Hurry Up And Live!!

20161206_204854Spending 6 months in Santiago is beyond a doubt verysettling.  There is no denying it…I lost my lust for adventure and spent an unintended extra 3 months in Santiago.
Don’t get me wrong… it was nice. Nice…but is that the adjective you want to look back on my travels and use? If the answer is no get on a bus and go!!
Without even realising it, I was becoming claustrophobic, a shell of my former lively self, feeling like I was drowning and unfortunately I didn’t realise this  until I actually left santiago.

Be Selfish!!

One piece of advice I have and one I am going to live by from now on… don’t change your plans for someone else.. on your travels you come first! If, like me, you are a people pleaser you can easily become ‘swayed’. Be lead off your path and suddenly you are putting others desires ahead of your own.  STOP AND BE SELFISH!!!!
I think some of us tend to be an easy target… finding it difficult to say no to people, wanting to please everyone but yourself…. get over yourself!! Initially I blamed it on my personality, it’s the way I am… but when I began to analyse why I stayed longer in Santiago, it wasn’t because I was being manipulated,it wasn’t because I was pressured by anyone else, it was simply because I had become comfortable.

Wake the hell up!!

Adventure keeps the soul alive and by lacking adventure I was becoming dormant. Knowing that you have an open ended ticket for travelling it allows you to relax… there are no time restrictions, you can stay longer in places than previously anticipated and still have time to spare. This is an amazing thing.  It is a gift that not many get to experience so for God’s sake please don’t waste it!! I think if I were to start over I wouldn’t have stayed so long in Chile but then without having stayed there I wouldnt know what I know now. Life is for living and travelling is for experiencing and learning. As I am writing this I am sitting on a plane to La Paz, feeling like my ribs have all of a sudden expanded and I can finally breath! Was I not breathing before?!

From Comfort to Adventure!!

As I am a sufferer of anxiety, new beginnings always scare me. This time however it is more a feeling of excitement than fear! (A totally new sensation for me). Of course I also have such feelings as being nervous, a little scared and anxious but I can breathe! Not just a surface breath..but deep! I’m not sure how long it is since I’ve been able to!!
The biggest fear for a person like me is being alone with yout thoughts.  This is something I don’t experience often and try my best to venture as far from my mind as possible. This trip I refuse to! Embrace and learn to love the little me inside. Learn to trust her…catch those knots of tension in your stomach and allow them to become butterflies! Adventure brings these feelings constantly and now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Day one in La Paz… get out and mingle! Open my eyes and see what there is to see! Just live!!

My Chilean Escapades

Truthfully, Santiago itself is not the most beautiful of cities. It lacks the liveliness of Buenos Aires and unfortunately the pollution is the worst I’ve come across as of yet. Saying that though, it does have many good qualities.

I made some amazing friends there, tasted lots of lovely foods and of course visited some amazing markets. Mercado Central and La Vega are an absolute must!

Coming from Argentina where vegetarians can struggle with finding the right food, it was such a treat to be graced with mountains of vegetables – so many varieties to choose from as well. I felt spoilt!

Also strangely enough from my point of view, Santiago is full of Sushi restaurants! Quite incredibly there is at least one on every street!

It has a few nice parks in the city itself and if you like hiking or mountain biking it is a central hub for definite! But because of my work there I traipsed across the city multiple times a day and along with being there during winter (stay away if at all possible, a mixture of rain and smog is a death wish)… I have to say I didn’t really “feel” it.

Saying that, if you get the chance to be in Santiago or Chile in fact for the 18th of September, it sure is a treat!! How to describe it…. like St. Patrick’s weekend in Ireland I suppose.. Filled with traditional foOdstock and drinks (Terremoto or ‘earthquake’ in english is definitely an acquired taste which consists of a certain sweet wine and ice cream, lots of Pisco and of course a mountain of meat and barbecues.  Being in Chile for this weekend really made me fall in love with Chile as it really shows how community pull together and how proud they are of their heritage.

