Announcing My Latest Project: 100 Days of South American Memories

Rano Raraku (Moai Quarry)
Rano Raraku Quarry, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile

For the past 15 years, travel in South America has been one of the guiding interests in my life. As I mentioned in my last post, my backpacking trips to experience the natural wonders of Argentina during my study abroad year opened up my mind to the transformative potential of travel, and sparked my desire to learn more about the fascinating regional cultures all around the continent.

For years, my list of goals included plans to get in mountaineering shape to hike Patagonia (still pending!), travel for an extended period without an itinerary (check!), and volunteer for a year in Latin America (double check!).

When I moved to Chile in 2014, I did not have a return date in mind; I wanted to see where my adventures led me. Although I did quite a lot of travel in my most recent stint in South America, the adventure actually led me within myself and eventually back to the US, where I’ve been for the past six weeks. But let’s go a little backwards in time.

Laguna Huaracocha at Marcahuasi
Marcahuasi, Peru

What’s Happened

In January, I went on a vipassana retreat, which gave me a lot of time to think without distractions about what my next step was. The overwhelming answer from within was that I needed to rebuild my online teaching business so that I could be location independent. At the same time, I knew I needed to keep on meditating and connecting to my intuition (although very clearly NOT in the discipline taught during the retreat).

Although I fell in love with Santiago during my last couple of weeks in Chile, I ended up basing myself out of my familiar, much-loved Lima where I would not be so tempted to explore since I already knew the city very well. The three months I spent there helped me process how much I had changed since arriving in 2012 for my first volunteer year, and embrace the new direction my life was taking.

This meant saying some tough goodbyes, facing some difficult truths, and experiencing super uncomfortable emotions. However, because of my focus on intentional habits and routines, I had a framework to keep me moving forward through all of this, along with the aforementioned guiding project, my online teaching business. This steady progress on both fronts is already showing up in major ways in my life.

Hummingbird Colibri Nasca Lines Peru
Hummingbird (Colibrí), Nasca Lines, Peru

Right before leaving Peru to come back to the US, I traveled to Nasca and Paracas, two of the most visited areas in Peru, two places which seemed so familiar to me through other people’s stories, but which I had yet to experience for myself. During my trip I realized there is so much more to that region than I had previously understood; I left filled with curiosity and questions about the ancient cultures of Peru and what they understood about life’s possibilities.

After this trip, I know I am not “done” with Peru or with the powerful energy of the Andes; I’ll definitely be back, but in due course.

What’s Now

When I arrived back in the US six weeks ago, I didn’t have much of a plan except to spend quality time with my friends and family. (This has even become a bit of a joke with my mom, and we keep asking each other if certain shared moments count as quality time!) At US immigration, the officer asked me my plans and I told him, quite honestly, that I had not planned anything past this flight.

Instead, I’ve just been seeing how things go. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into growing my tutoring business and understanding how entrepreneurship works for me right now, in 2016.

Forests of Rhode Island

Forests of Rhode Island, USA

Of course, I’ve traveled around New England a little bit, visiting friends in New Hampshire and Boston and Rhode Island, spending hours catching up on everything that’s happened, getting to see new places and really appreciate the greenery of the region after a year in the desert.

At the same time, I’ve finally been following through on my push to organize and minimize my belongings in storage at my parents’ house – there’s nothing like living with a limited wardrobe and only the essentials to motivate you to get rid of any excess. (I’ve been using the KonMari method – sorting by category and figuring out which items I want to keep because they spark joy and motivate me to build a life I love.)

What’s Next

The interesting thing about decluttering and going through years (really, decades) of possessions is that it helps you to process old, trapped emotions as well as understand how much progress is possible over the course of a lifetime. I found an old assignment for my Portuguese class where I wrote, in Portuguese, that I wanted to work for myself but did not have any idea how to make that happen.

Imagine that – when I wrote that, I hadn’t even started teaching yet, and here I am, 8 years later, with years of experience under my belt and a very focused online teaching business. Life is funny.

Now that my tutoring and my “tidying” are cruising steadily, I have some space to think about other ways to invest my time and energy. I recently attended a Being Boss workshop on passion projects, and I realized that English with Kim has shifted from being a passion project to my work.

As I listened to the creative brainstorming in the workshop, they mentioned the 100 Day Project, where you spend 100 days in a row doing something creative and by the end have a body of work. And it hit me: that’s just the amount of time I need to catch up on processing my photos from my South American adventures and writing posts on all the amazing places I’ve visited!

So here’s the big announcement…

Kuelap Chachapoyas Peru

Ruins of Kuelap, Chachapoyas, Peru

#100daysofsouthamericanmemories

Starting today, I will post one photo to Instagram every day telling a short story from my amazing experiences in South America.

At the same time, I’ll finish writing about Rapa Nui (visited in December 2012!), the rest of my backpacking trip through Peru and Ecuador, and my most recent travels in 2016. I’ll write more about the Valle de Elqui, where I lived for all of 2015. I made a list of all the pending posts, and there are about 75. Those other 25 days give me a little wiggle room for sorting through photos. 🙂

Start Date: July 23, 2016

End Date: October 31, 2016

I’m starting today because it’s one month before my 35th birthday, and by late August I should be able to write posts on the three-year anniversary of when I took the photos in 2013. 😉 Ending on Halloween is a pretty interesting choice, as the next day is the Day of the Dead, a day for remembrance in many Latin American cultures.

If you’re interested in following my progress, follow @blueskylimit on Instagram or search for #100daysofsouthamericanmemories! (I’ll also be posting to my newly-created Facebook page if that’s where you’d rather follow along.)

I’m really excited about this endeavor; by November I should have completely caught up on my travel posts so I can open up space for new opportunities!

As I mentioned above, returning to South America was an underlying motivation for most of my decisions over the past decade, and it’s time I finish processing that experience and sharing it with the world, even if it’s just in my little corner of the web!

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