| When you first meet Seif El Din Aboualy, you’ll never guess he’s the adventurer type. Balanced and mild-mannered, Aboualy, who is in his late 20s, prefers a good dinner and espresso over a crazy night out on the town.An up-and-coming marketing executive, Aboualy is accustomed to being away from home for stretches of time. He studied agriculture in Lebanon and spent five months in South Africa for work, and likes to break away every once in a while.
Two years ago Aboualy signed up for Spanish classes after working hours just because he enjoyed how it sounded.
“I had been learning Spanish and that got me interested in South America, and when I looked closely at these countries, I realized that there was so much to see and do there,” says Aboualy.
South America became his goal. He knew it would be expensive, so he began planning. He started saving, looked into long vacations, worked out the visa situation and put together an itinerary.
It’s never easy to quit a job, especially if you have a good one. “As much as I liked my life in Egypt, things felt boring as I got more and more hooked on to the idea of exploring South America. I am lucky not to have any obligations; I am neither married nor engaged so I thought it was ok to take a risk,” says Aboualy.
Aboualy knew it was impossible to take a regular vacation to see each country in terms of time and money. But he kept at it. “I knew about the gap year travels and I researched the idea of going for a long vacation,” he says. “The more I researched it, the more I got addicted to it.”
Two years later, he made it happen. He had saved enough money, quit his job (keeping the window of opportunity open for when came back) and made all the travel arrangements.
“My plan was to go to Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia [in Argentina] and then Brazil again. The order of the countries was not entirely my choice and depended on the validity and rules of the visas I got. A country like Colombia would not give me a visa in Egypt,” says Aboualy. “The order of the countries was also [dictated] by weather conditions in each [destination]; I tried to avoid the wet weather as much as possible even if it was going to be a bit cold. I chose to return from Brazil because the return ticket from Cairo to Rio de Janeiro was the cheapest.”
Aboualy could be more flexible with his lodging. “Before heading to South America I had about three weeks of accommodation booked in advance, I only had a bed booked for two nights in each stop and would sometimes head into town and try to find a place on arrival.”
Aboualy started the trip in July, and one of the first things he realized when he began traveling was that there were no other Egyptian or Arab tourists interested in these destinations. All the other travelers seemed to be North Americans, Europeans or Israelis backpacking around the continent.
“I was always the first Egyptian to check into a hostel, book a tour, or do anything really,” Aboualy notes with frustration. “It is also pretty obvious that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not done their job right, since I am usually the only person that needs to get visas to every country. Even Israelis travel freely and do not have the shackles of our beloved green passport.”
To document his travels and share his experiences and pictures with friends and family, Aboualy started a travel blog. “I can’t really call them everyday from here, so I thought it would be the best way to share my trip with them, as well as have everything I did documented as a reminder for life.”
Still on his trip until the end of November, Aboualy was in Cuba as of press time, with four countries to go (Peru, Equador, Brazil, Bolivia). Egypt Today follows Aboualy’s adventures.