Why Long-term travel?
Long term travel is not really something you can chose, you can prepare yourself to it (financially) but the core of it, is the way you feel when travelling. Some people are just not prepared for that, and they end up coming back home after few weeks. Others are just so good travelling they carry on travelling all their lives. And others like me, didn’t have a clue on how long the travel was for. I just followed my heart and my instinct, even if my plan was changing a lot from a month to another.
Long term travel is probably the most beautiful experience in life, because the only thing you have is time. You learn to be patient, you learn to wait, you learn not to have high expectations on everything, you learn also not to take yourself too seriously, and the best: you get to know a lot more of yourself.
Long term travel is first a travel inside you.
How did you prepare it?
I spent a lot of time in libraries and bookshops reading some inspirational books, made of travellers visiting different countries. This was first to make me an idea of the place I wanted to visit, and most of the time was made of old memories from my childhood or just my crazy imagination.
Then I checked all vaccinations needed for South America.
And then I bought a travel guide, and that was it! I just had a ticket to Buenos Aires, the return wasn’t planned (and thanks God it wasn’t! )
Main challengers during the preparation?
Making my backpack before travelling! It was just too heavy, and it made me sick to get rid of one item.
And then I remembered walking with my backpack in the crowded Paris just to get use to it before travelling. A complete nightmare: Everything was falling down, but it was useful and this is how I actually became a proper snail!
How did you financially prepare for the trip? If you make a living while you travel, how do you do it?
I did prepare financially by saving money, but at the end, it wasn’t money that was driving my travels.
I did work while travelling, but it wasn’t prepared at all: I became a tourist guide in a cruise going to the end of the world, from Puntas Arenas in Chile to Ushuaia in Argentina. An amazing experience into the fjords, and going to the southern point before Antarctica: Cape Horn. A dream for any traveller.
I just contacted one of the agencies in Punta Arenas and the following week, I was part of the crew ready to leave!
In Santiago, I first applied as a receptionist in a big recruitment agency and I ended up working as a marketing analyst. Everything came by chance.
Top 10 experiences / Most incredible stories
– Work in a national park in Ushuaia for 2 months
– Becoming a travel guide in a cruise at the end of the world where I reached Cape Horn!
– Sleeping in the Atacama Desert just looking at the stars
– Staying a week in Puerto del Hambre, a lost point in the south of Punta Arenas
– Crossing 2000 kms in 4 days in a truck in Argentina
– Organizing in different countries a cinema on the road with just with a small projector and a white wall!
– Hatary Cotahuasi, the documentary I am making with a friend about the Cotahuasi Canyon
– Staying in a convent in Buenos Aires during a week
– Spending long days and nights in a buddhist temple in Talagante, near Santiago de Chile
– Almost died of hypotermia in the pampa
Top 5 Preferred places:
– Cotahuasi Canyon (Peru)
– La Higuera (Bolivia)
– Atacama desert (Chile)
– All Cuba
– North of Vietnam
Please tell us the 2 most amazing stories, from the trip that you have shared the most after?
There a lot of amazing stories I have shared.
I have in mind two of them.
In Santiago de Chile, I had a couple of friends who recommended me to watch “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring”, a south Korean movie. I was so inspired after watching it that I searched on internet a buddhist temple close to Santiago. I found one in Talagante, few kilometers from Santiago, in the countryside. The journey itself was an adventure, as I didn’t have a proper address to find. Nevertheless, I found it.
When I arrived there, a person told me the temple was closed, but I insisted and they opened it for me.
I arrived as a guest, and left as a friend.
I came back several times, especially in the week ends, I had my proper room. I learned how to cook sushis and chinese food, how to meditate, and the story of Buddha.
Oh dear, the whole experience was even better than the film. I felt in another world.
The other story is when I was working in Santiago de Chile. I wanted to hitchhike somewhere in Chile, having 4 days off in a row. I took the map of Chile, closed my eyes, and pointed somewhere in the map: Laguna del Laja appeared. I didn’t have a clue of where it was. Somewhere in the South of Chile.
To make a long story short I ended up travelling a whole day, and staying in a senator’s place at night in Antuco, and then getting to Laguna del Laja the next morning. The national park was amazing and at the entrance, the guards told me I couldn’t camp. After hitchhiking a little and walking, I saw a military basis. As a matter of security, I told the militaries I would camp near a mountain. They told me I could stay with them as the basis was almost empty.
At the end, we walked, fished and cooked during these 3 days. It’s probably one of the best memories I had of Chile.
What was the most profound/meaningful moment of your trip?
