As the year is about to come to an end, it is time to reflect on the events happened, the countries traveled and the lessons learned. Month by month I will go through the main events that have happened and what is my main takeaway from this month. Self-analysis and reflection on the past year is a great way to evaluate past experiences and learn from them. Raising your self-awareness in every aspect brings about confidence and better decision making for the future. I must admit that this has been the most eventful year of my life where both good and bad have clashed on numerous occasions though always with great takeaways.
The year started with a bang where I quit my corporate Finance job with the University of Edinburgh and I bought a one-way ticket to Cancun Mexico. I love Scotland and Edinburgh is a great city to settle down and raise a family, the job I had was a perfectly comfortable position where you can progress slowly and live a good life. Although this good life wasn’t for me as I dreamed of that Latin American Adventure for the last 5 years and now was time to take some risks and plunge into the great unknown on the other side of the world. I lived in a hostel for a couple of weeks before departure and visited a friend in London before jetting off to Cancun. Halfway through the flight, I was completely crippled by doubts, anxiety, and insecurity about what I am going to do or what is it about to come ahead. So much that I was even wondering if I would come out alive from this whole trip.
Countries visited: Scotland, England, and Mexico
Lesson Learned: It is never going to be the perfect time to take a big risk or get out and do something you always wanted to do.
The adventure had begun from Cancun going down south through the amazing Riviera Maya in the State of Quintana Roo. While the hip Playa del Carmen kept me entertained with its bars, restaurants, and clubs, Tulum was really the place where an atmosphere of mysticism and wonder was in the air which really captivated me. After Tulum, I quickly went through Bacalar and Chetumal on my way to a volunteering opportunity in an animal shelter on the Carribean Island of Caye Caulker. For almost three weeks I lived on the island where swimming, kayaking, reading and sunbathing were among the daily activities. Although living on an island in the middle of the Carribean is not really a paradise on earth as the expensive food, local crime, pests, bedbugs, tropical insects and the sick state of the animals in the shelter really showed me the troubles in paradise.
Countries Visited: Mexico, Belize
Lesson Learned: The romanticized idea of living on a paradise island is very far from the actual reality.
It took me 36 hours non-stop travel over land and sea from Caye Caulker to the San Marcos de Atitlan in the mountains of Guatemala. Being smuggled through the border on a small motor boat and getting through the super dangerous cities of Belize City and Guatemala City was worth the effort. I found myself living in a spiritual hippy village on a lake underneath a volcano in the mountains of Guatemala. I volunteered with the reception in a hostel while studying for my online MSc and exploring spirituality, meditation, and yoga. I learned that three really simple things improve my life from day to day:
- Quality Sleep
- Healthy Diet
- Physical Activity
After San Marcos, I had the chance to explore the colonial streets of Antigua and climb the volcano Acatenango. It was physically challenging considering the fact that many people didn’t manage to get to the top at all. Once I climbed the volcano I was quick to hop in a van and head of to El Salvador on my way to Nicaragua. El Salvador was super underdeveloped though they had US dollars and many people spoke English.
Countries Visited: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador
Lesson Learned: Everything you need to be happy is with you right here and right now.
Once I got to Nicaragua, I visited some of the touristy towns of Leon and Granada then headed off to a volunteering opportunity I found on the Pacific coast. In the small village of Playa San Diego, I helped out in a surf camp and lived in a tent for three weeks. I was learning to surf, running at the beach, doing a lot of reading and studying while savoring every single sunset over the Pacific ocean. This was a great experience where I realized that extreme sports are not really my thing. My tenure at the camp was quickly over and I headed to Costa Rica. In the so-called Switzerland of Central America, I visited the world-class beaches of Tamarindo and Samara followed by an adventure experience zip lining through the cloud forest of Monteverde. In addition, I had a short-term experience of working in a boiler room out of a villa in the capital San Jose, but this is a story for another time.
Countries Visited: Nicaragua, Costa Rica
Lesson Learned: Sometimes you have a preconceived fantasy about a sport or a place, but once you actually do it you realize it’s not such a big deal. Don’t believe advertisements and social media.
Thinking that I have already had my fair share of adventure through my travels. Although that wasn’t even the beginning as I embarked on a new volunteering opportunity as a tourist guide with San Blas Adventures. The company was taking travelers with speed boats between Panama and Colombia going through the beautiful San Blas archipelago working closely with the local people from the Guna Yala tribe. I spent my time traveling and living in the cosmopolitan Panama City and the village of Capurgana which was situated in a remote corner of the Colombian jungle. This was a crucial transformative experience for me as this is the time I decided to quit drinking and smoking.
Apart from living in Capurgana, I also went to Medellin and Cali on my way down south. Medellin proved to be one of the best cities I encountered through my journeys, but Cali had this special atmosphere and great salsa scene. In general, Colombia proved to be contrary to everything that people say about the country and the people, the weather, the food and the climate being the absolute best. I will definitely be coming back to explore the north and central part.
Countries Visited: Panama, Colombia
Lesson Learned: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn
Next stop was Ecuador, another great country with great people where I visited the capital of Quito and Guayaquil. Quito is one of the biggest cities in the world on a high altitude of 2,850m above sea level that amazed with its colonial architecture. Guayaquil, on the other hand, was a little Miami on the Pacific coast with great weather and infrastructure. From Guayaquil, I had my longest bus journey of 38 hours all the way down to Paracas in Peru. I didn’t stop in Lima as the desert around Paracas offered so many adventure activities such as quad biking. The pinnacle of my whole journey was the hike to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. In fact, the ancient ruins were not as impressive as the journey to the actual place.
