I got on a train from San Jose to Denver and changed to a flight to San Francisco. I was exhausted by this point but ultimately satisfied, at least as much as you can be in your twenties. It was such a pivotal and exciting time in my life which is why I remember it so clearly years on. Whilst doing my research for this chapter, I discovered many more places that I didn’t see in Latin America on this trip which makes me ache to return.
Going back to the UK after California was still difficult but I was ready. I felt depressed for quite a few months afterwards. I didn’t really enjoy my Master’s degree in Television Documentary Production which I started in September after I arrived home.
It was a real struggle to get a job after finishing my MA. I had to do a lot of hard graft and unpaid work experience for several companies including large broadcasters and I worked on more terrible short films than I care to remember.
I continue to live with anxiety and depression so I am really proud that I managed to do this trip without avoiding the things that scared me. I was also diagnosed with OCD later in life so I felt even more impressed that I did an eleven month trip around Latin America with an undiagnosed mental illness.
I did have an ongoing fear that I would lose my arm on the trip, and this scary thought would often come into my mind. I just ignored it and carried on and that is no small feat for someone with OCD.
Writing this account of my journey has put me back in touch with my inner bravery and draws on all the knowledge that I collected along the way. Even if I have health problems in the future I can own myself and this story including all the times I was angry and sad and wrong and right and weak and strong. Being able to finish this brought me to tears and I’m was so happy to have been supported in this by a select group of incredible people.
I am also so grateful to Steph for putting up with all my madness and for supporting the South America dream even in the times she was afraid. She got married and honeymooned in Sri Lanka so she got the happiness she deserved. I also found a great partner, but that’s another story.
I would like to say a few more words about South America in the light of the times we live in now, as whether we voted for them or not, they affect all of us. Trump happened and continues to happen every day. It remains to be seen how this will affect the Americas.
I work in news some of the time and Latin America is not often on the news agenda but I try my best. Lack of foreign bureaux means that we’re frequently unaware of things that are happening in the world unless they’re massive, awful and involve the Western world.
I’d love to see more about Latin America and its successes. I’m sick of hearing about that fucking wall already. There is more to the South than Mexico and not every Mexican wants to live in the US. I haven’t been but I thoroughly intend to.
I want the wall to be built and when he’s out I want people to tear it down. I want it to symbolise that the age of hatred and scapegoating is over and we’ve found a way to love each other better. I want us to keep a section up as a warning from history like the Berlin Wall, I want it to be a shrine for peace. Every day is a cliffhanger as we become desensitised to the short-sighted decisions that hurt us as a society and decimate the environment we live in and the wildlife we share it with.
I have also reflected a lot on travel whilst writing this. Travelling is so different now and I have nostalgia for the old ways because that is the nature of getting older. Things are much easier now in many ways and we know more than ever.
Something I don’t miss is internet cafes. Walking around trying to find one or trying to find the cheapest as well as having to print stuff out. I’m also glad the days of using hostel computers is over. Especially when you had to sit and wait in a line for one or two terrible computers that were totally slow from being in use 24 hours a day.
I do miss not knowing whats going on as its impossible to avoid the world when you’re away now. As I have a smartphone I return from holidays totally aware of whats gone on in my absence.
But also the internet brings opportunities for bloggers, artists, photographers, writers and filmmakers to put themselves out there and I think that’s important. I was offered a column in a local newspaper before I left for South America but I said no as I thought it would be too hard to file every week. I would jump at that chance now.
There are more tourists now. I know that Colombia particularly is busy and I know many people have been there now. Its great they’re getting to experience somewhere so incredible and I hope Colombia benefits economically from it.
I looked at the headlines on the 29th March 2017 to get a snapshot of the Latin America news agenda. The four biggest stories on the Western news agenda were:
‘Colombia minister in battle over Cajamarca mining ban’. 98% of people in Cajamarca after fears of the damage it would cause. It would be the largest gold mine in South America so foreign investors and the government want to exploit it. The battle continues.
‘Peruvian plane catches fire’. No explanation but everyone was evacuated safely.
‘World Cup qualifying: Argentina lose 2-0 to Bolivia hours after Lionel Messi is banned’. Football, enough said.
‘Peru floods: Four killed as Piura bursts its banks’. At least these floods made the news! 500 people were evacuated after heavy rainfall swelled the river past breaking point. More bad news for Piura.
This is just one day. There is no place for tragedy in Latin America, it is a place of passion and triumph over fear, of tradition and prejudice, progressiveness and machismo, of economic wins and melancholic poverty, good leaders and bad, a place of anxiety and vibrancy but a place of such injustice that is morally wrong to ignore it.
This my edited opinion, I have selected these facts based on my own values, tainted by my own experience and of course, things change and experiences differ. I definitely think you should go, if you haven’t already or maybe you’re there now, Latin America is an important part of the planet and will add to your experience of the world.
Colombia, Costa Rica and Argentina are to this day some of my favourite countries and I am forever grateful for this experience and to all those who shared it with me. I found areas of wonder in every place I visited and those landscapes were the perfect backdrop to dream.
I dare anyone to go to Latin America and not be able to dream.