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Trekking for a year in America, 16 years old

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Trekking for a year in America, 16 years old

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1. Posted by cinderel5a (Inactive 6 posts) 8y

Hi I already posted on the around the world blog, I wanted to do a big trip (SA, CA, NA, Afr, Middle East, WAsia, CAsia, SAsia, etc.).
But after a lot of research I found out there was no way I was going to do that in 2 years.
I needed to much visas and because I am only 16 I cannot get a visa for every country.
So, I made my trip shorter, this is the plan:

Mexico – Guatemala – El Salvador – Honduras – Nicaragua - Costa Rica – Panama – Colombia – Peru – Bolivia – Chile – Argentina – Brazil – French Guyana – Suriname – Guyana – Venezuela – Colombia (2) – Panama (2) – Costa Rica (2) – Nicaragua (2) – Honduras (2) - El Salvador (2) – Guatemala (2) - Mexico (2) – USA (east coast to west coast) – Cuba – Jamaica – Haíti - Dominican Republic – Puerto Rico – Amsterdam(plane).

I think it will take a year or a year and a half, I dont care.
I will be with a friend of mine, who is also 16 (he's a dutch guy with colombian blood).
We are looking forward and want to do this trip by trekking, hiking, lifting and camping.
I got my inspiration out of Motorcycle Diaries.
What is my reason? I want to see the world, feel the freedom, get in touch with nature, diffrerent people, poverty etc.
Im planning on leaving in October or so.
Then hope to be in Brasil for Carnival.
I have a few questions..

1. Is trekking possible? Can I set up a tent in South America wherever I want to? And is that safe?
2. Can you bike through some countries, for instance Argentina and USA?
3. I found out that with a dutch passport (which I own) I will only need a visa for Suriname and Cuba, all the other countries dont require a visa if I dont stay longer than 3 months, which I wont. Is this correct?
4. Will anybody be doing the same kind of trip? Can we meet up or advice eachother?
5. Do I really need a jeep to get through the Darien Jungle in Panama? Cant I just walk???
6. Will there be going ferrys to Cuba, Jamaica, Haíti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico?
7. Will I loose a lot of money by exchanging money by entering a new country? I thought it costs money to change it into another unite..
8. How are the internet connections?
9. For the female travellers, can I buy my birthcontrol pill for the next two years or does my insurancy not allow that? And if they dont, can I get a western birthcontrol pill in American pharmacy's?
10. How will I survive on a very little amount of money, I am planning to look for free things, see if the locals can offer me free food and shelter. And if thats not possible, I will come back to the tent question (qstn 1).

So much thankyou for reading this, I am aware of the fact that my english aint that good.
Any tip, any advice, judgement or answer I will take!!
So many thankyou for the people who will reply.
Thankyou so much, Bobbie ;)

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 21, 2008, at 4:58 AM by bobbie1991 ]

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4817 posts) 8y

Bobbie, I absolutely love your enthusiasm for this plan. So few people look beyond themselves, wanting to truly see the larger world... And I hate to go and be all negative in the face of that. But honestly, I don't think you have a very realistic outlook on what long term travel will be like - on what is feasible and what isn't.

Just consider the Darien Gap. Hardy travellers flinch when its name is mentioned. Use the search function here, and you'll see universal agreement that trying to cross it is playing with your life. Or google, and find such descriptions as "a chaos of deadly snakes, caimans, crocs, narco traffickers, mercenaries, guerrillas and bandits."
This is not a jungle you as an inexperienced traveller will lightly stroll through. It gives pause to well-funded expeditions with months of preparation.

As for your question on how you'll survive with very little money? The answer has a scarily high chance of being "not", with the most hopeful alternative being that when your money runs out after the first month, you have just enough left to contact your parents and get them to buy you a plane ticket home.

Your tent and supplies will represent a fortune to many of the locals, and I wouldn't give much for your chances of not being robbed within the first couple of weeks.

Now, such negative things said: keep this plan. In fact, keep your original plan of the even larger trip. But shelf it until you have the experience to *know* what you're doing. You at the very least need to be able to answer question 10 on your own. (That is: either have a well-stocked bank account, or include countries in your itinerary where you're legally allowed to work (e.g. Europe, or Australia, New Zealand, Canada while on a working holiday visa and 18+), and be prepared to stay there for many months working full-time to beef up your money reserves. Preferably both.)

