Change Yourself…Change The World.


A Post of Injustice, Tribulation, and Bed Bugs
February 23, 2010, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Chile

Dear friends,

Generally, I try to avoid telling negative stories that happen to me while traveling, but I felt that this story was too good to pass up.

Two months ago (please ignore that this story is two months outdated and that I’ve meaning to tell it since it’s inception), I was in Santiago, Chile. At the time, I had a huge research paper due and I was majorly stressing out about getting it finished in time. I had just come back from Easter Island, Chile, and was taking a flight to Lima, Peru the next day to visit a friend, and so I decided to use the current space I had to majorly work on my paper.
Now for me, if I’m traveling on the cheap, I use two sources to determine where I’ll stay: either Hostel World or if I’m running out money fast/want to meet some cool people without any effort, Couch Surfing (note: if you go the Couch Surfing route you must be VERY careful about who you pick and why. I’ll be putting up a post about this soon, so stay tuned).
For this particular instance, I had my research paper due in two days, and so I knew that I needed to be in a very quiet space, with good internet, where I could focus on writing my paper without any distractions. So I chose to stay at a private room in a hostel, which cost $40 (I never spend this much money on a hostel room, but I was getting close to desperation on finishing this paper, so I needed the space and quiet to get it done). I used Hostel World to find this particular hostel, which will remain unnamed (though I feel tempted to just for deserved defamation purposes).

Now here’s the thing about Hostel World: it’s a hit or miss. Sometimes you find a hostel that says they have AMAZING amenities, clean and comfortable rooms, full-spread free breakfasts, with free internet and pictures galore of parties and fun-loving people dancing the night away. So you think ‘wow, this sounds like a great place,’ book a reservation, and show up to find that the room they reserved you in is rotting with mold and smells like 1,000 stinky feet, that the sheets had obviously not been changed from the last reservation (or 2, or 3, or 10), that the breakfast was disgusting, and that these so called ‘amenities’ that were promised did not work. All while walking down the street later and finding a non-Hostel World hostel that is eight times better and half of the price. Maybe I’m being a bit too specific here as this literally happened to me. But let’s not get too negative and give a balanced opinion: sometimes Hostel World has some great hostels that are even better than the description and pictures. Sometimes it’s exactly what you’re looking for with the price that you paid. Sometimes the beds are super comfy, the bathroom is clean and works, the breakfast is decent, and you meet some really cool and interesting travelers.

Anyway getting back from my long tangent on Hostel World, I encountered a new situation in Santiago. The hostel, for all intents and purposes, looked comfortable, seemed quiet, and it was clean. Bonus points. Absolute 100% negative? The bed bugs.
So I arrived to my $40 hostel room, and immediately threw my bags all over the floor, opening up everything and taking it out and generally making a ridiculous mess (I mostly did this because I had been living in hostel rooms with anywhere from 4-10 other people, so I never had the luxury to just open my bag and throw everything everywhere without fear of it getting lost or stolen). I flopped onto the bed and relaxed against the soft comforter, feeling happy to be truly alone for the first time in weeks.
A few hours passed while I typed furiously away on my laptop, when I noticed a little brown reddish dot creeping along the comforter. I immediately smashed it and held it up to see. It was a bed bug. I had seen bed bugs before (my friend and I had a bed bug attack in Thailand), and so I knew exactly what it looked like.

Why are bed bugs unpleasant?
1) They leave huge itchy bite marks all over your body
2) They are incredibly hard to purge
3) If you’re staying in a room with bed bugs and you have a pack open, they can crawl into your things and you could unknowingly be taking bed bugs with you to another place.

I went down to the hostel concierge to show him the bed bug, and requested to be moved to another room. No problem, he said. I was moved to a different private room on the entire other end of the hostel.
I settled in again and started typing away furiously until 2 AM, when it happened again. Another brown reddish thing creeping along the comforter. ANOTHER bed bug.
At this point I felt disgusted. There was obviously a bed bug infestation at this hostel if two rooms on different sides of the hostel had them. I didn’t want to risk sleeping in the room and wake up with bug bites all over.
I smashed the bug and took it again to the concierge to show him that he had an infestation problem. At this point, I requested a refund. I had paid $40, a large sum of money to me, to be shifted around two different rooms with the same problem. If I couldn’t sleep in the room, then why should I have to pay $40?