Valdivia & Chiloe…a city girls dream

Valdivia

Having spent nearly 4 months straight in Chile’s capital it was a breath of fresh air to visit the south… literally! I hadn’t realised the effect that Santiago’s smog had on my breathing while I was stuck in the the city centre. Yes Santiago is lovely but get out and leave it and see the wonders that Chile has to offer!

Valdivia is one of the many treasures in the south of the country. It is small enough to walk around all the incredible tourist attractions and it was an absolute joy! From the exquisite Lotus lake to the beautiful botanical gardens and the Fluvial Fish Market (where the sea lions stopped off to say hello and be fed) to the Kunstmann Cervezería.

From the friendly Valdivianos themselves, the the proud fishermen and helpful passers-by to the knowledgeable beer and food merchants (they have a delicious and vast range of beers in the region) it was truly a pleasure to experience.

Being a huge fan of vegetables I was in for a treat with the luscious choice of veg on offer. Having only one full day in Valdivia is surely not enough but it gave me the taste of the real Chile and the ‘amazing-ness’ it has to offer.

I visited a quaint little café called *Cosas Ricas* where they sell a variety of delightful homemade cakes and treats and following advice. I went to ‘La Ultima Frontera’ for beer and a sandwich and it is a must!! Even fussy eaters and non-beer drinkers would leave completely satisfied. The waiter (a lovely Rasta man) guided me through the extensive beer menu and did indeed find the perfect beer for me. The food was absolutely delicious and a lot better value than you would find in Santiago. I ended up having the falafel myself and my meat-eating friend trying the Chacarero (meat loaded sandwich), we left with smiles on our faces.

Although there are Artisanal Fairs throughout Chile I really liked the more laid back vines of the Valdivian vendors and ended up purchasing beautiful Alpaca wool gloves for a mere 2000 pesos and a one of a kind scarf for 3000. I could have shopped all day with the colourful and cheap handcrafted goods.

As an avid market goer, I could not pass up a chance to visit Mercado Fluvial. I loved this most of all. It is fruit/veg and fish market where the vendors are proud of their stock and so welcoming to all. If you are not interested in purchasing it is still well worth the visit for the bustling atmosphere and friendly sea lions.

Top off a visit to Valdivia with a trip to ‘The Ultimate Frontera’

This is a gem in Valdivia. Known for its extensive range of beers and it’s tasty sandwiches, it did not disappoint.
A trendy place with a laid back, simply lovely atmosphere, there is plenty of space for families or solo travellers. The service was superb!! Unfortunately I didn’t get his name, but the ‘Rasta’ waiter was so attentive and knowledgeable on beers – he is a credit to the establishment! As I am not a beer lover, he brought testers for me to try different types that he thought I may like.. mission accomplished 🙂

Another reviewer wrote that upon ordering papas bravas with their sandwiches it came after their meal. It was a similar story for me, but it was no big issue. The portions are massive and we actually had to take practically all the potatoes away with us.  I had the falafel sandwich and it is gigantic. My advice is…leave the bread and make sure to enjoy the falafel and salad-delish!

Chiloe

The journey from Valdivia to Pargua (from where we took the ferry) was like a secret gift from home. The Irish like landscape accompanied by a volcano, lakes, quaint little houses in postcard perfect towns made the four hour bus ride worth every minute.

We spent our first night in Castro and left for Ancud the next day. Originally having booked a hostel (which was more like a pension) for two nights, we quickly realised Castro was not the place to be. Yes it has palafitos, a nice plaza and church, a nice artisanal market but to be honest it hasn’t got much more. As it is the capital of Chiloe this was quite surprising. Similar to Valdivia, the people were extremely friendly, often stopping to ask us if we needed directions.. a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Santiago life!

