Our travel schedule around Christmas and New Year’s was all over the place. From Porto, we took a flight directly to Switzerland to visit one of my cousins. Then we planned to train to my family again in the Black Forest, fly to Mexico on Christmas Day, and spend New Year’s in Brazil.
Christmas in Germany and Switzerland is something truly special to behold. I was excited to share the experience with my wife, and I imagined we’d spend each day going to a different Christmas Market and enjoying the crowded festivities. Covid had other plans.
We flew into Switzerland during the start of Omicron and middle of Delta waves, which wasn’t ideal. We were able to visit one Christmas Market before everything closed up, so that was a bright spot. Other than that, we focused more on smaller family gatherings. Fortunately, my family pulled out all the stops to make sure we enjoyed ourselves!
In Switzerland, we explored the snowy Bern canton, ate an authentic Raclette dinner, and did everything Migros (IKYK). We had lots of family time and reminisced about the past few months of travel around the continent. After a few days, we left for Germany, which had been closed just days before due to Omicron fears. At this point we felt like our decision to leave Europe on Christmas was a good idea.
In Germany, we mostly hung around family, trying to limit contact so our travel plans wouldn’t be disrupted. We also got boosted thanks to my amazing aunt – not sure how she managed to work that out for us, but we’ll be forever grateful since it meant we could continue our journey to South America, (which required a vaccine shot in the previous 9 months).
After a couple of days of feeling meh, we celebrated Christmas with my family, experiencing a calm but classic Christmas with delicious family recipes, enjoying time with family before we’d fly to Mexico. After all the European travel, it was really special to end it with those close to us on the holidays.
After Christmas Eve celebrations, we woke up extra early to catch our flight to Mexico and bid adieu to the Old Country.
Resetting with Mojitos
In late March of 2020, we’d planned to take our first real beach vacation in the Caribbean. That didn’t pan out due to Covid, so we thought we’d splurge a little and treat ourselves to a vacation in Mexico to make up for those canceled plans and to celebrate coming in under budget so far!
We chose Playa del Carmen as our destination since we could easily reach it from Germany but also use it as a jumping off point to our South American leg starting in Brazil. Our resort was extremely nice, opulent, and probably a bit much for our tastes, especially after traveling primarily around work exchanges and housesitting gigs. Still, we soaked it up.
The weather was perfect (especially after the snow just a couple weeks ago), and great food was everywhere. We were able to destress, and I’m excited to say that I was able to get back into reading thanks to this part of the trip! 5 days was just about perfect for us. I don’t think we would’ve wanted to do much more, but it was rejuvenating!
We knew our last couple months of travel were coming up, so we took advantage of the sun service and practiced our Spanish with the staff to better prepare for our trips in Uruguay and Argentina.
Our first stop in South America came on New Year’s Eve, visiting São Paulo for a bit to see one of our college buddies, Ian. We’d visited before, a few years prior, so we were excited to return. It’s an enormous city with lots of culture, great food, and some fascinating history
Ian was super accommodating, and even though he wasn’t around for the first few days of our trip, he invited us to stay at his apartment in the middle of the city. We settled in after a long flight and stocked up on food since most places would be closed on New Year’s Day.
We toured the city, admiring the beautiful street art, local music, and authentic eats. One thing that’s immediately apparent in the city is just how much of a melting pot São Paulo really is. The unique blend of people groups makes for a vibrant experience, and city initiatives like banning billboards and closing avenues off on weekends help foster connections and creativity.
Unfortunately, Ian called me up a day before he was coming back to let me know he wasn’t feeling well. We’d already had a couple of close calls with covid, and we ended up having to settle for a video chat instead of catching up in person. We left Ian and his wife a covid care package and spent the next couple of nights on the famous Avenida Paulista before catching our flight to Uruguay. Ian, I love you man!
While our holiday travel kept us on our toes, it was a good time to reflect on the importance of friends and family. We’d done a lot of traveling ourselves, and the energy and support from our close circle kept us going for our last leg. It’s hard to overstate just how helpful it was to have a team rooting for us as we jumped again into the unknown.