When Prosperity Comes from Passion not Money

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Day 363: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

One of the many tours offered by Tierra Atacama is a trip to a flamingo sanctuary at dusk. It involves no hiking and is really interesting as the flamingos are one of the oldest species of birds and the sanctuary is a massive parcel of land designated to protect them.

Flamingos are great but a tour lives and dies by its guide.

I met Cristobal in the lobby only to find out I was a group of one. I told him I was practicing Spanish so he slowed down and spoke clearly.

I talked to him about my recent discovery of the Canadian mining companies in the country and he shared his thoughts on the area’s efforts for tourism to preserve the land.

atacama desert

As we had a bit of time first he took me to a village and showed me his favourite place where you could see salt flats but were on desert sand next to a small lake surrounded by trees. The diversity of the land was incredible.

Cristobal’s attitude toward nature was infectious. He told me he could make much more money working in mining but he wanted to be part of the solution for the areas and help the environment. As touristy as San Pedro is, it does help protect the land from development.

flying flamingo

And when a flock of flamings flew over us his reaction of awe and wonder was if he had seen it for the first time.

It was really inspiring to have a guide so passionate about his job.


Join the Conversation

  1. Adrienne @Shenventure says:

    Great photos! I love seeing wildlife. I just visited Phillip Island’s wallabies, koalas, and penguins last weekend :). It’s a great message to live life doing what you love and not just what makes money.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Ooh I would love to see penguins.

  2. Katherina says:

    You experience a total different tour when your guide is passionate about his country and his job… your pictures are amazing, too!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I really had such a great time. Normally doing a tour with just the guide would be uncomfortable for me but he was really great.

  3. Looks like an amazing tour. I agree, a good guide can make such a difference to a tour. I recently took a 2 week tour around Borneo and our guide was fantastic. He was really passionate about wildlife and photography and taught me to take some great photos. It was like travelling with a friend, but a friend who was really knowledgeable!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Although I rarely take tours I must say I have been really lucky when I do.

  4. Ayngelina,

    Love the photos. It’s amazing to be around such beauty and with someone who loves it and shares as if it was his own.

    You are blessed to see such astonishing scenes first hand and thank you for sharing with us.


  5. Seems like you had a wonderful experience. I agree, the tour guide can really make a difference, my last trip to India wouldn’t have been so memorable without the local guides I’ve had.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      A guide that is passionate about what he does is so much better than some history student just reciting facts.

  6. Great title. It reminded me immediately of how people define success. Too often people think in terms of money instead of happiness. At the end of one’s life I think which type of life I would have preferred to have lived.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s great to make more money but after you reach a certain point the additional money just doesn’t make you happier, just buys you more things.

  7. Anne Kostalas says:

    That is one stunning photograph. There is nothing more attractive than someone following their passion and yet surprisingly few people feel they are able to do it.

  8. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    It breaks my heart when people spend their entire lives doing jobs they hate. C sounds like someone I would love to share a bottle of wine with! Btw I’m obsessed with flamingos and yes because they are pink. That last shot is perfection!!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I didn’t think I’d be much impressed by them but was actually fascinated, especially since they spend most of their lives with their head down looking for food.

  9. Stunning photos. Usually people doing those kind of jobs are like that, aren’t they? They don’t do it for the money, and not only are they passionate and caring people, but much more interesting to talk too, compared to wealthy people, who in my experience talk almost exclusively about their wealth. There are exceptions in both cases of course. I know it’s generalizing. People who work at what they love are usually interested in the world outside of their world too, instead of their focus being on not losing their possessions!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You would think wouldn’t you? In South America it appears to be true but in Europe I had a lot of history students simply rattle off historical facts. It was awful.

  10. jamie - cloud people adventures says:

    totally agree. ive seen guides on all points of the scale. this guy sounds like a true champ. love the atacaman colours in the pics too!

  11. It’s easy to tell the good guides from the ones with their eye on the clock. Sounds like C was a keeper!

  12. Always special to meet a guide with that kind of infectious passion…

  13. It is soooo true that a tour guide makes or breaks a trip! I’ve had some horrible ones that have just made me hate what I was seeing, but I also find the other people on tour with you make or break it too! Looks like you being by yourself had the best company hahaha I was on a tour the other day and one girl was whinging about going to a museum and it made me angry haha

  14. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) says:

    It seems like countries are increasingly turning to ecotourism to help economic development and fund preservation efforts. We visited San Pedro de Atacama, and went sandboarding there, but I didn’t see any flamingos. Looks like I missed out! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think it’s good that places are realizing that conservation is the path to more money with better jobs.

  15. Maria Pavel says:

    It is so beautiful, i wish to get the chance to travel in South America. I love the nature and i everytime i got chance to explore i not miss. It’s great to do what you like to do, maybe in one day my turn will come.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      All of South America is amazing but the desert is a really special place.

  16. What a beautiful post to start my morning with – passion and joy are so contagious, we don’t see enough of it! The attitude of the tour guide can have so much influence on our travel experiences.

    (And beautiful photos as usual too, as everyone also pointed out :))


  17. I love the picture of the flamingo sanctuary, how peaceful. It must have been nice having a private tour, especially from someone so passionate about what he’s doing. That’s the key to long term happiness in a job, doing something you’re passionate about.

  18. Cathy Sweeney says:

    Nice story about Cristobal. It is wonderful and rare to find someone with such a passion for his job. To have him as a personal guide was pretty lucky.

  19. I’m glad you had such a good experience with Cristobal. When people care about their job it really does show. Aren’t the flamingos amazing? And sooo photogenic! I could have watched them for hours.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If someone had asked me if I wanted to go on a flamingo tour I would have laughed, it was only because Tierra Atacama highly recommended it – and there was no hiking ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. It makes all the difference when people care about what they do. Their love for it and their passion is then shared with those around them. I love that!

