Vision 2020: South America
It has been a busy Christmas and New Year period but I’m pleased to now be at a very exciting crossroads in my life. 2020 was always pinned as a year of massive change for me, having done some soul-searching over the last 12 months identifying multiple areas' in my life that needed a change of direction. As a result, circumstances have aligned enabling the chance to realise a lifelong ambition - the opportunity for long-term travel.
Previously, all of my travels have consisted of short holidays up to a maximum of two weeks. I’ve always looked on in envy at those lucky individuals who have been able to traverse around the world at will, with no time pressures or restraints as they enjoy a gap year to pursue their dream. It has always struck a chord with me, and often increased the post-holiday blues as I returned to my desk and thought about those people “still out there” in the thick of the travel lifestyle. Whether I’ve been conversing with backpackers returning from a full moon party on Koh Phangan, to discussing the challenges undertaken by a dorm-mate as she continued along the Alpe-Adria Trail in Slovenia, the yearning for an extended period of time exploring the world has only increased.
Whilst this desire has always been in the back of my mind, it was last year that proved the catalyst for this decision. After nearly six successful years working in recruitment for a fantastic global staffing firm, I had questioned whether I had the motivation to keep on going in what is quite a mentally-demanding sales role that constantly requires the juggling of multiple tasks and relationships. I’d re-located back from the Manchester office to Birmingham having moved north in 2017, meaning I would need to build credibility from scratch in a new market for a third time. Truth be told, the fire just wasn’t there and that feeling was compounded by the launch of this travel blog around the same time. It re-sparked my passion for writing and building a brand - skills learnt from my time attaining qualifications in both journalism and marketing respectively. The thought of channelling my creative energy day-to-day, utilising my qualifications in a new career grew and grew, until ultimately it became a very real issue that I knew I needed to act on.
With attention firmly fixated on a new career and the spectre of long-term travel still looming large on the horizon, there was a choice over which path to take. It's a daunting thought to leave behind friends and close colleagues you've known for years when quitting your job, but ultimately living a happy life is key. After what was a very taxing year, I knew my preference was to take some time off in between employment to recharge the batteries before embarking on my next challenge. It was at this point that I realised that the stars had aligned and that I’d never get a better opportunity to take a gap year. Being in a job that I did not wish to continue as a career, combined with being single and having no mortgage as a result of temporarily moving back in with my parents, presented the ideal conditions to go travelling. Now or never, at your peril my son!
My destination is South America. I can’t really pinpoint where my desire to travel this continent initially came from. I guess it’s the fact that when looking at a map of the world, I can see destinations I’ve visited across multiple continents but South America has always been that area in shadow. A little like on Grand Theft Auto when an area on the map is in darkness before lighting up when you discover it! There’s an air of mystery about the continent for me; it’s somewhere I’ll freely admit that I didn’t know too much about, but after conducting plenty of research, I quickly formed an idea for how beautiful the contrasting landscapes and cultures are across this part of the world.
Departing next month, I’ll fly directly to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, before catching a connecting flight to Cartagena. The general plan is to make my way down through the country and over the border into Ecuador before moving on into Peru. Money-permitting, I’ll then continue the trip via Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Whatever happens, I’ll definitely be finishing my South American adventure in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil before flying home. If you’re a regular reader of Depth of Mind, you’ll know that my ultimate travel goal is to visit all Seven Modern Wonders of the World, having already visited Chichèn Itza and the Colosseum. This will enable me to tick two more destinations off my bucket list in the form of Machu Pichu and Christ the Redeemer - bonus!
As someone who promotes the virtues of travel via Depth of Mind, I’m very excited to see what South America has in store for me. From exploring its huge, sprawling metropolises to hiking the remote regions of the Andes, visiting lost ancient ruins to sampling the local food and culture, I’ve no doubt it’s going to be an enlightening experience in each and every country. The independence that solo travel provides, as well as the opportunity to make new friends on the road, is exciting and something I’m keen to embrace during my time out there. I’ve spoken to many friends and work colleagues over the years who have extolled the benefits of solo travel and the subsequent long-term friendships they’ve made as a result.
Of course, it’ll also enable me to utilise my newly learnt Spanish-speaking skills that I have been practicing since starting a part-time college course last September; I’m hopeful that an extended period of time amongst native-speakers will really help to develop my confidence conversing in this language. I’m looking forward to exchanging pleasantries with locals and engaging in conversation learning a little about them without resorting to English; previously that would have been relationships left unformed by my inability to speak anything more than my native language. It’ll justify the hard-work I’ve put in to getting a basic grasp of Spanish and it’s certainly something I want to continue to develop into a level of fluency in years to come.
Naturally, I’m also a little nervous too. I’m grateful for the short-trip I had visiting Barcelona on my own back in November as its given me a taste for solo travel already, but realise flying 12 hours across the other side of the world is a considerably different prospect. It’s something to relish and enjoy; whilst I’ll likely have pre-flight doubts and nerves, it’s perfectly natural that anybody would experience this. I haven’t really set a time limit on the trip at this stage; there’s many variables but after travelling so often with time restrictions, I love the thought that it is not even a consideration this time around.
I’m 30 years old in May, so I’m hoping to make it a memorable year filled with travel and adventure. It’ll be a nice way to round off my 20’s that has seen my character develop beyond recognition, becoming wiser, more confident and appreciative of different cultures - all as a result of travelling. Here’s to the next decade; a new start and the opportunity to add even more travel experiences to this blog. Whilst I won't exactly be living the life of a hardcore digital nomad during my time in Latin America, I would like to be a travel blogger who can continue to provide live updates where possible as I make my way across the continent.
Let’s enjoy the ride and see what happens.