My name is Damon Beckford. I’m half Finnish and half English but born and raised in Finland. I grew up in a city called Vantaa, next to the capital Helsinki. I’ve spent most of my life in Finland, but the last few years I have been mostly working, saving and backpacking around the world.
We travelled quite often when I was a kid. I would get so excited when we went on holiday in Europe. I used to scroll through travel magazines my mum brought back from work and dreamt of visiting these places. She worked as a travel agent and has travelled around the world too.
My first trip outside of Europe was in 2011 when I got invited on a 2-week trip to Nepal. At that time, I was studying to be a restaurant cook. The school I attended used to make tours to different countries to work and learn about different cultures and cuisines. I instantly fell in love with Nepal and swore I would come back again.
Fast forward a few years and I was working hard to save enough for my first backpacking trip. I travelled around India, Nepal, Myanmar, and other Southeast Asian countries for 7 months. It was so much fun and I really enjoyed my time exploring new countries and cultures.
I started taking lots of photos with a compact camera on that journey. I found myself falling in love with documenting the people and places I visited. That was also before social media had really took off. So, most of the time was spent without posting on Instagram. I really miss those days when you didn’t have to stress about social media while travelling.
After that trip, I upgraded to a full-frame DSLR and was blown away by the kind of photos I could take. I then decided to fly to India and start backpacking again! My mission was to visit some of the places I visited before and new ones too! I spent 8 months travelling around Asia and came back with great images and an even bigger love for photography.
Backpacking through South America on an Epic 1 Year Journey
After travelling two times around India and Asia, it was time for something new. I’ve always thought about South America and now was the time. Also, one big reason was that my father was living in Brazil for 10 years and I hadn’t visited him yet. South America is also full of beautiful places, epic adventures, culture, food, and is not as explored as other places.
I heard both good and bad things about South America before taking this trip. Mostly good things but I also heard stories about people getting robbed and how dangerous it was. However, after almost 9 months in South America, I can safely say that I’m blown away by how friendly the people are and that it’s totally safe here.
Our South American adventure started with a week in Rio. It was the perfect place to start as we fell in love with the special vibe of this city. Next, we explored and surfed Brazil for 2 ½ months, spent a day in Paraguay, 10 days in Uruguay and then headed to Argentina and Patagonia to celebrate Christmas while visiting the beautiful national parks.
From Patagonia, we headed to Chilean Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park, but because we didn’t book camping spots in advance, we weren’t able to trek there. We then flew to Santiago and travelled up to the Atacama Desert in Chile. Crazy floods made our visit very short and so we moved on to Bolivia for a month and then to Peru before arriving in Colombia where I’m currently located.
Climbing Potosi, Trekking Patagonia and Surfing Peru
People often ask me what my favourite South American country is and I can tell you – it’s not an easy question! Each country has its own unique charm and stunning destinations. But so far, I can say that Brazil is my favourite. Second would be Peru. Brazil has an awesome vibe. The people are some of the friendliest, the surf is great and all the beautiful natural attractions make this country very special!
My favourite experience so far has been climbing the 6088m tall Huayna Potosi mountain in Bolivia. That was an adventure I’ll never forget. I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain and Huayna Potosi is a good first option. If you have time and are acclimatized to high altitudes, then I would recommend this to anyone who is up for an adventure.
Second to climbing Huayna Potosi would be visiting and trekking Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. The nature and landscapes here are some of the most stunning in the world and the trekking is fantastic! If you’re into photography, then this is a must-visit destination in South America. I can recommend this for first-time visitors to the continent.
My third highlight has been surfing and visiting the beaches around South America. No matter where you go, you’ll find perfect beaches and epic waves to surf from beginner to pro. If you want tropical beaches and warm water, head to Brazil and Ecuador. But so far my favourite surf destination has been Peru with perfect waves and little crowds.
Another unforgettable experience, and one of the things I had been waiting for before the trip, was an authentic Brazilian barbeque. We ended up having many barbeques in Brazil and they were as good as I thought! In fact, the food in South America is great – the barbeque culture in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina is crazy and the meat is superb!
The most unique food I tried in South America was chicken hearts in Brazil. They are good! Haha… The seafood is also quite good, especially on the coast. But remember to be careful about what you eat. I got food poisoning from eating ceviche. In the bigger cities, you’ll be able to find food for all tastes including good vegan restaurants.
Meeting Locals, Learning Languages and Enjoying the Culture
The people have been friendly everywhere in South America. The locals seem interested in us and they always offer to help. Even random people on the street start talking with us and tell us about the history of the place or give us recommendations on what to visit and where not to go. The people seem happy and love having a great time.
I had the opportunity to meet many locals when we were staying at my father’s place in Brazil and can call them my friends now. It was not easy to communicate, but with the help of Google translator, we were able to chat. Otherwise, we made local friends from different backpackers that we stayed in for more than a week.
Since we arrived in Brazil, we had to converse in Portuguese from the get-go. So, we learned basic phrases that got us by. After we crossed into Uruguay, though, everything changed to Spanish and we were completely lost! But eventually we got accustomed to it. It’s not necessary to speak fluent Spanish or Portuguese but every little bit helps.
There’s a big mix of people and cultures in South America. Just from walking around a typical town – you’ll pass through indigenous markets, colonial architecture, high skyscrapers, and modern cafes and restaurants. There’s something for every type of traveller in South America!