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Native Portlander and nomadic wanderer Pura Caitlin sat down with us via email to tell us her view from the South. Since November of last year, she has spent her days backpacking through the colorful urban and rural terrains of South America, staying mostly in Hostels. Her blog, Pura Caitlin, captures both the provincial and the breathtaking wonders of the places she visits. Since we’d rather be backpacking in South America right now, we decided to pick her brain a bit.

So what made you take off traveling at this point in your life? How did you choose your destination? IMG_3987

A terrible American job market? No, in all seriousness, I travel because I can. I started with study abroad gigs in Mexico and Spain while I was still in school, and now at 24, I´m giving free range to this terrible pull of the wanderlust. I´m a gypsy, what can I say? I choose my destinations based solely on gut feelings and barely examined inklings.

What are some of the most amazing things you’ve seen on your journey?

In no particular order:

1. Picasso´s Guernica, a massive painting of the bombing of a small town in the north of Spain during theSpanish Civil War. I saw it at the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art in Madrid. It took up an entire wall and it made me sit down and cry- it´s depiction of the human cost of war was absolutly mind-punching.
2. Lagos, Portugal. It´s a small beach town on the Southern coast of the country. It was the first real backpacking community I´d ever experienced and I was hooked from the get-go. You work for peanuts at a party bar, rent a room with a local family and meet amazing transients every day of your life? Sign me up.  IMG_0217[1]

3. The street art in Bogota, Colombia. I had no idea when I came to the capital that there would be such an avalanche of creativity. The graffiti on the builidings in La Candelaria, the historic center of downtown – I’ve never seen anything like it! Think ´Where    The Wild Things Are´monsters in Techni-Color and bubble murals in glitter paint and larger than life stencils of the Notorious B.I.G.

You have mostly stayed at hostels throughout your travels. Have you made any good connections? How has your experience been?

Hostels have been the major constant in my nomadry. I´ve fallen in love at hostels, landed jobs at hostels, created art at hostels… Some people go to their local bar or to their office to find like-minded individuals, but I head to a hostel. One of my favorite hostel experiences has to be the group dinner. When you´re a hobo like me you don´t get too many home cooked meals, but when you`re at a hostel you can rally a group of similar hobos to all contribute to to a feast. You crack open a bottle (okay, box-we´re all on budgets out here) of wine, trade recipes, set off smoke alarms and then you get to eat! Amazing. Hostels, they´re your home on the road. Live them, love them.

How easy (or difficult) has it been to connect with locals while abroad?IMG_0933[1]

In my experience, meeting locals is all about your willingness to put yourself out there and go the extra mile. Some places have been easy to make local friends in, but I´ve also been places where the indigenous culture was a lot different from mine, like where I´m at now in Colombia, and I´ve had to make much more of an effort. In general, if you sit down next to someone and start talking about life, they´re going to be stoked regardless of what country they´re from. When in doubt, fall back on universal archetypes, like Harry Potter, or how crazy Paris Hilton is.

What is your itinerary, or when are you coming back to Portland?

It´s changed a thousand times on this trip, but I think right now [my partner] Erik and I plan to bomb through Southern Colombia, catch waves on the beaches of Ecuador for a few weeks until we can find a cheap flight out of Quito up to Guatemala… then check out a meditation school we´ve caught wind of on Lake Atitlan, maybe a volunteering gig, up through Mexico back into California by June… and then Burning Man. I´ll be back in Portland sometime between June and September, hopefully to a triumphant homecoming involving trumpets and microbrews.

Any tips for saving a buck while traveling?

We’ve been spending $15/day down here in South America. Some of my weapons in the war on spending money include: Economy sized bags of rice and beans, walking instead of taking a taxi whenever possible, scaling back the boozing and schewing tours for self-directed sight-seeing.

Enjoy your trip Caitlin, and keep us posted!



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img_0764The New York Times had an article this week on Hostelling in Europe, recounting how “serious quality improvement” in hostels worldwide has brought them to the oh-so-glamorous forefront of minimalist budget travel; making it easy to connect with new people and new cities.

