7 reflections from traveling South America by bus

For the first time in my life, while on the bus to Peru from Ecuador, I finally felt I am participating in the world. The terrain, the beautiful mountains and the ocean made me not think that I will be on the bus for another 15 hours.

That feeling of acknowledging the present is beautiful. “I’ve come this far,” I told myself. This is one of the greatest achievements in my life apart from those shiny medals from grade school or all my journalism certificates. This is, by far, one thing that made my heart jump and made me really happy. Finally, this is something I will never regret in my life no matter what happens. 

I needed to challenge myself. But then I realized, I already did. While paving the desert from the border of Ecuador and Peru to Lima, here’s what I was thinking (like there was a voice shouting in my head and saying things to me):

1. Just go!

I kept saying this “just go” thing but it’s for real. I used to plan everything: from buying a bus ticket to booking a hotel to knowing where to go next. It sucks. It sucks to have a plan.

You were always scared and don’t want to do things spontaneously because you have a plan. Do you know that feeling? Now things are all different. I realized I can just take a bus and start over without having to worry about anything.

I’ve done it a lot of times, you know, just leaving when I feel like leaving. Go to the bus station, buy a ticket then go. Follow where your heart leads you. 

2. Love doesn’t change. We do.

After my first romantic disappointment, in seven months, I have never again tried to open myself up with any man I met in this journey. I mean, what for?

Of all the things I’ve experienced since then, love has been the most difficult. Everyone has been trying to understand the world through love but not all of us get it.

Then I realized, love is the language of the world and I fully understood, through this journey, that you don’t need ownership in order to express love.

It can be expressed for children, for pets, for people you work with, etc. It doesn’t depend on how we look at it — love is love. Period.

“Emotions really were like wild horses, and all she could do now was set them free.”

Paulo Coelho, Brida

3. I don’t need much things.

… materially speaking. After living out of a 90-liter backpack for 10 months, I look back on all the things I owned before — a whole room of fancy shoes, signature clothes, expensive jewellery — everything doesn’t matter now.

I’ve learned how to live life simply and I am really sad that I get annoyed with people posting having new gadgets, expensive handbags and material things on Facebook. I used to be this person.

Why am I annoyed with this? Well, not really annoyed. I just came to a conclusion that there’s more to life than all these shining shimmering stuff.

But if it makes you happy, then go for it! I won’t stop you at all. I just want you to know that, despite of having less now, I am truly happy.

I’m not just saying it. I feel the bliss. I don’t think happiness is valid not unless you really feel it roaring in your chest.

4. Travellers don’t have money.

I’ve met a lot of travellers who are seeing the world out of their meager savings from 2 years ago and yet, they are still here. I don’t buy that excuse when people say, “we cannot travel because we don’t have money.”

So you think I have it? Neither do I! I just found ways on how to live. Volunteering, staying with families, etc. There are a 100+ ways to see the world even if you don’t have money!

But believe me, it is not the key to seeing the world. Like love, no one could ever understand faith but it is what I am experiencing right now.

It exists because I believe in it. None of us knows what might happen the next minute and yet we still go forward because we have faith.

5. There’s no need to rush.

Just a week ago, when I was still in Ecuador, I kept thinking, “when is the right time to go home?” Do I have to set a timeframe for this trip? The what ifsthe butsthe I should’ve will kill you.

From then on, I started to say, I will leave when I want to and I will move whenever I want to. Like what I said, it’s easy to move.

Now I could say that it’s very easy to cross borders because I’ve done it twice. I am young, bearing no children and definitely not married.

Why should I set a timeframe when to go home? Or when to stop? It’s official: I am announcing that there is no definite date of when I will stop moving or when I am going home. I will focus on the present and enjoy it while it lasts. 

“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

6. Learning A Language = Respect

As a child, I used to think United States is the only country for tourism and that everyone in the world speaks English but I was wrong.

I know there’s still some of you who thinks the same but let me tell you it’s not. This impression is wrong.

When you come to South America, English is not as important as Spanish is now gaining popularity in the world. Aside from that, Latin America is deeply rooted with their culture and the only way to adapt is to learn how they speak.

I am surprised with myself as well. I didn’t take any language course but I am able to communicate here very well by just listening and making myself a part of their culture.

I met a lot of people who come here and think they can just speak English expecting people to understand them and I am disappointed.

Likewise, I kept thinking of the days when my foreigner friends get offended whenever we spoke Tagalog back home and immediately demanding us to speak in English. Yeah, sure, I understand.

They have to join the conversation as well. But I have to disagree when they thing we are talking about them whenever we start speaking in our language. It’s absurd.

Can you imagine the first time I came here and spoke zero Spanish? Do you think I was thinking they’re talking about me? Never. 

Learning a language is a form of respect and it’s very easy IF YOU WANT TO LEARN. If you don’t, that’s the problem. 

7. Latin America is the right way.

We all have dreams and this is mine. I never imagined ending up in South America and that’s what makes it beautiful, isn’t it? Not having a plan, randomly pointing on the map and following your gut.

Still, no matter how much I respect it, I am having a hard time understanding my countrymen’s desires to go to travel to Europe or the United States.

It makes me think very deep. I never understood why they want to go through the process of applying a visa and be belittled to death by some consul who doesn’t even know what they’ve been through in life.

Finally, I don’t understand why people ask, “Why South America, Trisha? What’s in there?” This is the part where I have to explain it to you: this continent is BEAUTIFUL and that Filipinos don’t need a visa here.

Come on, people! I once not had the desire to come there because you don’t see much of this on TV (yeah, I grew up believing in a flat screen in our living room).

Come and see. South America will never fail you.

I have nothing else to say but I hope you pick up something from this and that one day, you will dare to see the world, with your own eyes, too.

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  1. We’ve often been stared at weirdly in India when we tell people (even family) that we LOVE South America! Just like you say, people find USA or Europe much more appealing.. Well, they don’t know what they’re missing on! But it’s also our missing to make them see how beautiful SA is! 🙂

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