Why I travel and Why South America

Why am I traveling and why in South America?

I’m often asked this in my travels and by now (8th month) I’ve answered it so much that I’ve become an expert in providing a brief explanation in a concise 1-2 minute manner in English and Spanish. But I’ve always wanted to write this down and communicate the full thoughts. So here we go.

Why South America?

I’ve never traveled to South America and it was merely an image I had in my head but there was always some fascination with South America and Latin cultures. Perhaps it’s been images I’ve created through media and movies and the people that I’ve encountered but it was the bright colors, the rhythmical music, the sunny beaches, the rawness of the cities. It was “don’t worry be happy” attitude, it was the sexiness of its people and the way they didn’t care to hide happiness. It was the dancing and the music and the rhythm.

Perhaps it was influenced by my living in Miami for 4 years for college and being surrounded by the majority Cubans, Puerto Ricans and people from all over the Latin America and the Caribbean. Miami was the US but it definitely was not, with 70% of its population being from Latino backgrounds.

And maybe it a subconscious yearning to seek something the complete opposite of reality. The reality of Tokyo where I’ve been working for over 10 years in this busy, punctual, efficient, crowded city. Where the social norm is structure and tradition, strict hierarchy, being well planned, organised and efficient. Where there is great value placed upon fitting into the crowd, being proper and following protocol. Perhaps trying to blend in this serious mannered society had pushed me to dream about something that was not.

In fact, sometimes I have been described in Japan by my friends as being “So Latin!”. I presume it is based on the image people have of being carefree and “live for the moment”, loud, always wanting a party and dancing to any beat.

So why not go there? Would I fit in better there? Will I feel more comfortable? Maybe its like going back home?

So what’s been stopping me?

Well like many people, I blamed it on a job, and a job in Japan. Vacation days that grew only by +1 day each year on top of 10 days to start with a separate few days in the summer and the winter. I was one to take longer vacations, which sometimes shocked people and clients but that was still a maximum of 2 weeks, and still with a obligation of checking mail and working while traveling.

Logistically, it meant 24-48 hours on the plane to get to South America, which meant 4 days of travel from the 2 weeks, leaving the actual vacation to a whopping  1 week and 3 days. How much can I possible see and do in a week and a half? Maybe step into Rio and hit some beaches? Maybe rush it to Peru for a glimpse of Machupichu? It just wasn’t enough.

And I was also waiting for a travel buddy. Never in my wildest dreams had I pictured to do this alone. I would always share my dream with usually a then boyfriend and convince them of how amazing it would be. I’d successfully talk them into it and we would dream about it, but it never actualised whether it was the risk of quitting their jobs or money. It was a drastic commitment, especially for Japan standards.

So dawned upon me that I’ve been dreaming about it for years now, but it’s never happened and it scared me to think how many more years would go by before it becomes a reality. Like the Carl in “UP”.

The turning point – So what trigger me to actually do it?

A position. It was around this time last year that a position became available to till and myself or another was up for consideration. It was an opportunity that was vital to the team and the company and it would definitely been a good experience to add to my resume.

But when I heard about it, I just wasn’t excited. And I realised that I wasn’t even excited about my career even if I didn’t take the position. I felt flat.

So in the taxi discussing this, I was quickly working my brain on how to decline in a reasonable and definite way. Something that would be professional than “Sorry, I’m just not excited about it”. I racked my brain until the words just came out. 

” Hey, I can’t take the it because I’m going to South America. Sorry!”

Silence and confusion. Did I just say that?!

Yes, I did and now it was there out in public. And I had said it in definite tense as if there was already a plan. I thought it was a pretty funny at that time and a clever come back like “Ha! You can’t say anything to me now!”.  But really, it was not a well thought out excuse like telling the teacher your dog ate your homework. But it was out there.

Whether my boss took me seriously or not I don’t know, but it was enough to communicate that I was not interested in the job. 

The Aftermath

I was sharing this with my friends and how funny and cleverly I had been. Hahaha. Imagine? How cool that would be to be able to quit your job to go travel and follow your dream. Yeah, how cool would that be?

But then as I said it, it felt good and I started to convince myself that this actually should be my plan. So what if I quit my job? Its quitting for a very good reason. What better reason is there but to follow your dreams? Its a hell of a lot better than transferring to a better paying job.

The more I said it, the more it made sense. Maybe my subconscious was tired of me always dreaming and talking about it and not taking any action. Maybe it had pushed me and it was the right time. Hey, I could learn a new language! I could learn to Samba and Salsa! I could take myself to a completely different environment and absorb new things! Maybe even fall in love by the beaches of Rio! I could be the crazy person that quit her career and left everything in search for a different path in life.

And I really liked how that sounded and made me feel. I realised that it had been ages since I’ve been really excited about something in this way and it was all crystal clear.

What started as an abrupt excuse out of my mouth had turned into a life changing plan. It was crazy but it felt good.

The Planning:

So seriously, how realistic is this? Well, when your mind in set to a goal, things get figured out much more easily.

I bought a world map and pinned it to my living room wall. I started jotting things down I wanted to do and posting it next to the map.

I made a plan to get rid of my belongings and my apartment, figure out what kind of trip I can afford with the finances, what I had to do for a smooth transition out of my job and my life in Japan.

Why 1 year?  

Based on various travel blogs, I set a daily budget for traveling in South America, obviously much cheaper than traveling in the US or Europe. I calculated the budget for getting out of Japan, buying things for the trip and some budget for when and if I do come back. The calculations gave me just enough to afford a budget 1 year travel.

Plus I could use my airl

Why 1 year? and the realistic planning
1 year was just enough to be able to afford and a good enough time
Plus the airline miles allowed for 1 year return ticket
Give someone a year, they could figure it out right?

And that is why I am traveling for a year in South (now Latin) America.

I was never a blogger but I wanted something to keep record of, communicate to people I care about and create as a portfolio for the future. Hence, I made a name card and put an address on it.

The most important thing was coming up with the Blog name and I had to do it quick to get it to the printer.

Hence the blog title. MEET PLAY LIVE, like from the Eat pray love – I would honestly put a better title on this if it was now, but at the time
MEET – get to know the culture, the people and absorb
PLAY – let my heart do the talking and let it do whatever I want to do – within budget and reason
LIVE – and possible find a key to my next life.

So here it is.

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