What Inspired Me To Start Traveling
I sold my half of a Portland, Oregon fitness business at the end of 2015 because it had kind of run its course, and my own interest in the business was dwindling (never a good sign)! When you lose your passion for a business, it’s really hard to take it to the “next level,” or even want to continue running it, especially when you have to wake up at 4:45AM every day!
And really, I was also being drawn and pulled, by some inner calling, to get out & explore the world. At the time, I was in my late 30s, didn’t have a mortgage, and was fortunate enough to have passive income from a restaurant I own in California, as well as the proceeds from the business sale in Portland ~ so nothing was actually stopping me from traveling, if I wanted to!
So I put everything in storage, got rid of a ton of useless shit, and put my beloved dog in the hands of some great friends, who truly loved him like he was their own dog. Then I was free to travel!
I continue to travel, definitely not as much these days, because really at this point: travel has become a part of my DNA. I can’t imagine life without it, & the perspective that it offers ~ both on your life back home, as well as the continued education of seeing how other people around the world live so differently, and often so well, with far less means than most of us have back in the States.
How I Choose My Next Destination
I go where I’m drawn to go, honestly. I have been to Machu Picchu twice now and Peru multiple times because, quite simply, it draws me back. I truly fell in love with the mysteries of that particular country.
But now that I have a mortgage and am not traveling as much, I am much pickier about where I travel. And in a post-Covid world, I’m really emphasizing places that I haven’t been, bucket list hikes my friends and I really want to do, and really, just new things and places.
How I Plan My Trips
Starting in 2016 (after selling the business), I traveled all throughout Central and South America for six months at a time ~ in 2016, 2017, and 2018. I had zero expenses other than travel and no mortgage, so again, at the time, this was totally feasible.
The most expensive part of many trips is the flight, so this really allowed me to explore fully and freely, spending about a month in each country I traveled to. I call this long, slow, deep travel, which, to me, is far preferable to jetting off somewhere for a frenzied week of non-stop sightseeing.
I had my packing and preparation pretty much down to science: I traveled with one rolling bag and one backpack. When traveling for that long, you start to realize that you only want the necessities with you—the stuff you’re using literally every day, over and over. I donated and/or gave away so much stuff in pretty much every country I went to, including a beloved pair of black boots in Guatemala! Haha, when the load on your back gets too heavy (literally), you’ve got to shed the stuff.
Countries That I Have Visited So Far
I think I’ve traveled to 36 or 37 countries by now. Lists and quantifying things have never really been my “thing” or motivation.
Remarkable adventures include swimming with sharks in the Galapagos Islands; hiking all around Machu Picchu, including the mountain way high above it; paddle-boarding for hours on gorgeous Lake Atitlan in Guatemala; and doing acro-yoga by the shores of the lake after! Hiking in Patagonia, at Torres del Paine, is also one of my favorite memories, and the photos from that day are still some of my most iconic.
Learning to salsa dance with my friends in Cuba is also an incredible memory; Cuba is so different than any country I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to Chichen Itza in Mexico, swam in countless cenotes, & climbed ruins at both Ek Balaam & Uxmal. Literally, the list of remarkable adventures is endless! There’s so much to see & do in this world.
My future bucket list isn’t too big right now, but seeing my ancestral home of Scotland is at the top of the list, as is visiting the pyramids of Egypt one day.
Favorite Memory Of Meeting New People & Exploring With Them
I met an awesome guy in the Galapagos Islands, Adicho. We’re still friends to this day, and I returned to the Galapagos twice because of him! Exploring with a local is so different than being on your own or with American friends. We would have dinner with his family or go to “secret” spots on the island that I would have never found on my own. Between Adicho and the incredible animals of the Galapagos (we had breakfast next to sea lions nearly every morning!), that’s part of why I love that place so much. The people you meet along the way really inform your travels and help you get into the culture so much more.
Some Challenges I Faced After Leaving Everything Behind
At the time, it wasn’t that hard at all. The hardest thing was leaving my dog! And I missed him so much, throughout the trip.
But I was being pulled (internally) so strongly, to travel: that really outweighed any desire to “stay home.” Probably the biggest compromise I’ve had to make is that your friendships can suffer when you make a decision to be away for so long ~ not ALL of them, and in fact, many of my best friends came and met me during my travels. But certain friendships do kind of fade when you travel, though I have a feeling that many of them would have faded anyway, even if I had stayed in Portland.
What Made Me Fall For Peru And The Galapagos
Peru and the Galapagos are especially relevant because of the people I met and lived with while in each country. I already spoke about Adicho in the Galapagos, but in Peru, I started an ongoing friendship with one of my tour guides, Jayder.
I’d go out to different Peruvian destinations: the Amazon, Rainbow Mountain, etc. but then come back to Cusco, where he lived, and “download” the adventures, so to speak. Cusco became my unofficial Peruvian home base, and I truly just fell in love with that city. I love finding a particular city in any country and making it feel like “home.” That is truly one of the best things about travel.
What Motivated Me To Start Blogging
The original inspiration to start my blog came as a reaction to many of the comments I was getting when I told people that I (a blonde, female American) was going to travel throughout South America: ON MY OWN!! So many people were shocked, terrified, and horrified for me, telling me that I was going to get raped or mugged. After I had actually been in South America for several months, experiencing warmth and hospitality on a level that far exceeded American hospitality: I knew I had to do something to combat these very limited (and limiting) ideas, which in many cases amount to stereotyping and some form of hysteria, brought on by CNN, Fox News, etc.
