After adventuring Colombia for three months, I arrived back in the United States at the home of my brother and family. My four-year old great nephew met me at the door with a big hug screaming “Becky’s back! Becky’s back!”

As he pulled away from my embrace he looked deeply into my eyes and asked, “When are you leaving again?”

My family knows me well. I’ve grown to who I am from a place of wanderlust, always wanting to know what’s around the next corner. And so it’s true, before I even settle in, the first questions are always “Where next?”, and “When?”

But wait, let’s first do a little reflecting on my first solo trip around Colombia. By all measures, this nomadic adventure was such a success. I learned a lot about managing my packing list, managing my travels and myself.

Managing My Packing List

If you remember, within my 40-Liter Osprey Travel Pack, my tried and true Old Dawg Day Pack, and my Baggalini Travel Purse, I only packed the following: 

  • 6 short-sleeve shirts (which doubled as pajamas), two tank tops, + 2 long-sleeve
  • Wool sweater, down coat, rain coat, hat, gloves, scarf
  • Hiking pants, 2 pairs of tights, 1 pair shorts, 1 pair water sport shorts (which double as pajamas), 1 skirt
  • Reversible and quick-dry underwear (they last for twice as many days!) and 5 pairs of cotton and wool socks
  • Swim suit
  • Water/ hiking shoes, sandals, tennis shoes
  • Toiletries, including prescription medicine, specialty shampoo, muscle creams, probiotics, resistance bands, an ankle brace, 3 months worth of contact lenses/ solutions, plus glasses, and readers (Hello! I’m not in my 20’s anymore!)
  • Computer, phone, power bank, and necessary charging cords
  • Pack towel, head lamp, dry bag, cord for hanging laundry or to do pack repairs, first-aid kit, whistle, Colombian map, water bottle and water filter
  • Luxuries- camping pillow, yoga mat, travel blanket, and beauty supplies

Overall, I’m happy with the performance of my packs and all that I took. Since I spent time at the hot coast, and in the chilly mountains, I carried temperature extreme clothes such as my bathing suit, sandals, wool sweater, and coats the whole time. It was a lot of weight, but I was happy to have these items along.

Lessons for Next Time?

First, I’ll take fewer shirts, and socks. Also, all my luxuries like the yoga mat, travel pillow, travel blanket and water shoes gotta go. I loved having these items, but in the future, I don’t want to carry their weight or sacrifice that space in my pack. My goal is to travel light, wash fewer clothes more often and have room to spare should I decide to purchase clothes along the way. Of course I like the comforts of all my things, but even more so, I like having the agility to walk a long distance or catch a crowded bus with a small and easily managed backpack. So, in preparation for what’s next, I just bought a new Osprey 58-liter backpack. Although this is bigger than the 40-liter I carried, it will still be manageable with room for a tent and sleeping bag in the future.

Managing My Travels

I’m really proud of myself for all that I learned regarding how to plan and navigate an itinerary, how to find opportunities to volunteer, and how to find accommodations and transportation on the fly. I also learned to listen to myself when I craved a simple splurge, more time with other people, or time to be alone.

I did good.

Lessons For Next Time?

On this trip, I consciously planned for some “down-time” while I stayed in one location for two to three to volunteer. I thought this would be enough. Unfortunately, by the time I reached Medellin, I collapsed in exhaustion for about four days. Instead of traipsing all over this modern miracle of a city as I had planned, I did a lot of laying in bed and binging on Netflix to recover. So obviously, on my future travels, I need to recognize my tiredness sooner and slow my pace even more.

What I Learned about Myself

I’m really strong. I can do whatever I can dream… especially when I can maintain an early bedtime!

I really like solo travel. Ofcourse there are moments that I’d love to share a sight with a friend, or a dinner on a real date in a romantic hide-away. But those times are fleeting compared to the moments of strength and empowerment I feel every day.

Solo travels allows me to:

  • Be my own travel agent. I like to set my day and my activities exactly how I want it, how I can afford it, and how my energy level needs it to be.
  • Meet so many people. When I’m traveling alone, it’s almost effortless to strike up a conversation with fellow travelers and locals alike. People like to connect, share their knowledge and feel like they’ve helped another. And, laughter is a universal language shared by all. This trip taught me that being alone is very different than being lonely. Being lonely can still sneak up on me even when I’m in a crowd. But actually being alone while traveling solo is sometimes hard to do. My phone is now filled with new “friends” from around the world who extended genuine offers to visit when I someday find my way to their country.
  • Be in the moment. When I am by myself, I pay more attention. I become hyper-aware of my surroundings, the culture, the people and even the taste of the food. I reflect and write on what I notice, and what I can learn from each experience. I trust my instincts. I feel more confident and happy.

So, I was happily traveling and enjoying Colombia, feeling pretty proud of myself, and starting to wonder if I could carry on and continue this nomadic life for the near future, when BAM– all those doubts and negative thoughts started demanding attention in my brain.

What am I really doing?”, I asked myself.

I’m being, I’m learning new things, I’m growing as a person, I’m taking advantage of my health, my savings that I’ve worked so hard for, the time to meet new people and do some good in the world.

But shouldn’t you be DOING something?“, that voice insisted.

I am, I’m just not doing something in a traditional career, or at the work-myself-to-death pace that I’ve been doing for more than 37 years.

Aren’t you supposed to be earning money and saving for your future?“… that’s always the bottom line, isn’t it?

But I did that. For the things I saved for- which include traveling and backpacking, I can’t take the risk to wait any longer to actually do them!  It’s true, I don’t know exactly where I’m going, or what I’m going to do, but maybe, just maybe, I could take some time for myself, like a Gap Year.

Days go by. I kept arguing with that voice. Then, I saw a slogan on a t-shirt:

Doubt stops more dreams from happening than obstacles ever will.

Life’s too short, I decided. For me- right now- life’s just better on the road.

Besides, adults need Gap Years too!

So, “Where are you going next, Becky?”

Argentina, Chile (and Patagonia)

One-way ticket

October, 2022!