Chiloe is like stepping back in time to old Ireland. Quite a closed minded bunch of people.. often women walking behind their husbands and unfortunately it has the highest rate of rape per capita in South America (incestuous). <—— ?????

We were told that if you have a problem with one person in the locality,half the town are bound to follow and if there’s an issue between two people they fight it out (the law is basically non-existent).
Although I didn’t get to see any, there are still aboriginal people (Mapuche) that live on the island and it is from these people the towns are named. It is the island where the famous Trauco legend originates and every sculpture or picture has a mystical tale behind it. One being the sculpture of a woman giving birth which signifies the fertility of the earth of Chiloe.

Ancud – which got its first set of traffic lights just last year (the Leitrim of Chile!) –  is such a beautiful place. Having a mere population of 35000 (40k last census) people it is fairly small but it has an abundance to offer.

It is a town which was struck by a tsunami in 1960 and had to be totally rebuilt. If you look close enough or have someone to point it out, you can see evidence of the destruction to this day.

Luckily for us, we had a connection with a family there and they were kind enough to bring us around the island. Please be advised that without a car, and a 4×4 at that, you won’t be able to explore the island much at all. From Playa de las Aves (beach of birds), to Las Pengüineras (where the penguins come to hang out December-February), to Faro Corona (the most important lighthouse on the Austral Pacific ocean), to Mar Brava, a beautiful beach with amazing cliff surroundings, the surrounds are stunning. Of course along with the local artisanal markets, Chiloe, and Ancud in particular, is definitely worth the visit if you spend time in Chile!

The day we were leaving we were treated to a fantastic lunch ‘Merluza Austral al horno’ which is as you can see below, freshly caught fish baked in the oven with a variety of vegetables. Simply delicious!

The Chilotes (the people of Chiloe) are very proud of their locally produced produce and have a wide variety of  potatoes. They eat potatoes religiously, with every meal, and it just made me question if I was indeed back home in Ireland!!
If I was any bit homesick before i visited, it then vanished… Chiloe felt like a home away from home and somewhere I would definitely love to visit again.

San  Pedro de Atacama

My first experience of an actual desert was indeed an amazing one! Flying into Calama (leave again as soon  as you can!!) And a short bus ride away we arrived in San Pedro. With only 3 days there we dived straight into it by going on a tour to the Salar de Atacama (the salt flats). It was surely very impressive but after seeing salt for an hour and some flamingos in the far distance, it lost its affect on me. Definitely worth seeing buy most definitely not the best San Pedro has to offer.
Day 2 we had an early 4.30am start and headed off to Geiser del Tatio. A must!!!! At -14’C, dressed only in skimpy leggings I shivered my way around viewing such amazing geysers! My first time but definitely not my last to see some geysers. Pleasantly on our tour we were then allowed to go into the hot springs whilst watching the geysers errupt.  Mind you undressing into a bikini it -14’C was no easy feat!  What an experience all in all!
Arriving back to the hostel around lunchtime we had an hour to spare before heading off to Valle de la Luna and Valle de la muerte (valley of the moon and valley of the dead).
This was truly amazing and our tour guide was simply brilliant. It’s funny with valle de la muerte because when it was discovered way back, the translation was lost and instead of calling it Mars Valley which it should be, it was called Dead Valley.  It was so amazing and we waited to see the sun set there which scattered colours across the valley. Just look below to see!
One tip I have for you though.. don’t forget suncream when going to valle de la luna etc. It’s like a joke…Irish girl goes to the desert and forgets sun block! Luckily only my nose got it but super stupid move on my behalf.
All in all, it is an amazing place..magical! If I could do it again I would do an extra day and fit in a laguna too.

Geiser del Tatio –  little bit of swimming
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Sunsetting Valle de la Luna20160813_18133220160813_11172620160814_101852Llama kebabs20160813_172426Salar de Atacama – salt flats 20160814_07543620160814_085742Geiser del Tatio20160814_17013020160814_155132

Two Weeks Too Much in Merlo, San Luis

“Stepping back in time to a place where life is simple” was my initial feeling when I arrived in Merlo, San Luis. I have to admit..coming from Buenos Aires to Merlo was quite the contrast and a little hard to adjust to!