While waiting for that time, go and pick up some experience travelling on your own the regular way. As a suggestion: Go train Europe for two months this summer. No, it won't compare with hiking your way through South America, but all the same you will have awesome experiences, and get a bit of an idea of what it's like to be on the road for a decent amount of time. Then go to college, and earn yourself some money. Then when you've finished college, come back to this plan.
Keep the dream alive, but accept that you just are not in a position yet where it's a feasible dream.

3. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 8y

I much agree with Sander; don't do this yet. I don't mean to be condescending, but it is quite obvious from your post that you don't have the first idea what you're in for. Besides everything else, your plan also suffers from a practical problem; many countries (fortunately) won't allow you to enter on your own if you're under 18, visa or no.

4. Posted by cinderel5a (Inactive 6 posts) 8y

Thank you for your replys. Basicly, I'm a fool..
I don't know what I am getting myself up to probably.
Anyway, I looked up on the Darien, yes it's oh so dangerous, but I read something about boattours that will lead around the whole area.
I'm not planning on getting kidnapped by a ak47 carrier.
So, trekking in USA is forbidden, great.
In many countries I wont get visa because of my age, super.
Poor(er) people will see my tent and mug me, even better.
I am absolutely sure that anyone who was planning of hiking all of South America got all of these advices not to do so.
I am, 4 people think I'm too young and think I'd better do my study first.
I'll tell something about that, I dont know what levels are there in other countries.
But in Holland we have 3 catogories in high school, VMBO (will make you a baker, salesman, beaty worker etc), HAVO (can bring you into almost any job if you are willing to work for it) and VWO (route to surgeons, businessmen etc).
I am doing HAVO, and I WILL study law, first I will do my HBO (study after HAVO) and that will cost me 4 years.
After that I am going to study law on the high level, university level.
That also will take me 4 years, and after that I will specialise in crime law, thats 2 years of study.
To make a long story short, my study is 10 years if not longer.
If I dont do this trip next year, I wont be able to do it in another 10 years.
Why? Because I am sure that when I started the study, and I will stop 2 years for travelling, I wont return and finish it.
I dont know what to do now.
You guys scared me.
I want to go explore this worlds because I always thought the spoiled Europeans (especially dutch people) where scared of everything they dont know.
Wat de boer niet kent eet hij niet, what the farmer doesnt know, he wont eat.
From people who I know that travelled Colombia, Peru and Chile they always said to me;
the minute you walk into a country like Peru, you can already smell it's real, people are real, troubles are real, nature is real.
I always see myself and people surrounding me in Holland as if I am living in one giant bubble.
We are being kept scared, scared for whats out there, thinking every country that doesnt have good money is dangerous, haves bad people and is wrong.
People are no wrong (I mean civilians, ofcourse some people are crazy), governments are wrong.
Isnt there any hope for me left?
Do you all think I will fail in surviving?
About qstn10, from a post on the other block someone told me to look for volunteer work.
That way I might get free food and shelter.
Guys, how dangerous do you think this is?
Is this all luxury danger? Getting robbed, okay sure will happen.
I'll buy a new tent, in fact I didnt mean poor when I said little money.
A few thinks I want to tell also, my family comes from South America, but I dont know if they are alive or anything.
I just inherited their blood, my skin is quite dark, my hair is brown, my eyes are brown.
Also the friend with I will go.
So what I am trying to say, I will do EVERYTHING to not look like a tourist.
In fact, many people think I am from South America.

Isnt this what live is about? Survive, adjust, thinking straight, learning to stand on your own?
I dont want to be a slave of the luxury I just luckily was born with, billions of people would die for our lives, and when I say our lives, I mean the people who can actually buy a computer and write..
Am I right, or just a fool who thinks I can do everything??
Many thanks for reading this absurd life story, sometimes I get wind up in my thougts.
Kisses from the marihuana capital.

5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4817 posts) 8y

Bobbie, I don't think you're a fool. But I do think you lack essential experience.

As you might've noticed, both me and Niels (bentivogli) are from the Netherlands as well, and we've both done quite a lot of long-term travelling. I know exactly what you mean with the fearful attitude of most Dutch people. After I finished university, I set off for 2 years to New Zealand and Australia, and none of my friends or family could quite understand my desire for that trip, nor did anyone believe I'd really last for more than a couple of months. Long term travel is not in the Dutch psyche. The desire to not just see the tourist highlights of a place, but to settle down there and get to know it from the inside - is just not something most Dutch people possess. But I did, and it sounds to me like you do, too.

