Seven months in South America are up. Seven months to the day, because I am stubborn and six months and thirty days just wouldn’t have been right.
I close my eyes and South America can be replayed like a slideshow of overnight bus rides, insane hikes, crowded hostels, iconic ruins, cheap [bad] beer, hotdogs every way, urban art, bizarre landscapes, fanciful wildlife, unfamiliar currency, novelty hotels, and really good people. Of course, I can assure you there was more to it. I did just about everything I set out to do and more on this trip, though it all seemed to take a slightly different form than anticipated.
When I go to Travel Outlandish, however, I see seven months of photos and details that my brain has already crumpled up and tossed out like old receipts. I wrote about the whole damn trip, and I am so grateful for that.
South America gave me everything I hoped it would. I used to think Asia was the be-all and end-all of travel experience, but it turns out I was so very wrong. In case you missed some things, take a look at a few of my favorite posts from South America.
Ecuador is massively underrated and was a brilliant place to start a trip in South America. While its volcanoes climb 20,564ft (6,268 m) high and its jungles are home to 4,500 species of butterflies, mainland Ecuador is often overlooked in favor of its darling — The Galapagos Islands. Without the budget for the Galapagos, we instead spent our time looking around the rest of Ecuador. The best of Ecuador post says it all, but you can find my other favorite posts below.
Peru was welcome relief after two months in Ecuador. Crossing the border lent new excitement for the adventure we were on. We drank pisco sours and ate ceviche like we had just been rescued from being lost at sea. Once the feast had ended, we invested ourselves in trekking and exploring the surreal natural wonders. We saw Machu Picchu after a lifetime of waiting. We spent time decompressing in Cusco at a Workaway and made huge strides in our Spanish. At the end of two months, there were things I loved about Peru and things that made me nuts. It sometimes lacked in candor, but we looked hard, and had some truly memorable experiences there.
We found Bolivia to be funny and unpredictable. Traveling there was kind of like watching a dress rehearsal. Things were somewhat unpolished, but the show had to go on, so close enough had to be good enough. It felt like the kind of place we’ve spent years trying to find, but never knew just where to look. It was authentic and we absolutely loved it.
Chile was a shock to the system after the rest of South America. Daily life felt familiar and we missed the mess a bit. Daniel and I split up. He headed home from Valparaiso, and I headed to Patagonia alone. The idea scared me at first, but it proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. In Patagonia, a country that once felt too well known revealed craggy peaks, brilliant lakes, and glaciers like I’d never seen before. I began to really appreciate Chile. With finally decent Spanish, I started hanging out at backyard BBQs and talking music like I would with old friends. I grew to love Chile by the end.
There were days in South America when I chased WiFi and skipped excursions to work. I bored myelf documenting specifics normally forgotten and put them online. I doubted ourselves tremendously and sometimes wondered if anyone was reading.
Now that South America has officially come to an end, I’ve started to see our work pay off. The South America blog posts are resources now! Some of my articles have gotten popular on Google and Pinterest. People have started emailing me or commenting for advice, and I still get excited every time. I’ve gotten to work with some awesome partners and meet other bloggers in real life. Things are finally starting to move forward at Travel Outlandish, and I can’t even tell you how cool it feels. It feels like my travel experiences over the past seven months aren’t just mine anymore. If you’ve been with me for a while, thank you. You gave meaning to our trip and made a lot of things possible.
Taylor + Daniel:
Travel can be an escape, but it can also be a gateway.
This trip has catalyzed a lot of personal growth, though I mean less Eat, Pray, Love and more Catcher in the Rye. It has been a journey towards greater authenticity and an exploration of things that have felt a bit off. It has unearthed tons of questions that I thought I already had the answers to. It has changed the way that I see the world and given me new opportunity to face myself. It has reminded me that we are usually most lost in the moments that we feel that we have everything figured out. Rather than answers, I’m going home with a cheap notebook full of questions, some that have been scribbled out and revised, and others that have been left in their unaltered form.
Coming home was supposed to be straightforward. Daniel and I would move to some cool city like Portland and get a medium-sized dog. He would find a TV show to work on and I would freelance. We would save up a bit of money and repeat.
It turns out that things get lost. We get lost. Plans change.
So, I guess we’re not exactly coming home. Daniel will move where his job takes him. I’ve realized that travel is more than just a way out for me. It is actually fundamental to my creativity and personal happiness. The trip that was supposed to come to a halt is going to sputter on. In fact, things seem to be accelerating. What’s next?
I’m moving to London and Berlin for the fall. Daniel is working in the US and getting his production career going. Weird, huh? I think so too, but it’s seeming like the only way for us to do what we need to do.
And, for what it’s worth…
South America has taught me that life leads us in unexpected directions. Our ability to control is only an illusion. We trust in following rational choices and paths of least resistance. We consistently avoid joy because we’re scared of change. We never realize what we’re missing because we’re too scared to look. We can spend a lifetime making easy choices and being bystanders to our own happiness, only to discover that shit still happens.
Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. Being uncomfortable brings about brilliant things. Maybe your change is making time to travel, but perhaps it’s opening a conversation, becoming an entrepreneur, or changing cities. Find the thing that nags at you and spend time with it. Rather than talking yourself out of it, engage with it. Give it the chance to exist. Lend yourself to the universe and see what happens.