Buenos Aires *Our First Week*

We arrived in Buenos Aires on January 14, 2015 after 24 hours of uneventful flights and long layovers. Needless to say were very happy to see our prearranged driver, Don Julio, holding a sign with our names at the airport. Less than 90 minutes later we were at our apartment in the Palermo neighborhood, a place we’ll call home for the next month.


Week #1: Getting to Know Buenos Aires

Exploring by Foot
Within a few hours of our arrival we were out walking the streets of our neighborhood. We were hungry and needed to move our legs. Our mission was twofold: find a grocery store and don’t get lost. Relying on Spanish from 30 years ago, Harry was able to ask a few kind strangers where to go shopping. We ended up at a market, bought a few provisions and headed back home. Or so we thought. We walked a few blocks this way, then a few blocks that way. When we finally both agreed that we were totally lost we went into a little cafe to ask for directions. The woman pulled up Google maps on her laptop and showed us that we really were only a few blocks away from home, just in a totally different direction. Go figure.

Apparently getting lost on our first day in BA was just a sign of things to come. The numerous traffic circles and diagonal streets make getting one’s bearings more challenging than usual. On a good day we take turns being right, and on a normal day we’re both wrong. We are constantly consulting different maps and racking our brains to remember where we’ve been relative to where we are trying to go. Of course everything is in Spanish which makes it even more challenging. Plus, street signs are often hidden or missing altogether.

We know better than to stand on a street corner looking lost, so our MO is to go into a store to regroup. More times than not the shopkeeper will help us out. Bonus if we can understand what s/he’s saying. Everyday we feel like we have a better grasp on our surroundings.

We have been on a walking adventure pretty much every day, spending three or four hours exploring in a new direction. Logging several miles a day in the intense heat has been both exhausting and satisfying. BA’s architecture is an interesting mix of French, Spanish and Italian influences. The old and the new are often side-by-side. BA is also known for its street art. Murals and graffiti are ever-present and make for a colorful addition to the local landscape.



We’re pleased to report that we’ve yet to step in the ubiquitous dog poop. It’s a local custom for dog owners to let one’s dog poop on the sidewalk and leave it where it lands. And there are a lot of dogs in the city! Of course we probably just jinxed ourselves.

Ellen + Amin
As luck would have it, Harry’s cousin Ellen and her husband Amin also arrived in BA the same day we did! They will be spending nine weeks in Argentina, using BA as their base camp. Ellen is a retired Spanish teacher so of course her language skills have been very useful on a number of occasions. “Once a teacher, always a teacher” is definitely the case with Ellen and we’ve been grateful for her on-the-spot lessons. The four of us have had a lot of fun adventures together.


Public Transportation 

The streets here are fast and busy, and no one drives with as much speed and daring maneuvers as the city bus drivers. Within a second of the last person stepping on or off the bus, the driver accelerates at full speed like a bat out of hell. It’s amazing that we haven’t seen any accidents yet, although Harry was witness to two taxi drivers fighting in the middle of the street over the hoods of their cars. The fight ended when one driver spat on the other.

Spanish School
Harry, Amin and I signed up right away for Spanish classes and we’ve already completed one of two weeks. Although the Spanish is coming slowly, we’re especially pleased with the cultural and social components the school has to offer. We’ve enjoyed meeting other travelers and the local teachers. My tango lesson was sixty minutes of fun confusion and made me realize that while I won’t be dancing in a club anytime soon, I still love the tradition, music and moves.

One of the benefits of traveling in the southern hemisphere in January is that there are many local fruits and vegetables in season. It’s really nice to have fresh fruit and vegetable stands on almost every block. Watermelon, peaches and mangos are a few of the treats that are currently available. BA is known for grass-fed beef, empanadas and, thanks to the large Italian population, pizza. Their quiches are pretty tasty, too. And of course let’s not forget about the wine!

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I know many of you will hate us, but here it goes: it’s hot here. Really hot. It’s been in the upper 80’s and 90’s since we arrived with a nice dose of humidity tossed in for good measure. We are hot and sweaty everywhere we go. No complaints, just the facts.

As we look to start week #2 we are ready for more Spanish adventures in this fascinating city!


Life Untethered: Our Plan

Tomorrow we are flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin the next phase of our year-long adventure. We plan on being in South America for six to eight months to learn Spanish, volunteer and travel. Why did we choose South America? Learning Spanish is  one goal, as is exploring new terrain. And to be honest, we’re also looking forward to a warmer winter this year. We look forward to connecting with locals and exploring the natural beauty and cultural offerings of South America.

We are flying from Miami to Buenos Aires via Houston and Santiago, Chile. Our twenty-four hour flight is courtesy of frequent flier miles so trust me when I say that we’re not complaining. We got one way tickets so we don’t have a return date right now. Taking life one day at a time for the past 3 months has been really nice and living with less stress is something we both aspire to do long term.

During our month long stay in BA we will study Spanish, explore the city, and research places to visit. It’s our goal to find volunteer opportunities so we can connect on a deeper level with a family or a local organization.

Here are some fun things that will make our stay in Buenos Aires pretty special:

1. Harry’s niece Emma spent last spring/summer studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Her enthusiasm, tips and recommendations have been invaluable. Imagine being in Argentina during the World Cup!

2. One of Emma’s Spanish teachers, Melina, actually used to live in Portland and teach at Reed College! What a small world. We look forward to spending time with her both as a friend and as our Spanish tutor.

3. Melina’s boyfriend is currently working in Chile, so we will be renting his BA apartment in the Palermo neighborhood for a month upon our arrival. His place looks really nice and it’s in a great (read: safe) neighborhood. We can’t wait to hunker down in one place for an extended period of time. We look forward to frequenting local markets and exploring the city.

