Bolivia – lessons learnt from my big mistake

Drum roll and welcome to guest blogger Pam who recounts her Bolivia adventure. I land in La Paz, Bolivia, the highest capital city in the world. It’s 6 am on 30th December and I’ve been travelling for 20 hours. As I walk through passport control I spot the oxygen tanks dotted along the corridors. Lonely Planet did warn me. The altitude here is likely to get to you, causing you to faint, feel sick or at least give you numbness in your fingers! I was Ok. I got through customs and headed for the taxi rank. Ok. But terrified. This was my second big solo trip to South America. Why can’t I be happy spending New Year’s Eve like most of my friends watching Jules Holland on the TV under a duvet cover? Or in an overpriced restaurant eating a second rate meal? I was 61 years of age, single and alone across the other side of the world. Would I be safe? Who would I meet, what experiences would I have? I’m travelling through Bolivia with G Adventures finishing in Santiago, Chile. Here I would meet up with Danielle, an American who I had met on a travel companion website. Would we get on? What if it was a disaster? The plan was that we spend the week together in Santiago before travelling through Argentina and Chile to ‘the end of the world’ the town of Ushuaia – the furthest south town in the world. This trip to Bolivia was a mistake. I did not read the small print when booking and didn’t realize until I was about to leave that it was’ basic grade’. Lots of really young people. I would have to carry my own luggage, travel on public buses, share a room and on two nights sleep in a mixed dorm. What had I done? But it was too late now. Twenty-four hours later my group arrived having been together for two weeks travelling through Peru. Yes, they were all under 30 and a mixture of Aussies, Kiwis and English. Only American Tom was similar in age to me and he turned out to be one of the ruddiest people I had met in my life! It’s hard joining a group when they have already bonded over the previous weeks. It’s even harder if you’re old enough to be their mother. But as I always say about travelling: It’s as much about the people you meet as the places you see. New Year’s Eve I found myself joining them for an overpriced restaurant meal which I had travelled across the other side of the world to avoid. Over dinner I inched myself into the conversation trying to avoid expressions like ‘in my day’. During the evening I learned all about modern day contraception and was reminded of the energy and enthusiasm of young people. Far more interesting than talking with my friends about the merits of having a bus pass. But at times it was hard going and there were many moments when I felt the youngsters were just tolerating me. A feeling I had many times during the days ahead. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America with the friendliest of people. Living with altitude sickness becomes the norm here. Headache and nausea all the time as we climbed to 4,500 meters, down to 2,000 meters then up again and down again.

Bolivia – lessons learnt from my big mistake

Drum roll and welcome to guest blogger Pam who recounts her Bolivia adventure.

I land in La Paz, Bolivia, the highest capital city in the world. It’s 6 am on 30th December and I’ve been travelling for 20 hours. As I walk through passport control I spot the oxygen tanks dotted along the corridors. Lonely Planet did warn me. The altitude here is likely to get to you, causing you to faint, feel sick or at least give you numbness in your fingers!

I was Ok. I got through customs and headed for the taxi rank. Ok. But terrified. This was my second big solo trip to South America. Why can’t I be happy spending New Year’s Eve like most of my friends watching Jules Holland on the TV under a duvet cover? Or in an overpriced restaurant eating a second rate meal? I was 61 years of age, single and alone across the other side of the world. Would I be safe? Who would I meet, what experiences would I have?

I’m travelling through Bolivia with G Adventures finishing in Santiago, Chile. Here I would meet up with Danielle, an American who I had met on a travel companion website. Would we get on? What if it was a disaster? The plan was that we spend the week together in Santiago before travelling through Argentina and Chile to ‘the end of the world’ the town of Ushuaia – the furthest south town in the world.

This trip to Bolivia was a mistake. I did not read the small print when booking and didn’t realize until I was about to leave that it was’ basic grade’. Lots of really young people. I would have to carry my own luggage, travel on public buses, share a room and on two nights sleep in a mixed dorm. What had I done?

But it was too late now. Twenty-four hours later my group arrived having been together for two weeks travelling through Peru. Yes, they were all under 30 and a mixture of Aussies, Kiwis and English. Only American Tom was similar in age to me and he turned out to be one of the ruddiest people I had met in my life!

It’s hard joining a group when they have already bonded over the previous weeks. It’s even harder if you’re old enough to be their mother. But as I always say about travelling: It’s as much about the people you meet as the places you see.

New Year’s Eve I found myself joining them for an overpriced restaurant meal which I had travelled across the other side of the world to avoid. Over dinner I inched myself into the conversation trying to avoid expressions like ‘in my day’. During the evening I learned all about modern day contraception and was reminded of the energy and enthusiasm of young people. Far more interesting than talking with my friends about the merits of having a bus pass. But at times it was hard going and there were many moments when I felt the youngsters were just tolerating me. A feeling I had many times during the days ahead.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America with the friendliest of people. Living with altitude sickness becomes the norm here. Headache and nausea all the time as we climbed to 4,500 meters, down to 2,000 meters then up again and down again.