We’re leaving South America early, or shall we say before we had been everywhere we planned to go. We planned to visit, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, but we’ve decided to put an end to our time here after Ecuador.
Here are a few reasons why-
We haven’t put in the time with our Spanish
Now an argument could be made that by traveling longer we would have no choice but to practice our skills and get better, but we are having trouble finding the desire to spend time studying and practicing on our own a daily basis. We took an honest assessment and realized that in order to make the most of our time in the rest of South America it would be best if we settled down again into a Spanish language class to take our skills to the next level. But we just spent a month settled in one place, and we’re not eager to do it again immediately. So we are torn between feeling like we need to know more to get the most out of the experience and not wanting to be tied to one spot for the amount of time it would take us to get there. We aren’t ruling out coming back and taking more Spanish classes in the future, but for now we’ve decided to spend our time and travel budget elsewhere.
Directionless travel doesn’t light us up
Since going to Machu Picchu we’ve had very few concrete plans. Our travels have mostly taken us to the next place recommended in a guide book or by people we meet on the road, and for the most part we’ve written off the bucket list places we had originally wanted to see for the sake of our budget. While this isn’t a bad way to travel by any means, we’ve met lots of people who enjoy this freeform style, we started to feel like we were still in South America because we had agreed to travel here for 6-8 months more than any other reason.
With some reflection we’ve learned we like the feeling of looking forward to our next destination as much as we like exploring a new place. So skipping places we really want to see in favor of places that are simply cheap or popular is not how we want to spend our year. It’s not the most “in the moment” way to travel, but studies have shown that the expectation and excitement of going to a place can be as meaningful as the travel itself and we are finding that idea to be true for us.
A yearning for home
It turns out long term travel is hard on homebodies. Who knew? But no, really, being away from familiarity, routine, friends, family, and a space that is entirely ours has been more challenging than we expected.
Before we left we talked about what it would be like to live without all of the creature comforts we sold or gave away. But surprisingly we don’t find ourselves wishing we had things. Instead we’re more inclined to wish we had space to just be. Space to go about daily life, cooking meals, using the bathroom, hanging out on a couch, without constantly being in the company of other people. We have loved meeting new people on the road, but constant chatter is sometimes overwhelming for our introverted tendencies.
We don’t have the expectation that we will have more personal space as we continue traveling, but the desire is spurring us towards the goal of having a home of our own. We’re not ready to end our travels abruptly but are discovering that our life on the road may have a shorter expiration date than we had originally expected.
An inkling of aimlessness
We’ve also been grappling with an profoundly American question- Who am I if I’m not doing/producing something?
We’ve both had projects to work on, (this blog being an example) but there is a big difference between writing for a few hours a week and the 40+ hour a week commitments we had before leaving for this trip. Not to mention, we weren’t running away from jobs or lives we hated in San Francisco, we both liked the jobs we had we before left. So being without outside sources dictating our time has been a big shift and we have struggled with a resulting feeling of aimlessness. Occasionally we find ourselves asking questions like what are we doing and what is this for?
Unfortunately we don’t have any answers to these questions. Over the last few months we’ve learned that traveling can take us out of our comfort zone if we want it to and it can expose us to new experiences if we are open to them, but travel doesn’t magically change us. We are not going to find our life purpose or a new found awareness of the world just because we are away from home.
Instead of wishing and hoping we’ll be deeply and personally changed by travel we are putting our effort into connecting with the places we visit. We have spent time in Ecuador volunteering and we plan to do more of that in other countries. We also are making more of an effort to read up on the places we visit and talk to the locals about their life. But this style of travel warrants traveling to less places for longer periods rather than breezing through countries for the sake of seeing as many places as possible.
Travel fatigue is real but there is still so much world to see
So we pulled out a map and pinpointed all the places we really wanted to see before coming on this trip. Then we took a close look at our budget and confirmed that we have the money to visit the places we want to go. So instead of aiming to travel to as many places as possible in a year, we are adjusting our priorities to visit the places that we’re excited to see, regardless of whether that has us traveling for another 6 months as planned, or less.
So with all the above considered, we’ve changed our plans a bit and next we’re off to…
The Winter Olympics in South Korea!
We’re spending a few more weeks in Ecuador then heading East. We will be basing ourselves in Seoul for two weeks where we’re looking forward to exploring as much of the city as possible in between the three Olympic events we have tickets for (curling, hockey, and free skiing). We are excited for this itinerary change and can’t wait to see what comes of exploring a new continent.
Thanks for following along on our adventure.