However, there are practical considerations. There are attitudes and a way of planning which you only pick up through experience.

I'm going to guess that you have never been on a trip longer than a month, where you traveled by yourself (no parents), did not have anything organized by a tour company, and did not have all your accommodation booked in advance.
Am I correct?
I'm almost 100% certain that I am, for if you go on a trip like that, where you make up your itinerary as you go along, and research each destination as you visit it, you develop a certain understanding of how travelling works, and you figure out what does and doesn't work. We see this lacking in your plans and your questions. And so my advice at least is to go and do a more manageable trip first, to develop these attitudes and to learn more for yourself about what you consider worth doing while travelling.
All of South America is way too much to chew off for your first taste. It's an awesome plan, and again, you definitely should do it at some point - but not to start with.

I understand your studies are looming large ahead of you. I've been there, and struggled through it, though I had fewer years to make my way through.
However, if you did go travelling for two years first, and learned swiftly enough to tackle all the practical problems, and had a great time... then you're deluding yourself if you think that afterward it'd be easier to go into ten years of studies than it is right now, or harder than it would be if you did the trip in the middle of the ten years.
Once the travel bug really takes hold of you, it will never let go.

So yes, my recommendation remains to go just start in on your studies, and use your vacations to both feed the travel bug and to start preparing for the big trip. Go train through Europe for two months this summer, with nothing planned beyond the countries you want to visit. Then next year, go volunteering somewhere in South America, where you have everything organized for you by the volunteering organization. The year after, pick a South American city and go live there on your own for a month or two while learning Spanish. The year after, stay at home and work your ass off to earn as much money as you can. (These are all just vague suggestions - just to outline one of many possible ways in which you could prepare and survive those years.) Then you should be done with your HBO studies (which means you'll have at least a solid basis to fall back upon if your outlook on what you want to do ever changes), and have enough practical experience that you could answer all your original questions and would know how to organize that trip.

Never be scared of traveling, of the unknown. But do be prepared for it, and get to know it in bite-sized pieces that you won't choke on.

6. Posted by chemgal (Respected Member 149 posts) 8y

Hi Bobbie,
Firstly I want to see that I admire your spirit!
Have you ever thought about spending a year on a student exchange? You could experience another culture by living with a local family and attending a local school and you will learn a new language. You could ever go somewhere different like like Thailand, Ghana, Tunisia, Peru, Guatemala or Malaysia.
I spent a year in Switzerland when I was 17 and it is one of the most influential experiences in my life. I matured a lot, I gained a lot of confidence and I learned to love new experiences.
I went with AFS Intercultural Programmes, check out their Dutch website
They are a volunteer based organisation and have the goal of promoting world peace.
Good Luck! :)

7. Posted by Cool Paul (Travel Guru 611 posts) 8y

Hey bobbie it's me again, I know you know where I stand on this. I pretty much agree 100% with sander.

I'm not saying don't ever go to south america because you get mugged as soon as you step foot there. no. mostly what I'm saying is you are 16 you are very young. In the states you are still considered a child. I don't care how smart you are or what kind of education you have you will be looked at as a child. you will have a hard time finding work and gaining the respect of your elders. that is just the cold hard truth. I can't even imagine how hard it would be in south america.

and so what if you have ten mores years of school. A lot of us here went through school before we travelled. When you turn twenty six you will realize that you are not only still young but that you are in the prime years of your life, physically, mentally, and (if you go to school) financially. you will have so many more opportunities to do the things you want to do if you wait till you are more experienced, better educated, and have more funds and ways to gain more funds.

back in 2003 I wanted to travel to australia but I was still in my second year of college. If I had dropped out and gone sure maybe I could've met a nice girl there and gotten married and maybe finished school there(probably not because I would've been poor) or picked up another trade like plumbing or something. my life may have completely changed. idunno. but I knew if I stayed then I WOULD definitely graduate, and I WOULD definitely have a job in design/advertising. I couldn't pass up that opportunity... especially considering the things I can do with my education and experience now. Countries are actually looking for people like me.

there is a chance great things could happen to you if you move. you never know. being born in a developed european country and having helping parents you have a great opportunity to further your education and gain a lot of money to help people down the road...if you work hard in these next ten years you can pretty much guarantee that you will do great things in life. I don't know why anyone would give that up. I know people that didn't go to college and not one of them has the ability to travel across the world, not one of them. sure they had a good time for a few years but now it's over and reality bit them in the ass.

even if you don't go to law school, do something join the military, become a carpenter.... anything. but I say if you are lucky enough to have been born in a well developed country than you have to take advantage of that and gain some experience in that country before you venture out into the world. education college is an experience in itself you should be glad you have that choice. I can honestly say college was the best 4 years of my life, I met the coolest people and had so much fun...and I only had to travel 45 minutes to get there everyday.

