Traveller stories – on South America, Machu Picchu and solo travelling

Today we sat down with traveller Sarah and asked her about her recent travels – which has since inspired her to start a career in travel and tourism. Born and bred in Birmingham, she has only just returned home after two years solo travelling, admittedly with “a lot of friends along the way” – and she’s been forever changed.

She recently spent three months backpacking in South America, chasing an urge to “see the world”.

She talked about her previous relationship, saying that while the two of them had plans to travel together, ultimately they split up due to differences – she wanted to travel, him settle down.

“I wanted more to life, and I think that’s why we split in the end,” she explains.

“You learn how to form relationships very quickly, you learn social skills, you learn about money and budgeting. Life’s lessons. It teaches you how to cope and to survive. I’m a bit better with geography. Um… It teaches you how to sleep in a room with 8 other people.” Sarah, on what travelling has taught her

Her South American trip was an eye-opener, and she cites Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca ruins in the Andes Mountains in Peru, as “the best three days of the trip”.

“It was amazing, absolutely one of my highlights. We only did the one day trek, we went into the jungle – it’s amazing, really. This little unknown town in the middle of the jungle. It was a really hard trek, so when you finally make it there, it’s like, Wow.”

Her favourite?  Colombia, the northern tip of South America.

“There are so many regions in South America – I had a certain place in each part of South America that was my favourite. I had my favourite beach town, my favourite mountain place – but my favourite as a whole was Colombia.

“The people, the hospitality – they are so welcoming and friendly, and they make you feel part of the family.”

“And Rio,” she adds with a wry smile. ” – but that was the end of the tip and the big blowout.”

When asked what she learnt from travelling, and what she got out of her two years ‘on the road’, Sarah pauses.

“I learnt to have patience. I learnt to be both less domestic and more domestic. I learnt how to not shower every day – to keep clean without showering. You learn how to form relationships very quickly, you learn social skills, you learn about money and budgeting. Life’s lessons. It teaches you how to cope and to survive. I’m a bit better with geography. Um… It teaches you how to sleep in a room with 8 other people.”

She does have some advice for female travellers.

“I didn’t tend to go out at night, and I’d go out early to get back early. The times that I didn’t like were the border crosses. That’s when I felt like I didn’t know what was going on… The police swing their guns around like they’re plastic. It’s quite intimidating when they get onto the bus to check, because they want to see your passport…”

The end of the interview sees her enthusiastically encouraging women to travel. “It can be a little bit of a culture shock at first, but it’s so exciting.”

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