Friday, July 28, 2006

outta control...

holy smokes!
never really thought i would get this much pub from a trip. Check it out! The UNOmaha Home Page! Well, it really was on the it's tucked somewhere into the UNOmaha domain.
Anywho, my buddy Ryan Shank says that I am the only UNOmaha graduate praised for being a slacker and not getting a real job (whatever a real job actually is).
i gotta go on more of these trips!
Africa, here i come! India, Asia and Australia - you're next!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Trip Fast Facts!

Well, it has been quite some time since my last journal entry. I have been busy with lots of things that have kept me from my little blog. So, I've been going through my travel guide and journals the past few weeks and have decided organize a little list of trip fast facts and superlatives...

Here are some of the trip fast facts:

  • # of Days on the Road - 203
  • # of Folks from Omaha that Ran Into - 2
  • # of Folks I Met That Knew Someone I Knew - 3
  • # of Journals I Filled Up - 2.5
  • # of Blog Posts - 75
  • # of Post Cards Sent - 179
  • # of Pictures Taken - 6000
  • # of Pictures Ill Print - prolly half of them
  • # of Buses Taken – 30-35
  • Miles Traveled Via Bus - lots
  • Miles Traveled Via Plane – 20,248 Miles
  • Miles Traveled Via Boat – 3192 Nautical Miles
  • Miles Traveled Via Train – 412 Miles
  • Total # of Hours in Transportation – 408.5 hours That's 17 days!!!
  • Longest Bus Ride - 58 Hours from Santiago, Chile to Rio de Janiero
  • # of Different Hostels I Stayed at - 38
  • Best Hostel - America del Sur in El Calafate, Argentina - it was like a ski lodge
  • Worst Hostel - Hostel Nunez in Santiago, Chile...It was similar to the St James hotel from the movie Big
  • Worst Hostel Experience – Cordoba Backbacker's Hostel. Sharing a 10'x10' hostel room with three others. It was about 90 degrees and there was no ceiling fan in the hostel. You would sweat like Michael Jackson at a playground. And to make things worse, there was a hippie learning to play guitar at 330 am. I now dislike the Beatles even more!
  • Cheapest Hostel - 2 bucks at the Templo Del Sol on Lake Titicaca…and then The Raj tried to talk him down to 1.75 per night..c'mon!
  • Most Expensive Hostel - Hostel Copa Charlet in Rio - 12 bucks
  • Least Helpful Hostel - Hostel Copa Charlet in Rio - 12 bucks a night
  • Hostel with Best Kitchen - Freestyle Hostel, Ushuaia, Argentina
  • Hostel with Worst Kitchen - Copa Charloet, Rio, Brazil (they had like 50 plates, no silverware and like two cups that they never really ever washed out)
  • Hostel with Best Beds - Freestyle Hostel, Ushuaia, Argentina - very long and good for tall people
  • Hostel with Worst Beds - Copa Charloet, Rio, Brazil (they were upholstered with a plastic material that should be used to upholster car seats)
  • Weirdest Hostel Owner - La Paz, Bolivia - You would hafta pound on the door for 15 or 20 minutes, wake up everybody else in the hostel before he awoke and let you in. Meanwhile, you are looking up and down the empty street at 4am and hoping that you are not the target for a mugging.
  • Embarrassing Moment at a Hostel - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, realizing that it was me that was causing the unpleasant odor. My shoes were a little smelly that week.
  • # of dance clubs visited - like 8.
  • # of soccer games attended - 5
  • # of Peace Corps Volunteers met - 8
  • # of Jugglers met - 20
  • # of Unicycles rode - 3
  • A Very Frustrating Moment - Hearing my buddy Dan from Seattle call home for Thanksgiving when we were in La Paz, Bolivia. Hearing the joy and excitement in his voice really got me excited to call home. After he was done, I used his phone booth to call home and reached everyones voice mail! Nobody was picking up the phone. Drats! Away for Thanksgiving and the six numbers of people I want to talk with are not there. Man, that was a bummer.
  • Funny Moment - Meeting a kid on the Inca Trail who we nicknamed Linus because he carried his sleeping bag just like the Peanuts character. This guy was in love with Rocky Balboa and let everybody know about it. His Rocky Balboa tattoo looked more like Johnny Depp than Sly Stallone. Allison from California put it best when she described the tattoo as a process of "wad up a picture of Rocky and put it in your pocket for a coupla days, then goto the tattoo shop with that image" That is how bad the tat was.
  • Most Comfortable Time - Having my own room for two weeks on the way to Antarctica. You didnt hafta worry about a thing.
  • Luckiest Moment – Scoring a plane ticket at the last moment in Chile when all the buses were sold out for almost a week. A little kid noticed our dilemma and hooked us up with a pass that moved us to the front of the queue.
  • Strangest Moment – Sitting at a bar in Rio and noticing that the guys I'm with and I are the youngest guys in the bar by 15 years…but not the youngest people in the bar. Then it clicks that all these beautiful girls are hanging onto these ugly anglo bar. I got out of there.
  • THAT GUY! The Raj from England and Lee from England are tied, both on the Antarctica Cruise. But I would hafta say Lee's attempt to dance drunk with every girl, drink everybody's drink, and then end up with his underwear pulled down walkin around really earned him the rite to be THAT GUY!
  • Best Food Ate
    • Argentina's Bife de Lomo or Bife de Chorizo
    • My host mother's Mexican cooking.
  • Worst Food Ate - Cow Stomach & My host mother's liver she prepared
  • # of Times Sick - 4
  • # of Times Drunk - 0
  • # of Times Buzzed - Plenty..
  • # of Magnets Purchased - 35 or 40
  • # of Books Read – 8
  • # of Times Solicited for something – lots
  • Cheapest Beer – Argentina – 66 cents for a liter of Heineken
  • Nicest Stranger I met - Meeting an 80 year old great-grandmother named Olympia in Cusco, Peru who gave me a great Peruvian history lesson about the former Peruvian President Fujimore
  • Nicest Hosts – My host family in Mexico was so nice. Their family unity was very strong and reminded me of mine. Eating dinner with all of them the last night I was there made me miss my family.
  • Funniest Two Ladies I met – Jackie from Florida and Janice from Boston
  • Nicest Group of Folks I met – Gotta be the locals that I met…then the Aussies I met.
  • Annoying Person – That's Nothing Sid from Chicago
    Biggest Jerk – Freestyle Hostel owner's son who was all about being a one up.
  • Strangest Person I met – A sailboat captain with a scary 'stache who really wanted to tell me all the fun times you could have swinging in Buenos Aires. Yikes…
  • Group I Always Wondered About but Could Never Have a Real Conversation – The Israelis
  • Items Taken on the Trip
    • Pairs of Pants - 2
    • Shirts - 3
    • Pairs of Socks - 5
    • Pairs of Undies - 5
    • Rain Jacket -1
    • Fleece Jacket - 1
    • Big Backpack - 1
    • Day Pack - 1
  • Most Useful Items
    • Pocket Knife
    • Battery Charger for Digital Camera
    • Ear Plugs
    • Eye Cover
    • Alcohol Gel
  • Least Useful Items
    • Large Sleeping Bag
    • Super Bubble Bubble Gum
    • Emergn-C fluid replenishing stuff
  • Things Stolen or Lost
  • Ipod Shuffle

