It was January 2008, my 27th birthday and just a few weeks before I was due to submit my Highly Skilled Migrant Visa application to the UK. I spent nearly 6 weeks preparing it – the list of documents you had to provide was massive and they could decline you for the slightest slip (like the tax dates on your payslips mismatching the ones from the tax department by a day or two). I finally had it ready to send in and then it was time to just wait…
And plan a trip around South America!
Mr Man and I agreed that it wasn’t worthwhile me moving to the UK until September that year when summer was over and his term dates were due to start at university (he re-trained). I wanted to leave New Zealand before winter really kicked in (I have a huge aversion to winter anywhere in the world) so we decided that we’d both quit our jobs and spend June, July and the beginning of August making our way from San Francisco to Buenos Aires. Originally we wanted to do it all by land but that would have taken around 6 months.
That trip was phenomenal (forgot to mention that the visa application to the UK was approved!). California, Baja Mexico, Mainland Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica (briefly), Panama, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. All can be found in-depth on my travel blog and there were so many highlights but wow, what a trip. My other trips had been pretty amazing up until then but this was different – this is when Mr Man and I proved that we could spend 24-7 together for 10 weeks and not go completely crazy.
By the end we were ready to move in together – a decision made after many spats over my appalling map reading skills (or lack of), having to share one main at dinner time due to us running low on money, an episode of food poisoning, a week without showers in Bolivia, getting our car stuck in the Mexican desert where there were signs everywhere saying “beware of rattlesnakes/cougars/other scary things”, and some extremely long bus journeys.
Highlights? Alfajores in Chile and Argentina (so super yum: dulche de leche sandwiched in between two soft biscuits~), the Bolivian desert with its salt flats and amazing night sky, everything about Mexico (especially the food and the friendly people), Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, the Panama Canal, cycling down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia, gorgeous Argentinian Racheros, friendly couchsurfers who became very good friends in Chile, the Iguazu Falls, California in general, the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA and seeing some of the most incredible scenery in the world with Mr Man by my side.
It was then onwards to London for my second stint and Mr Man’s first. We had a tough few months – we arrived just days before Lehman’s collapsed and the recession became full-blown. It took me 2 months to get a job and by the time I got paid it had been 6 months since any money had gone into my bank account. The rest of that year was spent playing catch-up on my finances, working in a company that I wasn’t keen on being at (though very very happy to have a job!) and starting to train for a half marathon the following February.
So yes, another great year, but it was time to cut back a bit and get “real life” back in order. London was to be an indefinite move and 2.5 years later we still have no plans to leave for at least 5 years (we’re in the middle of buying a place to live so I hope not!). We called our excursion around the Americas “The last great trip” (of that kind of length) but there are so many great journeys still to come.