Since arriving I have found out that Merlo is is a place where people move to upon retirement or where the Argentine people go on holiday when they want a break from the everyday ´norm´.  It is a relaxed, quiet way of life and in my mind it is similar to what Ireland must have been like in the 1970s – but with better weather of course.

The views are spectacular as it is located at the foot of the Comechingones Mountain Range, the people are friendly albeit not speaking any English, and it is cheap to eat out and go on excursions. Be warned however, the tour guides and tourism companies do not speak any English so it can be a little difficult to organize these.

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If I felt like I stood out in Buenos Aires with my pale complexion, it is even more so the case here. I am the only non Argentinean tourist in the whole town however funnily enough, I do not feel one bit uncomfortable. The people are excited to talk to me and so helpful… and also very patient with my broken Spanish!

How did I end up here you may ask? Well, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I registered with an agency called ´Workaway´ which advertises jobs for bed/board.  Long story short, I am working for a lovely lady in her institute teaching English. Initially I was not excited… I didn’t want to work as this is my year for travelling after all, but it is such an amazing way to integrate into a community and get the inside scope´. Valeria is fabulous! I would highly recommend coming here if you have the chance and I have now decided to stay for a second week.

From four year olds to adults, I am teaching all ages and it is such a pleasure to teach pupils who really want to learn English. It is a small institute called SOSmama with roughly 50 students and I found it a nice way to gain experience teaching Spanish speakers.

Although it is a picturesque and tranquil place, there is not much to do for the fellow backpacker here bar having some downtime or enjoying the views of the mountains. I do of course think having some time to reflect and breath is important but in my opinion two weeks is way too long without working or at least having something planned.

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All in all, it was a pleasant visit but not for the easily bored. On the plus side, I got to catch up on writing my blogs and exercise etc. but I really am looking forward to my next stop. Mendoza and the wine region, here I come!!

Today Was a Bad Day & That’s Okay…

It just takes one rude person to push you into the dark.. one oblivious unbeknown person! Since being diagnosed with depression it is the one thing I am so wary about… reading behind the smile.. seeing the pain or confusion in eyes.. I personally find when I am dipping it can be as simple as a smile or a ‘good morning’ that lifts you right back out of your slump. Everyone should be aware!

Trying not being so self absorbed and caught up in your own drama (as us humans tend to be guilty of) and just stopping… taking in your surroundings… observing the people around you… breathing fresh air and being gentle to both yourself and those around you is all it might take to change someones day.

Sitting on the patio of a cafe in the small town of Merlo, San Luis, Argentina… eating a fresh salad, drinking healthy mineral water, with the sun shining on my face and yet still feeling negative?  It’s hard not to be selfish when you’re feeling down.. difficult to remember that there are so many people worse off than you and yet at that moment, I felt right down there with them… feeling rubbish about life but more so about myself… and what reason did I have? I am travelling around South America, ‘living the dream’ as they say and yet right at that moment I may as well have been at home in bed with my head under the covers…
Luckily I know it passes and until it does I just keep smiling and pretending because as the saying goes “fake it til’ you make it”!

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Someone once shared a poem (Please Hear What I’m Not Saying) with me once which I think resonated with everything or almost everything I felt and went through at my lowest. I would recommend everyone to read it.. if for nothing else but just to gain some insight into the different thoughts ones mind can go through when having depression.