Then the problems started.
The concierge gave me every excuse in the book. He couldn’t give me a refund. The manager wasn’t here so I couldn’t get a refund. He couldn’t call the manager because he didn’t have any money on his phone. The manager would be coming at 10 AM the next day (I had a flight at 9 AM, so this didn’t work). I eventually got out my computer, turned on skype, and called the manager myself.
I told the manager that I had been put in two private rooms with bed bugs. I told him I wanted a refund because I obviously could not sleep in either of these rooms, and that if there were bed bugs in two rooms, there were probably bed bugs everywhere. The manager was a lot less concerned with the fact that there were bed bugs in the hostel, and was a lot more concerned with refusing to give me a refund. He shouted at me, telling me that he didn’t care and that he wasn’t going to give me a refund. I told him that if he didn’t give me a refund I would contact hostel world and tell them what happened, and that I would give them a terrible review on the site. His response? ‘Go ahead, we’ll tell them that you’re lying.’

With a lot of shouting and yelling later, he finally agreed to give me a refund, on one condition: he wanted me out of the hostel right now, at 3 AM in the morning.
Let’s reiterate this: the manager, rather than apologizing for bed bug infestation (or at least saying they would do something about it, which I’m sure they didn’t), told a lone female traveler who didn’t live in Santiago, that they had to evacuate the premises at 3 AM. Wow.

Essentially I ended up doing so out of pride rather than fear: I made a huge case for my refund, and I wanted it back. I still contacted hostel world about the situation and they really didn’t care about what happened.

So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t book on Hostel World, or you could end up in a place infested with bed bugs that the owners are doing nothing to fix, with a manager who could kick you out at 3 AM in a strange city rather than apologizing, and a completely apathetic staff at Hostel World who sides with the hostel rather than the customer. I kind of look back on this story and laugh at the utter ridiculousness of it all (I ended up finding a taxi stand at 3 AM and going to the airport 5 hours early), but these things DO happen when you travel. It’s not all fun and games and wonderfulness. Sometimes when all you want to do is even pay extra money for a little comfort and security, it’s not going to be achieved. Sometimes you’re going to feel uncomfortable for weeks on end, and you’re going to feel uninspired, cranky, and surrounded by strangers who don’t care about you or your well-being (even if you shell out money for it).

But I would never give up traveling even for moments like these.
Time to find another alternative to Hostel World.

Much love,
Brittany



Easter Island/Chile
January 8, 2010, 4:52 am
Filed under: Chile, Pictures Post

Dear friends,

Finally, I have gotten around to posting pictures of Easter Island and Chile! You can check out the pictures here.

So while I’m at it, I thought that I would finally post a bit about my adventures in Easter Island, as I never had the opportunity to. Mostly this was because I was writing a massive paper of doom during my experience in Easter Island, which rendered me pretty much incapable of doing anything (including enjoying Easter Island to the fullest extent that I could have). However, I still had quite an amazing experience there.

First off, I stayed in one of the cheapest hostels (Kona Tau- you can find it on Hostel World), and I ended up rooming with three others girls I didn’t know. They all turned out to be incredibly fun and easy to get along with, and I spent most of my time with them. Two of the girls were traveling together and had spent a semester in Chile, so I got a little education from them on the customs and food, which definitely made me appreciate the area more.

Easter Island is absolutely amazing. It is paradise. It is so calm and beautiful, and there is a strong breeze all around the entire island. Even while I was writing a huge paper there, I felt incredibly carefree, and blessed to have the experience of being on an island that so very few have the opportunity to go to. I had originally planned to only be there for three days, but I was very happy that I had chosen to stay five. I would have been very happy to stay two weeks.

