How backpacking through South America created a transformational shift within me!
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
The first six months of 2017 were clearly out to test me. In March I left a job and a company that I had loved for seven years after pushing my mental strengths to the limit (or so I thought!). In July I celebrated my 30th birthday surrounded by seventy of my closest friends and family but two days later was dumped by my girlfriend of four years, whom I'd been planning to move abroad with a couple of months later.
So without a job, a partner or a home I found myself back at my parents in rural South West France working as a waitress in the local café trying to keep my mind busy and to stop me from feeling sorry for myself.
The big question though was what next, where next? I felt so numb and incapable of forward thinking that when a friend suggested a backpacking trip to South America I simply thought, why not?
On the 9th of November we left Paris on what was to be the biggest learning journey of my life to date. Over the course of the six months that we were on the road I progressively learnt how to let go, how to let come, how to open my mind and how to open my heart even if it was still healing. The combination of these elements ensured that I came back a different person, I was transformed. The funny thing is that none of my changes were conscious, they just happened, but how?
When backpacking you only really have two things to worry about : where am I going to sleep tonight and where is my next meal coming from? We quickly understood that flexibility was going to be the key, that whatever happened we were unlikely to sleep in the streets and equally as unlikely to starve to death so we began to simply enjoy the moment, every moment, without thinking about what we were going to do next. When you start to live in the moment, to appreciate what you are doing, where you are, who you are with then even the simplest of situations seem to become magical. A casual conversation with local villagers in the middle of nowhere in Ecaudor turns into a eye-opening debate that changes forever the way you look at success and failure. A horse ride in the Bolivian hills becomes so much more than just a way of seeing the sites, it inspires you to overcome more fears because you realise that you CAN do it (I'm terrified, or I was, of horses!). Your relationship to pain changes when you hear yourself complaining of blisters and tiredness after four days walking in the Colombian jungle only to meet a sixty year old lady that does the same route in a day, barefoot & twice a week! You realise that you are capable of so much more when you live in the moment. Indeed, by living in the moment you are free to challenge your mind and body in ways that you never thought were possible, precisely because you were over-thinking it before!
Before leaving I had feared the long bus journeys, eighteen hours and more, but I learnt to love looking out the window , watching the world go by, chatting to locals who were intrigued to learn about our travels and happy to share stories of their lives. I used to think two hours was long in the car. Now I'd happily drive triple that in a day to see a friend or a family member. If you think of the journey as the means to reach the destination then you can't enjoy it because all you are thinking about is that question we all used to ask as kids, "Are we nearly there yet?". But if you consider that the journey is just as important as the destination then you'll see that where you end up doesn't really matter in the end, what you learn along the way could be just as important.
What is crazy is that I've been back for over six months now but I'm still learning so much about our trip, the people we met, the situations we were in and of course about myself. I plan to share a lot more insights on my travels soon because as Ibn Batutta said "Traveling - it leaves you speachless, then turns you into a storyteller" but if you want to read up on some of the fun times we had whilst we were out in South America then you can read our travel blog here: https://www.myatlas.com/MarieetNay/6mois5culottes
Enjoy your journey,