I understand I am in a country where spanish is the spoken language but to have patience with a foreigner is not too much to ask.. in my opinion anyway! Pushing me into that dark place or actually into limbo as I did not quite there hit bottom but was on the verge… it was a simple thing of asking for the WiFi password and for a waiter to be rude, unfriendly, impatient with my broken spanish and basically making me feel like I was a nuisance to be around. F#@% that!! Having time alone or where you can switch off is crucial.. whether it be going for a coffee, a run, or to meditate it doesn’t  matter! It is these vices that help us through it and when  a rude waiter ruins my little imagesvice of having lunch in the sun, I am sad, depressed, homesick and just feeling in general very vulnerable! By concentrating on how rude this certain waiter was, I was losing myself. I wasn’t feeling centred or strong enough to pull myself together and thus allowing all these negative thoughts to envelope me.

A site called soundofheart.org has exercises which help.. and I took my phone out, put my ear phones in and focused on the good things around me. Low and behold a toddler with his mother walked past me, smiled a big toothy grin and that was all I needed! Things were okay and it was fine to be in a bad mood but it lifted and I survived it. These sh%# times do pass whether it be in your home or in a country thousands of miles away… Unfortunately there is no escaping them but to know they are coming and to know they WILL pass is what the most important thing is 😊

First little ‘mood’ down of my travels and although there will surely be more to come, I feel so much stronger now than before! After all, who doesn’t love a good cry from time to time! #DontCryForMeArgentina #IJustDid

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Buenos Aires… Cows, Football, Tango & Mate

A month in Buenos Aires

What to say about the home of the Portenos/as (the people of the port i.e. Buenos Aires born and bred)… It is a vibrant, bustling, beautiful city with a busy day and even busier nightime!

It has been a roller coaster of a ride (see my next blog for personal views/opinions/feelings about the city) but all in all it really has been amazing!

Cows

As we all know, Argentina is renowned for its quality of beef! Being a vegetarian this is something I did not look forward to but to see such pride in the eyes of the Porteños, whether it be at a Parilla or an Asado, it changed my mind completely.

Being invited to an Asado is a very special thing… it is a social gathering of people (friends/family) with tonnes of food (meat predominantly, but also salad vegetables, bread) and lots of beer, wine and music. Usually beginning around 11pm, it goes on for hours and really emphasised how sociable the Argentine people are. One thing to note though.. this is not a BBQ and if you refer to this as one to an Argentinean they will be offended!

 

The difference is the use of a Parilla as opposed to a gas/charcoal BBQ we so commonly know.  download

This is what a typical Parilla looks like.. a non commercial one that is..

It is the type you will find in many apartment blocks in Buenos Aires and the centre of where the Asados are held!

Apart from beef (Bife) being so popular here, leather is also vastly sold throughout Buenos Aires. Of course it is sold in the shops but it’s at the markets you find the real deals and treasures! If you have no space in your bag.. wear an extra belt going home! They are such good quality and so cheap. Two leather belts for $380 ARS which works out at around €20! The market vendors will customise and fit belts to your desire. How can you go wrong?!

 

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They certainly waste no part of a cow here!

Football

 

As many of you will know Argentines are very passionate about football.. The legends that are Diego Maradona, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi… can be seen at almost every turn. I won’t pretend to know  much about football but the passion of the game is intoxicating!

 

It is hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere when Boca Juniors or River Plate (the two major teams in Buenos Aires) are playing.. whether you are in a restaurant and the chefs are roaring with delight over a last minute goal or simply on the street where locals are jumping with glee, it is an amazing atmosphere. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go to a game whilst here but I did get to visit Caminito where the world famous Boca “La Bombonera” stadium is, and it is something spectacular for sure!

 

Tango

Before arriving here I had great plans to take classes and master the art of Tango but unfortunately this didn’t go to plan. Yes I took classes but it turns out I am not so good with letting a man lead 😊 who would have thought?! Despite this, I enjoyed the classes and recommend attending one if you have time!

As well as a class, I would highly advise going to a Tango show. They are just hypnotising! Mesmerised by the moves, the passion and the artistry of the dancers and musicians it truly is a party of the senses! I went to Piazzolla and was not one bit disappointed. Despite the price being quite high in comparison to other events in Buenos Aires (on estimate €70 per person to have a class, dinner and show) the place itself is simply stunning – ornate balconies, exquisite food and wine, attentive waiting staff and beautiful music. Simply wonderful.

