Mark Berman is from New Zealand. He has been traveling South America every year since 2008, little chunks of the continent each year. He has been living in Colombia since 2010. Mark never planned to travel South America continuously, it just kind of happened. He finds it fascinating and exciting that he can cross borders from one country to another and everything changes — the people and culture etc. Whereas if he walks to the edge of New Zealand I fall into sea!
Mark chronicles his adventures on his website, South American Postcard. He was kind enough to answer a few of our travel questions.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Mark: I’ve been traveling South America each year for 11 years now and I’m still going. Growing up on an isolated island in an isolated part of the world (New Zealand) got me hooked on travel!
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Mark: I’m a budget traveler who loves to walk and discover things on his own mostly.
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Mark: The 11-year vacation that I’m still on here in South America.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Mark: I must have some apps on my phone — offline GPS maps and the weather.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Mark: Learning the local language will reward you in many ways and many times over.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Mark: I enjoy Twitter for finding all kinds of information about traveling and making contacts.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Mark: South America, of course. There is much to see and do here with so many different cultures, landscapes and people!
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
Mark: Lonely Planet, Wikipedia.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Mark: Budget airlines, book well in advance.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Mark: Theft. Learn to look after your things and be meticulous with your belongings and you will be OK.
TA: What’s a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Mark: Always take a registered taxi in the big cities in South America. Once in Lima, Peru I took an unregistered taxi late at night. Another man got in the front with the driver and my backpack was in the boot. For 90 minutes I was driven around Lima and marched out to ATM machines and was robbed to the tune of $400USD. Not a good buzz!
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Mark: Brazil is awesome for food! They have ‘all you can eat buffets’ everywhere. Just pay then eat until your heart and stomach is content.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Mark: Romance can happen anywhere anytime. Don’t look for it; it will find you!
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you’ve ever visited?
Mark: Quito in Ecuador is a beautiful city. I’ve been there several times. The climate is nice and the city has a fantastic historic center with many old churches and buildings. Ecuador in general is quite affordable for budget travel, you can travel for around $30USD per day per person.
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life? Who were they?
Mark: Yes I have, my wife, a Colombian who I met in 2011. Having said that, I would also say that it is easy to get attached to random people while traveling and you should be careful doing so because it can change your plans, sometimes not for the better. No, I’m not talking about you, Ana! On the other hand, yes, I have made good and lasting friendships from my South America travels, people I can visit around the continent.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Mark: I don’t know if there are best places, it depends on the individual. I like both, sometimes alone, sometimes with my lady. However, I would say cities are good alone if you want to meet people and do the things you like to do. National parks, nature, beaches and adventure are better with a friend.