My intuition told me towards the end of last year, that 2020 would be a year of change for me. This feeling is difficult to describe only I remember not having to think about it, it just felt right. With this in mind, I decided to follow my gut, take a risk, quit my job and embark on a new adventure.
Within a short period of a month, I found myself on a plane, alone, with a one way ticket to South America.
I had a rough plan in terms of my route, but I also left it open as I wanted to be flexible. I knew that I would enjoy certain cities more than others, I would meet people along the way that I would end up travelling with and adaptability was going to play a key role in my daily life for the next few months.
I covered 6 countries in just under three months, including Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, in the end having to make a quick decision to return home early due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
I wanted to spend my time exploring nature, hiking to new altitudes, experiencing different terrains, cultures, communities and wildlife. This led me to some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever witnessed. I climbed Peru’s steep Andean mountains for four days to reach the Iconic Machu Picchu, roamed the world’s largest salt flat’s in Bolivia, watched the most amazing Colombian jungle sunsets in Minca, hiked active volcanoes in Guatemala and swam with sharks and giant turtles in Belize’s bluest Caribbean sea.
Inca Trail – Peru
Salt Flats – Bolivia
Minca – Colombia
While using this time to be active and adventurous, I also recognized it was a unique opportunity for me to reflect and tune in to myself while being away from my usual routine. This led me to all kinds of spiritual ceremonies, yoga classes and general alone time where I would journal. I also took this time to really connect with and speak to local people, taking a step back in time to learn how South and Central American culture has evolved over the years. It was amazing to see so many indigenous cultures and legacies surviving through languages, cuisine, customs and traditions.
Most of all, this experience led me to the most fascinating people from all over the world who each had an interesting story to tell.
Travelling solo was such a new experience for me, but one that I’d recommend to everyone, as it pushes you out of your comfort zone and leads you to meeting new people. You find yourself in situations you would never usually be in, learning something new for the very first time, often about yourself. It’s worth noting that not every situation was a good one, especially when your Spanish is on the very beginner scale, but they’re probably the ones that I’ll remember most!
Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano
Caye Caulker – Belize
For me, this travel experience has taught me more than I ever anticipated and here are 5 lessons I’ve learnt:
1. Follow your intuition
This can come down to something as simple as to whether I take a right turn or a left, which country should I go to next, checking in with myself and asking questions such as “does this feel safe, am I comfortable doing this?”. You don’t have anyone else to lean on or think for you so you quickly learn to start tuning in, and the more decisions you successfully make with positive outcomes the more confident you become and the more you start to trust yourself.
I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for my life and the people I am lucky to have in it. The economy I come from, the opportunities I’ve been given access to, the support network I have to the things we all take for granted such as our health, food, house, clothes etc. Not everyone has these things. Being naturally curious, I loved listening to people’s stories and learning about their backgrounds, fascinated to learn how different they were to mine. From seeing people who have nothing, laugh and be so carefree to meeting people who have gone through huge suffering or loss and still manage to get up every morning and be so positive was incredibly eye opening. For me, it highlighted the importance of resilience and what it means to keep going even when times are tough.
There’s a quote I read that I really liked. “We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed and that changes everything” – Jonah Lehrer
While being away from your “normal”, you end up assessing your values and looking at what’s important in life, who’s important in your life. Life is very short, we’re constantly being reminded of this so be what makes you happy, do what gives you joy and spend time with those who make you a better person. Never forgetting to make space for change, because without this we will all fail to evolve.
4. Open the mind
It’s so easy to fall into auto pilot mode where we are comfortable and repeat what we know without having to think for ourselves. I’ve definitely been guilty of this! It’s so important that we challenge ourselves to grow, open our mind to learn and evolve into something better than the day before – even if that means opening yourself up for rejection or failure. It’s these very failures that will enable us to access the growth.
5. Sense of purpose
I’m leaving this experience feeling a lot more determined. Determined to do something that I am passionate about and enjoy, – to be at the forefront of change and mostly to have a positive impact on others and my wider community.
Never in a million years did I expect to return home off an empty plane with a mask and gloves on, to deserted streets and to so many friends and family either having to temporarily close down their business or some losing their jobs entirely . It’s a time of uncertainty for all of us but with that it’s also a time of hope, a time for togetherness and a time to really reflect on what’s important in life. For me, it’s only re-enforced even more my learnings over the last few months, and what I will apply going forward to my next chapter.
Indian nose sunrise hike – Lake Atitlan