In other news, the IOU Respect International Exchange Program’s submission deadline is April 30th. Apply now for the opportunity of a lifetime – participation in a global youth conference in Paris and Annecy, France in the summer of 2009. Click below for more information and a link to the program. The moderator of this blog was a former participant in the IOU Respect conference and would be happy to answer any questions regarding the program if you email her.


From July 31 – August 14, 2009, young people ages 18-23 years old from Germany, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, France, and the United States will gather in France for the fifth IOU Respect international exchange program. Hostelling International is proud to deliver this meaningful learning experience. The program is an intensive experience of living, sharing and learning together in an effort to bridge cultural divides.

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Postcards from Egypt

The author of this blog is giving a presentation at the Hawthorne Hostel on Tuesday on her trip to Egypt this summer. Come for the pictures and stay for the Happy Hour!


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postcard eye candy

The beaches of Panama and natural/man-made wonders of Costa Rica – compliments of blogger Pura Caitlin, who left Portland recently to venture the Southern continent. More on this to come. Have a good weekend everybody!





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“Lately, when talking to friends about the hostels I’ve stayed in during my recent travels,they seem to have the idea that hostels are some sort of homeless shelters in the bad part of town, or just for school children, or for the dying or recently paroled.  So, I wanted to set the record straight and preach the word, so to speak…”

Washington resident and blogger Maggie Williams has a great introductory article to Hostelling on her website. Great link for anyone who plans a trip around hostelling!

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Yelapa, MX

Yelapa, Mexico

The sun is starting to peer out of the clouds, and Spring is right around the corner. But for some of us, that’s just not soon enough!  If you find yourself drinking coffee with pursed lips and cursing the clouds, you might have S.A.D (SpringBreak Absence Disorder). Treatment options include going to the beach immediately and swimming in the crystal clear ocean. Jen Melo, longtime Portland resident and HI-member, has just the solution for the rugged Spring Break traveler – Yelapa, Mexico.

Tell us about Yelapa

Yelapa is a small village in Mexico, south of Puerto Vallarta, that is only accessible by boat – there are no roads in or out of Yelapa. In fact, there are no roads in the village at all – only paths shared by people horses and donkeys that wind up and down through the hillside village.

What brought you there?

Escape from the kids and a slower life-pace. We wanted a place where we wouldn’t feel pressured to do much more than stare at the water, read books, wander through town, eat good food, and drink great margaritas. Yelapa was perfect for that.

If you were on Spring Break in Yelapa, what might you do?

It’s not a party place, but you can get great margaritas and fantastic food at Lupe’s in town. Bring plenty of cash though – there aren’t any banks or ATMs in Yelapa, and there’s only one bar that takes credit cards (located on the beach)

Hmm, I approve of this. Anything else?

 There are two local gals that bake a variety of fresh pies daily and sell slices on the beach and around town…I am still drooling over the chocolate cream pie baked and sold by Augustina. If your goal is to have a more rugged escape-from-it-all tranquillo destination, Yelapa is a great option.

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Khula Village, South Africa

Khula Village, South Africa

This is one of the many evocative shots Julie Bernhardt captured on her journey to South Africa in 2007. “I was working with 4 Rasta-Zulu men at the Manukelana Indigenous Nursery and Art Center in rural Khula Village, South Africa, catching local transit to get from my hostel in nearby St. Lucia to work and back” Julie explains. “After a few days the guys decided it would be better if I stayed with one of their families instead of commuting and thus moved in at Musa’s compound. While doing chores one morning, I was distracted by the sound of wild screams and laughter and I ran to see what all the fuss was about. There was Vuka, Musa’s oldest boy, dancing with glee at the success of his roughly-engineered chicken trap. The other children were rolling on the ground, incapacitated by fits of giggles. ‘Shhhh,’ he said, looking at my quite seriously. ‘Don’t tell our Baba!’ “

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