I know you’re probably all wondering how I can remember everything that happened eight months ago (Oh my God that’s extremely gut-wrenchingly cringe-worthy to admit that I allowed myself to get eight months behind on my blog! Embarrasing. Thank you, postdating!). I’m not much for writing in journals, but when I travel I do keep a little calendar where I record the highlights of each day, people I meet, hostels where I sleep, restaurants where I eat. I love having this little diary as a souvenir from my trips, not to mention it’s a necessity for the World’s Worst Excuse for a Blogger!
Unfortunately, I failed to record my final few days of my trip, and being the 35-year old with the brain of an 85-year old that I am, I really can’t remember the details. But I’ll do my best!
On the afternoon of July 27th, I took a flight from Rio de Janeiro via São Paulo back to one of my favorite countries from the trip: Colombia. On my previous two visits there, I hadn’t had much time to explore Bogotá, and I swore I would be back. Over the next few days, I took in the sights and sounds of beautiful Bogotá and did some…stuff (clearly, these are the details that I don’t quite remember!). I do remember that Bogotá is a beautiful city heaving with culture. I also met some really awesome people in my hostel, including my old pal John Duggars. We all went out on my last night for “Gringo Tuesday,” something I had to be coerced into doing, as it involved a “party bus,” drinking cuba libres out of a bucket, and…well…it was called “Gringo Tuesday,” for goodness sake! It’s safe to say I felt like death (and my age) the next day, but how else do you end an epic year-long backpacking trip?
And now, as I write this, eight months later, I have nothing but happiness in my spirit and gratefulness in my heart for the most absolutely amazing 12 months of my entire life. I had been wanting to extensively travel Central and South America for years, thinking I would have plenty of time to do it. Even after life threw me a curveball and I had my accident, I never lost focus of this dream. It took me nearly five years to get to a place where I was physically and mentally ready for such an intense challenge. And a challenge is an understatement!
I did things that I never thought would be possible again, from an 8km trek in steep and rocky terrain to ziplining in the jungle to burrowing underground into a working silver mine. My adventure took me across thousands of miles, 14 countries, mountains, valleys, jungles, cloud forests, rainforests, beaches, deserts, glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, mud, sand, rocks, grass, snow, salt, lakes, rivers, oceans, and seas.
One of my favorite aspects of traveling is the incredible people I meet along the way, and this trip certainly did not disappoint. I made some lifelong friends who helped me, encouraged me, motivated me. Who made me laugh and cry, and who served as my “travel family.” I think I might have even fallen in love along the way. These people helped shape many incredible memories. For them, I am eternally grateful.
The main reason that I embarked on a solo backpacking trip though Latin America, on crutches, was not just to prove myself (although that was certainly part of it!). I did it for healing. I went through such a traumatic experience with my spinal cord injury. I lost sight of who I was, and let’s face it, I was a completely new person, a stranger. I struggled to find my identity. On the outside I was strong, resilient, and fiercely independent, but inside I was insecure, depressed, and completely lost. I needed to change that.
Travel has always been medicine for me, and I knew that I would never recover emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically until I took some time out to travel. I needed a year away to be alone with myself, to get to know the new Tiffany, to nourish her, feed her, grow her into someone that I liked and respected. I needed to push myself daily to do the impossible, I needed to feel the sense of empowerment. I went through lots of ups and downs and some serious soul-searching, but it worked. My spirit has finally been set free, and I’ve learned to love myself again, the new, slightly damaged, but most definitely improved Tiffany.
I will always have the passion to see the world; this is a fire that can never be extinguished. And as long as my body can take me there, I’m going to keep going. None of us know how long we will be on this earth, or how long we will have our strength, so we must take advantage of that and make every single day count. I know I will.
And finally, a big thank you to everyone who followed me all this time with my blog. I’m sorry I’m such a bad blogger, but I was too busy being awesome!