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Unexpected Lessons I Learned From Living In South America For 6 Months

It’s been a week since I returned from my 6-month #digitalnomad journey to South America. It was my first time in the continent and I spent 3-months in both Ecuador and Peru. Now that I am back, I’ve had some time to deliberate and really reflect on how life is different in those countries versus home (Newfoundland, Canada). 

For those of us living in a fully developed country, we have a lot to be grateful for. But there are some advantages to living in a developing country that I think we could learn a few things from. I decided to make a list and share it because I feel that as entrepreneurs (and as people), when we can focus on what is going right for us and our blessings, we are happier, more fulfilled and therefore more productive in our businesses as well as our lives. 

As well, it’s always fun to take some ‘best practices’ or good ideas from other places and bring it into our own lives in a way that makes sense for us. 

So, here it is: my list of why I’m grateful to live in a developed country and also my list of a few things we can learn from our friends in Peru & Ecuador. I hope you like it! :) 

I’m grateful for: 

  • Running hot water in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Water that I can drink from the tap and brush my teeth with.
  • Being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet (yep, this one is big). 
  • Hot showers with great water pressure (heaven). 
  • Being able to pet the dogs around town without being worried they have fleas or rabbies (I actually did this yesterday and it was so wonderful. Most of the dogs in Cusco were strays and therefore I had to send them energetic love instead).
  • Central heating (especially in winter) and air conditioning. 
  • Fast internet pretty much everywhere I go. 
  • City recycling (I really didn’t like throwing out plastic bottles… ick!)
  • A *virtually* litter-free city and province. 
  • Access to a wider variety of products from around the world (especially food, like sun-dried tomatoes… oh how I missed you!) 
  • Blueberries. Most people I asked had never even heard of them. They are so tasty and grow wild here in Newfoundland (lucky us!).

  Ecuador Collage

Things I loved about South America that I think we should embrace here in North America: 

1. Affection South Americans are very affectionate people. Even when you meet someone new, you kiss them on the cheek. Men are affectionate with each other, adults and kids alike. While we are somewhat affectionate here in Canada, it’s nothing like in South America and I think it’s really nice. So, if you meet me, you may kiss me on the cheek whether we are in Canada or elsewhere! ;)

2. No judging! One thing I noticed is that I never felt judged based on what I had (or didn’t have). Neither Ecuador nor Peru has a culture of ‘stuff’… as in… your worth is not based on how much money you have, what car you drive, what clothes you own or where you live. People treat you nicely because you are a person…. and that’s that. What a concept.

3. Less is more. People seem to be very content with little. They don’t need ‘more of this’ or ‘a bigger house’ to be happy. In fact, they sort of see it as a waste. It’s not that having ‘thing goals’ is a bad thing in my book. I just think, often times it is because we think it will make us happy, when really no amount of "things" will ever make someone happy. What I liked about Peru & Ecuador is that people are happy with what they have. I think the lesson in that is to be happy where you are and if you want more, or have bigger dreams enjoy the ride there but don’t forget to be happy in the process. Now is the time to be happy, not when you get ‘<insert thing here>’.

4. Longer Meals. One thing I really enjoyed was the concept of longer meals. For example, most restaurants had set lunches. For a set price you would receive a salad, soup, main and dessert. It is an awesome deal and promotes taking your time and enjoying each other at the table. I was able to enjoy some long meals with my partners family and they took their time, chatted, chewed slowly, shared plates, drank, joked and really soaked each other up. There was no rush to go anywhere and no phones to be answered. It was really refreshing and wonderful. While we do this here in North America, it’s not often. Whereas, in Peru it was a daily occurrence.

5. Relax. Because people aren’t constantly trying to get more money to buy more things, people are more relaxed and seem to enjoy the day. In Ecuador a lot of places closed from 2-4pm for a siesta. I love this because sometimes I really needed this reminder. I’ve never heard of anyone getting to the end of their life and thinking, ‘I’m glad I worked so much’. Take time to relax and enjoy the view and the people you are with. Sometimes, it really can get done tomorrow. ;) (BTW - I believe this is the difference between having a good work ethic versus working hard. You don’t have to ‘work hard’ all of the time to be productive. When you are working: be focused, work smart and work in flow. Then you will be more productive and get more done in less time so you can feel excited about your upcoming long meal with family and friends).

6. Celebrity Who? As soon as I came back to Newfoundland, the media started to devour me with who was getting married, involved in the latest sex scandal and who wore what at the beach. In South America I saw very little 'celebrity' culture. It was such a refreshing break. While yes, they have local and national celebrities, the fixation on them is nothing like it is here. Is it really important to know every detail of some strangers life just because they are on TV or the radio? I don't think so either. Should we take a siesta? ;)


That’s my list! What do you think? Does anything resonate with you? Have you been to a country where you noticed some things you are grateful for or found a new idea/concept you wanted to adopt? I’d love to hear from you! 


Happy travels, 

 Jennifer Trask - First


P.S. Want to know what you need to prepare for life on the road as a #digitalnomad? Click here to discover the 9 things you should prep for your digital nomad trip! 

Written by Jennifer Trask at 12:35

User Comments

Jennifer Trask

Hi Katrina,

YAY! It's great to bring back old memories. I'm glad it helped! :)


Hi Jennifer really loved reading this, brought back all the things I lived in Costa Rica and why I came back here. Imagine a life in North America that harnessed all those values you felt? Wow what a great effect on the world! Thank you.

Jennifer Trask

You're welcome Andrea - thanks so much. It's great to be home :)

Jennifer Trask

Hi Chris,

I'm glad the post brought back good memories for you! :)

That interview was fun - I hope you found some great insights to help you move forward.

Have a great day!


Hey Jennifer! This totally resonates with me! I went to Guatemala in January - and I loved living there. There was so less that people had - but so MUCH to be grateful for. I totally get what you said about the clean water this and WARM water. OMG. :) I recently watched a video of you being interviewed by Krizia. Loved it!

Andrea Sharpe

Thank you for sharing, Jennifer! I loved #3 + #5 the most! Welcome back, brave lady :)

Jennifer Trask

Thanks Lisa!! It was indeed an interesting trip! :)

Lisa L. Payne

Nice to hear your lessons learned as a digital nomad, Jenn. Thanks for sharing! It was interesting. :)

Jennifer Trask

And thank you for the idea! ;)

Jennifer Trask

YAY! I'm so glad you liked them!! :)


Awesome! I loved them all...I was vicariously travelling with you :)

Jennifer Trask

You're welcome Stephanie! #3 really is a learned habit, at least when you grow up in our culture. :)

Stephanie Leach

Thanks for sharing what you loved (and missed) while out of the country. I particularly like #2 and #5. Fast-paced lives can cause us to be less than patient or respectful at times, and the self-imposed 24-7 work ethic can make a person feel guilty for just sitting quietly for 15 minutes. And #3 is a learned skill - one that takes practice - in order to balance working toward personal goals and being content with the present.

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