Here is a list of a few superlatives that I gleaned out of my guidebook and visited .

Superlatives like,

Highest Mountain in the Americas - Mount Aconcaugua, Mendoza, Argentina
World's Southernmost City - Ushuaia, Argentina
World's Highest Navigable Lake - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
World's Most Dangerous Road - La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia
World's Richest Silver Mine - Mount Cerro Rico, Potosi, Bolivia
World's Largest Salt Flat - Salar de Uyuni, Uyuni, Bolivia
World's Highest Capital City - La Paz, Bolivia
World's Deepest Canyon - Colca Canyon - Arequipa, Peru
World's Longest Country - Chile
World's Largest Capital City, Mexico City, Mexico
World's Coldest Continent – Antarctica

A Little Bit of Pub!

Alrighty! - - Back for another blog entry and this one is one that I didn't even write!
A few weeks ago I sat down with a writer for the UNOmaha Alumni Magazine and chatted about my South American experience. I think the article turned out pretty well. You can check it out at the UNO Alumni Website

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Finding his way By Sonja Carberry

Back in Omaha after a seven-month trek through South America, UNO grad James Peters has cut the hair he let grow into an unruly mop and trimmed his bushy beard to a midnight shadow. In a yellow button-down shirt and crisp jeans, he looks very 20-something Omaha.

But part of Peters is still south of the border.

Though three weeks back in the states, for example, Peters still has to stop himself from putting extra restaurant napkins in his back pocket.

"Toilet paper is hard to come by there," he explains.

Experience and perspective, however, are not. Peters backpacked through a handful of countries on around $8,000, staying in hostels and riding cramped "steel box" buses. He sums up his travel style as "part planning, part improvisation," and "what you do when you have more time than money."

Along the way he filled two journals and a blog with his experiences at soccer games, historical sites, festivals and much more.

High points included mountain biking from La Paz to Corico, Bolivia, on the "world's most dangerous road," spending some surreal days in the desert-like salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, and watching the Perito Moreno Glacier calve near Patagonia, Argentina.

In an unexpected side trip, Peters joined an expedition to Antarctica, where penguins waddled by as he shivered in "every layer of clothing I had."

