South America; Farewell

The time has come. I’m not really sure where to begin. This is one of those finalization posts, summing up the just of what feels like a seemingly unexplainable period in time. How can I possibly wrap up almost three years of constant travel? With hundreds of people met and dozens of lifelong friendships acquired. I have been anticipating this post with a certain amount of nervousness, yet it needs to be written, and I have felt a steady desire to share this post, finally literally ‘writing’ off my time spent travelling and exploring South America, the bold, beautiful, ancient, diverse, and mysterious continent. This is it, the time has come. This is my final Farewell.

Now I must admit that seven months of my three years abroad was spent travelling East and Southern Africa and is chronicled here with a special (quite similar), post entitled Africa; Farewell. Original and creative right… I know.

This being said I do want to focus this post on my time in South America (not Africa) and how I feel about saying a final goodbye. I did spend the majority of the last three years exploring the neighbour to the south and have a deep appreciation for all of the incredible life changing our moments I was lucky to experience during that time.

Playing my harmonica in the ‘Amphitheater’ outside Cafayate, Argentina.

I moved to Buenos Aires in January 2011 to begin my first contract as a small groups adventure tour leader for G Adventures. I was 24 years old.

Me at 24 years old after a couple hours ATV riding around the desert surrounding Sucre, Bolivia.
Me at 24 after a couple hours ATV riding around the desert surrounding Sucre, Bolivia.

I worked full time seven days a week 14 hours a day straight through till March 2012, 14 months total. I clocked over 35 tours each with 10-15 people from all over the world, all of different ages each with unique and incredibly entertaining, friendly, sometimes challenging, but overall beautiful and memorable personalities. It was a period in my life of absolute freedom and growth. A chance for me to learn not only about the countries and histories of the places I visited and people I met, but also of myself as an individual. Some people say travel is one of the best ways to get to know oneself. I absolutely agree and hands down support the idea that you should (if not already do) travel at some point in your life, anywhere really, but preferably to a completely different land and cultureal identity. It will uncover parts of your personality you never thought you had and you will return home a different person, for sure.

The summit shot taken after rock climbing five pitches and about four hours to the top of Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The summit shot taken after rock climbing five pitches and about four hours to the top of Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Now these 14 months spanning all 2011 and early 2012 were absolutely fantastic and encompassed such an expansive amount of daily adventures and new experiences they are impossible to individually highlight (and or remember) in one post. I think that when you travel full time over an extended period of time, dates and weekdays and weekends and holidays all seem to blend into one. I can honestly say I often forget what day of the week it was, and I’m not bragging about it, I truly just loose track. I focus my schedule more on getting from location to location and how much time I can spend at each spot. It doesn’t really depend on specific days. It is truly a sense of complete freedom and my work as an adventure tour leader was without a doubt the best job I could have had at that point in my life. That being said I was beginning to feel the need for a break. Even working your dream job can get stressful at times and I needed to reinvigorate my love for travel. Enter Africa.

Come March 2012 I had been working for 14 months straight and it was time for a bit of a break. So I went to Africa to travel solo for seven months and have a nice ‘vacation’ 🙂 from tour leading. My time spent in Africa is in itself a completely different story and blog actually. Luckily for me I began writing Greg Goes Global at that time and chronicled all of my incredible life changing experiences here. Have a gander if you like Lions, Leopards, Scuba Diving, Stonetown’s Streets, Passion Fruit Juice, Skydiving, Beer, Swahili, and Chapati.

Me in Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda.
Me in Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda.

After seven months in East and Southern Africa and not ‘really’ working, I find it funny to say I actually kind of missed it, having a job, if not for receiving that monthly pay check as much as having the stability of a consistent work. Sounds kinda weird eh, I actually missed working after travelling Africa and living in Zanzibar. So, in Oct 2012 I decided to leave Cape Town and fly back to Sao Paulo, Brazil and again to Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin my second contract as Southern Cone Adventure Tour Leader.

It felt amazing to be back on the soil I loved so much. Touching down in Argentina was something special. I was rejuvenated and visibly excited about my upcoming contract as G Adventures Southern Cone and Patagonian CEO. Check out more on that flight and return here, The Return To South America.

Over the next eight months I ran an additional 15 tours with four of those fantastic months spent in one of the most enchanting and magical places to be found on this earth… the Patagonia. I was highly motivated and stoked on being back in South America and especially putting my hiking and climbing skills back to the test in one of the most remote and wild places left on earth, a dream come true.

Me at the Lago Torre lookout near El Chalten, Argentine Patagonia.
Me at the Lago Torre lookout near El Chalten, Argentine Patagonia.

I started working two days after touch down greeting 15 people on Oct. 16th starting a 19 day trip entitled Patagonia Dreaming. The group was incredibly awesome, no lie, so much so we are all still in touch over a year later, if you’re interested check out the Pataguinoes. This was the perfect reintegration to tour leading and got me off on the right foot. The next eight months went really smoothly and I was once again able to live a life of daily unique and enlightening experiences that only travel can offer the intrepid soul. I truly believe travel is one of the most organic and beautiful ways to encourage creativity, sparking ones inner imagination. Life and living full throttle everyday with everything you own packed up and strapped to your back, there it is, let’s go.

