Planning for Our Backpacking Trip: Central & South America

I’ve mentioned a few times here on the blog that Scott and I are planning an epic backpacking trip through Central and South America starting in 2014, but I haven’t given many details about the trip yet.

34613_10100396248671374_3235043_nOn January 11th 2014, Scott and I get on a one-way flight from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where we will be staying with Scott’s family) to Managua, Nicaragua in Central America. We were originally planning on backpacking through South America only, but once we started looking at flights we realized flights are cheaper into Central America. Nicaragua was literally chosen by seeing the $300 one-way ticket (paid in full by airline miles!), skimming the Wikipedia page, then booking the flight.

There’s a lot of preparation that needs to be done before we can leave on our adventure. Right now we are living in a 2 bedroom condo in Wilmington, North Carolina. Although we have a condo full of “stuff,” we don’t have a lot of nice furniture or things. In fact, most of our items were free from either family, friends, or Craigslist. Because of this, we decided that the cost to rent a moving truck and storage space doesn’t make sense, so we’re selling everything, packing the car, and moving to Pennsylvania on December 15th when our lease here is up. This will give us some time with our families for the holidays before we go.

During this time, I am also preparing Paintspiration for my hiatus by transferring my inventory over to my mom, Donna, who will help with shipping while I’m gone. I’ll be purchasing some extra inventory and packing everything so it is ready to ship.

The Plan (so far)

Pittsburgh to Nicaragua

You’ll notice our plan is rather… loose at this point. It’s partly because we haven’t figured out all the details yet, and partly on purpose. I love the idea of traveling slowly: staying in a place for as long as I’d like, then moving forward when I’m ready. We arrive in Managua, Nicaragua and plan to stay a few days, then move on to Lake Managua, possibly Leon, Granada, and San Juan del Sur. We have some basic plans in each of the first cities including hiking volcanoes on Ometepe (the largest volcanic island inside a fresh water lake in the world!), visiting colonial villages, and possibly a stay at a Spanish language school. Other countries we plan to visit include Costa Rica, Panama, a cruise through the San Blas Islands, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina (possibly all the way to Patagonia), and Brazil.

Nicaragua to Patagonia

The Gear (so far)

We are literally going to carry everything we have on our backs- so this means we’ll need lightweight gear. Here’s my current clothing packing list, some of which I still need to purchase:

  • Deuter Pack2 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 2 pairs of pants/capris
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • My Arc’teryx zip-up hoody (Fantastic. Packs up into its sleeve)
  • My North Face waterproof shell
  • Quick dry undies
  • Bra/Sports bra
  • Swim suit
  • Socks
  • Flip flops & sneakers

The pack I’ll be using is the Deuter ACT Zero 45 liter pack, which also expands for an additional 15 liters. I struggled to find a pack that fits comfortably, but this pack is excellent for petite women and very adjustable. I’ve used it already for a few trips, including a week long cruise, an overnight hike, and our 3 week road trip, so I’m confident if I stick to my list I can fit everything I need comfortably.

We’re still working out the details of the other gear we’ll bring. I’m thinking of bringing a sleeping bag and a tent for long hikes, trekking, and to have a backup place to sleep in a pinch. We’re also trying to work out a plan for electronics. I’ll need access to a wifi device to manage Paintspiration, but whether that means a laptop, tablet, or smartphone remains to be seen.

If you’re interested in seeing more about my travel gear, I started a Pintrest board with my travel wish list.

Thoughts (so far)

August 2013 Iphone 076

Right now I’m feeling really… overwhelmed. Excited, nervous, adventurous, tentative. I am so excited for this trip. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to embark on this journey along with Scott. On the other hand, it’s a massive trip and very difficult to prepare for because of its enormity. For example, just the climate changes we’ll experience during the trek through South America are almost impossible to pack and plan for. I’ve always been a planner, and in this case I think I need to let that go and just roll with it.

I’ve also never been away from home for this long, living out of a bag, and not having a home to return to! I have no concept of how long I can physically or mentally handle a trip like this. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity to learn some new things about myself.

There’s also a number of challenges I’m running into: what vaccines should I get? Should I purchase travel health insurance, or just pay out of pocket if needed? Should I buy and bring gear ahead of time, or purchase it as I need it on the road? There are so many things to think about! Can you see why my head is spinning?!

Overall, I am really looking forward to this adventure. I have no idea what to expect, but then again I didn’t know what to expect when I quit my job and moved here to the beach, and it turned out to be the best decision I could’ve made!

Thanks for reading about my trip planning so far. Do you have any experience with this type of travel? I’d love to hear about your suggestions, recommendations, stories, anything! Check back as I continue to add updates about my planning and preparation.

If you’re planning a similar trip, I also started a Pintrest board with some great Central and South American travel resources. I’d love to hear any additional information or resources you’ve found too– leave me a comment or send an email.

*EDIT (1-6-14): I finalized my pack and listed all the items I’m bringing here.

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