The biggest downside of the island was the expense. The cheapest hostel itself was $25 dollars a night (thought it was definitely worth it), and the food was very expensive. This didn’t stop me from splurging a few times on ceviche (a type of famous raw fish, which was mouth-wateringly delicious), and on avocado, which is a huge deal in Chile.

The beaches. The water. The beach in Easter Island is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in my entire life. One day, we decided to go to the Anakena side of Easter Island to see the beach there. The sand was completely white, and the water was so blue that I felt as if I was in a swimming pool. We spent the entire afternoon laying by the sea (I also got a scorching sunburn).

As I had so much work to do there, I didn’t get to explore as much of the island as I wished (this was a good thing as well, because I didn’t have a lot of money). I spent most of my time in my little room, typing the days away, with breaks to walk down into the little town for food. It was the best place for me to write, as it was so relaxing.

So- Easter Island. I made great friends, ate great food, saw some amazing sights, and I feel incredibly, incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to go. I would love to make it back there someday to experience truly everything the island has to offer. If you’re around the area, it’s a must-see.

Much love,

Brittany



Easter Island
November 27, 2009, 5:04 am
Filed under: Chile

I am leaving for Easter Island to go on a crazy adventure of seeing huge statues and writing the first draft of a research paper. See you December 2nd.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,
Brittany



On to Chile
November 27, 2009, 4:59 am
Filed under: Chile

Chile.

I arrived in Chile yesterday. The view from the airplane is gorgeous. Breathtaking mountains, everywhere.

Unfortunately, either I’m an idiot who forgot to check what visa requirements there are in Chile, or, someone decided to rip off Americans yesterday. I got off the plane to be surprised with a visa charge of ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY DOLLARS. WHAT?? I was outraged. Especially since all of the other countries could pay $15, $30, $60 at the most (well, except for Canada, who had to pay 1 dollar more than the US- what gives?). Well, I basically threw a fit. I told them that I wasn’t aware of beforehand how it was $130. That I was only going to be in Chile for a few days. That I was a student. That I had come in on a flight.
Did they care? No. Did I have to pay the $130 fee? Yes.
So anyway this pretty much completely soured my first experience into Chile, which otherwise would’ve probably been very pleasant.

That aside… Santiago is a really cool place, to be honest. It’s really beautiful and sunny outside. It has a completely laid-back vibe going on in the city. One of the things that I love is that I don’t feel like a tourist here. I can wander around to my heart’s content without feeling like every sight I see is being catered to a tourist- that every person who looks at me thinks ‘oh, she’s a tourist’- that people don’t come up to me on the street with pamphlets of substandard tours to the middle of nowhere- it’s really nice, actually. It makes me feel that what I’m seeing and feeling, is real. That it isn’t a fabricated ‘made-up’ version of what tourists WANT or EXPECT Santiago to be. And at the same time, Santiago is beautiful, interesting, and a really cool place to be.

Let me tell you- that is very difficult to find while traveling. I haven’t felt this comfortable since Uruguay.

I am really enjoying being in South America, to be quite frank. When I traveled alone in Europe, I felt really- ALONE. But traveling here, in South America alone, I have no problems. I feel like I become friends with the country- that I can be easily entertained by all of the puzzle pieces that the city has for me to put together and explore. To me, Santiago is an intricate design, one that I feel I could spend months sampling and still not feel satisfied.

Unfortunately, as I am completely tied down by work right now, I have had no time to go outside, except for a little Thanksgiving turkey today at an American restaurant (surrounded by American people with American beer with American pumpkin pie with American football- it was nice). I love Santiago but I don’t have the time to appreciate it.

As time goes on, I keep getting the feeling that I am going to need to come back to South America someday and spend a long time getting to know all of its secrets. Don’t be surprised in a few years from now if you’ll find me back here, trekking through Bolivia, dining in Santiago, breathing in leather heaven in Buenos Aires, and maybe even heading to Antarctica– we’ll see where the wind takes me.

Until then, I’m loving the life here in Chile,
Brittany



Going Home Early
November 19, 2009, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Argentina, Chile, Peru, USA

Dearest friends,

As you may or may not have been able to tell, I have been neglecting this blog a little bit. Unfortunately, I have so much work to do these days that I don’t even have much time to do the exploring and adventuring that I wish I could.