And here’s the thing I discovered: most of the people who were “so scared” for me had never been to any of the countries I was going to! HA, you have to kind of laugh at this a bit. And this is when I learned to always take advice from people who had actually been to the country I was going to!
I help readers, mainly I think, by saying something to this effect: “I’ve been there, and not only been safe, but I've had amazing adventures as well! And you can too!"
My blog’s mission is to make travel less scary for people, especially in Latin American countries, and especially for women, who are often criticized or misunderstood for wanting to get out and explore the world on their own.
How I Manage Costs While Traveling
I was in my late 30s when I set out on these grand six-month adventures, and I was fortunate enough to have passive income from two businesses fueling my trip (something that I realize many people don’t have). I started my blog in late 2016, but it didn’t start making money for quite a while. So I was definitely on a budget. I’d call my kind of travel a mix of "high/low.”
After a long and arduous trek to Machu Picchu, for instance, my friend and I splurged by staying two nights at a luxury hotel in Cusco (with a really good hot shower!!). But after that, I stayed at a hostel for $12/night for about a week! This mix of "high and low" allowed me to really extend my travels. Luckily, my favorite type of hotels, especially in Latin America, are family-run, boutique-type hotels, which usually cost around $25–$45 per night and keep me well within my budget.
The best overall budget travel tip I can give though is to know the country or countries you’ll be traveling through, figure out beforehand if your budget will allow you to stay comfortably in that country, and have any room left for adventures. For instance, if you’re budget is $2,000 per month, that’s not going to work well in countries like Iceland and Italy, where it will be really hard to stay in decent hotels or hostels and have enough money left over to actually do fun stuff! Iceland is an extremely expensive country, and food is crazy expensive, so it’s better to know that beforehand. And because Italy is so popular with tourists from all over the world, it’s not exactly cheap!
On the other hand, in countries like Guatemala, Argentina, and Mexico, you can live for less than $2,000 per month!
How I Manage Work & Travel
Honestly, it can be really hard to work on the road. Wi-Fi can be spotty, especially if you’re out trekking in the Peruvian Andes. Also, wouldn't you rather be out having adventures? What I tended to do was go out and trek, hike, or adventure for several days, then come back to my “home base” in whatever city, get to my favorite café, and write for several days. This ended up being a good "Yin-Yang" and also allowed my body to recover from some of the long hikes, etc.
I actually find it easier to work at home because you’re more on a schedule and in a routine, and the Wi-Fi is consistent. It’s just not as fun as working in a foreign café!
One Skill That A Full-Time Traveler Should Have
I think you need some amount of decisiveness and some kind of purpose while on the road; otherwise, you can end up kind of “floating” along. And that may be fine for some people! But I did see a lot of people end up partying a lot (like, say, in Colombia) and kind of lose their motivation to get out and adventure, which was their initial reason for traveling. Some of that may be age-related: if you’re in your 20’s traveling, partying is obviously going to happen! As you get older, this just becomes less of an interest.
I also think solo female travelers really need to be able to say "no," ~ sometimes often and firmly! When you’re on your own, you really need to exude an air of confidence and a “no-nonsense” attitude at times because you will be approached by men who want various things from you. Or you might be catcalled. Or you might even have a fake teenage shaman in Peru tell you that you need to take your clothes off so that he can “heal” you!! Hahaha, I shit you not. You will run into all kinds of people in your travels. As a woman, you really need to have some layer of badass'ness and, truly, the ability to say no.
GAFFL for Solo Travelers
I wish I had known of GAFFL during my travels! It would definitely have helped to connect with other people and travelers. Especially when there are cities where you just aren’t “vibing” with people (there’s always a city like that in every country)!
I’m really not a super “tech” person, and I never used apps or anything like that in other countries. By being out and adventuring, I met plenty of people in the “real world!” Ha but in Colombia, in Bogota, I did use the service “Colombian Buddy,” which lets a local take you out to various destinations in the city, so that it feels a little more safe.
Safety Measures That I Take
Don’t be on your phone so much! You can always spot new travelers to a city: they’re standing on a busy street corner, staring down at their phone, instead of looking up and asking someone for help or whatever they need.
When I first get to a new city, I’ll often take a stroll around my hotel: WITHOUT my phone. I’m looking around, observing, seeing how the locals dress, are they on their phones? I want to get a general vibe and feel for the place, without my phone; ask people if there are areas to avoid, etc. In short: I think the best way to stay safe is to ask questions of locals and be present.
Advice That I Can Share
Becoming a full-time traveler is definitely not for everyone! You’ll need some kind of income, either that you earn on the road or passive income, or you’ll need to save money before your trip.
The biggest advice I can probably give is to talk to people who’ve actually been to every country you want to travel to! That will save you so much time and trouble and give you a real insight into expenses, potential hazards, the best things to see, etc.
Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I First Started Traveling
The number 1 thing I’ve learned by traveling is that the world is SO much less scary than our news media will have you believe! Hands-down. 99% of the people I met while traveling are just genuinely good people who will help you if you need it. I know this now intrinsically, in my bones, & that’s honestly a wonderful takeaway and legacy of travel.