 

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If you are not lucky enough to have time or can’t spare the cash to attend a show, there are many ways to view the native dance very cheaply or even free of charge in Milongas… cafes… or  from time to time you will stumble across dancers on the street!

 

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Mate

 

Pronounced ‘Ma-tay’ this is the drink which all Argentinians are obsessed with! To me it is a herbal tea, pure & simple but to them it is so much more. Mate is the name of the cup it is being drunk from and depending on the origin of the cup or what it is made from, I have been assured it can change the flavour hugely.

It is very much a social drink and is often passed around friends – the key apparently is not to move the leaves or stir it using the straw; supposedly it ruins the taste. For girls here it is like the cool accessory to have coming in a wide range of colours but for most it is just an alternative to coffee/water.

Upon trying Mate I didn’t like it much at first but I have been told it is an acquired taste much like Guinness. For now though, I have decided, I will pass!

 

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Some say it’s great for study and concentration, others just like to share with others. A friend told me, once you leave Argentina you can no longer buy it so when travelling around they are sure to bring enough with them.  Much like sharing a beer or a vodka for me I think 😊

All in all, Buenos Aires is a must for anyone coming to South America and it is definite… I will be returning here one day for sure!!

Next stop Merlo, San Luis!!

 

The Joys of a Layover

6 months… 1 month… 2 weeks…tomorrow…

When the day you head off on your own finally dawns it can be hard to take it all in, to accept that it is actually happening!

Sitting in Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome with headphones in, watching people – these friends, companions, partners, maybe work colleagues of each other – all drifting by, smiling and laughing, oblivious to the few souls travelling by themselves.

It’s strange, surreal even! Dodging eye contact for the umpteenth time, wanting to be invisible to men leering.. possibly not meaning anything by it but making me feel uneasy all the same. To be honest, the whole situation it is not pleasant for me.

Add to that that everything is an effort! A lay-over of eight hours with a rucksack isn’t fun. Being hungry with food intolerances and not speaking the language is quite daunting, being so tired having been on the road since 4am with no sleep is no picnic either… But you know what….no one can do anything about it but you!!

Some advice from me to you…

Get up and find luggage storage/deposit (and even if two Japanese girls laugh at you for depositing it for a mere 6 hours, who cares – it’s bloody well heavy and awkward!)

We (nearly) all have smartphones – we can google phrases to figure out what’s good and what’s not and even if you end up asking for pizza with pineapple (and get hissed at because it is sacrilege to the Italians to put fruit on a pizza) you can act like a dumb tourist and get away with it! Adding ketchup to it also doesn’t go down that well when sitting in the middle of the employee section of a restaurant but hey…. it gave some guys in suits amusement so I have that going for me! 🙂

Ear phones are marvellous inventions! Regardless of if you’re listening to something or not, they give you a little bit of confidence to ignore sleazy men..pretend it’s not happening and you can save a shiver or a blush for someone more worthy!

A few things I have noted whilst sitting in the airport.. Italians dress well, the shops in this airport are not for the budget traveller. Freckles are cute (thanks.. I think!!). When queuing to ask for information and standing beside a tourist who has neither Italian nor English you will be greeted warmly by the desk worker and become an emergency translator asked to explain what your fellow traveller is saying. .. this happened to me 3 times! I didn’t think English was more similar to Dutch than Italian but hey… we got there in the end!

And finally when travelling alone, the waiting around can be the toughest of all… it is tiring which doesn’t lift the spirits.. you cannot close your eyes in fear of being robbed, and most of all it is lonely! One thing that helped was I found by smiling more, and putting a brave face on things, I got a lot of smiles back which in turn makes you feel less alone. Result!!

