers in the summer. Here I was able to hike up hills where at the top I was treated to magical, postcard views. This is also an ideal place for mountain biking so one day I hired a bike and took in a large proportion of the area, biking up and down hills and resting by lakes. A wonderful way to take in the scenery of such a dramatic landscape of natural beauty. In the main town itself, you will be surprised by the way you feel you could be in Switzerland. All the buildings are of alpine style architecture. I regard myself as a chocoholic. Here I tasted chocolate from array of chocolate shops, a taste sensation to match no other.
Next I was to take an 18 hour drive with some local people I had met up to Buenos Aires. If you enjoy steak, this is a place where it is a must that the sumptuous mouth watering steaks should to be sampled as a necessity, washed down with a bottle of world class Malbec. This is also a place for outstanding architecture and various areas where the new meets the old. The nightlife also has to be sampled her. Swanky downtown areas like Palmero can’t be missed. Lined with trendy bars, boutique shops and an array of fine dining restaurants to chose from. You will notice here the locals don’t go out to dine in the maze of wonderful restaurants till around 1am in the morning onwards, when the place is buzzing with a atmosphere and is a hive of activity. Tango lessons for all levels of abilities are available to sample here, something that should not be missed and is the beating heart of this city.
A place I cannot fail to mention in South America is Iguazu falls. A natural area of beauty that rests on the border between Argentina and Brazil. In my own naivety, I arrived there thinking I would see a waterfall and then leave again. How wrong I was. This is one of the most incredible sights I have witnessed, known to be one of the seven wonders of the world with reason. The walking tours take anything up to seven hours, meandering though a varied selection of boardwalks. As I followed the route along with others, the view I was to behold when I arrived at the first waterfall viewing area was spectacular. Massive water falls like I had never seen before, Niagra has nothing on this place!
Though each turn and corner as I walked through the stunning national park, I was graced with sensational view after view, each one being so different to the last. This is a place I would recommended any an eager traveller to visit. The beauty of this magical place is it can be seen from both Argentina and also Brazil. I had arranged to stay the night on the Argentinian side before travelling to Brazil the following day to see the falls from there. When I arrived, I was greeted to a view that was completely different and stunning in its own way. Once again my breath was taken away. I had to pinch myself on several occasions. Wow, what a place.
One of the final places I visited in Brazil was Florianopolis before heading onto the bustling Sao Paulo. I was mistaken for thinking this coastal resort was a place with a beach to visit and relax. How wrong was I! I asked the taxi driver as we drove from the bus station to take me to the place I had booked near the beach. He reliably informed me there was no less than 42 beaches in the locality! This beautiful area is composed of one main island, surrounded my a number of smaller islands. I spent much of my time around the Praia Mole area, a popular beach destination set amidst striking clear light blue lagoons. This is a real party place and it filled with a collection of holiday makers, backpackers and those more local coming for weekend getaways or longer breaks. This dynamic place is a water sports paradise. There is an array of areas to chose from to suit anyone looking to sample some of Brazils spectacular natural beauty.
I would highly recommend visiting South America to anyone. There are so many delights to be sampled. From the culture, the extremely warm welcome from the wonderful people, to the fine dining and of course the delights of the first class wines. South America can be experienced on any budget. I would suggest see as much as you can but its one big place! If you only see what you need to on this visit, you can save some of the delights for your the next time. I will be going back for sure!
Remember, the world is there to be seen, and we only get one chance at life. Whatever you ambition is, whatever your dream, whether it be travelling or something else closer to home, you can do whatever you put your mind to!