Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Fifty-Fifty Split: Stories from A to Z

It was close to noon when we landed in Santiago. Getting our luggage through immigration and customs went smoothly, despite things feeling strange and new. Forrest seemed nervous and stressed but tried to hide it, to keep his cool like a knowledgeable world traveler. 

My Spanish came back enough to make myself understood. Forrest had been studying from Pimsleur and was eager to practice his skills. “I am sick of knowing only one language,” he said. “I want to be bilingual, not monolingual.” 

We passed an ATM and stopped to withdraw Chilean pesos. I took a few hundred dollars' worth, which came out in a stack of five and ten-thousand-peso bills. I gave a bunch to Forrest. “Here, take this for now. We will figure it out later.” Earlier, Forrest had connected us on Cash App. We would split everything fifty-fifty. 

At the shuttle booth, Forrest paid with a card rather than using our new cash. Outside, I told the driver we wanted a bus station where we could buy tickets to Coquimbo. We planned to purchase tomorrow's tickets and then go find a hotel. I had seen a park on with hotels nearby, not far from the bus station. 

A few others boarded the shuttle, and we were on the way. I relaxed and looked around. Santiago was a pretty city with many wide, tree-lined streets. I could hardly believe we were finally here.

When we reached the bus station thirty minutes later, the driver dropped us off near the curb a short way from the entrance and said that was as close as he could get. He unloaded our things and pointed in the direction of the entrance. 

Although grumbling again about my packing, Forrest pulled the big black duffel and carried my heavy khaki computer bag. I grabbed Bruce's old backpack and my large purple suitcase. We headed to where the driver had pointed, passing several taxis parked along the street. 

We had to walk up a couple flights of stairs to buy the tickets, maneuvering this awkward luggage as we went. We bought our tickets to Coquimbo, then hauled my bags back downstairs and out to where the taxis waited. 

Forrest was fuming. There he was with a lightweight duffle and a nylon camp backpack, held back by his mom with her hundred pounds of suitcases. Neither of us said much. It was too late to change anything and besides, he would get over it. 

Drivers stood near their cabs watching us without approaching or calling out. Later we learned that the law requires them to let customers come to them. We headed to a random taxi and I showed the driver the address of the park. 

“Which hotel?” he asked. 

“We don’t have one yet,” I said. “We want to get one near this park. We come back to the bus station tomorrow.” 

“That's far away. Let me see if I can find you something closer.” After pulling out, he called a hotel and asked about availability. Nothing. He called another one. Nothing there either. 

Forrest and I looked at each other, a bit worried. I had reserved our week in Coquimbo but not for tonight in Santiago. Forrest had applied for couch-surfing situations although none had accepted us. 

Luckily, the cab driver found something in our price range with an available double room. “It’s not far. A good place, not very expensive.”

 About ten minutes later, he pulled up to a small hotel on a quiet street. I noticed a park, but it didn't look like the one on I wondered if the station mentioned on was even the same one our shuttle driver had taken us to. There must be numerous bus stations in Santiago. Well, never mind. It had all worked out, and we had a place to spend the night.

This hotel was modest and clean, a model of nearly everywhere we ended up staying during our trip. Forrest never could find any couch-surfing gigs to his great disappointment. “If I were a twenty-nine-year-old girl, I’d have gotten plenty of offers,” he lamented. 

I was glad he wasn’t and especially glad I didn’t have a daughter applying in far-off places for couch-surfing opportunities. “It’s perfectly safe, Mom,” he said with irritation. 

Ha, I bet, I thought. Kids these days are so na├»ve. 

The driver brought my luggage into the lobby and said a few words to the lady at the desk. While I checked in with her, handing her my credit card, Forrest paid the cabbie out of the cash I’d given him. 

The man looked down at the bills, then returned a stack of the pesos to Forrest, who had gotten confused over the numbers and overpaid him. He had asked for tres mil, or 3,000 pesos, and Forrest had given him 30,000. 

A helpful cab driver with high integrity marked our arrival in Santiago. A good sign.


  1. Playing catch up on Sunday! (Oops an exclamation mark.) Enjoying reading about your travels. Thanks for your visit.

  2. Hi Karen, I feel like I'm on vacation with you and Forrest - I've packed light...hahaha
    I'm looking forward to the next installment, with smiles, Jenny

  3. I would have just as much luggage as you, because I like to be able to change my mind about what I wear, and my travel companion would be complaining just like Forrest (probably even more, because it would most likely be my husband doing the complaining). It's wonderful luck to have picked that particular cab, since he was so helpful and honest.

  4. Like you, I wouldn't be big on couch surfing. And I especially wouldn't be big on seeing a daughter try it out.
    Glad you had an honest cab driver and Forrest got his money back. Sounds like the two of you are off to a good start. I enjoy reading about your vacation.

  5. Hi Karen. Loving your travel posts. As a reader I too feel like I'm journeying along.

    Arpita @

  6. This is Birgit…you took too much luggage…lol. I learned the hard way. Your son has no idea how dangerous it can be for a girl. I would never couch surf even when I was young. I’m glad your driver was so good and honest.

  7. I always tend to overpack - my son wouldn't be happy with me either, if we had to travel with just the two of us. I am amazed (and happy) at you getting those accommodations for the first night, and at a reasonable cost. I hope this bodes well for the rest of your story.


Comments are welcome!