Meet Hagop, a super chill Brit who has been everything from an event planner, DJ, a music producer, snowboard instructor, activist, paraglider, and animal rescue and permaculture volunteer. He is also the first person we’ve met that traveled with a slingshot…
From: London of Armenian/German decent
When We Met: May 2014
Where We Met: Bocas del Toro, Panama
Occupation(s): Worked for Generator Hostel London as an events coordinator. Also a DJ and his music can be found here.
Don’t be afraid to quit your job and go for it.
How long are you traveling for? We’ve done seven month so far and we have another four months to go.
What are your destinations? We started in Buenos Aires and we traveled west into Argentina to Mendoza, went South to El Bolson, really hoped we could go to Ushuaia but the buses were just really expensive in Argentina so we decided against it.
How much were they? It was kind of working out to be about $10 per hour of bus journey whereas the rest of Central and South America is about $1 per hour or less.
To finish up our destinations… We went to Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and now we are in Panama. We did the whole thing by bus and boat.
How was the boat trip from Colombia to Panama? Really, really fun. Definitely worth doing, especially since it costs about $60 more than going by plane and includes food for five days and someplace to sleep. Yeah really cool.
Who are you traveling with? I’m traveling with my girlfriend.
How is it traveling as a couple? It has been fine. Actually I proposed to her on this trip.
Oh nice! Did she say yes? (laughs) Yeah, she was a bit shocked but she said yes. People always say it makes or breaks you when you travel with your girlfriend but for us it has worked out really well. We both have quite different personalities but we balance each other well.
Where did you propose? I proposed in Bucaramanga, Colombia. We were there for two weeks doing a paragliding pilots course and we were about halfway through and the date was on our three year six month anniversary, so I proposed to her.
What inspired this trip? It was my fiancee’s idea but I always wanted to visit Latin America. I’m a big fan of Latin American music, Cumbia specifically, which to the unfamiliar ear sounds like a cross between salsa and reggae which is sadly unable to find played live in Colombia. We both wanted to travel but she was like “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” and I thought “yeah cool” and we saved up some money and went.
Is this the first trip you guys have taken together? It is, yeah.
What do you think this trip will change about you when you do go back home? I’ve recently madea list of things I know will keep me happy when I’m in London…I’m generally not a big fan of being in London, it’s my home but I get frustrated after living there for more than a few months. I like doing out door activities but it’s wet and cold a lot of the time, which doesn’t bother me but it can be really hard to motivate friends to get involved!. So I made a little list of things I know will make me happy. I’ll pick up a new martial art, I’m gonna learn how to play the organ because I figured out I wanted to play it on this trip. And outdoor activities like sailing and wakeboarding.
That’s awesome. What’s you favorite experience thus far? Definitely learning how to fly in Colombia. There is a flight site called Las Aguilas which means ‘The Eagles’ and it’s in this hillside town called Ruitoque which overlooks this town Bucaramanga which you probably wouldn’t visit for any other reason. It has a unique weather situation which allows you to thermal soar in the morning which allows you to get your altitude from rising thermals. In the afternoon these thermals create an updraft that goes up the hill allowing you to take off and soar across the hill, and you just launch and go higher and higher and higher. There were people there from Canada and Switzerland because Bucaramanga has very reliable conditions so they know they can fly every day they are there whereas most flight sites are a lot less dependable. So we were really lucky. Our first solo flight was a high flight which I found really exciting.
How much did you pay for that? We paid £750 which is probably around $1,200 for a ten day course which included two weeks of accommodations and breakfast at a hostel next to the flight site.
How long are you staying in Bocas for? For about a week.
How are you liking it thus far? We are really enjoying it. We are staying in Bocas Town which is really tiny and really easy to get around, find what you are looking for. Most people here are pretty friendly. It is just pretty mellow and you got all the surrounding islands which you can explore. You can just take a boat taxi out to different beaches and explore, Caribbean vibes, palm trees, and coconuts, and clear seas.
Have you had any shitty experiences on this trip that stand out? Most of this trip has been incredible. The places where we have been warned about security, warned to watch out for stuff, we have had no problems. We haven’t been the victims or any crime in any way. I’ve left a few things in certain places but I can only blame myself for that.
Lets discuss your budget a little bit. What is your daily budget? Right now our daily budget combined is $70, but we often spend less. If we are able to make lunch and dinner for ourselves we spend less. We generally cook quite a lot, we are quite picky about what we eat. We try to eat vegetarian, try not to eat too much oil. On this whole trip we have been researching a healthy life style and trying to put that into action. We have gone from frying our veggies to steaming them, for instance.
Do you feel healthier than before you set out? I do. Yeah, I definitely feel healthier.
Is this your first long term trip? I’ve worked abroad in the past, I’m a snowboard instructor so I’ve done three, four, five month seasons abroad. This is my first time backpacking and first time escaping winter all together.
What is your next destination? Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. We will be volunteering there for three weeks at the Jaguar Rescue Center.
Can you tell us about your last volunteer experience? We spent one day volunteering in Santiago, Chile, I don’t know if that counts. We made a cake on Christmas Day [laughs] for a homeless charity lunch. The longer one that was really incredible was in El Bolson in Argentina, we spent a month at a permaculture research center called CIDEP where they are experimenting with growing different kinds of food using permaculture and also sustainable building. At that place we spent two days a week working in the gardens, two days a week building new buildings, and one day a week finishing up buildings. It was $10 a day including all meals and dorm style accommodations, and if you brought your own tent you could save a dollar or two a day. It was cool cuz some of the food we grew we ate. It was a learning experience, it wasn’t just like volunteering on a farm where you are part of someone else’s financial operation, everyone volunteering there was there to learn and the people who ran it took it as their duty to teach as much as possible.
As far as packing goes what are three things you packed that you can not live without? Ummm, underwear? [laughs] Shorts. T-shirt. The essentials.
Anything you regret bringing with you? Yeah I brought too many of each type of clothes. My brother made me pack a couple of things I had to send home. A catapult [sling-shot] an Armenian flag [laughs].
Can you give a piece of advice for people who want to backpack long term but haven’t done so? First thing would be save as much as you can, really focus on saving. If you live in the city it can be hard, you always have people saying come to this club, this party, so you really have to make some sacrifices. But it’s so worth it. You think about not having that beer which might cost you a fiver in a pub in London and that can buy five times as much beer when you are in Latin America, it’s how you think about it. You aren’t depriving yourself you are saving it for later. And yeah don’t be afraid to quit your job and go for it and then find a job when you get back. I’ve generally found that the jobs I’ve had my employers liked having people who had a variety of experiences and if you can come back and go to a job interview and they ask “what have you been doing unemployed for six months?” and you reply “well I’ve been volunteering and learning about sustainable building, I’ve helped endangered animals” a lot of employers will respect that. So don’t be afraid, basically.