You may have been wondering why I haven’t published anything for a whole month. (Actually, far fewer of you wondered than I had hoped would wonder. Only two people of my tens of thousands of readers contacted me, asking if everything was OK. A very depressing outcome of this little experiment.)
Well, first I was offline because I didn’t have internet at home – which is now in wonderfully cozy Cochabamba in Bolivia -, then I had to catch up with work, and lastly, I spent a lot of time outside and away from the computer because the climate here is perfect. Really perfect.
Fellow travelers may know the feeling: Sometimes you come to a country where you have never been before, yet you realize right away “This country and me fit together.” This is what happened to me in Bolivia. The beautiful and diverse nature, the extremely interesting history with everything from Incas to Mennonites, from revolutions to water wars, the colorful indigenous cultures, and most importantly the Bolivians themselves. Maybe I am extremely lucky, but I have mostly met very friendly, humorous, polite, educated, warm, welcoming, interesting and helpful people. Already on the first day, I felt at home. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of Bolivians who invited me, showed me their town, introduced me to their friends and offered all kinds of help.
It also seems to become a regular feature of my traveling that I cherish and appreciate countries which are over-looked by most travelers and dismissed by everyone else. It hurts me when Europeans coming to South America ask “Is it worth to go to Bolivia?” You only need to look at a map to see that Bolivia spans all climate, geological and vegetation zones from the Andes to the Amazon, from salt flats to savannas, from the low-lying Pantanal to Mt Sajama with 6,520 m. Even other South Americans too often dismiss Bolivia as “the poorest country of the continent,” ignorant of any other fact and not in the least interested to learn more or to discover it for themselves. Admittedly, flights to Bolivia are rather expensive, even from the neighboring countries, which may dissuade some interested visitors. But there is always a bus or a romantic train connection.
Well, you already know that I prefer to live in and write about countries that don’t receive 100 million tourists a year. So I decided to stay in Bolivia for a bit longer, explore the country, its culture, its history and the contemporary social, economic and political issues more in-depth. Let’s see if I can convince some of you to visit.
Luckily, I discovered that in Bolivia I can even find work with my otherwise useless talents: Last weekend, I was in Quillacollo when I saw this crowd of people listening to a speaker in the park. Because there is currently a heated debate going on in Bolivia about a constitutional referendum on 21 February 2016, because of Simón Bolívar in the background, and due to wishful thinking, I assumed that a political discussion was raging. Impressed by the number of people interested in such an event, I walked up to the congregation – and noticed that this was actually a storyteller.
Yes, in Bolivia it’s a legitimate profession to stand in the park and tell jokes or stories. My Spanish was still too limited to understand anything, but the performance of the guy was strong and the audience was visibly captivated. More and more people joined. When the storyteller finished, a hat went around and got filled with gold and silver coins.
This is the solution to my constant financial destitution! There is no doubt that I have many stories to tell. I like to talk. As anyone who has ever met me in person can attest, I can talk for hours. And I have a fancy hat to be filled with coins of appreciation. – Now I only need to speed up my Spanish studies, and soon you can find me in a park in your town. Hasta luego!
It sounds as though you and Bolivia really connected. Great post.
More so than I could convey in writing. Maybe this relationship, if it will turn into one, deserves a book.
Now that’s an exciting prospect. More reasons to explore and deepen the relationship.
Thank you for sharing – you have found your soul mate in a country by the looks of it – in relation to your little experiment and at the expense of sounding sentimental :) I did in fact wonder where you had gotten to but I guess I placed my trust in your legendary survival skills – I wasn’t actually worried but it did cross my mind a number of times from mid-January onwards – so you can add one more to the two you already know of for a less depressing statistic of three people globally who noticed that you had gone incognito
Thank you very much for that! I already feel better now, seriously.
Are you still interested in writing some pieces for our blog? If so gpenrose @ intelography dot com to discuss !
I did not forget about your invitation! I hope I will get around to e-mailing you soon.