Some experiences weren't exactly guidebook material. Sitting on a park bench with a homeless man in Santiago, Chile, Peters gave up a page of his journal so the man could write a somewhat confused thanks for what was left of Peters' dinner. And on his last day abroad, on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Peters found out what he'd do if someone tried to pickpocket him.

"I shoved him against a wall, hard," the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Peters says. "I was yelling at him in Spanish, 'What is your hand doing in my bag?'"

Peters' goal, by all accounts realized, was to get outside his comfort zone. "I didn't go to a lot of clubs. I tried to do the things you can't do at home," he says.

Leaving Omaha
Peters, 26, had been living reasonably comfortably, putting himself through college by driving rusty cars and living with "Ma and Pa."

He played baseball for the Mavs as a pitcher, walking on and eventually earning the No. 2 starting post. "The coaches were great," he says. "They challenge you and will not settle for mediocrity, and every year they have improved. UNO is very lucky to have the coaches they have."

After graduating in May 2005 with a bachelor's degree in management information systems, he found himself dodging the inevitable question: "So what's next?"

Peters didn't have a ready answer.

After church one Sunday, a friend of his mother's gave Peters an Omaha World-Herald article about Dean Jacobs, a Fremont, Neb., resident who spent two years backpacking the world. Jacobs had lowered his expenses by staying with host families through an organization called Servas International.

Peters was inspired and called Jacobs to find out more.

"I realized this is something I could do now or when I'm 75," Peters says.

His parents were less than enthusiastic, primarily for safety reasons. "We tried talking him out of it," says Daniel Peters, a 1979 UNO grad (BS, real estate). "But that was almost futile. It was his life and his money."

Peters had saved money through various odd jobs. "All of my friends saved for cars, I saved for a trip," Peters says. He worked as an intern at Union Pacific and did some video editing for a project collaboration between UNO's Peter Kiewit Institute and the National Park Service's Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail. He mowed yards in the summer and shoveled driveways in the winter. And he worked in the clubhouse for the Omaha Royals baseball team. "Being a clubbie is like being the minion or babysitter for 30 pro ballplayers," he says. "It's a great job, if you like baseball."

By August last year he was on his way, attending a language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to bolster his college Spanish. On Sept. 10, 2005, he took a one-way flight from Mexico City to Lima, Peru, and officially began his winding journey through Peru, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Antarctica.

It was in Mendoza, Argentina, that Peters used his new membership with Servas, which encourages cultural exchange by connecting travelers with host families. Peters was the 401st guest of Francisco Morón, a well-traveled chain smoker with a guest house and a scratch-happy kitten named Chopin. Morón regaled Peters with stories of his own travels over steak and pasta. They also talked about their families and their countries.

"It really gave me a chance to work on my Spanish," Peters says. "And it just shows you that people are people, no matter where you are. Everyone has at least one good joke."

In Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, Peters stumbled onto an opportunity to join an expedition to Antarctica. "I thought, 'I'm not going to be any closer to Antarctica than I am right now,'" he says.

Peters boarded the Marco Polo with 500 other passengers, some backpackers, but most retirees. After riding a zodiac boat from ship to shore, Peters stood on Half Moon Island to observe chinstrap penguins, seals and albatrosses in what amounted to a real-life zoo.

"You can feel like Ernest Shackelton until you realize you've got three bars on the ship," he says.

Back Home
Today in Omaha, Peters recently mulled over a job offer, trying to reconcile a full-time position and its two weeks' vacation time with his desire to continue traveling. He turned down the offer. "I'd like to see Asia, India, Africa. I'll hit Europe last," he says.

His parents notified him that he has two weeks to move out, and Peters jokes that they'll donate his belongings to Goodwill to give him a push. But he's not too concerned. In fact, he's pretty relaxed.

"I think a lot of people in the states don't realize how good they have it. They're so caught up in materialism and ostentation," Peters says. "In Argentina, they have no money, but they go out with friends two to three times a week."

Peters is still organizing his impressions of South America and the people he met in his third journal and on his blog. It's something he doesn't want to slip away. To anyone considering extended travel, Peters says it's worth every penny.

"You can get more out of that $8,000 traveling than you would out of, say, a car."
Bikes and Blogs
James Peters, who also rides a unicycle for fun, kept a blog of his travels at A few observations:

• "Bolivian Time can mean anything. Ten minutes in Bolivian Time can mean two hours in American Time."

• "South American cabbies must think that gringos are thee laziest people in the world and honk at us all the time. They honk at you when you least need them and are never around when you do."
• "Women spectators at soccer games have some of the most vulgar mouths . . . You cannot believe what comes out of their mouths."

• "Are South American carnival workers looked at as differently as they are in the USA[?]"
• "Be nice to people you meet along the way because I guarantee that you will see them again."

Email author Sonja Carberry at