Discover more from Nomada Newsletter
Cheeseburgers in Paraguay 🇵🇾
Great memories from this wonderful country...
I had been traveling all over…
Over a month in Argentinian Patagonia 🇦🇷
Damn near a month in Santa Cruz, Bolivia 🇧🇴
Week with my Dad in Easter Island, Chile 🇨🇱
But it was time to base up for a bit and since I was already around the “Southern Cone” — I decided to visit a country that had been on my list for years:
🇵🇾 Paraguay 🇵🇾
It was just a hop, skip, and a jump from Santiago, Chile — where I was chilling after the Easter Island trip. My old man had just grabbed his flight back to the USA.
So it was time to head out. I was off to Asuncion, Paraguay — somewhere I knew fuck all about.
Back in the day, you couldn’t find a good travel guide online about Asuncion. Where the great unknown, was actually kind of, you know…unknown.
I boarded the plane with optimism and little expectations.
Would Paraguay be paradise or a third-world “shithole” type of place? I had not a clue, but was determined to find out.
Nomada Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Taking my seat on the plane, I made my pleasantries in broken Spanish with the people around me. Then we were off.
Roughly a two-hour flight to Asuncion, I planned to do some writing and catch up on some work I’d put off while traveling with my Dad.
As anyone who works online will tell you, it can be a bit difficult traveling with people on “vacation” for more than a few days.
If you’ve only got a few days of vacation a year, checking emails is the last thing on your mind. But when building a few businesses online, you often work everyday — even if just for an hour or two.
When you’re on a once in a lifetime trip with your Dad, there ain’t time to crack the computer open.
So I was a bit behind.
As I’m whipping out my computer to get some work done on my flight, I glance to my left and notice the guy next to me is reading a book.
On economic principles.
Not an easy read in English, much less if English is your second language.
I perk up, curious how this dude can comprehend English at a level required to read that book — and curious if he’ll let me pick his brain on all things Paraguay:
“Disculpa, hablas ingles, si?”
He glances up from his book with a confused look as he flashes the cover of his book to me:
Me: “Yeah, I saw the book. That’s not an easy read in English. You’re from Paraguay?”
We get to chatting. Turns out, Miguel is a chemist from Paraguay working in Spain — who did an internship in Kentucky for a year.
I’m asking him question after question about Paraguay. Everything from safety to things to do…and of course, nightlife and women.
He’s indulging me. Doing his best to detail what I need to know about his country, even though he hasn’t lived in Asuncion for years.
Eventually, he tells me to hold on and gets up from his seat.
He walks to the front and starts chatting with another friend of his. I figured maybe I was being a bit annoying, asking dozens of questions in English when he just wanted to read. Figured he might have needed a break from the curious gringo.
But then he starts walking back with one of his buddies.
“Hey, this is Gil. He actually lives in Asuncion and says he’ll show you around next weekend.”
I perk up again, “Hey, what’s up, bro? I’m Jake.”
All three of us get to chatting a bit, exchange What’s App, and he heads back up front to his seat. The flight lands, I tell Miguel and Gil thanks for all the intel, and then I’m off to customs in the Asuncion airport.
I didn’t think much of the encounter.
After taking hundreds of flights and buses throughout the years, I can think of maybe a handful of times I’ve actually chilled with someone I met in transit.
But then Gil, the friend of Miguel from the front of the plane, shoots me a message my first Friday afternoon in Asuncion.
I had shit all plans for the weekend outside of a date or two, so I was thrilled. He said his buddies were going out on Saturday and asked if I wanted to join.
Saturday night rolls around and Gil says him and a buddy would pick me up around 10:30 pm. Perfect.
I start downing a bottle of wine at my crib, pre-gaming with reggaeton music blaring from my balcony.
In typical latino fashion, about an hour after advertised, Gil writes to me saying he’ll be in front of my apartment building in 5 minutes.
I stroll downstairs to find Gil and his Spanish buddy, Matt, waiting for me out front.
“Que tal, bros?”
I hop in the car. Introductions are made and everyone is chatty. I’m tipsy and filled with energy for my first night partying in Paraguay.
Me: “Gil, bro. You clean up well. No offense, but you kinda looked like shit on the airplane.”
“Yeah, man. I had been camping for over a week in Chilean Patagonia. Sooo…”
We get to know each other on the ride to the bar.
Matt had been living in Paraguay for years, after leaving Spain to travel. He got “stuck” in Paraguay and couldn’t get enough of the friendly people and “wild west” vibes of the country.
“I told Gil I hope you speak shit Spanish because I want to speak English all evening.”
Me: “Well, shit! You’re in luck, bro!”
So we get to the first bar of the evening and grab a pitcher of beer. I buy the first one, thankful these bros allowed me to roll with them and fully expecting to pick up all the booze this evening.
Throughout my travels in LatAm, I can think of only a handful of times where someone local has picked up the bill. Namely with a few buddies in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
But when round two came, Gil went straight to the bar and paid for the next pitcher.
I made a mental note of this, as it was odd. Maybe bleeding gringos dry wasn’t a part of Paraguayan culture. Would be a welcome change.
The trend continued throughout the evening. Gil and I splitting costs for booze.
At this point, in a borderline drunken stupor, I concluded that Gil and Matt were legit dudes. Solid bros through and through.
Oh, and they knew damn near everyone in Asuncion it seems.
We walk into the first bar and before we could even sit down, people are coming up to them saying hello, inviting them to their tables, etc.
As the lowly gringo hanger-on that evening, I could only think one thing…
Who are these dudes?!