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I was actually wondering why you weren’t posting but somehow thought it’d be awkward to contact you and ask. Happy to hear that you found such a great place to live in and put your “useless” skills to use!
Well, at least you were wondering, that’s nice to hear!
i am glad you have found whatever you are looking for in my country. Very happy for you Andreas. Keep going!
The rest of your thousands of readers thought you were too cool to care about whether we contacted you or not :) Bolivia sounds like an awesome place. I should spend a generous amount of time there whenever I get around to my half year backpacking trip in South America!
No, of course I would never ignore feedback from my readers. It was actually the lack of feedback which demotivated me for a while. It’s depressing when you see that your blog has thousands of views per day, but almost nobody leaves a comment or a question (except those who want free legal advice).
My main advice for a half-year trip through South America: Focus on a few countries. Don’t try to see everything, or you will just be on buses or at airports all the time. And transport here takes a bit longer when it has to cross the mountains or in the rainy season, so you have to calculate much more time for the same distance than in North America or Europe for example.
And yes, Bolivia is great. It’s in the heart of the continent and contains almost all geographical zones (except the sea).
ja ja ja you’re amazing bro, i can’t wait you come for the eastern part of my country? Santa Cruz, Cobija, Trinidad, Rurrenabaque, Riberalta.
I am actually in Santa Cruz today and will stay until Monday. Then I will continue east to San José.
And I will be back in a few weeks for a full circuit of the Jesuit Missions.
And of course I want to visit all the other cities you mentioned, too.
Unfortunately, BoA forgot to take the luggage of the passengers from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz today, so I have wasted most of today trying to get my bag. So far to no avail.
It is really nice to read that you actually our culture! Hi! my name is Karla I’m a Bolivian, keep going! I hope you can go to the PANTANAL its AMAZING!!
Good luke!! and keep going! buena suerte!
Thank you very much for the welcome!
And definitely I want to go to the Pantanal (although I am terribly afraid of snakes).
Sounds like you’ve found a place you truly enjoy, I’m really happy for you! Tell us more about it :)
I will. But as always, I will take my time. :-)
Everything you said about Bolivia is so beautifully done. It’s nice to se someone come from a foreing country and be happy here. I’m from cochabamba hope you’re having fun.
Thank you very much for your warm welcome!
I’m from Bolivia and I’m really glad you enjoyed my country :)
Finally someone that fully understand the richness if my country! You are totally right from the begging do the end! This article totally caught my atention!
I’m so glad that you are feeling like home in the nice and warm Cochabamba…I love it to.
If you come to La Paz we can totally practice your spanish skills and Ill show you around so you can have more stories to tell!
And the longer I am in Bolivia, the more interesting and beautiful aspects I discover. It’s “nice and warm” as you write, but not only the climate, but also the people.
Thank you. As a Bolivian I’m delighted with your words
Great post, thanks for taking the time to visit my country.
Hey you! !im from Santa Cruz .Bolivia and I’m so happy Im reading this about my country..since no one from outside really talk about it. I could show you Santa Cruz if you wish! Have a great time.
Muy buena tu descripciòn de mi paìs, mil gracias por mostrar una cara diferente y lo q realmente somos…un hermoso paìs con muchos lugares por recorrer…GRACIAS!!!!
Some of the street performers here are great. There’s a silver spray painted robot guy who busts his moves to the beat of Michael Jackson. But my favourite has gotta be a clown with a squeaky airhorn that takes the piss out of passing traffic. La Paz is full of nomadic argentine hippies juggling at traffic lights for spare change, some better than others.
You might have better luck blogging here than telling stories in the plazas of Cocha, but best of luck either way.
Oh yes, in Cochabamba too, there are people performing while the traffic lights are red. Dances, juggling, and there is one guy who solves a Rubik cube in less than 30 seconds.
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wooow i am soo glad you really liked my country, especially my city Cochabamba, Buena suerte!!! and i will be reading more of your adventures :)
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