Before Your Travels – How to Help Keep those Anxieties at Bay!

What did we do before the internet?!

There are so many sites and blogs out there that I can’t even begin to try and list them all but I am going to write about a few that I found incredibly helpful and why.

First of all, being a female solo-traveler brings with it a couple of extra anxieties. As a sufferer of depression/anxiety this was something that very nearly made me back out several times from my trip. However whilst researching different anxiety & travel blogs I came across the neverendingfootsteps which completely restored my self-belief. Luckily I am not afraid to go out alone, see new things etc., but it is the perfectionist in me that tries to knock me down. Upon reading Lauren Juliff’s blog and subssequently reading her book ‘How not to Travel the World’ I thought that if this girl can do it, and actually overcome her anxiety, then so can I!!

That really was the first step to my new adventure 🙂

Of course I worry that I will begin to dip again once I’ve left alone, and discussing it with a friend I asked the question “When am I allowed to be in bad form?” Just because I suffered from depression I too have the right to just be in plain lousy form sometimes, after all everyone else is allowed to be! Only when I accepted that this is inevitable and I will of course be anxious (because it is a normal feeling for all travelers and in particular those travelling alone), it became okay again.

Mind Over Matter

I read a blog post called 4 Anxieties You Face As a Solo Traveler and How to Beat Them and the little tips they give are just so logical! I am an avid planner in everyday life which tends to minimize those dreaded feelings of anxiety but for some reason I have gone to the other extreme and in relation to this trip I cannot sit down and plan at all! I think it’s a little bit of fear I have which has managed to disable this feature in my mind. As long as I don’t think of all the potential risks and problems I will inevitably face then it’s like it won’t happen… mind over matter etc., Unfortunately this is not the case! These anxieties are discussed on yTravelBlog and I know they are most definitely going to creep up/pounce on top of me… after reading their blog though, I feel that little bit more prepared!

Between that blog and TravelwithKate, they have given me little tips to face every day life and restored a little bit of confidence, so all in all, a very worthwhile reads!!

Safety

Safety is a huge concern of mine as I have always had someone else with me when travelling. I have always been considered quite accident prone, lacking common sense and generally an easy target which has come from previous experiences whether it be injuring myself whilst away, getting lost or being mugged etc. I have had to reassure myself plenty of times that I can do this alone and with such entries like 46 Incredibly Useful Safety Tips For Women Traveling Alone or asking advice from other travelers, it has restored my faith in myself. It is wise to be cautious and mindful for safety reasons and luckily I have had time to start practicing mindfulness and meditation before I leave. Headspace is a really good free site to get you started!

Language barriers 

When I started researching what to do/where to go I had no idea how I would do it alone. I knew I wanted to improve my Spanish so that made the decision of heading to South America for me. When living in Germany back when I was young and brave etc., I remember a friend mentioned having a tandem partner. I googled this concept in Buenos Aires – my first stop – and I stumbled across the site conversationexchange.com 

This is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a way to meet and talk to someone in person/skype/whatsapp etc., with the aim to improve your language skills. In my case it would be Spanish that I want to practice and being a languages teacher it gave me the confidence to offer my services which I may otherwise have felt that I couldn’t. Everyone can do it and it’s 100% free! It’s the feeling of loneliness that stops so many of us doing things alone, being adrift with our thoughts etc., and although I know there will be times when I am alone, I will hopefully get more comfortable with that, but this just shows – we are not alone 100% of the time!