The most profound moment of my trip was when I was in the Canyon of Cotahuasi. I felt entering a new world from the Wari and Inca times: there were a lot of archaeological sites, perfectly well preserved. I felt this place was so special I couldn’t go away from it: I had to stay and I had to tell the story of this site. I didn’t know how, and everything came on time: my meeting with a journalist, the help from the local people. I walked to different villages, and heard the stories of amazing people: 6 months later, we were filming our documentary Hatary Cotahuasi.
What about the craziest thing you have done?
I have done a lot of crazy things. But I remember one: I was in Esquel and I had to visit some friends in Cordoba. I hitchhiked, and the trucker that stopped for me was amazing: an old man, sharing funny stories, and travelling with tons of onions. We shared 2.000 kms together, in 3 days. Even if he was going to the opposite direction, I didn’t care, because the only thing I had was time.
After these 3 days, another truck stopped for me, going to Rosario. We arrived at Rosario late at night. I didn’t want to walk in Rosario at this time of the night, especially in Rosario, a huge city. So I asked the trucker if I could stay with him, as he was going to the port for the night to unload the wares of the truck.
One thing you need to know: Rosario is one of the biggest port in the world, and the access to it is very restricted. VERY.
I had to hide lying at the back of the truck, holding my breath while the guard was checking no one was there, and avoiding the lights of control the whole night. But I made it ok, and I finally went out the next morning.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge was the moment of doubt you feel when all the elements are against you: you are hungry, you are lost, you see no one, it’s freezing and it’s almost night, and you ask yourself: why? Why am I on this trip? Why is this happening to me? Why didn’t I chose the easiest route?
But the nightmare always has a happy ending and you soon discover that bad moments are also part of the trip. Everything can’t be perfect all the time. It shows you how you need to appreciate when good moments come.
Which safety tips would you say are essential?
Travelling as a woman + being solo is an adventure. You faced a lot of discrimination in Latin America as independent women are not really well considered. You need to put a lot of effort to be understood and to change mentalities. But on the other side, being solo and being a woman is good: People will take care of you as if you were their own daughter.
I have certain rules when I hitchhike, and I think these rules are also available when travelling more generally:
-Avoid travelling at nights
-If you have a small doubt about someone/a situation, just leave it. Trusting your instinct is the best you can do.
-If you are travelling in remote places, make sure you told at least someone you were going to a specific area.
Given what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Honestly, nothing. All the experiences were worth living them, even the bad ones.
What do you think has changed the most about you during this experience? How and when did you notice?
This is a tough question.
Because it comes gradually, you don’t wake up a day and figure out you have changed.
It comes with different little things, and there are a lot of these little changes.
For example, at the beginning of my trip, I was terrified about being in the dark. Walking in the dark. Sleeping in the dark. Hearing strange noises when I was camping.
And little by little, I realized that the only thing surrounding me was nature, so I didn’t have to be scare of it. Now I can camp perfectly anywhere, without being scared.
Another example is the help I received during all my trip. You receive a lot: people will open their houses and hearts in an incredible way, and even without knowing you.
At the end: all this love, all this empathy, you want to give it back. You have received so much, you have been touched in so many ways, that you also want to be a part of this sharing.
This is one of the thing that truly changed in my life: I am more helpful with others.
Also, I have learnt not to judge too quickly. I have been so impressed to discover new people, far different from what I expected.
But the biggest change in my life has been to follow what I love, in all areas: work, activities, people. It is not harder, and at the end of the path, you have a big reward: to accomplish your dreams.
Inspirations (Movies, Books, People…):
Walden from Henry David Thoreau (Book)
The call of the wild (Jack London)
The motorcycle Diaries (Movie)
Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians from Pierre Clastres (Book)
Kinga and Chopin (Polish traveller)
Bruce Chatwin : In Patagonia (book)
Into the wild (Movie and book)
How was the return?
It was great! I changed completely my way of thinking!
I am more willing and prepared to meet new people in every corner now!
And to have also hot shower, bathroom and food every day was making me feel the luckiest person in the world.
What changed on you after this trip? What did you learn?
I am more connected with Nature, so I am trying as much as I can to preserve environment.
Having so little in the trip made me realise I didn’t need most of the stuff I had
I value every single day as an extraordinary new life
I try to let the people know how much I love them every day!
What would you do different if you could do it again?
I wish I had started travelling at 19
Books, DVD´s launched after?
DVD Hatary Cotahuasi launched
Favorite travelling quotes:
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Don’t stress too much, everything will be fine