3. My cousin Maureen’s friends, Linda and Frank, work at the American Embassy in BA. Linda has been a great resource for us. She and Frank invited us over for dinner Friday night and we look forward to meeting them in person.

4. Linda also e-introduced us to her taxi driver who will pick us up at the airport on Wednesday. We were going to take the public bus (a seventy minute ride) but after twenty four hours of travel I imagine seeing Don Julio holding a sign with our names on it might feel a little bit like we won the lottery.

5. Harry’s cousin Ellen is a retired Spanish teacher. She and her husband Amin — get this! — are also flying to Buenos Aires tomorrow! We did not coordinate our efforts, people…. it just happened. They will be staying in our neighborhood as well… another coincidence. It will be fun to kick around with them for a little while before they head out of town.

The number one destination on our list is Patagonia. The best time to visit is January through March when the weather is hopefully more hospitable. Our thought is to take a bus down from BA, more than a 30 hour journey. Ideally we’ll stop at a few little towns along the way to break up the ride and meet some locals. Driving will afford us the luxury to experience the vastness and incredible landscape that you miss when flying. Too bad Moby can’t join us.

How we’ll spend the reminder of our time in South America is still up in the air. Our travels across the US have been day-to-day and that’s how we plan on rolling down south, too. Our journey will be shaped by the people we meet along the way.

Please keep in touch, friends! We’d love to hear from you.


Life Untethered. Phase II: Friends + Family {Summary}

It’s hard to believe that Harry, Moby and I left Portland three months ago! We had an incredible Phase I of our trip: three weeks touring and camping around the southwest, visiting national parks and sleeping in our van as much as possible.

For the past ten weeks we’ve been fully engaged in Phase II of our adventure, which has been all about friends + family. It’s pretty amazing to think about the number of people we’ve seen and stayed with along the way. I am grateful that so many doors were wide open for us.

Here’s a summary of our ten-week Friends + Family road trip from October 17 – January 12, 2015

# of days on the road: 87
# of day on the road TOTAL since we left Oregon on Sept 27: 105

# of miles driven: 2,500
# of miles driven TOTAL since we left Oregon on Sept 27: 9,000

# of states + provinces: 15
{Michigan, Canada, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida}
# of states and provinces TOTAL since we left Oregon on Sept 27: 26

# of different homes we spent the night in: 15
{Mom + Dad Connolly: 14 nights; Michael + Christine Connolly: 1 night; Ellen + Terry Crosby: 1 night; Marilyn + Larry Miller: 3 nights; Marcy Appel, 1 night; Aparna Kamath: 1 night; Tracy + Dave Sheerin 2 nights; Lisa + Tom Kemler: 3 nights; Dad Bondareff: 27 nights; Karen + Danny Kalika: 7 nights; David Connolly: 2 nights; Michael Turk: 1 night; Nancy Miller: 8 nights; Suzie + Bill Moya: 3 nights; Sarah + Steve Hedges: 3 nights}

# of hotels we stayed in: 7
{northern Michigan: 2 nights; upstate New York: 1 night; coast of Maine: 1 night; Georgia: 1 night; St Pete Beach, Florida: 5 nights; middle of Florida: 1 night}

# of speeding tickets: 0
# of parking tickets: 1 {darn you, Portland Maine!}

# of national parks: 1 {Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan}
# of moose sightings: 0
# of crocodile sightings: 23 {Gainesville, Florida}
Biggest waterfall: Niagara Falls {Canadian side}
# of dog sitting gigs: 1 {Juneau, Karen + Danny’s dog, four days}
# of ferry rides: 1 {Peak’s Island off the coast of Maine}
# of colleges: 7 {Hope College MI; Michigan State; Harvard; Wesleyan CT; Yale; Flagler College FL; University of Florida… totally random that we went to so many colleges}
Dirtiest hotel: Rockland, Maine
# of boat rides: 1 {Palm Coast, Florida}
Most stressful toll booth experience: Albany, New York
# of houses sold: 1 {this was exciting! and a little sad}


Thank you!

Again, we have been so fortunate to have connected with so many people on our journey. We feel so blessed, supported and loved. While there are too many stories and photos to share, here are some highlights of the time we spent with our parents.

Michigan Snapshot 

We had two fantastic weeks at my parent’s house in Holland, Michigan. The mid-to-late October weather was beautiful and we spent a lot of time outside. Long walks on the beach and hiking on the dunes happened almost daily. My mom, dad, Harry and I took a three-day road trip “up north”, and my twin brother Michael and his wife Christine joined us by way of Royal Oak. We had a lot of fun visiting small towns and checking out local breweries. The colors were beautiful and we were surrounded by bright and crunchy leaves. A highlight was visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park (the 13th national park on our trip).

Michigan is truly a natural beauty! Unless you’ve been to MI and traveled around its beaches, lakes, dunes, and woods, you are really missing out on a pretty special place.

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Virginia / DC Area Snapshot

Our time on the east coast was full of good meals and great conversations. Harry’s father, his three sisters and my brother all live in the DC metro area. Additionally, we both have a number of cousins and good friends living in the area. We kept busy socializing, walking along the Potomac River, and working on our upcoming trip to South America. It was really special to spend Thanksgiving for the first time with my east coast family.

We spent the majority of five weeks staying with my father-in-law in Alexandria. He graciously shared his condo with us to use as our research library and home base. A world traveler himself, we appreciated his advice and insights. Best of all we really enjoyed spending so much quality time with him. 20141122_195427_LLS20141123_151719bikesBondareff

ThanksgivingHarry and Kerry

Thanks again, everyone! Please keep in touch. Good-bye for now!