Happy New Year again! The end of last year had me really focused on reflection and the new year had me really focused on intention. I’m still reflecting and still intention-ing, and decided to take a moment to put myself in the hot seat, answer some of the questions that I got a lot while I was home, and share where I am at in this whole journey. It’s a long one…
The original purpose of this adventure was to go out wandering, leave the familiar behind with the intention to design my life around where my passions, talents, and skills meet my unique place in the world, the gift I have to share. (See my Inside Out blog for more life thoughts on things like this…) The reason I left the country to do this is because that was one of the most obvious things I knew…I love to travel and experience other cultures and I always grow and learn when I do that. So it made sense to start with that.
I am very much still in the heart of figuring this out and I still believe it is possible. Here is what I can tell you based on the most “Frequently Asked Questions”:
Are you so happy? Are you having so much fun?
I am happy more than I am not. I am having so much fun more than I am not. I have had some of the most amazing, fulfilling, exciting experiences. And it has also been very challenging. Some of this is the nature of what I’m doing. I often feel tension between going after an adventure and being at my happiest, while also checking in with myself to make sure I am accountable to my overall intention. I am learning that the two go hand in hand ideally, which I sometimes lose track of. My intention and the way I travel also means that it can alienate me a bit, and I’ve had many lonely times this past year and times where I’ve felt stuck because I wanted or needed someone to go adventure with. I ask myself often if I’d rather be anywhere else, doing anything else. The answer was usually no.
What are your days like?
Although I mainly post about my travels and adventures, I really have been living here. The majority of travelers I meet are in and out of a place in 3-7 days, after doing the “things you’re supposed to do there”. I imagine that can be a great experience and I’m not judging that at all. For me, it has been key to live in a place though. So I spent 3 weeks in Buenos Aires, 6 weeks in El Bolson, 1 month in the Peruvian Amazon, 1 month in Honduras, 4 months in Mendoza, 2 months in Bariloche. To me if feels like I’ve lived in those places. With many of my days, I’ll journal, write, edit photos, wander, meditate, run, cook, read, take Spanish lessons. No extreme adventure or big activity, just living. This is necessary for my goal, for the way I like to travel, for my health and the amount of down time I need, and for my finances.
The favorite questions…how are you able to afford this?
This will be different for everyone, but this can be done on the cheap. I did save money before coming, although I also lost money selling my house. I have met people who came for 6 months with $2000 savings to people who have come for 4 years with $200,000 savings. If you want to travel long term, it can be done.
I have no debt. That is huge. I do not buy things…I don’t shop. So even something like a bottle of water for $1 or a taxi cab that would be an hour walk instead. I don’t do it. It is not awesome, but I really do think about every dollar I spend. My main expenses are food, a place to stay, transportation for long distances, and then experiences if they cost something. I don’t really allow myself too many luxuries, it was a big lifestyle change for me. I have to be careful with this too though because at times I feel I’ve been so strict with myself that it impacts my ability to just enjoy the present moment or go after my goal. And so, I chose to spend more money than my budget to go to the transformation retreat in Peru, or to buy a guitar after a year of journaling about how I want to play the guitar. And I consciously try to make that money up elsewhere.
I feel that I have been a generous person in the past, although I would like to continue to be present with and focused on generosity. I have also been extended a lot of generosity this past year that has been most humbling to accept. And it is ok to accept generosity, and inspiring to then be generous myself as much as I am able in any given moment of time or situation.
There are many things you can do for money or in exchange for food and a place to stay: helpx.com or wwoofinternational.org are popular. I have not done these things, but have met many people who have. Couch surfing is popular too, but I have no tried that either. The point is, there are ways to do it. When I got here I was amazed at how far you can get just talking about what it is you want to do. I could have run out of money a long time ago by not being so strict with my spending, but for me it has been important to have more time to figure out what life I want to create. So while it has been awesome, there has been sacrifice involved as well.
My goal is always in mind. Will this help me towards that or not? That drives my spending. That, and my basic needs.
