How one traveler picked up a few helpful tips during her all-important journey
By Jean McGurn, 2-time traveler, Glen Head, New York
When I lost my husband, Bob, in 2005, I was hesitant to continue traveling without him. Bob and I were scheduled to travel with Grand Circle’s sister company, OAT, to Peru that year, but when Bob got sick, I canceled our trip. That October, my friend, Carol, called me and said, “Do you still want to go to Peru?” So, we booked our trip for the following May and had an amazing time. It was a special trip and I learned that I could still enjoy traveling even if Bob couldn’t be with me.
Soon after returning from Peru, I got the travel itch again—and this time I wanted to journey to Chile and Argentina because these were two countries I’d never been to before, and places Bob and I always wanted to go. I contacted Carol to see if she wanted to travel with me again. Unfortunately, Carol was not able to go. I continued to ask around my circle of friends, but no one seemed to be able to come along with me. I was ready to sign up to travel by myself, when Carol called to tell me that she wanted to come to South America after all—and her husband, Al, would be joining us.
Jean sailing along Cruce de Lagos between Chile and Argentina.
I wasn’t worried about Al coming along because I’ve traveled with Al and Carol in the past when Bob was still alive, and we’d had a wonderful time.
Our trip to South America was no different. Although I spent a lot of time with Carol and Al, I learned that I can enjoy time by myself as well. When you’re forced into situations where you don’t have someone with you, you learn how to adapt to the new cultures around you. For example, I don’t speak Spanish. But when I decided to leave the hotel to do some exploring on my own, I took a card from the hotel with the hotel’s name, address, and phone number. That way, if I needed to get back, I had all of the information I needed on that little card.
While in South America, I was a little nervous to travel by myself to places. One evening, I went to meet our group in our hotel lobby for dinner at a local restaurant, but I must have missed them because no one was there. I decided to try and find the group on my own. So, I exited the hotel and began walking towards the town center in the dark. After having little luck finding my group, I saw our Program Director, Jorge Duran Frez, approaching me. He had left the group to come find me! Jorge was an integral part in my realizing that traveling on my own wasn’t so scary after all.
(From left) A fellow traveler, hosts Susy and Carlos Gutman, and Jean, enjoy a Home-Hosted Visit in Buenos Aires.
South America was stunning. The scenery of Chile and Argentina is what attracted me to travel on this trip in the first place. As we were flying over the Andes Mountains, it was truly breathtaking. Each area we traveled provided a new and exciting experience for me.
When we journeyed to Argentina, I realized the strong German influence in certain areas of the country, such as Bariloche. There were still many German stores, bakeries, and even a history museum. Having German roots myself, I realized that if my grandparents ever moved to Argentina, this is probably where they would have resided.
As beautiful as the scenery was in South America, I found the interaction with local residents to be even more rewarding. During our Home-Hosted Dinner, we were invited into the home of a couple, Susy and Carlos Gutman. There were six of us who attended the dinner, which was perfect because we were able to chat with the couple about what the husband did for a living and everything we’d want to know about their everyday lives. It was so interesting.
And our school visit in Buenos Aires was another treat. As a former teacher, it was wonderful learning about the education system of another culture. Each of us was assigned an elementary school child who took our hands and gave us a tour of their classrooms. One woman in our group was a principal, so she had us sing to the children, who in turn, sang for us. It was a very eye-opening and exciting day for me.
Jean’s group visits La Concepcion School, sponsored by Grand Circle Foundation, where she met Santiago, this young student.
My journey to South America with Carol and Al taught me that I shouldn’t fear traveling on my own. And since I no longer have my regular travel partner, this has become a reality for me. I really think that travel is truly addictive, and I need to seize the window of opportunity while it’s still available to me. Bob always said that we need to go as far as we can, for as long as we can—and I will continue doing that for both myself and him.
Explore the breathtaking scenery and friendly locals in Chile and Argentina on our Discover South America: Chile & Argentina vacation.