Setting a South American pace

“Which do you prefer: a tightly packed itinerary, or an open schedule with plenty of free time?”

It’s one of the most important questions to ask when you’re planning a trip—especially if you’re with a travel buddy—up there with “Museums and cultural sites, or off-the-beaten-path local spots?” and “Four-star hotel or youth hostel?”

Chris and I have been talking a lot about the pace of our traveling lately. While we’re pretty well matched as travel partners, it’s one area where we have to communicate and compromise a bit. I tend to be more of the go-go-go, check-off-the-list, get-all-the-best-pictures, FOMO-driven type, while Chris…Chris would prefer to skip that 6:30 a.m. walking tour. Neither is the right or wrong way to experience a new place—just different.

Our U.S.A. road trip was, on the whole, pretty fast-paced. We hardly spent more than a day or two in one place before we were off to the next destination. While we certainly worked in some down time—and I can’t say that I would necessarily change anything—it was definitely a whirlwind. Two months isn’t as long as it sounds for a country as big as ours!

So, from the start, we’ve tried to adopt a slightly more laid-back approach to this South American half of our adventure. There’s two main reasons:

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Great American Adventure Part Two: Peru & Chile

Well, it’s somehow already here—part two of our adventure starts in T-minus 30 minutes when we board our flight to Lima (by way of ATL of course).

The Torres! Well worth the steep hike
WE’RE GOING TO SEE THIS SO SOON!!!

After a wonderful weekend seeing Hartsville friends and dancing the night away at a beautiful wedding, the past week has been a flurry of packing, organizing, re-packing, calling banks, running errands, buying last-minute supplies, booking hostels, checking and re-checking schedules and flight plans, and hitting up all of our favorite Greensboro restaurants in between all the trip prep. 🙂

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Two months’ worth of gear in one backpack. I think I may have defied some laws of physics, but somehow it all fits!

And of course, this one important errand:

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Being in a different country is NOT stopping me from voting in this election! But I can’t say I’ll miss all the nonstop political coverage. 

It’s been a little bit hectic, but I think we’re as ready as we’re ever going to be. We don’t have every step of our route planned out (trying to leave some room for spontaneity), but here’s the general itinerary:

Peru:

  • Lima
  • Cusco
    • Vinicunca (“Rainbow Mountain”) day trek
    • 4-day Inca Trail trek into Machu Picchu
  • Puno & Lake Titicaca
  • Arequipa & Colca Valley
  • Arica

Chile:

  • Santiago
  • La Serena
  • Elqui Valley
  • Punta Arenas
  • Puerto Natales
  • Torres Del Paine National Park

If I’m being honest, I’m much more nervous about this trip than our U.S. route. I haven’t traveled like this since my study abroad days in college (somehow more than 6 years ago now)…and this time, neither of us speak hardly a word of Spanish. [Side note: I bought “learn Spanish” CDs for the road trip and we listened to a grand total of one 30-minute lesson. So “Hola, senorita! Habla Ingles?” is about the extent of my Spanish knowledge. This should get us pretty far.]

But knowing that I’m a chronic over-preparer, I’m reminding myself again that we can’t be ready for everything—and between the two of us, we’ll be able to figure it all out one way or another. After all, we did make it through that one time in Paris when we accidentally got stranded in a strange suburb at 1:00am when the trains stopped running.

And with that said, I have a plane to board…wish us luck! Hasta luego America, see ya in two months!

Learning to live in the moment

11,332 miles.

54 days.

25 states.

16 national parks.

Two tarantula encounters.

One fender bender.

Zero regrets.

… We’re back from our U.S. road trip!!!!!

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The “after” picture—all four of us (including the Subaru) made it back in one piece! Unfortunately, you can’t tell how extremely dirty everything and everyone is in this photo.

It was, in a word, a WHIRLWIND. After a couple of days basking in the simple pleasures of things like a real bed and a hot shower, I’m still processing everything that we experienced. I think I might be for a while yet. (Luckily we took eight billion pictures to help me remember it all.) But one thing I can confidently say is that we live in a giant, huge, stunningly beautiful, diverse, enormous country. (Did I mention how large it is?)

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South Dakota part two: Mount Rushmore, Hill City, Custer State Park & Black Hills National Forest

We fit a LOT into the two full days we were in South Dakota. (If you missed my first South Dakota recap of Badlands National Park, check it out here!)

