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10 South American Travel Tips from Hunter S. Thompson That Will Blow Your Mind

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Traveling like a gonzo journalist is easier than you think

In 1962 and 1963, before he became America’s iconic “gonzo journalist,” the young Hunter S. Thompson cut his teeth as a freewheeling, freelance foreign correspondent in South America. In The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America, travel writer Brian Kevin sets out to cross the continent using Thompson’s forgotten, fifty-year-old articles as his guide. A few pointed observations from the twenty-five-year-old Thompson’s year abroad.

2. Don’t sweat your budget.

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“I am down to 10 U.S. dollars but have developed a theory which will go down as Thompson’s Law of Travel Economics. To wit: full speed ahead and damn the cost; it will all come out in the wash.”

Personal correspondence, May 26, 1962Collected in The Proud Highway

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3. But remember that money can be useful.

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“As it is, I’m traveling at least half on gall. But in the course of these travels, I have discovered that gall is not always the best currency, and there are times when I would be far better off with the other kind.”

“Chatty Letters During a Journey from Aruba to Rio,” Dec. 31, 1962National Observer

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4. Stick to rum near the Equator.

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“It is bad enough drink Scotch all day in any climate, but to come to the tropics and start belting it down for three hours each morning before breakfast can bring on a general failure of health.”

“A Footloose American in a Smuggler’s Den,” Aug. 6, 1962National Observer

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5. Pack heat.

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“Whatever you do — and wherever you go — take weapons. Once outside the U.S. you might as well try to buy gold bricks as a good pistol.”

Personal correspondence, Jan. 1, 1963Collected in The Proud Highway

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6. Skip Bolivia.

Skip Bolivia.

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“If Bolivia were half as bad as it looks on paper, the government would send a crew to all this country’s points of entry to post signs saying, ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’”

“A Never-Never Land High Above the Sea,” April. 15, 1963National Observer

7. Don’t expect excitement in Asuncion.

Don’t expect excitement in Asuncion.

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“Asuncion is as different from Buenos Aires as Bowling Green, Kentucky, is from Chicago. It would not take a dictator to drive a man out of this town, and most of Paraguay’s ‘exiles’ did not need a dictator to make them leave.”

“It’s a Dictatorship, but Few Seem to Care Enough to Stay and Fight,” Jan. 28, 1963National Observer

8. Learning the language can be fun.

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“I am at last cracking the language barrier, using sex as a wedge and drink to dilute the ignorance.”

Personal correspondence, Aug. 28, 1962Collected in The Proud Highway

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9. Don’t treat culture shock with booze.

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“Another problem that plagues the gringo is drink. Because he never really feels at home in a foreign language; because his income is usually embarrassingly large by local standards; because he worries continually about being cheated whenever he buys anything; because he never gets over the feeling that most upper-class Latins consider him a boob from a country where even the boobs are rich; and because he can never understand why people don’t seem to like him for what he is — just a good guy who feels a bit out of place among these strange surroundings and customs — because of all these tensions and many more of the same kind, he tends to drink far more than he does at home.”

“Why Anti-Gringo Winds Often Blow South of the Border,” Aug. 19, 1963National Observer

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10. Brazilians take sex seriously.

Brazilians take sex seriously.

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“Thus do the Brazilians view the Majesty of the Law, and the majesty of just about everything else for that matter — with a quiet, mocking smile and a keen regard for the urgencies of the flesh.”

“Brazilian’s Fable of a Phony Carries the Touch of Mark Twain,” April 20, 1964National Observer

11. Carry cash. Or don’t.

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“[T]he hotel won’t take my check so I can’t leave. I just sit in the room and ring the bell for more beer. Life has improved immeasurably since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.”

Personal correspondence, Aug. 28, 1962Collected in The Proud Highway

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For more on Hunter S. Thompson’s trek through South America, pick up a copy of The Footloose American, out now.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/crownpublishinggroup/10-south-american-travel-tips-from-hunter-s-thomp-ex5r

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