How’s your Spanish?
Well, it depends on who you ask. My visitors have been impressed and that has been very flattering. I have learned a lot, and have so so so much more to learn. Pay attention to a 5 minute chunk of conversation you are having with someone…all the words, tenses, slang, emotions. Now picture learning all of that as new. Or listen to a 4 year old talk…all of the words, tenses, slang, emotions. Learning a new language is HARD and I do not have the type of brain that is biased towards that.
I can definitely get by, and I have had conversations for hours with people in Spanish. It isn’t entirely correct or natural, and I often have to try to use the words I do know to explain a concept or how I’m feeling in a much more round about way than I would in English, but I can do it.
I have not taken classes as they are expensive and I have Rosetta Stone on my computer. So I use that and it helps. I have gone to free language exchange events. I have a couple of apps on my ipod with games and ‘word of the day’ type things to help me. I also listen to pod casts with Spanish lessons. I sometimes just sit near people in a cafe or at the park and eavesdrop to see if I can understand. Hopefully that doesn’t sound creepy! I try to say yes to every chance I can get to interact with locals, but sometimes I really have to be geared up for this as it is exhausting. My intention is to learn much more this year.
How is your book coming along?
Ah, this one is tough. I’ve been writing all year. I guess it could be called journaling, but for me it is more than that because it is all potentially input for my book. I have started my book. It took several attempts to get my voice right and my intention clear, although even that is still subject to change.
Basically it is about stories of adventure, nature, travel and the personal transformation that comes about through those things. It is about creating a life around your passions, my story of that. Please, please, please feel free to comment with ideas, questions, whether this resonates or not, etc.
I told myself I would “own” being an author when I got here and it has been challenging because the moment you say, “I’m writing a book” people want to know what it is about, when it will be done, and often have a comment or facial expression that tells you exactly how they feel about your intention. I feel my most vulnerable when I would like to feel my least vulnerable.
Really though, I promise I will let EVERYONE know when the book is done. 🙂
What have you learned?
Well some of this I will keep to myself, but I will share the most important thing that I’ve learned as it relates to what I set out to do. I learned that at the very heart of what I love to do in life, are the following things:
Adventure: to me this often means a physical challenge (I love climbing mountains!) or some sort of challenge, with an element of unknown, something unique, something to be figured out and accomplished, often with a creative element, something exciting and unconventional.
Local Immersion: my best stories are from when I have been able to really melt into another culture with its people and customs and language. To interact, listen, ask questions, engage, share, and learn.
Nature: I am at my best and happiest when I am in nature. I love exploring new nature, mountains, lakes, oceans, jungle, anything. I love the vibration, feeling totally alive, listening, learning, activating all of my senses, feeling so alive.
Transformational practices: I helped people through change in a corporate setting for 9 years. Over the last several years this has transformed to a desire to apply that skill set with helping individuals through personal change…most importantly, myself. This includes, but is not limited to anything from journaling, reading, creative practices, meditation, climbing a mountain, working with dreams, understanding what my body needs to be at its best, etc etc etc etc. Practices that help me grow and integrate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually…that’s a passion for me.
So I had inklings around these things and last year confirmed without a doubt that whatever I do with my life, these things are at the anchor of it. That and the flexibility it takes to do these things…not once and a while as something I enjoy, but at the heart of my life.
So what is next?
I wish I had a clear answer on this. I am now back in Argentina and just had a glorious 5 weeks of visitors, first my two aunts and uncle and then my parents. Right now I am just trying to catch up on writing and photos and exercise and then I have some research to do and decisions to make. I know I need to up my skill set with the things I listed above, and so I am researching courses, programs, masters in these areas. I also need to keep exploring how to pull all of this together into a life, one that includes an income. That is top of mind. Again, I am so open to any ideas, suggestions, questions, connections.
Hopefully this helps make some sense out of what I’ve been doing. For more info, stayed tuned on the progress of my book. I swear I am writing it. Or just talk to me, I love that too!