Becoming a Traveler, not a Tourist

I have easily been bucketed into the tourist stereotype since I began my travels. Although arriving in Salta, Argentina I think I may have made the transition to traveler. What is the difference? A more realistic view of the country.

We all hate being that typical tourist. The one who walks around with their backpack and sneakers and a map in hand. Ticking off the list of top 10 things to see or doing what the receptionist told us at the hostel. You get to see a lot and make sure that you’re making the most out of your time in one place. Sometimes this is the best way to see a place and avoid sitting around in the hostel all day.

However! When you decide to throw the map away, done the flip flops and just start cruising along your travels, you see something else. I arrived in Salta and never felt more touristy. I had to take a tour across the Salt Flats in Bolivia which couldn’t have made me feel more like a tourist if it tried. Uyuni and San Pedro are full of backpackers, travelling families and locals that are immersed in the tourist lifestyle. So once I reached Salta in Argentina I need to break away. I couldn’t take one more tour!

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It’s expensive to travel in Argentina so after meeting two girls, we decided to take off hitchhiking our way down to Mendoza and see where we would stop along the way. It was easily one of the most interesting parts of my travels. Not because we did or saw anything inspiring or a wonder of the world. Simply because we didn’t know what would happen the next minute, where we would end up or what we would do when we got there. We met some great people, helpful people and useful people!

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Cafayete was a great town. I would highly recommend going here but you don’t really need more than 2-3 days here. Tafi del Valle was a huge disappointment. The weather was horrific, the town was empty and the accommodation expensive. The best place to stay is Nomade Hostel where your room includes meals but book well in advance, there was no room for 5 days when we arrived. Needless to say we headed off the next morning and arrived in Tucuman.

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Tucuman is great, a busy city with a huge park, good restaurants and a fun nightlife. We weren’t meant to stay here but two nights later we forced ourselves to go. We stayed at Hostel Backpackers Tucuman and ended up helping out to paint a new mural. The staff were great, the location is perfect and if you’re a Hostelling International member you’ll get a discount! Check out the salsa clubs here, there are lessons and it’s a good night out.

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We didn’t really know how to get down to Mendoza from Tucuman but ended up catching a lift to Cordoba! Why not. Again a great city, stayed a couple of nights and checked out a few markets and some good food. I did some city walking and wandering but a friend did a bike ride out to the desert to see the surrounding landscape, so you could easily spend a week in the second largest city in Argentina.

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Next we ended up catching three cars and a truck to finally make it to San Luis. We couldn’t get all the way to Mendoza but you win some, you lose some. There wasn’t anything of interest in San Luis and we woke up to a thunderstorm so biting the bullet we jumped on a bus to Mendoza.

It was great just dropping the plans and doing some fun travel time with the girls. We saw some great sights in Argentina and met some great locals who helped us out and gave us some tips on what to do and see. We hardly saw any backpackers other than ourselves and it felt like a holiday from the backpacking tourist trail.

Is it dangerous to hitchhike? Sure. You can’t be stupid about it and hitchhiking in South America isn’t going to be the best place to do it. I wouldn’t do this on my own as a female. Argentina doesn’t have the best reputation for keeping women safe. However we didn’t come across anything scary and were lucky enough to have a safe experience. Keep your wits about you, travel during the day and make a half decent judgement of a vehicle that’s stopping for you.

Now I’m back on the tourist route and heading from Mendoza to Santiago and down the South of Chile. Thankfully buses are cheaper in Chile so at least I’ll know where I’m going this time.

Thanks for reading!

Lyds

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