Moving onto the second bar, I’m “three sheets to the wind” and enjoying life. Ready and willing to chat with any female that has a pulse. Making valiant attempts at mating, and without much success.
We grab a bottle of rum and find a table in the packed bar.
Gil and Matt keep introducing me to people they know. And in a bafflingly odd turn of events, being from Kansas meant something in Paraguay.
At first, I thought they were fucking with me. Yanking my chain.
“Yeah, I’m from the USA. A little state called Kansas.”
Random Paraguayan: “What?! You’re from Kansas?! I studied at Kansas University.”
“Huh? You’re fucking with me right?!”
Random Paraguayan: “No, no! Seriously, Paraguay has an exchange program with the Kansas University. Lots of Paraguayans have studied there.”
My jaw dropped to the floor.
I’d been to dozens of countries at that point. Not a damn soul has ever been able to point out Kansas on a map. And I don’t blame them, as it’s not exactly an exciting place.
Yet my first night partying in Paraguay and I meet a dozen folks that had studied at Kansas University. Crazy.
The night winds down and another group of locals comes to see Gil and Matt. I see a girl point at me while talking to Gil. He introduces me and her eyes light up when she finds out I’m but a lowly gringo.
We get to chatting a bit, and then dancing. She’s no stunner, but she’s decent. Beggars can’t be choosers on their first night out in a new country.
She whispers in my ear, “It’s my birthday.”
She looks up at me slowly, “Queiro un regalo.”
I reply, “Que?”
The “doe eyes” come out. Or maybe they’d been out and I’d missed it due to all the booze. Ohhhhhh!
We start making out. Fast-forward five minutes and she’s dragging me by the wrist out of the bar.
We walk past Gil and Matt, as she points back at me, “Mi regalo!” Still gripping me by the wrist. I’m like, uhhh…
“I’ll see you guys sometime soon I guess. Cheers for taking me out tonight!”
It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what happens next.
Life in Paraguay
Gil and Matt both message me the next day, talking shit about the night before — as they should have.
It wasn’t my finest work.
We have a good laugh about the evening and I thank them for showing me a good time out.
They were great dudes and I had a wonderful time, but I didn’t expect much to come of it.
It’s hard to make real friends on the road — just like it’s difficult to make friends with someone you chatted with on an airplane.
I’d been traveling for years and could count on one hand the number of local bros I’d met who became good friends of mine.
But the next weekend, I get another message from them. They were having a house party and invited me over.
I eagerly accepted.
Fast-forward a few months…
I’m hanging out with Gil, Matt, and their friends every week. We’re talking shit and bantering like we grew up together.
We’re still partying, but we’re also talking about business, going out to dinner during the week, walking off hangovers at the local parks each Sunday.
It was the most group camaraderie I’d felt since playing college basketball.
And it made life in Paraguay absolutely amazing!
P.S: I made many frens in Paraguay…
Camping in Paraguay
We even ended up taking some trips around Paraguay together. These bros took me all over the country…
Reserva Natural del Bosque Mbaracayú
Pedro Juan Caballero
On one night, we drove to the countryside to visit the “Reserva Natural del Bosque Mbaracayú”
They told me there were…
“No hotels anywhere nearby!”
Why? Because we were going to be in a nature reserve that only has a campground.
I went with it.
We get to the reserve and set up camp. After cooking some dinner on the fire, I freeze my ass off camping on what turned out to be the coldest night of the year in Paraguay.
Sleeping on a small blanket in my shitty tent. The hard dirt floor filled with pebbles digging into my hip.
Tossing and turning, I maybe slept an hour or two.
Only to wake up the next morning and see a hotel 200 meters from our campground.
Gil and Matt had tears running down their faces in laughter when I confronted them about the hotel nearby…
“Yeah, we just wanted to make you camp one night while in Paraguay. We knew you’d hate it, gringo.”
Luckily, the reserve was worth it…
Cheeseburgers in Paraguay
Gil and Matt also enjoyed talking a little trash about my “enhanced” physique, as I was starting to morph into a full on juice-monkey while in Paraguay.
I would throw it back, as both of them desperately needed to start hitting the gym. “Skinny fat” would be an accurate way to describe their physiques.
After some hazy drunken banter one weekend evening, I convinced Gil and Matt to start hitting the gym with me a few nights a week.
They reluctantly agreed.
When Monday morning rolled around, I did not expect them to follow up on the plan to hit the gym.
But to my surprise, I got messages from them both that morning:
‘Hey bro, when are we going to the gym today?”
We started training together three days a week.
We’d hit the gym after they got off work — and then grab some food at a local burger spot next door.
Triple cheeseburgers for all post-gym…because protein.
Just bro’ing out, getting swole, and bantering the whole time. I was having a damn good time with these guys.
My time in Paraguay was coming to an end.
After enjoying one last night out on the town with Gil and Matt in Asuncion, I boarded a plane to Rio de Janeiro.
After some time in Brazil, I went back to the USA to handle a few things. Then it was off to Asia.
As I was sitting at a airport bar in San Fransisco waiting for my flight, a song came on…
“Cheeseburgers in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet
Yet every time I heard “Paradise” my mind would switch the lyrics to:
Cheeseburgers in Paraguay 🇵🇾
And I’d reminisce about the triple cheeseburgers I’d eaten after the gym each week with Gil and Matt.
I missed those dudes.
I briefly considered cancelling my Asia plans and flying back down to Asuncion, but ultimately didn’t pull the trigger.
Maybe I should have…