I’ve always had this burning desire for adventure. The draw to keep moving forward, to keep exploring. These feelings have always been strong. I don’t know where it’s leading me now and I don’t know for how long, but I’m here and I’m ready for the ride.
As a kid growing up in Florida, I used to watch planes fly over the skies with such admiration. At the time, I didn’t know much about the world outside of the United States. I thought New York City was the be-all-and-end-all. I made the move to the “Big Apple” for college and remained there for 6 years.
Struggling to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I knew for sure that it had to do with travel. Over a couple of years, I played around with a few ideas that would allow me to travel sustainably. I hit 25 and started to feel time creep over me. Bigger moves needed to be made.
My Instagram page started to gain traction and I managed to set up a few brand collaborations. Through the platform, I met one of my best friends who shared similar aspirations. He told me about a friend of his who lives in Thailand and teaches English online. This job allowed her the freedom to create her own schedule, make money and travel. Lightbulb!
I considered a few online teaching jobs and started to hustle. My goal was to book a one-way ticket and secure a job. I didn’t want to blow through my savings and I needed income to travel long-term. In January, I started teaching and then I sent a message to some Instagrammers looking for a travel buddy. In comes Jose who, like me, dreamt of travelling the world.
Jose was initially planning a road-trip across the USA to hike and photograph America’s best national parks. Plans then changed when we booked a small trip to Colombia together. We breezed through the country seeing a huge amount in just 8 short days. The connection we formed on this trip was like electricity.
As we tried to settle back into our normal lives, we stayed in touch over Skype, speaking every waking hour. The desire to be together was so strong as we reminisced about our Colombia adventure. It was as if there was an invisible magnetism pulling at us from 884 miles apart. In the end, we bought one-way tickets to South America and never looked back!
Highlights of our 7-month Journey in South America
Booking a one-way ticket to South America wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. Sure, I was leaving my entire life behind and taking a complete leap of faith, but that’s what life is all about! I knew I had to follow that little voice inside my head that was telling me to go for it.
Our journey across this great continent has provided so many memorable experiences, all of them equally noteworthy. I fell in love with the old city of Cartagena for its colonial architecture. Cusco for its history and nearby adventures. And Chile for its beautiful landscapes and developed roads (after months of bumpy rides, it was a nice change for us).
I could go on for days about the highlights of South America, but I think one of my most memorable moments was experiencing Machu Picchu for the first time. We arrived in the afternoon and most of the tours had already cleared out, making the experience relaxed and intimate. There was an indescribable magic in the air and the views took my breath away.
I even got the chance to hang out with a llama, who I named Humberto, as I took in the views of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I was amazed by the history of this Inca citadel. It’s incredible to know that Machu Picchu was virtually unknown to the outside world until the early part of the 20th century.
Each country in South America has its own unique culture and sights to see. On the whole, Latin people are friendly and love sharing their culture with you. I was most surprised at how different the Spanish was in each country. In Chile, the people say “gracia” instead of gracias. In Colombia, “bollo” is both a corn cake and what you would use to call a guy you think is cute. So, you have to be slightly careful!
One moment which showcased the friendly nature of the people here was when I crossed the border into Bolivia. I was questioned as per usual, but my brain stopped working and I couldn’t comprehend what the officer was asking me. I started crying from the exhaustion of the day. Next thing I knew, multiple officers came over speaking to me so endearingly and patting me on the hand to comfort me.
It was absolutely hilarious!
Embracing New Challenges and Getting out of my Comfort Zone
By far the biggest challenge for me on this journey has been my efforts to conquer South America’s most unforgiving mountains. These expeditions taught me to keep moving forward, to face my fears and to push myself past my limits. They’ve chewed me up and spit me out tougher, braver and stronger – teaching me more about myself in a few short months than in my entire life.
I felt such a deep sense of accomplishment from hiking mountains such as Rainbow Mountain and El Misti Volcano in Peru. Trekking up to heights between 17,000 – 20,000 feet definitely took its toll. I faced headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and freezing temperatures. Yet, the views at the top of the climb always make it worth the struggle.
South America has also taught me to be more open in daily life. Coming from NYC, we tend to like our own personal space. However, South American people are generally warm and affectionate. Not that they allow strangers to feel them up, or anything like that, but they like being close when having a conversation, and express themselves with touches to the arm or kisses when they greet you.
Another thing to keep in mind about South America is that being a solo female traveller should in no way hold you back. There’s no way of escaping the harassment that women can experience here, but attitudes towards women are slowly improving. In fact, we were surprised at just how many solo female travellers we came across on our journey!
One piece of advice I would give to anyone thinking of visiting South America is to learn some Spanish. I’ve been lucky to travel with a native speaker and snag a few deals because we could negotiate in the local language. Many tourists overpay for activities and even basic things like food and gifts at the local market. Learning Spanish will help to make your travels cheaper and far more enjoyable.
In summary, this trip has been everything to me and more. It has been the turning point of my life and the beginning of a new journey. South America is the type of destination that unleashes your passions and shows you what life is all about.
Most importantly, this trip has taught me about myself. About my own strengths and abilities, and that anything is possible in life.