I headed out on this journey with the idea of challenging myself while learning a new language and looking for projects that will teach me. But what I encountered between the Andes and the Pacific during the last year was far more than I could have ever expected.
The initial plan was to take 6 months and head South towards Patagonia. In the end, I stayed exactly this amount of time in Colombia while living with a family in the mountains of Boyaca teaching English and learning Spanish. Throughout this experience, I learned about two things that I still carry with me on this way: Simplicity and being grateful for the freedom that was given to me as a girl to be able to pursue my dreams.
Being removed from your daily routine is a wonderful thing that prepares you for the worst cases in life and gives you the confidence and strength to walk your way. Traveling is about exactly these experiences that are pushing your limits and challenging yourself – if you are open and ready for this you will realize how liberating life can be and how it can make you a better person.
Into the Unknown
Along the road, I am soaking up the beauty somewhere between the coast and the mountains while trekking, catching waves, camping next to waterfalls or sleeping under the stars next to glaciers or just as likely pull out a hammock on the beach listening to the waves until I fall asleep. On this journey, I not only want to connect to nature but also to the people, therefore I avoid taking tours and prefer heading into the unknown, which is the perfect way to indulge yourself into a culture. I volunteer, I work and I constantly learn about myself and about the world surrounding me. That way I probably haven’t seen as many places as others, but when I did, it happened naturally while locals showed me their country. In the end, this journey is more about understanding what I want in life and what motivates myself to get up every morning. It is a confrontation with my inner self and most of all teaches me to feel comfortable with myself wherever I am.
“Once you know what drives you the only thing you have to do is steer yourself into the right direction. Change is fundamental as life is never static. That’s the fantastic part”
Create memories that you will value
Take your time while you explore different places set up a base camp, get to know the locals and their culture, trust them, try their food, cook together, go on hikes and you will see how amazing the world is and how many opportunities are out there. The picture that you might have had from certain places will change and you will realize that the world is not as much of a dangerous place as some and the media might tell you.
A soul that cries for new adventures
I decided to live with indigenous in the mountains of Ecuador. I camped in a small fishing village on the coast of Ecuador, road-tripped along the Pacific coast of Panama with locals, had dinners with mayors in Central America, drinks with farmers in Colombia and Christmas with families in a small town in the Andes where everyone was dancing through the night while wearing costumes. I also did surf trips with Peruvians, hitchhike adventures through the Andes, countless interactions with locals while camping in their backyard or on their farm or at their stretch of beach and playing soccer with kids of small fishing villages. Preparing ceviche with their families after a long day out on the sea and making pancakes for communities in the mountains of Ecuador.
Drank countless coconuts that we picked straight from the trees after days of surfing or preparing home-made chocolate from cacao that we picked on the farm. One thing I appreciated was the possibility of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and picking them in their natural environment knowing that they are not treated with any chemical substances, drinking water directly from the source. Being in awe by mother nature’s beauty while wandering through the Andes or swimming through the mangroves in Ecuador at night and jumping off cliffs into the fluorescent water. Sweating in the jungles of Colombia and being frostbitten in the Andes of Ecuador. All encounters happened naturally while taking my time and trusting people I met, which made me realize how good and helpful locals are on this continent but also how we can all learn from each other. A tour won’t ever take you to some of those places and also won’t take you out of your comfort zone and won’t let you connect to a culture either as everything is already organized.
In the end a solo journey like this provides you with a great feeling of accomplishment and you will learn to not put limitations for yourself, when taking risks you will encounter that of course failure is an option but fear is not.
We all are eager to learn how life is in other parts of the world and while doing so all our journeys have one thing in common: We all wanted to be free to decide about our lives without anyone else telling us what to do. This way we are discovering ourselves along the road while leaving the routine behind and finding out what life we want to live in the future and learn to appreciate the essential things we are given: running water, food, a place to stay. But most of all we learn to be confident enough not to let yourself down or even define by others and pursue our path.
Be grateful to be able to explore and for all the opportunities you are given, everyday
I have never really dreamt of a ‘safe’ life full of security, that way I have always found fulfillment in the outdoors and in my adventures that truly make me feel alive.
This is why we decided to rent a car to head out and explore the South of Bolivia and Salar Uyuni, the biggest Salt Flat in the world. The car gave us the freedom to create our own adventure. And it was two weeks full of explorations wherever and reconnection with my friends from Canada and Europe surrounded by some of the most stunning backdrops we could have asked for.