Countries Visited: Ecuador, Peru
Lesson Learned: Think and become. Wherever you dream of going, you can get there. You only need a plan and a gradual execution.
Peru proved to be a hidden gem of outdoor adventures and a place which I definitely need to revisit. Although, the adventures didn’t end there as I was detained at the Chilean border for an hour and a half of cross-interrogation as I fit in a criminal profile. Apart from this hiccup, Chile was a stunning place. The Atacama desert was an experience out of this world and the cities of Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso had their own unique atmosphere. I barely managed to cross the border with Argentina due to snow. This was a bumpy start of my last volunteering gig for this trip and the last country on my list. I volunteered in a rural farm/hotel in San Rafael, Mendoza province. First time working on a farm which I thoroughly enjoyed but realized that this is not really my thing.
Countries Visited: Chile, Argentina
Lesson Learned: You have to appreciate the small and simple things in life that happen to you every day.
At the beginning of August, I finished the journey of a lifetime in Buenos Aires, where I got a plane back to Europe. I had to cut my travels short as I was invited to a wedding of one of my friends from University. The wedding was in Poznan, Poland. On the way there I managed to squeeze in a layover in Istanbul where I had only one day to check out this city. Turkey is definitely going on my list in the future as there is so much to see over there. Poland was a big surprise for me as the country appeared to be so well-developed. The wedding was in a castle and it was something out of a fairy tale. Although it was quickly over and I decided to move to London and get into the world of Finance.
Countries Visited: Turkey, Poland, England
Lesson Learned: Know Thyself. Upon finishing my journey I realized that it is not the surroundings that you go through but the self-awareness that builds up upon the process of learning about yourself and the world around you.
I came to London with quite a bit of naivety and high expectations which were quickly decimated by the harsh reality of living in the big city. Finding a job is not that easy at all and living in the concrete jungle rivals the life of the jungles of Colombia, it’s a different type of tough. I did make a progress in terms of health as I decided to cut the eggs, milk, and dairy slowly transitioning into a vegan diet. In addition, I realized I was getting stuck overthinking and overanalyzing things too much, getting stuck in the initial process without actually executing.
Countries Visited: England
Lesson Learned: Perfectionism Paralyses
There is so much going on in London. I think you need more than a few months of living in this city to actually see all the places and experience the different neighborhoods. Every part of London is like its own city within the city. My job search in Finance kept going, I did a short internship at one company out of Canary Wharf which proved to be a terrible cold-calling job with questionable ethics and bad company culture. On the other hand, I had progress in terms of sports where I did the Bear Grylls 10k Survival Race with some friends.
Countries Visited: England
Lesson Learned: “Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus. Give Up Your Need to Control Everything.
A quick weekend getaway up north to beautiful Scotland was needed to get a bit of the pressure off from London. I visited some friends in Edinburgh. Once back in London I continued my job search while doing remote business development for a Financial Start-up in Bulgaria. Also, I learned that in London you need to stop playing the comparison game and do your own thing. Nobody cares where have you come from or what are you doing. In addition, you are the biggest barrier between your reality and your dreams. You have to change and believe in yourself in accordance with your goals. Adjust your attitude actions and habits in order to achieve your goals.
In the end of the month, there was a bereavement in my family as my grandad past away. This was quite a blow for me which really gave me a different perspective on time and what should I be spending it on.
Countries Visited: Scotland, EnglandLesson Learned: Comfort Kills
In December I kept exploring different meetups, events, and conferences around London. I was learning loads about cryptocurrencies, blockchain, trading and start-up businesses. I got into cryptocurrency investments and accomplished a trading and entrepreneurship course. The coveted finance job I wanted didn’t materialize despite all the effort and interviews I was going to. In addition, personal health issues changed my perspective realizing that things can always get worse. The year finished on a positive note as I visited my brother and friends in Aberdeen, Scotland and had a great NYE party in London.
Countries Visited: Scotland, England
Lesson Learned: Adversity builds Character
This year has definitely been an amazing journey of ups and downs. Quitting my job and accomplishing a life-changing journey both spiritual and physical going from Mexico to Argentina over land. Learning to live off a backpack. Budgeting through months of a time living in different countries and using different currencies. The empowering feeling of fulfilling a dream.
Some planning and goal-setting for the upcoming 2018:
In terms of physical goals, I want to accomplish a triathlon and get into sailing and scuba diving. Also, I want to go back to powerlifting and try to get into the 1000lb club while keeping it vegan. An interesting goal is that I want to pass the SEALs Physical test, but more on this in a different post.
In terms of work and study, I will be finishing my Master’s degree this year due in October 2018. I hope to get more experience in Finance and to finally create a stable online income. This year I am also starting my real money online trading and if I manage to get to an annual return of 10% without blowing too many accounts that would be awesome.
Hopefully, I will manage to travel around the Middle East in countries like Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. It is going to be crucial for me to let go of bad habits, thinking patterns and toxic people. I will try focus on giving up on saying YES to things that don’t support my goals.
“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
— Albert Einstein
In 2018, I will try to let go of my ego, vanity, and possessions.
After visiting more than 15 countries and traveling more than 36000 km over land, sea, and air I am ready to embark on new adventures and challenges, bring on 2018!!