I got in touch with people and before I knew it I had several emails asking to meet up to chat/hang out/site-see etc. Of course this is an online site and of course like any other site it brings with it it’s very own dangers but as long as you’re careful it works – a bit like internet dating I suppose! I myself have decided to meet just girls with whom I have skyped in advance. Straight away it takes away that feeling of being alone and being unprepared because every little question I have, regardless of how minuscule it is, they want to speak English so they are more than willing to answer! Win/win I say 🙂

Money 

Another concern I have had was the dreaded M word….. money! Naturally I am on a budget and as I am travelling alone it is a worry that I will run out/lose my cards etc. How I can afford to do everything I want and yet have a bed to sleep in?! Well look no further than Workaway! It is an amazing site which for a little registration fee, you can work for board/keep! You don’t need to do this in advance just set up a profile and contact people/business’ that are in the vicinity of where you want to stay! Already I have organised a few weeks work in an Argentinian kindergarten and a Chilean hostel! Not only is this an amazing way to meet new people but also to immerse into the local culture and it has given me some peace of mind and structure too!

Again, safety needs to come first though! I have read all the reviews on these and talked with previous ‘workawayers’ that have stayed/worked in my chosen places, asking opinions etc. This is  something I would definitely recommend to do! And of course I’ll write about the experiences I have with these, giving an honest account and review of each stay! Any questions, just ask 🙂  xoxo

Why I’m writing this Blog…

I am about to head off to South America as a lone traveler, and having never traveled alone before…I am freaking out!

This decision came about because sometimes life throws curve balls at you and you need to either take the bull by the horns or give up… in this case I am chasing the bull and reaching for him! I will get there 🙂

I was diagnosed with depression/severe anxiety  8 months ago and it threw my safe knitted planned out life into turmoil.

I left a steady career behind, walked away from all my friends and colleagues, moved back to Ireland to live with my mother and have been doing everything I can to kick this illness’s ass since (on my good days of course). A big worry I have is that I’ll dip once I’m left on my own and out of my comfort zone but if I don’t try to overcome it and keep my anxiety at bay, I probably never will….so this is why I am going to write this blog and why I’ve decided to call the blog The Antsy Traveller!!

I decided on this expedition to throw myself out of my comfort zone and see what Latin America has to offer! I’ve always been dependent on others for some reason – being a “sheep” I guess. I never realized this until it was too late and I lost all self-belief! For me it’s always been easier to let others take charge which made me feel protected and safe but you have to ask yourself… is that really living?? How is doubting your ability to make decisions really embracing life? I was asked a few months back and honestly I was stumped… I couldn’t answer! 

Since being asked that question, I wanted to prove to myself that I am in control of my own life… that I’ve the power to take on a trip like this… that I don’t need anyone to hold my hand and basically regain confidence in myself.

This is all well and good in theory but I am on the countdown…. in less than a month I will have landed in Buenos Aires and although I have a few things in the pipeline, I have no set plans and this kills me!! I have always been an over-planner – this tends to leave less time to be on your own with your thoughts which is a great fear for me. I crave structure and to be busy but ‘living in the now’, ‘going with the flow’, and in general just ‘being’ is what I aim/want to be able to do.

I want to share with people who are thinking of undertaking something like this that if I can do it, then anyone can! I will be honest with my feelings – good & bad – and I will share all the tips that help me along the way.

I have to admit – I have struggled  in the last few weeks, debating whether to go at all! The constant questions/looks of disapproval from some people when they hear you have not only given up your job, but now you are off to a ‘dangerous’ place putting your life at risk and worrying your family etc. can really chip away at your courage! Luckily in my case I have a very supportive family who are vouching for me and what I would say to those people now who I allowed to bring me down is f*** right off! People don’t understand the power their words have over someone vulnerable, so be strong! My one piece of advice is if you have any older relatives or certain types of people asking you are you going alone…. make your life that bit easier and say you have connections over there! Protect yourself against negativity because it very nearly made me cancel my trip altogether and perhaps revert back into that dark place I dread so much!

In my next post, I want to share the sites/bloggers that have helped me so far to prepare not just physically but mentally for this trip too because doing it alone really isn’t easy! You have no one to make any of the decisions for you and believe me, for someone who hasn’t done this before it is SCARY!!

So lastly, I hope you enjoy it and even if it helps just one person it will have all been worth while 🙂