What I learned from 41 Days Alone in South America

After 41 days on the road, I’m heading home to San Francisco with a full heart and lots of good stories that will be shared over the coming year with many glasses of vino (I’ve sent a case back from Argentina). I’m excited to say that I have many new friends from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and Austria. Time has been so slow over the last six weeks – South America is great for that. My mental fatigue from the enormity of last year has evaporated and left a quiet excitement and a glorious sense of calm. Something can be said for not planning, following feeling and intuition for six weeks and letting be what will be.

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I took this last trip alone. I feel like I’ve frolicked around the world for the last six weeks and taken time to think, feel, live, indulge and clear the air both in and out. I used to think traveling alone as a female through S.A. would be dangerous and risky, but what I’ve learned after many years of traveling solo is that it’s more about how you conduct yourself and what energy or vibe you give off. I didn’t feel any danger whatsoever. I do take some precautions – I substitute my gold watch for my identical black watch with a rose gold plate, wear more conservative clothing and pretty much always look like I’m on a mission, avoid drinking or getting visibly drunk in unfamiliar places and only walk alone at night if I feel it is safe. The closest I came to danger was getting stung by a wasp in the Iguazu Falls and wondering if I was allergic or not. Those stingers really get you.

Naturally, I got some writing done – here are some of my thoughts, feelings and rants from along the road. It was a great trip and I’m feeling really refreshed and vibrant coming into 2016. If you can take some time, even if it’s a couple hours, I encourage you to do so!

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Follow your feelings and your intuition.

This does sound totally cliche, but it’s what I have been doing for this entire trip and I could not feel better. I’ve done everything that I wanted to and been in the ‘flow’ the whole time. Been where I needed to be when I needed to be there. Met the people I needed to meet and done #allthethings. I felt at peace, mindful and rested… as some may know, I can be quite erratic. I’ve always been a ‘busy’ person, but now I’m reveling in the present, which is so enjoyable. Trust yourself and listen. I learnt that you don’t need to work all the time, or feel guilty for not doing things. Sure, stretch, reach those goals, but keep in mind where you’re at. Embrace your insecurities. Keep going but do it a little more mindfully. That’s this year’s goal, keep stretching and moving the needle, but also remembering to have fun. I am so much more productive when I take a break, feed the body and soul, and have some fun.

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Slow down.

Halfway through my trip, I realized how much I had done in a short amount of time. It’s felt ridiculously slow being here in South America; time just seems to go by that much slower. I started getting sick in Mendoza, I haven’t been sick in almost two years; I see it as a weakness and I hate the feeling of being sick. But, I took it as a great reminder and a much needed hard STOP, pre-launching into work and life for the year. It’s good to pause. And it’s also okay, even if it’s just for an hour. Download pocket yoga, or go for that walk, be still, daydream. For someone who goes a million miles an hour always, I’ve finally got this going-slow-when-I-need-to and speeding-up-when-I-need-to down pat this trip. Also, eat well. I think I got sick because I was eating way too much meat and drinking way too much wine — something that I don’t do — especially the meat part. Take care of your body. Think lots. Give yourself some time to heal, sometimes to get profound and some time to dig deep and get honest with yourself. Getting honest allows you to grow.

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Be unashamedly you.

This trip has been an amazing one for friends and meeting people. Realizing that at a base level, I can relate to anyone and even more than that, just by being inclusive and open in life and inviting, I’m able to connect with many more people. Be interested in others. Have that openness, listen and learn. Share your lives. Skip the small talk, and talk about meaningful things. Don’t be scared to ask for what you want or to do what you want. Be unashamedly yourself whether that’s waking up late in a city that you only have three days to see because your body needs to sleep. Or walking 10 minutes out of a town in pitch black hands full with a glass of Malbec and a big blanket to watch the stars and impending phenomenon that you are about to see (I saw a comet) or getting frustrated with a tour operator who is unruly and won’t give you a refund when you were sick because of the altitude so didn’t make the tour and then kindly asking your new Spanish speaking friend to translate for you. Or dancing in the sunset on top of a mountain in one of the driest places on earth, wine in one hand, stabilizing with the other. Or asking people how they are. Human to human. We can all relate. It just has to be done without judgment and in the name of connection and company. Choose your surroundings wisely, if you don’t want to connect with college-aged drinking yuppies, don’t hang out at the student bar – go on a tour or something or drink vino in the last rays of the sun on top of a mountain.

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I’ve made many new friends this trip just from being me. Me without an ego, me who is interested in people for who they are and for their story. As ‘they’ say, be the interested, not the interesting. Be inclusive, inviting. Live with less judgment and you will relate more.

Travel to be more human, less robot.

A reason to keep traveling is that it keeps you practiced at not having what you need when you need it. It keeps you sharp. Keeps your survival instinct alive and your curiosity peaked. It also makes you more adventurous. Keeps you human and not a robot. What happens when Uber doesn’t exist, you can’t get a taxi, and you need to get to the bus so that you don’t waste a day of the beautiful far-too-expensive accommodation you have already paid for? You grab a couple of plastic bags, wade through knee deep water for 25 minutes, arrive soaking wet but on time for your bus with one hell of a story to tell and a full heart from the shared laughs and smiles with strangers and a body surging with adrenaline.

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To sum it up – ‘Muy Tranquilo’.

Welcome to 2016.

About the author:

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Sian Simpson is an avid traveler, writer, photographer, and entrepreneur. Based out of San Francisco, originally from the disant shores of New Zealand and a true Kiwi at heart, Sian’s been traveling the world since she was eight years old. She’s visited 35+ countries and is a champion of lifestyle design, location independence, and the mobility movement. In 2012 she spent five months in Asia traveling, working, living, and studying online experiencing all that Asia had to offer. And again in 2014, another world trip which took her to Asia, America & Mexico. She now works full-time as a global community manager for the Kiwi Landing Pad and is the Director of Video and Video content Strategist for 90 Seconds with clients predominantly in the US. She enjoys taking her work with her and exploring new places, having the flexibility to travel to new and old locations every 2-3 months. Most of her travels are alone. Sian’s been on 6 continents so far and is dying to get to Antarctica. Her motto is “travel to live” and seeks to be a local everywhere she goes. She hopes to inspire and empower people to find the things they love, have the ability to be flexible and design the lifestyle that nourishes them and provides a full life of love, excitement, adventure, and power. Check out her blog here.  

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