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Guia and horse on Salkantay trek

Peruvian children looking through glass

Honey vendors in Huaraz, Peru

table at market in Cuzco, Peru

Wild Flowers in Peru

Peruvian Women dancing near Colca Canyon

Guia on Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu

Peruvian woman on Inca Trail

Peruvian woman spinning wool in Cuzco, Peru

Chicken feet in local market in Cuzco, Peru

Sunset on Alpamayo Mountain in Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Climbing to Alpamayo Mountain in Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Mountains on the Huayhuash Trail

Hat maker in Ecuador

High on the Huayhuash Trail-Circuit

Chopicalqui Mountain in Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Guia to the Lost City, Columbia

Basket in market in Ecuador

South America and One Year

I often get asked “Why?” Why did you take a year off of work to live and travel around South America? Why did you choose South America in the first place? Why travel alone? Why did you think it was going to be a good idea?

Jaja. To be honest, I don’t have a good answer. I just knew it was something I needed to do. I felt trapped in a job that wasn’t providing the adventure or creative outlet that I needed, and I had made travel goals that I felt were important. In my mind it was a logical choice. If there is one thing I’ve learned from listening to older, wiser women – it’s that you should 1) travel and have fun before you have kids and you should 2) never regret the decisions you make.

I listened. I took my year off to travel and have fun. I don’t regret my choices.

It’s silly, but I kinda thought that I was a little unique for listening to my heart and throwing caution to the wind by traveling in South America. Yeeaa, turns out I wasn’t alone. There were numerous men and women I met traveling who were experiencing the same sense of dissatisfaction with their job and life in general. They all needed the adventure, experiences, and growth as much as I did. And, I truly believe that traveling is one of the best ways to learn about another culture, have adventures, and grow as a person. For myself, I had three specific goals that guided my travels:

• Learn to speak Spanish
• Climb mountains
• Take photos

Traveling in South America and learning Spanish seems like a pretty reasonable request to me. I may have taken it to the extreme while I was there, but I saw the language as a barrier. The faster I could learn to speak Spanish and have meaningful interactions with the locals, the better. I prefer to take photos of people, and I knew that to get the types of photos I wanted – I had to be able to hold a conversation. Everyday I would practice my horrible Spanish on the poor locals, and I often got weird looks (especially in the beginning). Eventually my Spanish did become passable around 5 to 6 months after living in Peru, but it was some work. And sadly, now that I have returned to the States my Spanish is slowly dying. It makes me sad. (but strengthens my resolve to one day return)

My second goal was to climb as many mountains as possible in the Cordillera Blanca range. I don’t have a good method to describe my desire to climb mountains. I suppose either you like it or you don’t. Anytime I wasn’t learning or practicing Spanish, I was spending time planning my next mountain adventure. They’re beautiful to photograph and dangerous. They’re the quintessential adventure.

And throughout it all, I took photos. I’m not a total photo nut, but I do love being able to dive into a culture and take informal photos that capture the moment. Some days I was frustrated with my ridiculously heavy camera, and other days I marveled at how easily it was to capture what I was seeing. Regardless, it was all beautiful and new to me. I loved it. I often joke that South America has ruined my photography because nothing in the States, recently, has inspired me like the people and mountains of South America. I hope to get back into the grove of things . . .

I am ecstatic to share my thoughts and images of South America. I hope you enjoy it.

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