By Amanda por el mundo
I am Amanda por el Mundo. I am a Mexican American, solo female traveler, and a bilingual educator. I made it a point to attain my dream of traveling solo in South America because of my language skills and it was the best travel experience of my life. I personally chose to include two weeks in Peru, Brazil, and Argentina in my planning but gave myself enough flexible time to change it up if I desired. Ultimately, having flexibility was the best part of my trip because I took a week in Uruguay instead of two in Argentina. Uruguay ended up being the most genuine Latin travel experience that I could’ve asked for, with its lack of “American” influence, but I digress.
As Latinas, we have a whole world of opportunity open to us. We are lucky enough to have the experience of language interpretation and dialectical differentiation. In Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay, I was able to ask for anything I needed and found it very easy to read and understand signs wherever I went. We have so much of the world at our fingertips solely because we can speak two languages (or have understandings of them), and when you consider all the diasporas of Latins around the world, the world truly becomes yours to explore.
I first Couchsurfed in Brazil because I figured it would be easier to discover even more of Brazil’s big cities by staying with a Couchsurfing host. I felt confident in the connections between Spanish and Portuguese, yet wanted a local experience. The way that my first Couchsurfing experience worked out was posted on the Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo pages (think feeds for people inquiring to stay there), and getting no messages back until I was almost there. When actually in Rio, I was messaged by someone last minute and immediately felt a connection and met up in person before going to stay with them. We are still good friends! Couchsurfing is based on a community of world travelers that care to make real human connections with like-minded people and usually, enjoy showing their hometowns off to their visitors. I felt very comfortable in my experiences and staying with my hosts made my time in Brazil all the more special! I experienced the city the way the locals do and ate at local spots, plus I never got lost on the bus or train! Just as we all cruise through own hometowns, my hosts certainly took me to more of the tourist attractions with greater ease and speed than if I would’ve gone alone. I highly recommend other Latinxs to travel using Couchsurfing, not just in South America, but particularly so, and here are my main points of recommendation.
- Ask for what you want
If you create a profile that reflects your desires for your travel experiences and ask plenty of questions of your hosts before arriving, your experience will be great. Want to go out drinking and dancing in Rio? Mention that to your host! Want to make sure you have a private room? Ask for that when posting in any forum. Want your host to also play tour guide? Ask if they’re down! You can find people out there who are willing to show you around and host you in a way that makes you feel welcome, so long as you ask. I was lucky enough to have a bed to sleep on and tour guide hosts in both the cities that I used CS in.
2. Stay safe, trust your gut
As many of us do in anything travel related, follow your instinct when selecting a host, and meet in a public place first. If there is something that doesn’t vibe well with you, don’t feel obligated to stay with anyone. Trust yourself always. If the person is not super direct in their responses to you, perhaps select someone else. Hosts tend to want to be extra-communicative in order to make you feel welcome, and I would say expect no less in this loving community of fellow travelers. Also, go with verified hosts that have multiple legit reviews from individuals they’ve hosted. For me, I was open to any type of host as long as they had positive reviews from other solo female travelers. Use your own measurement and recognize your needs. I stayed with two guys and honestly felt like they were old buddies immediately. I felt comfortable and that is all that matters in the end.
3. Post as close to your date of travel as possible
When posting to find accommodations, make sure you post to the right forum or pages and post within a week or two of when you will arrive. Most hosts stated in my experience that they simply did not plan their schedules out sooner than that so spontaneity will save you here!
4. Use Couchsurfing for Meet-ups or other experiences!
Couchsurfing is a great platform to invite cool, new people into your life by using their meet-ups function. Try this out on their app in your own area before going out into the world to use it if it makes you feel more comfortable. While abroad, you could use this to rent a taxi with someone or to find someone to head to a museum with. My São Paolo host invited me to a family party, which was perhaps the most enriching cultural experience I had when I was there. I had someone offer to drive me to the airport when I was in São Paulo because the locals know how difficult it can be to get to their airport. A lovely couple also hosted me for a traditional Brazilian dinner in their apartment in Rio. You just never know what support you will find in the Couchsurfing community, so always ask!
5. Think of what you can give back
If you stay in someone’s home, it’s always nice to give back, so feel free to offer up your cooking or tidying services while you stay with someone. I personally offered English and Spanish practice to my hosts, and both used my stay as an opportunity to practice. This can help you find willing hosts, and if you are open to hosting in your own home after your travels, you could also be making new friends- all you need is a couch!
My personal travel journey includes growing up in Northern California, while visiting family in the Los Angeles area and Jalisco, Mexico every summer as a child, then visiting Egypt and Mediterranean cities as a teen. I studied abroad in South Africa as a university student and traveled alone for two months in South America in 2016. My love for the people and places of the world is insatiable, which has lead me to plan a year away from my classroom teacher existence, and into nomadic living beginning in June of 2019! I cannot wait to begin and hope you will follow on my travelgram. Gracias y espero sus preguntas!! ❤️