Earlier this year, I did “The Passion Test.” I hadn’t done it in a few years, but I was leading a weekend version of my “Phoenix Lessons” process and decided to take part in the exercises I provided right along with my attendees. The Passion Test was one of those exercises.

Do you know The Passion Test (book by Janet Attwood and Chris Attwood)? 

Here’s how it works (roughly): You number a piece of paper from 1 to 15 (or 10, or whatever you decide) and then as fast you can, you write down everything you can think of that you long for in your life—like REALLY long for. You want to work fast because you don’t want to overthink things. You want your subconscious to have its say. 

Since I’m traveling in South America right now, I don’t have the notebook handy where I scribbled my “passions” that day, but if I can recall, I’m pretty sure they looked something like this:

  • Make so much money I can relax AND take care of other people I care about
  • