Leaving your Comfort Zone – Traveling in South America

When was the last time you left your Comfort Zone?
Tried something wild crazy and maybe absolute absurd?
Or something that was new to you?

Exactly that is the topic of a Blogparade, that is currently being hosted by Steffi (a german blogger) lebe-ohne-grenzen.de. In her Blog name she already portrays exactly what the topic of the Blogparade is about. Leaving you Comfort Zone, living your life without borders. (A Blogparade it basically a Mottoparty, where everyone that wants to participate writes their own text. (This is Steffi’s explanation, Simple and to the point.)

I am all about trying new things, and testing out the limits to the extend that it is still safe. Leaving your comfort zone, can be something completely “normal”, like being fine with your weight and rocking it, chatting up that guy you have liked for ever, or trying out a new food. It can be an everyday thing or something more extreme. In the end anything is possible.

Somehow when I think about my past year, there are a few “crazy” things that I can thing of that I managed to complete. None of them where really planned, but somehow happened.

  1. Trek 20 km through an active Volcano Area. (The Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand)
  2. Climbing to Mueller Hut, because it was probably way past my fitness level. (Considering I had muscle pain still two days after.)
  3. Going Bungee Jumping, one of the craziest things I have done. Gosh it was nerve-racking.
  4. Biking down Death Road in Bolivia. A 20 km gravel road that is along a cliff.
    You see leaving your comfort zone, can be an everyday thing, or something along the extreme like the examples above.

However there is one thing, that caused me a lot more nerves than any of those extreme things.
Traveling to South America alone as a Woman. When I first proposed the idea that I wanted to travel to South America ALONE, everyone no matter who it was family or friends said the exact same words ” Oh my god be careful, it is so dangerous ” “Don’t go”.

My Dad even went as far as, sending me videos of robberies, theft and street fights. (I love you Dad) I know my Dad is just looking out for me, and wanting me to be safe, but it was a little depressing. It felt a little as if my dream would explode right in front of my eyes.

Ever since I was a little girl I have been dreaming of visiting Machu Picchu. Standing on the very site the Inkas created a city, that was never finished, with amazing craftsmanship and dedication. 1908 was it only “rediscovered” by a white man. Of course the native Peruvian people living in the area knew about Machu Picchu. You see this site is at least 3000 years old and still so much is still original, around 70%. It is absolutely incredible.

However it felt so unreachable, reaching this goal. Do you know this feeling? When you what something so bad, but yet it seems so far away? Well this was exactly the case and I felt lost, somewhat not in place.

In the end I did not listen to anyone, and did my own thing. Ended up booking a Plane ticket to Santiago. After 8 month in New Zealand, I felt like;

  1. My trip was not complete, I just knew I had to travel once around the World.
  2. That booking that flight to South America was so damn scary, because I knew I would be a big step for me. And defiantly a dream come true.
  3. It was a scary step, but I knew in my heart that I was going to Rock it!

Dream as if you live forever, live as if you'll die today.

I like to think I was being careful and took precautions, like never walking around alone in the Dark. Having a Hostel booked ahead of time so I knew where to go. Little things made it easier. I never realized before traveling to South America, how "civilized" it really is.

In the news, always only the bad things get portrayed, but after having spend some time there, it does not feel much different. It is also hard to generalize South America as a whole, countries like Chile and Argentina are so much more advanced than we think, and can easily be compared to Spain. While Bolivia and Peru are poorer in general, but these people where probably as the friendliest and happiest people of all of them.

Typical stereotypes come from people who have not been I South America. I would even go as far as saying, I did not fee any less safe in the whole of South America, than any other big city in the World. My biggest argument I had, before leaving was: Is the USA safer? With all the Shootings.

Santiago was the first Latin American city I have seen and I immediately felt like I was transported into any random world city except for a few changing factors. I felt no different. I could have been in Berlin, New York or London. People where buzzing around with their cell phone, chatting away. Some in business suits while others had more leisure look.

After the initial shock, and realization that I did really make it to South America, I started to notice some differences. But I never once felt unsafe. In Hostels I meet people to travel with, go out with and if you're in a group of people in the dark with a smart head on your shoulders nothing generally happens. I have been lucky this way anyways.

  • The Streets are a lot more dirty, there will be litter everywhere on the ground people just don't care. The only place this was not the case was the Metro in Medellin, Columbia. (The city that was known as the most dangerous city on earth, where the Drug Business brutal, and people had a curfew of 5pm)
  • Medellin is the only Columbian City with a metro, and Medellin is very proud of it , and therefore there is no garbage on the metro, but outside of course.
  • South America does not believe in Street Signs, if there is one for every 10 streets that is enough. Sometimes it is very hard to know where you are when you lost the orientation.
  • No where else in the World other than here have I seen so many Street Dogs. It is sad to see, they are so skinning, however some are wearing shirts. It is almost though as if someone is taking care of them. But no one wants to have them at home.
  • Although Farmers Markets are not unknown to me, the Markets in South America are something else. They are a permanent establishment, open everyday and definitely not the european hygiene standard. Now that is what I call leaving your Comfort Zone. Would you buy these Chickens?

Sometimes when leaving your Comfort Zones it really is not about doing extreme things, it can be simple things like above. Seeing how a different culture works and how everything fits together. In order to feel comfort in areas that you're not use to it is about accepting and facing the differences.

This whole trip was about leaving a whole level of Comfort behind, and stepping into a new chapter, and facing the new culture. Only that way can you fully embrace it. This also starts with learning the Language. Although I still not fluent, I like to believe I understand a lot. This change especially happened after spending two weeks at a Family Homestay, which also included Spanish Lessons. At the beginning basic instructions in Spanish I didn't understand by the end, it was easy. I still didn't speak as much, but understand was a big factor.

So in the end what I learned from this experience, that anything is possible. It is important to but have good head on your shoulders, and make safe and planned decisions.
In the end traveling in South America is not any different from any other countries.
That I am not the only Woman traveling alone in South America. I
t is as safe as any other big city, in the rest of the world.
Walking in the dark, down an alleyway is plain stupid in any city.

Over the last years, South America has had a huge change. It has become safer. Like Columbia, 10 years ago they had 4 thousand visitors, 2015 it is estimated they have 4 million. Alone in that number you can see that people from all over the world find it so much safer.

However even though I know I have been there, seen it when I look at the picture I still can't really believe that I have seen it. You should go, just stay safe.

Everyday we should try to do something to leave out Comfort Zone, at least once a week. What has been the one thing you have done in the past month out of your Comfort Zone?

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