Latin America through young travelers’ eyes

Maia Gabriel
February 5, 2014

Young travelers gain new skills by developing relations with others, said a student at Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Sophie Mojica, a Salvadorian native, said she moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina when she was 18. Her first impression of the people in the bustling city was they were cold.

“I remember I was on the bus, and one person pushed me out of the way, and when I excused myself he just stared,” Mojica said.

Mojica said she moved to Buenos Aires to study culinary arts. She moved from her hometown San Salvador, El Salvador because she thought the university in Buenos Aires would provide her with a more complete education.

Despite her rough encounters with busy city life, Mojica said she thinks Argentines are more social and friendly than Salvadorians.

“They are not afraid to be loud, like me,” Mojica said.

Mojica said she also has friends from Peru and Mexico, who also moved to Argentina to pursue a career in culinary arts.

Mojica said she credits her wide range of friends to being bilingual and moving from her hometown at a young age.

She said upon her arrival to Buenos Aires it was difficult to make friends because she was shy. One would find this difficult to believe, as she loudly and comfortably talks in English, her second language, amidst the bustle of Spanish speakers in a Starbucks in Buenos Aires.

Travelers who do not speak the language of a different culture do not easily make friends with locals, said the executive assistant at ZoomCare.

Executive assistant Brier Gabriel took a seven week trip to Ecuador to broaden her horizons, she said.

Before her trip, she had only studied a few years of Spanish in high school.

She remembers using a dictionary to plan her monologue with a cab driver before she slid in the backseat, she said.

“It was a very humbling experience,” Brier said.

Brier developed relations with an English-speaking Ecuadorian, she said. She was able to experience things tourists would not get a chance to do, like spend a day on the ocean in a motor boat.

Brier met the Ecuadorian by chance when he stopped her from taking the wrong bus, she said.

“I trusted Andres because I had no choice. I followed my intuition,” Brier said.

Strangers can become friends, but one should always be aware of their surroundings, said Riley Gabriel, Brier’s sister and a bicycle traveler.

Riley said she decided to celebrate her earning her degree by taking a trip to El Salvador. Along with a few friends, she is riding her bicycle from El Salvador to Panama City in two months.

Riley is not used to some Central American customs, she said. With her pale skin and tall frame, she said she is a fish on land in Honduras, the country she is currently passing through.

“People yell, ‘Hey gringo!’ and ask us for money. They assume because we are white we are rich… I am getting too many catcalls for comfort,” Riley said.

Her biggest shock came while she was riding her bike through a small town, and a young girl about seven years old tried to take Riley’s bag out of her bike’s front basket.

Riley said she copes with discomforts by learning Spanish and as much of the Latin America culture she can absorb. She fuels her fire by practicing her broken Spanish in the markets, where the people tend to be patient with her.

Riley also gets a taste of home by meeting other travelers from the United States, she said. She met a Michigan couple who is traveling from Panama City to California.

Riley said when she feels alone, it helps her to remember there are others experiencing difficulties with an unfamiliar culture.

Although Mojica, Brier and Riley’s experiences are vastly different, they cope with the stressors of being in a foreign land by developing friendly relations in unique places.


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