I feel that traveling has given me so much in the past two years. It has been my nourishment, my well being, and it has taught me so many things about the world and about myself. And one thing it has taught me is to listen to myself and know what my limits are. And I have reached my limit. I just decided to go home two weeks earlier than planned. I’m skipping Ecuador and Peru (including Macchu Picchu) and going home on December 5th.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Most importantly, I miss my family. In the past year and a half, I have been in the United States for about 3 weeks. All three of those weeks has been about unpacking and repacking, rather than spending time with my family. If I go home on December 21st as planned, I will only be home for approximately two weeks, which will again, all be about packing for New York. So I decided if I came home 2 1/2 weeks earlier, I would be able to spend some more time with my brother, sisters, and parents.

Another thing is, I’m quite literally exhausted. 20 countries in 2 years. That’s quite a lot. And on top of that, while I’m traveling, I have a lot to do- a huge research paper, applications to 30 or so internships in New York, plus finding a place to live in Brooklyn– it’s very hard to do this AND travel. I feel as if I can’t fully experience or enjoy the places that I am in, which is unfortunate but true.

Moreover, I don’t feel completely satisfied with my South American adventures. I want to see MORE. I want to spend more time in Uruguay, I want to spend at least 6 weeks fully discovering Argentina, to see the Andes mountains, to explore Bolivia, different parts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, even Brazil- I don’t have that time or luxury to do so right now. I know that in the future, I will come back here. Maybe one day when I’ve saved up a nice sum of money, I will take a year to see all of South America that I want to. I feel that is better than getting merely these amazing glimpses that I don’t have the time to fully embrace and appreciate.

Part of me protests at all of these ideas, because my travels has always been defined as me deciding to do something random and spontaneous, which has always provided fruitful results. Whenever I’ve felt tired or exhausted (as I have really been feeling these past few months), I go to a new country, and instantly I feel energized. URUGUAY! PANAMA! COSTA RICA! Everything is always amazing and new and there always something to do and see. I know that I still have that little bit of reserve in me– I know that I could make it 2 or 3 more weeks to see Peru and Ecuador without collapsing.

But at what cost? I know that I will travel for the rest of my life. I know that next year, there is a very slim chance that I will even be home for Christmas at all. And I feel that I have the rest of my life in front of me to explore and see the world- but I should also appreciate and be thankful of the things that I have in my life right now, before one day all of my siblings are grown and with their own families.

So with all of these things together, I’ve decided that I’m going to go home early, and I am really happy with that decision. I am really happy to be able to fully enjoy all of Christmas with my family, and to relax at home. I’m happy to have some time before I go off to New York. I am 21 years old, and South America isn’t going anywhere.

The itinerary until December 5th is as follows:
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Santiago, Chile
Easter Island, Chile
Lima, Peru

Until then friends,
Brittany



Of Things To Come
October 22, 2009, 6:22 am
Filed under: Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay

I am currently in the stages of planning an epic month-long trip throughout South America. This week is Uruguay. On November 14th I start my adventure with 10 days in Argentina (Buenos Aires, TBD), and then continue onto Chile, Peru (Lima, and the 4 day Inca Trail Trek to Macchu Picchu), and Ecuador.

Originally I had plans to go to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, where I was planning on spending a good chunk of my budget. However, I learned that a trip to the Galapagos Islands is just too much money. In order to be able to actually walk on the islands (which is what makes the trip worthwhile), you would need to be on a boat of less than 15 people- which means that it would cost somewhere around $1500 for ONLY a four day trip. On top of that, they charge an extra 50% fee if you’re going alone. On top of THAT, then you need to pay for your plane ticket. With all of the charges, spending about 700 dollars a day is not ANYWHERE NEAR within my budget range. Though sad, I hope that one day when I am no longer a student, I can return to Ecuador and go to the Galapagos Islands.

This frees up some money that I have to play around with. So as of 15 minutes ago, I AM OFFICIALLY GOING TO EASTER ISLAND IN CHILE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




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