I worked the full eight months straight, no time off, no breaks. Come February 2013, I was starting to worry about what to do next. My second contract was up at the end of the Patagonia season and I had a brief idea of what the next move was, but only travel wise, nothing career wise. Enter the ‘Best Jobs in the World’ competition in Australia.

I saw online the open applications for six different ‘Best Jobs’ being offered by Tourism Australia and decided to apply for the one I felt most suited for. I entered a 30 second application video for the Wildlife Caretaker position in South Australia as a fleeting hope that something might come out of it, I never expected and would have laughed if you told me, four months later I was to win that exact position.

At the time I was considering a couple options for jobs. I had applied to be a zodiac driver on the G Adventures M/S Expedition heading to Antarctica for the 2013/14 season and also applied to return as a Patagonian hiking guide for the same season, same company.  If you haven’t seen the trend here, working for G Adventures is an incredible position within the world of international sustainable tourism and what many would consider a company holding some of the best jobs in the world.

At the same time, I was also trying to fit in at least 4 months to travel the rest of South America solo completing a life goal of visiting every country in the Americas. In April, 2013 I received an email that changed everything. I had been shortlisted from 48,000 applicants as the top 25 in the running for the position of Wildlife Caretaker on Kangaroo Island in South Australia! Say What!?!

The top 25 shortlisted 'Best Jobs in the World' Facebook cover photo.
The top 25 shortlisted ‘Best Jobs in the World’ Facebook cover photo.

I was running my second last tour from La Paz, Bolivia to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with 15 people over 12 days. I had exactly 14 days to produce the round two application package for the South Australia Tourism Commission and Tourism Australia during this time. Fun!! Luckily for me, I love this kind of stuff and through writing, photography, videos, and social networking I was able to produce a pretty solid application and got it submitted on time with a hopeful view for the future and third/final round.

I have been documenting and sharing my travels through visual storytelling since 2006. Photos, Videos, Editing, Writing are all a part of my travel lifestyle and to have the opportunity to highlight this in an application for the ‘Best Jobs’ was a dream come true.

Over the next two weeks in early May I again turned my attention to the possibility of securing the position in Antarctica in the case that the ‘Best Jobs’ app didn’t pull through. Sadly I wasn’t getting very far and started to once again doubt my decisions for future employment. I was running my last trip, with no secure job prospect… not the scariest thing in the world and most people I know would say “get over it dude, first world problems”, but I must admit I was nervous and needed to have that sense of security. With four days left in my second tour leading contract I woke up in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil to an email congratulating me on my acceptance into the final round of the ‘Best Jobs in the World’ competition, I was going to Australia in June of 2013 to compete with two others for the position of Wildlife Caretaker! Holy shit, things are getting real.

I finished my tour in Rio de Janeiro and spent the next three weeks marketing myself (weird, still trying to get used to it) through Facebook, Twitter, videos, photos, writing, and support from friends all over the world. The three weeks were a huge success and I have to give massive credit to Acacia Morena in Rio. She is an absolute gem and a genuinely wonderful person. She was a great help to me during this time and I owe her a ton of thanks for everything she did.

Say hello to Acacia Morena. A portrait I took in February 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.
Say hello to Acacia Morena. A portrait I took in February 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.

That June I flew to Australia and long story short, won the competition.  Please see more on that post here, Best Jobs in the World Winners Announcement. After a couple more weeks exploring southern Australia and visiting old friends I once again returned to South America for my final push, that dream I was mentioning earlier, to travel to every country on the continent, it was go time, a now or never situation. Australia had asked e to return in December and basically gave me the freedom to do whatever I wished up until that point. Enter my dream trip, a 10,000km overland journey through some of the most remote and barely visited parts of the continent, the Lost World!!

From July 16th – October 10th I travelled through 5 countries and four completely unique and distinct ecosystems, following the North East route across the continent, I (recently) completed the trip of a lifetime, and again something that is almost too large to fit into a couple of concluding sentences. I did however record the trip into a series of four parts each of which host a blog post, video, and set of photographs. The posts and videos can be found on my blog, the photos on my FB profile page. The Lost World trip was an absolute success and I will never forget some of the amazing people met and scenery witnessed. Truly the beauty of travel relived, once again, sometimes I think I’ll never shake the bug, which is probably a good thing.

At the end of the Lost World trip I flew back to Canada for the first time in 2 years and 10 months, during that time, I had visited Asia, Europe, North America (stopover in ATL and LAX), Africa, and Australia, plus every nation and most corners of the tourist trail of South America. I think the best way to sum up the last three years is simply the following…

I am a traveller who lives for the moment and dreams of the future.  I am one who relishes in the experience. I smile and laugh, cry and bleed. The greatest parts of life are the people you meet, the places you see, and the friendships you create. The world is in constant motion, and I will never get caught standing still. I was raised to take full advantage of every opportunity that crosses my path. I love life, and live in a way that embraces patience, compromise, and acceptance of another’s culture, habits, needs, and addictions.

As sad as it is to say goodbye to Latin America and a mix of diverse cultures I have come to love, the next adventure awaits and I will not be caught standing still. The time is now.

Wheels up!!

A self portrait taken from 3600 meters above sea level in the Bolivian high altitude desert.
A self portrait taken from 3600 meters above sea level in the Bolivian high altitude desert.