Learn to feel comfortable in unknown environments and with yourself
Every time I head out, climb a mountain, sleep under the stars or jump off cliffs while camping next to it makes me happy and fuels me with energy. Throughout the years, I got comfortable in these environments and realized this is where I find my inner peace, a combination of the outdoors combined with a healthy lifestyle and a slower pace than I had before to truly appreciate the small things. Before this adventure I spend a lot of time in an office and trying to put more projects and appointments in a day I could ever handle. In the end, it was the outdoors in Canada that helped me to reflect and ask myself what am I doing here? Do I really want to have this lifestyle for the upcoming years, a lifestyle with a steady income and two great jobs, but obviously I was missing something.
I figured I did not have the time for things I enjoy and to find my balance such as yoga, camping, and photography.
True wealth has nothing to do with money, it’s defined by what you value in life. If you value material possessions, you will never be satisfied.
This is what Jose Mujica, the president of Uruguay once said.
What do you value?
Jose Mujica is right, most of us do have more than they need to survive, but are still not satisfied. I often ask myself how this world has become such a materialistic society that is at the same time losing some values. Especially these days where we need them more than ever in life in times of being scared instead of sharing with those who need it. Our society loves to compare and compete, you have to be better than others in any case personally as well as in your job in order to be respected and loved. This way we do forget about ourselves and often about our dreams. So does this make us happier people? Not really as this consumerism is rather short lived, whereas there are other ways to keep you happy constantly. I am grateful for the wonderful experiences I had here in South America and other countries of the world where people live from day to day and barely make some money while living in a corrupt country, but they are happy because there is not a lot they can loose. I can kind of connect as I am in the same position. I have a couple of things I own, make some money on the road to eat, sleep and to head from one place to the next, but I am happy and in peace.
First I wanted to learn about the culture by living with indigenous in the Andes for a while soon I will be heading to the Amazon living with locals learning about their culture, plants, and food. I don’t want to book a tour that shows me around, no, I want to explore areas on my own, meet people and have real conversations I want to understand what makes them happy what drives their days what are their dreams.
Dare to dream
Often people told me my dreams are too big and that I will fail before I even trying. This is normal, as people who are close to you want to protect you of failing, but if you have a strong feeling about certain projects or whatever dream you want to pursue, go for it, I am sure it will work out.
If plans fall apart, it was not meant to be and another door will open somehow. Things happen for a reason and often years later we only understand why.
Disconnect in order to appreciate.
Why are you doing this?
I am doing this because I love the challenge. This feeling of accomplishment after walking 20km for a couple of days in freezing temperatures in the middle of nowhere is so hard to put into words but is so full of truly being alive.
Everyone needs change
We often get caught up in our daily routine and in the problems we think there are, but living a life like some people do live here will make you appreciate the little things again. How is it to live without running water not talking about hot water on 4000m with a strong wind all day long, without heaters without nothing but potatoes soup and dirty, smiling faces?
Tours vs. adventure
Traveling has become way too easy for our generation, we can basically book anything in advance and see everything ahead online or read about it in guidebooks. Where is the adventure? The unknown? Head out and find it even if you might be scared – you will see how hospitable and warmly hearted people in this world are how cultures are different but we all are the same and are looking for the same things having the same dreams and are just looking for a peaceful world in which we can be happy and feel comfortable growing up our families.
If you bring time they will teach you and you will learn. Sometimes things might not work out, but hey take it easy, these situations will teach you as well. Walking through the rain with all your luggage, no place to sleep and no food to eat. We have all been there on our travels, but the next morning the sun will shine again and you will have another opportunity to find your next adventure. In the end, it is all about your mindset.
Head out and smile
Sometimes we need these experiences to realize what we have and where we want to go, which people and values are really important to us.
Be honest and be yourself:
You better trust yourself and you will realize that you are way stronger than you think. Be proud of what you have achieved and dream big.
With these words in mind, we created a video during our road trip through Bolivia as a summary of my South America adventure. My friend, David Tomiak a great filmmaker from Canada, and I rented a car for two weeks and headed South to explore Salar Uyuni and Sud Lipez, encountering amazing sceneries which are hard to describe they even exist. A lot of people told us we will get lost along the way as there are so many different tracks you can follow, but in the end, it was pretty easy to navigate and I am sure anyone can do it. The roads are drivable and tour guides, in case you are not sure about which path to take, will be super helpful. The locals offered us to use their kitchen and in case, you do not want to camp you can find basic hostels along the way.
Thanks for following my journey.
About the Writer:
Regina Roeder has been on the road for the past 9 years and since more than one year has found her home base somewhere between the Pacific and the Andes of South America. You can follow her journey on her blog (Regina Roeder) and her Instagram