|Start of the trip selfie...|
While I've travelled on my own before, it had been for short durations (before and after volunteering with an organisation) and/or in a developed country (Austria), so this trip was really my first time travelling on my own in a developing country, and being rather a budget backpacker. And I really enjoyed the overall experience. The elements of spontaneity, freedom and solitude are things you can't get when you travel with friends, though to be fair, my trip was also fairly constrained by my flights and volunteering stints, so it's not that spontaneous. Of course, travelling alone, there is the greater need to be cautious and look out for oneself, especially in places where reports of tourists getting mugged are aplenty. Before leaving, I was almost certain I would get robbed in Quito, but to my relief, I didn't have a single bad experience! Though on my last day when transiting in Quito, I found out that my backpacks had slashes, but I don't know if it was just carelessness on my part or people actually attempting to steal stuff.
I really liked travelling on my own, going where ever I wanted, meeting new people and South America seems to be a great place for this kind of travelling. Most others travel alone as well, or in pairs, and it's easy to meet and make new friends. I definitely gained confidence on travelling on my own, what to look out for and what not to do. And I'm glad I managed to practice and improve on my Spanish, though it still can't by any means be considered as proficient now.
|Had my first smore! Not a South American thing, but still.|
Despite the fact that South America is a whole different continent somewhat on the other side of the world, I felt rather at home in Ecuador/Peru. Perhaps that's because they eat a lot of rice as well, or because the dominant religion is Catholicism, or because they're in tropics. The biggest differences were perhaps the lack of hot running water, or the fact that toilet paper was not to be flushed down the toilet, but disposed of in the bin. Then again, my comfort zone has expanded so much I'm not quite sure what it is anymore. The concept of going outdoors and doing certain things to 'push my boundaries and get out of my comfort zone' no longer holds for me, I think; I just do things cos I enjoy it and I like it and it gives me a sense of contentment.
|Swimming in the river is pretty awesome (: Saw an otter in it once too!|
When I'm in the forest and hiking on the trails, I realise there's usually a song playing in my head, and I also spend a lot of time thinking up Spanish phrases/sentences of things I'd usually say in English. Then I will try to think of what it is in Chinese and comparing it with Spanish, and often come to the conclusion that Chinese is really difficult to learn, and I'm super thankful I had to learn it in school earlier. I was also constantly super hungry in Peru, and spent a lot of time thinking of food and what I want to eat when I get home :P
|Lentils and rice got slightly boring after a while.|
But I also realised I'm a terrible naturalist - I don't have a habit of keeping field observations or anything. I've been to many places, whether volunteering or just travelling, and I feel like I should have compiled lots of notes about the general environment, wildlife seen etc. I guess I'm just not innately one, and never got round to developing the habit of it. And it doesn't help that my identification skills are moot :/
|Being proficient at taking selfies is a boon when travelling solo.|
I didn't really get tired of travelling solo, I just that I knew I had to get back for my field trip. Maybe I would have enjoyed another month of solo travelling, maybe I would have gotten sick of my own company by then. But I enjoyed meeting people from all over, chatting with them, hearing stories and experiences and sharing mine, and they're usually like-minded, so we end up fuelling each other's interests and dreams.
I've met so many other people from all sorts of disciplines and various backgrounds, and sometimes, when you tell people you're studying in Cambridge, they think you're really smart. I still fail to see how that is so; I don't feel any smarter or more knowledgeable than anyone else.
My main takeaway from this trip though? There is no need to shower everyday. (especially when it's cold and you don't have hot water)
|Also learnt not to bring binoculars when you're going to hike through rivers/waterfalls.|
|And we're really just a small part of this planet we live on.|
Definitely looking forward to the opportunity to travel and explore more areas of South America in the future!
My other posts on this trip:
On my Nature blog