The first time I set foot in Latin America I was doe-eyed, naive and completely and utterly clueless (to say the least). Being me, I had done very little research. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The initial plan was to fly in, stay for six weeks (to complete my AIESEC exchange) and to fly out. I didn’t know what would happen during those six weeks but I vowed to myself to always keep two things; a positive attitude and an open mind.
2000 dollars, 3 stopovers and 40 hours later, I was in sweltering hot Barranquilla, Colombia.
I had no idea that those six weeks would become fourteen weeks and that I would leave Colombia to explore Panama and Ecuador before returning back to where it all started (good ol’ Barranquilla) to catch my twice extended flight home. I had even less of an idea that not even one year later I would return to Latin America, this time to Argentina and for four weeks. Latin America has gone from that distant place halfway across the world to the home of my fondest and most memorable travel stories.
My only regret when it comes to my travels in Latin America is that I did not learn Spanish. Of course after all this time I’ve picked up a few words here and there, but to say I can comfortably have a basic conversation is an exaggeration I wish I could fulfil. To say that I am fluent is a flat out lie (that I desperately wish were the truth). While I was travelling, everyone I hung out with spoke English and more often than not one of these people would be able to act as a translator for me when situations got a little tough. But of course this is no excuse. The real reason why I can’t hold a conversation in Spanish right now is because I was (and still am) lazy. I attribute it to nothing more than that.
If I could redo my Latin American travels, this is the only thing that I would change. Not the questionable late night decisions to crack open another bottle or the catching of long distance night buses that did not pan out the way we expected. Not the sunburn or mosquito bites; and not the lost necklace that is currently floating across the Caribbean Sea. None of this. The only thing that I would change if I could redo my experience again is that I would have learnt Spanish properly and I would have practiced it, properly.
Sure, I got by. I could ask where the toilets were or how much my lunch would cost. I knew when and where my bus was arriving from and (hopefully) where I should have gotten off. But I couldn’t understand the jokes or the personalities of the people I was meeting. I couldn’t understand the cultural nuances from region to region and I couldn’t properly express my gratitude to the kindness I faced. It is for this that I regret not learning Spanish before going to Latin America. It is for this that I regret even more not learning Spanish properly while I was there. And it is for this that I regret the most not making the effort to learn Spanish when I returned back home, even when I knew I was going back to Latin America again in less than a year.
In the first half of 2015 I studied in Universität Mannheim, Germany. All my classes were in English.. But one. Yes, I attempted to learn German. Key word: attempted. My simple minded brain couldn’t handle too many things being thrown at it. Learning my der, die and das was already doing my head in. I couldn’t even begin to fathom what would have happen to my little noggin had I also thrown in el, la, los and las to the mix. It’s for this reason (and excuse) that my 2015 Spanish lessons remained imaginary. But, and there always is a but; my exchange chapter is now a thing of the past. So maybe now it’s about time I throw el, la, los and las back into the mix?
I eventually want to enrol myself in a Spanish Course in a Latin American country. Said country is yet to be decided so if you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments!