Women around the world: Asia in South America

Asia in South America

This week, I decided to interview a fellow travel blogger. Meet Asia, the girl who spent almost a year in Central and South America. As someone who speaks Spanish and worked with the Hispanic community in my hometown, this part of the world is very much on my list. I went to Nicaragua two years ago around this time and have been wanting to return at some point.

I connected with Asia on Instagram, much like how I connect with other people doing similar things to me. So enjoy reading all about her adventures wandering through South America.


Asia Dawn Simonelli from wanderingdawn.com

age, where you’re from and where you are currently

I’m 33 years old. I lived in 7 different states growing up, but I mostly identify with Colorado and California if I had to choose a home. I currently live in San Diego, California but am planning to move to Mexico City in the new year! #goals


What is your blog all about?

My blog focuses on my travels, particularly through Latin America, as well as self-discovery and personal growth after going through a major transition in my life.

Asia in South America

I know that you traveled through South America for 11 months. What inspired you to do that?

It was a series of a events. My husband and I ended up getting a divorce after only being married for a few months. (I won’t go into the details, but it was very hard and shocking. We had been together for over 9 years!) This event caused me to question everything in my life, including what I was doing for a living. My job in corporate marketing was full of stress and drama. I knew I wasn’t living my true purpose. So, I decided that if my job wasn’t making me happy, why should I continue doing it? I was in full self-care mode at this point, so I wanted to remove anything that had negative energy. One of my passions has always been travel, so I decided to save up, quit my job, and just go for it! I felt as though I had nothing to lose. I bought a one-way ticket to Quito, Ecuador and never looked back. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What countries did you see on that trip?

I ended up visiting 10 gorgeous countries in Latin America: Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.


Traveling for that long always amazes me. How did you budget for that? Did you find an opportunities to do a work exchange? Did you earn money while traveling and if so, how? Basically how did you make it work for almost a year?

It was a lot cheaper to travel for that long than you might think! First of all, I just saved up as much as possible over several months and then decided how much I wanted to spend on my trip. I didn’t know how long it was going to last me…I was going to try to live off around $35/day based on some blogs I read, but I didn’t know if I could actually do it. I ended up living on less than $30/day and spending less than $10,000 overall! That is wayyyy less than I would spend in a year back in the United States. I picked up good tips right away by meeting other budget travelers. I lived cheaply by staying in dorm rooms, cooking a lot of my own food and eating like the locals. I didn’t pay for tourist buses. I really tried to be local. I also did a few Workaway/volunteer opportunities. That’s actually how I started off my trip, and it was a great decision because I got to meet like-minded people I could travel with for a bit! I highly recommend paying the small fee to join Workaway before your next trip. You can volunteer for 1 week to 1 year and get your lodging and some of your meals covered! I rebuilt houses in Ecuador, volunteered with children in Ecuador and Nicaragua. I even worked in a Hare Krishna garden and kitchen in Colombia!


What did you learn from your time away?

I learned so much. I learned that I can be happier with less. That money isn’t everything. That I’m not defined by my past, and that there is no point in worrying about my future. Most importantly, I learned that I can do anything solo. I am fully capable of traveling alone. Of navigating alone. Of sitting down at a restaurant or bar and enjoying a meal or drink alone. I fully stepped into who I am as my own person, and it felt so liberating. I feel like I am an entirely different person now. I think going at this time in my life, at this age, was really beautiful and life-changing.

Asia in South America

What was the most challenging aspect of your time away?

My overnight bus was robbed at gunpoint in Colombia pretty early on in my trip, so I was very aware of the possibility of being robbed at all times. I think that event happened to make me a smarter traveler, but sometimes I was a little obsessive over not getting robbed. For the record, I never had anything taken from me, including from the two men who robbed my bus while shooting guns. I stayed underneath my seat and they left me alone! (Read: I was in shock!) I should probably post my blog about that experience now that I’m at home safe. I didn’t want to worry my parents.


From that trip, what places do people have to see?

I am in LOVE with Latin America. I. Must. Go. Back. There are still so many places I have yet to see or to blog about for that matter. Here’s a blog post I wrote about my favorite places actually!


El Salvador was definitely a surprise. I fell in love with the tiny country, made friends with the locals, and felt very safe!
Guatemala had the most epic volcano hike. Definitely check out Acatenango if you want to see a volcano erupting up close.


Nicaragua has always held a special place in my heart. Here’s why you need to go right now! I’ve been twice now but can definitely see myself going again. The people and landscape are so wonderful. I also love how cheap it is. It’s so much more affordable and just as beautiful as its next door neighbor, Costa Rica. Note: If you are looking for luxury, look into the Yemaya resort on Little Corn Island. I said I had been twice… 😉


If you like to get off the beaten path, you must go to Colombia. (Don’t let my bus story deter you!) It is such a huge country with a variety of insane landscapes…coastal, jungle, desert, countryside, mountains. I spent over 2 months there and loved Punta Gallinas the most. You know all those adorable mochila bags that people are carrying around right now? They are from the Wayuu tribe in that region of Colombia. (I definitely purchased several of them while I was there!)


Mexico has one of my favorite spots too – Holbox Island. There are no cars. The buildings have beautiful murals and street art painted on them. There’s fresh seafood and fresh green juices. You can swim with whale sharks (during season). It has the most beautiful water you’ve ever seen and an abundance of wildlife. Plus, it’s soooo easily accessible from the Cancun airport!
Asia in South America


What misconceptions have you found that Americans have about South America?

People think that Latin America is poor and dangerous. Yes, they live with less down there, but their hearts are so full! Yes, there are some bad people that might try to take advantage of you, but that isn’t too different from other places in the world…including the US. I met far more backpackers from other countries than I did from the United States. I hope that starts to change. It isn’t scary down there. It is wonderful.


Have you experienced reverse culture shock coming back? If so, how and how have you dealt with it?

Coming home was strange, and I had a lot of anxiety around it. It was weird being around money again, especially after I had learned how to live with so little. I stayed connected to friends I met on the road, and started planning my next trip. That helped a lot. I actually used my friend’s baby shower as an excuse to finally come home in June. That way I knew I wouldn’t back out. I was secretly afraid I would stay on the road forever! That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but I wanted to reconnect with friends and family before ultimately taking off again. I think that is what made my reverse culture shock more bearable. I came home with the intention of seeing friends and family…and then moving to Mexico City. Right now I’m thinking early 2018!


What advice do you have for anyone wanting to travel where you did?

1. Find your favorite volcano and hike it. There are so many to choose from! My friends and family joked that hiking volcanoes became my new hobby.
2. Please don’t take night buses, especially in southern Colombia. Day travel is much safer.
3. Try all the local dishes at least once! I’m a vegetarian & pescatarian but I still got to try some really fun dishes, like a potato and cheese soup with avocado in Ecuador called “locro de papa”. There are tons of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants in the big cities too!
4. Learn some Spanish before you go, especially if you decide to visit South America. It will make your life a lot easier!

Asia in South America


What’s next in regards to travel?

I’ll be exploring the Pacific Northwest and hopefully Canada over the next several weeks! I fly into Seattle this week, and it’s another one-way ticket situation. I think I’ve gotten used to that lifestyle. 😉


Where do you want to take your blog?

I’m actually in the process of creating a new website that will encompass my new life coaching business (launching soon) and my blog! Travel will always be a huge part of me, so I’m trying to figure out how to keep Wandering Dawn in play as I transition over to using my name “Asia Dawn” for everything. I can’t wait to share this new part of me with all of you!


Anything else you would like to add?

I’m currently working on getting my Italian citizenship, so I’ve definitely given thought to living somewhere in the EU. Maybe Italy or Spain? I want to live and explore every part of this crazy, beautiful world.


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  1. What a great interview and an amazing guest! She lived on $30/day?! That would have been impossible had she stayed in the US. I’m so happy to hear that she turned some negative experiences into a positive and memorable journey.

  2. This is probably one of the best interviews I’ve read in quite some time, and I loved how she took her divorce to realize she deserves happiness and to get up and do something about it. Traveling connects you with so many people from all walks of life.

  3. “You can be happy with less” Wanted to hear this today. This is such a great interview and she seems to be a good person 🙂 I would love to travel the world someday and this fueled my dreams 🙂

  4. It’s always nice to read and get to know a fellow female traveler and blogger, AND an American from California like myself. It’s rare you find Americans who’ve been bit by the travel bug.


  5. I just love to read interviews in blog post. These are more worthy to create an interest for reader. This way we get to know about other peoples and places around. This one is also a inspiring post.

    1. Yeah they are great! I have loved getting to know so many inspiring women through blogging, so it was awesome to be able to feature Asia.

  6. Her story is so inspiring. I was just telling someone that I want to pack everything up and leave. I’m currently saving so I can do just that!

  7. Latin America has a lot to offer. I have been researching about it and I am surprised about the places. In case I planned to go to Colombia, I need to be ready about the robbery. I am glad nothing happens to you during that incident.

    1. Well I think the thing to remember here is that it’s not just Colombia. Honduras, for example, has a bad rep and nothing happened to her there. Same thing about El Salvador. At the end of the day, things could happen anywhere. You need to be aware at all times. I just am not a fan of stereotyping one place, which I know Asia was not doing here.

  8. I love this post. This is such a great interview and she really seems to be a great person ! Her story is so inspiring. Always great ideas to learn from other female travel bloggers.

  9. Fantastic interview! I loved this reading, it’s so nice to meet inspiring people from all around the world. I want to travel right now!

    1. I’m glad you like it! And yeah, I love interviewing people and telling their stories!

  10. I always love to read such interviews with women around the world.Their experiences and advises can be helpful always.I like that Asia had opportunity to grow up in 7 states.That’s a great experience for her…

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