On day two, after packing up camp and leaving the Badlands, we headed straight for South Dakota’s most famous landmark: Mount Rushmore.

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I was a little bit annoyed that, even with our national parks annual pass,  we still had to pay $11 for “parking” (the alternative: hike several miles up a steep highway?) to go see the monument. But we paid our way and went to check it out—one at a time, since dogs aren’t allowed inside the monument.

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A good day in the Badlands

After our wonderful stay in Wisconsin, we said goodbye to family and—clean, rested, with the car neatly packed and a cooler full of cheese—started our journey west.

Fast-forward nearly 400 miles of incredibly boring southern Minnesota interstate…and we finally crossed into South Dakota! We ended up camping in Palisades State Park for the night—juuuust over the border to the east of Sioux Falls. After a good night’s sleep, we decided to do a little exploring before getting back in the car. And it was the coolest place! Originally an old mining town, the park featured a winding river with crazy rock formations and trails all along the shores.

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We went for a short hour-long hike, and at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday, didn’t see another soul. It ended up being one of those unexpected road trip surprises: a hidden gem just outside of Sioux Falls. If you’re ever in the area, you should definitely check it out.

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After that, it was onward to our next destination: Badlands National Park, the first national park of our trip! It was just a few more hours of boring interstate (and about 8 million tourist trap billboards) away, about an hour east of Rapid City. After we took photos with the sign (obviously) and purchased our pass (we’re official card-carrying NPS annual pass holders now, NBD) we headed into the park.

dsc_0678And about two minutes later, we felt like we were on another planet.

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Family tour Part Two: much more than cheese, brats, and beer

[Writer’s note: Guys. Blogging from the road is so hard. I’m writing this from a hotel (our first one of the trip!) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, so I’m a little bit behind…I promise I’ll catch up eventually, but there’s so much to write about and so little time! I’ll put in one more plug for my Instagram feed—follow me there (@laurahoxworth) to see more real-time updates. For now, here’s a recap of our time in Wisconsin!]


After our day in Cincinnati, we set off for the second leg of our family history tour: Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland. This part was all about Chris’s family. His dad’s side (the Panoshes) goes back several generations in Wisconsin, and he still has relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins) throughout the state, most of whom I had never met before.

On our way there, we made a quick stop in Chicago—just enough time to walk from the Buckingham Fountain up to Millennium Park, take a tourist photo with the Cloud Gate, get kicked out because apparently you’re not supposed to have dogs there, and then run back to our car before the meter ran out.

From there, our first stop was Milwaukee! I don’t know what I was expecting from Milwaukee exactly—to be honest, I spent so much time looking forward to towering mountain ranges and national parks out West, I hadn’t thought much about Wisconsin besides the cheese, brats, and beer. But after a full day of exploring, Milwaukee had totally blown me away.

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Hoxworth family history in Cincinnati, OH

[Writer’s note: It’s easier for me to update Instagram more frequently than the blog, so follow me there @laurahoxworth to see more photos throughout the trip!]

Hello from Wisconsin! I have lots to say about our stay in America’s Dairyland (and sausage land…and beer land…), but I’ll get to that soon. First things first: I wanted to write about our very first destination—a quick stop that was special to me for personal reasons.

After setting out from Greensboro, NC, on Wednesday, we spent our first day driving through the mountains of West Virginia, and our first night car camping in Indiana’s Daniel Boone National Forest—where we got to our lakeside campsite just in time to see a gorgeous sunset over the lake (and where Callie had a wonderful time chasing katydids).

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On Thursday, we arrived at our first planned destination: Cincinnati, Ohio!

We aren’t doing a lot of city exploring on this trip (especially since we have a certain furry companion with us), but there’s one main reason why we put this spot on our map: it’s the city where my dad grew up and went to medical school, and where my grandparents lived and left somewhat of a legacy—and I’ve never visited before. So it seemed like the perfect stop as we made our way up toward Wisconsin.

It’s funny how family history becomes more interesting the older you get. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather, but I’ve heard plenty of stories. And once I knew we were headed to Cincinnati, I started asking family members and doing a little research into who he was. By all accounts, Paul Hoxworth was a character: fiercely intelligent, curious, confident, caring, and nothing if not entertaining.

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