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 21, 2008, at 7:03 PM by Cool Paul ]

8. Posted by CurraMan (Budding Member 12 posts) 8y

i travelled to south america when i was 18 but i had an extra year and a half planning, maybe thats what you need.
Just dont walk the Darien gap ;)

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 21, 2008, at 7:11 PM by CurraMan ]

9. Posted by cinderel5a (Inactive 6 posts) 8y

Hi guys, thank you so much for all your replys.
Never would have think people even take me seriously.
You people have helped me a lot only given advice.
I still want to do it
I dont think any advice could take that away from me.
Here's what my third pland is.. Honestly I feel like a fool making a third plan.
But okay, here it is..
I will be turning 17 in september the 10th.
I have a job, a good one now.
I earn 8 euro every hour (and thats quite a lot of money for my age).
I am going to graduate this year, then I will spend the whole year of 2008/2009 working.
I thought about that before I even registred on this site.
I will be working at the job I got now, its a expensive restaurant for rich people, kakkers.
I will be working at a club and problably at a call center.
That way I can work 6 days a week, and no that aint much Im guite used to it, I have been working since I was 14.
Also, I will have all the time in the world to learn Spanish, my ex boyfriend speaks it fluetly (dont know how to write that word).
He promised to help me with it cause I realize you HAVE to speak spanish.
Also I want to do an EHBO course next year, that way I am prepared for all kinds of things.
So, I will have time from august 2008 till september 2009 to plan, earn money and learn spanish.
Then in 2009 i turn 18, thats a helpfull hand I quess.
The guy who goes with me will turn 18 in february 2010, so..
If I am right, I will have 1 1/2 years, to work and learn, and plan.
Then I will go to Rio when its carnival in february 2010.
That way I can avoid Guyana, crazy borders Ive heard.
So? Good plan?
I appreciate all of your advice, you changed my way of thinking.
I will continue to collect all kinds of information and be an ADULT when I will be on the road.
I love travellerspoint and all of you guys interested in helping a crazy 16year old.
Thankyou so much.
Love, Bobbie

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 22, 2008, at 4:40 AM by bobbie1991 ]

10. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4817 posts) 8y

Quoting bobbie1991

Here's what my third pland is.. Honestly I feel like a fool making a third plan.

You shouldn't. In fact, one of the constants of long-term travel is that no plan will last more than a month or two. Your understanding of a country, of what's feasible, of what you want to see, will be constantly changing, and so your plans will evolve with it.
I'll be going on a Round the World trip in a couple of months. I think the rough itinerary as I have it in my head now is the twelfth version. The more I researched, the more earlier plans showed themselves to be infeasible and the more new opportunities for even cooler things to do presented themselves. I'm sure I'll be making quite a few additional changes once I'm actually on the road.

Travelling is all about being flexible, about going with what works and ditching what doesn't.

Also I want to do an EHBO course next year, that way I am prepared for all kinds of things.

That's a good idea. You should definitely do that. (For the non-Dutch people: EHBO is First Aid.)

For the rest of your plan: I still believe you would be better off, and be grateful to yourself in the long term, if you just started in on HBO first, and went for the big trip afterward. Consider starting in on HBO 3.5 years from now, in September 2011, after the trip. You'll be three years older than everyone else in the class, and having to endure strict school rules again (university isn't that bad, as you're mostly trusted there - but HBO is just like highschool from what I've heard).
I suspect you need to be made of some very special stuff to be able to endure that after having hiked your way through South America for a year.
(Also: is it not at all an option for you to do VWO next, rather than HBO? That should shave off 2-3 years from the ten year education, as you could go straight to university afterward. Yes, it'll be incredibly hard work right away - but hey, you're the one wanting to work six days a week for a year, so you shouldn't be too afraid of hard work.)

That said: I do believe your current plan leaves you in a significantly better position to actually do this trip then what you had in mind just two days ago, so I'll call it a win. Keep learning, keep researching, keep talking to us. See where your plan ends up in a couple of months... :)

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 22, 2008, at 5:44 AM by Sander ]