Day 365: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
I made it!
I’m alive! I didn’t die of loneliness, shark attack or fall off Machu Picchu!
A year ago I couldn’t fathom how far I would come in just one year. It’s been incredible.
It also occurred to me that most people have only been reading for the last six months. This is actually great because the site was awful the first six months, I’m lucky that I didn’t lose my own mother during some boring posts.
So thank you for not reading.
While I can’t rewrite history, I can retell my story by sharing the links and the real story along the way.
It was an eventful Day 1 with the airline losing my backpack and me realizing there wasn’t as much English in Cancun as I had expected.
The first ten days were incredibly tough and I flip-flopped between being lonely and excited. I was traveling at lightening speed and felt foolish for not knowing Spanish.
I ate street food because it was the easiest to order and I downloaded a bunch of Spanish podcasts started practicing on the buses.
Truth is I came here to chase a boy but it was lame and so was my impression of the country. I fantasized about a Latin experience and everyone spoke English here so I left after a week.
It’s unfair to travel here after Mexico. Mexican food is just too amazing and Guatemalan is just ‘meh’ so I followed my stomach and headed back to Mexico.
Mexico – Again
I had such high hopes for Oaxaca and planned to stay a whopping week, but the food was so good I stayed ten days.
In hindsight I needed a month. I was so lonely here. There was no one in my hostel and my Spanish was so weak I could not connect with locals.
Guatemala – Again
This was the first time I met up with a group of girls my age. It was fun and finally I was not alone. I slowly started to let people in and became more outgoing.
One of my least favourite countries.
My ex came to visit and I was disappointed it was so dangerous and wished I could have shared the friendliness of Mexico or the beauty of Honduras.
He was impressed with how much Spanish I had picked up in seven weeks. I had no idea I had learned so much.
Although the ex visiting was great it was two worlds colliding and I struggled on which one to be in.
I was slowly turning into an experienced traveler. I knew how the chicken buses worked and could get around on more Spanish.
I cried when I left Nicaragua.
I had to rush through Panama as my family had booked tickets to visit me in Ecuador. I didn’t mind as the country seemed fulled of retirees.
When I look back I have fond memories and I’m worried foreigners will ruin it.
After a leisurely sail from Panama to Colombia I arrived in Cartagena and took a series of buses over 72 hours to get to Ecuador. I would never do this again, especially as I learned later it is less expensive to fly.
South America was a new beast and I had four days to get comfortable in Ecuador before my mother and sister arrived.
It broke my heart when my sister was robbed her first day. I wanted them to have a great time and I had to withhold my own fear so I wouldn’t worry them. It was incredible to have them participate in the journey.
Colombia – Again
After the ex leaving in Honduras I knew to be prepared for the emotional low of my family leaving. I sought solace in Colombia, a country everyone raves about.
It didn’t work.
I hit my six month mark and was miserable. I wanted to go home.
Instead I wrote the 12 things I hate about travel. The comments and support from readers saved me. I realized I wasn’t alone and the blog took a dramatic shift. I started writing about how I felt instead of what I saw.
Ecuador – Again
I planned to whiz through the country but arrived in Cuenca to the largest festival each year. I made amazing friends and ate so much pork.
I cried on the bus, wiping my tears and nose with my scarf and fell asleep from exhaustion. When I woke up I felt strong and independent.
Northern Peru was incredible but my heart was in Ecuador so I went back for Christmas.
Ecuador – The third time
I came back for Christmas and stayed a month. It felt like coming home and in the comfort and security of Cuenca I made the toughest decision of my life.
I only left because my visa expired.
Peru – Again
This time I didn’t cry. I learned to hold on to the memories and be grateful for the experience.
The landscape of Northern Chile has really touched me. Here I met Coca who showed me a side of Chile that most people don’t get to see and then I was able to spend my last few days in luxury with Tierra Atacama.
I’m excited what the new year has to bring.
It’s amazing that it has taken a year but I finally call myself a writer. Support from the traveling blogging community, emails from strangers, my financial advisor, and childhood friends keep me motivated to push on and do more.
Which is why to celebrate this year of change this week I am going to share the two most difficult posts I’ve ever written:
Incredibly difficult to write but I know they will be rewarding to publish.
I hope you will stick with me for another year.