  21. I couldn’t agree more that a tour “lives or dies by its guide.” SO true. And I love it when you come across a guide that is so obviously passionate about his/her job that it makes you feel passionately about it, too. If I were ever a tour guide, that’s the type I’d strive to be.

    Sounds like a fantastic tour!

  22. The best guides I’ve had, have been when I’ve been by myself or with very few others. I imagine tour guides, like the rest of us, can get a bit of stage fright. It’s probably much easier to be yourself, be spontaneous, show your passion – with fewer people.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      One on one challenges my comfort zone but after we got the pleasantries out of the way it was really great.

  23. That place looks so beautiful I absolutely agree, people who are passionate about what they do are so contagious. We need more of them in this world.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If everyone would choose to do what they love we’d all be better off.

  24. There is nothing better than being passionate about the work you do. To do work that is aligned with who you are – that is what I will always strive for and what I wish for my children. My son, at 9 years old, has already declared he is not an office guy. It has taken me a long time to break free from “should” life and I am so ery aware of encouraging my kids to live their passions and creativity. I am even more inspired to do so since I have connected to incredible and inspiring people such as you who have embraced this notion. Thanks!

  25. Need more people like that in the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Dave and Deb says:

    Wonderful that you had such a passionate guide that cares so much about the environment. Great to hear about inspiring people like this.

  27. Lovely photos. You can’t beat a good tour guide.

    I was lucky enough one day to catch the flamingos nesting in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong. It was fascinating to watch them looking after their soon to be hatched eggs.

  28. adventureswithben says:

    It truly takes people like Cristobal to make an impact in the world. Awesome perspective.

  29. We have been really lucky with some of our tour guides over the years… it’s also amazing being a tour of one. I can only imagine that heightened your experience and allowed him to open up more.

  30. People look upon touristy areas as such a bad thing, but honestly, A. If they are touristy, it’s usually for a good reason– because they’re worth seeing and B. A place being touristy is often the reason that it is spared from environmental destruction when other places aren’t!

  31. This is a beautiful part of Chile! Some of my best photos came from this area. So fun that you had the guide all to yourself!

  32. A passionate guide can really make or break a trip, whether it’s a day trip or an extended trip. There’s nothing more disappointing than a guide who has no passion.

    Sort of reminds me of a lecturer I once had at university – he was so into his subject he would be bouncing up and down in front of the lectern, sweating and gesturing and sometimes moved almost to tears. It was my favourite subject of the semester.

    Enthusiasm is infectious!!

  33. I rarely consider going on a guided tour, but the small ones are usually pretty good. Having the guide all to yourself must’ve made things a lot more flexible. Always nice to hear about people who care so deeply about what they are doing.

  34. You’re so right about the guide, they can totally make or break an experience. When I started reading this I thought that you were going to say your guide was horrible so I’m glad to hear I was wrong.

    You must have had such a great and informative experience being the only member of the group!

  35. I’ve never seen a flamingo fly, how lucky are you and you got a free Spanish lesson as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Great shots Ayngelina. It’s true that a tour lives and dies by its guide. So good you had a passionate guide that truly loves what he does and wants to be part of the solution.

  37. Short and sweet yet it says so much. I think prosperity happens when you do what you love. I can be prosperous with the family I have and the kids I raise regardless of how much money I have. Money is necessary but I don’t have to have a lot of it to be rich!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Such a good lesson to pass onto your children Jeremy.

  38. Jen Gresham says:

    I’m really impressed that as someone practicing Spanish, you could talk about such deep topics as the mining and tourism industries. Brava!

    And the post title says it all. Brava again. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks Jen, it is the reason I’ve been pushing myself to speak Spanish better so I can actually interact with people more than just the pleasantries, it’s really made all the difference.

  39. Lorna - the roamantics says:

    yay cristobal!!! and yay you for getting to see (and capture for us) how beautiful this place is!

  40. I am really, really enjoying your posts about Chile’s lands. I hope that somehow, someway, your blog will help protect (and perhaps even promote) the natural beauty found in these landscapes. I sometimes feel as if there’s so little of it left in this world…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Tourism is definitely a double edged sword but I hope here it serves to protect the land.

  41. John in France says:

    Sometimes with my guides in France, when it rains the normal activities are not possible, but often just sitting with a great guide in a bar all day is better than anything else – much like you experienced.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Agreed, being with anyone who loves their job is a great time.

  42. Nomadic Chick says:

    Look who’s getting into tours and guides. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is such a difference when a guide treats his/her job with passion and wonder. I’ve had so many who beak off a list of facts.

    Great pics again, gal!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know, I guess I can’t say that I don’t like tours anymore.

  43. That’s such a beautiful thought. To meet someone who’s passionate about what they do and not just go it for financial gain is a unique thing.

  44. Justin Hamlin says:

    Just another testament to doing what you love, not what makes you the most money…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The longer I spend traveling the more I realize this is true.

  45. Love everything about this post – the story, the pictures, and the message!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks Mara!

  46. There is nothing as prosperous as doing the things that make you the happiest in this world. I’m just learning to reflect on that and make the changes in my life to get there. very timely blog for me. Thanks

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Iยดm on the same path, good luck to you.

  47. Erin in Costa Rica says:

    LOVE that last photo – beautiful!!!

  48. Great photos, i hope to see flamingo in that kind of setting one day. It’s impressive you can have tour in Spanish. My Spanish is nowhere good right now ๐Ÿ™

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It took me a year to learn that much, you will get there too!

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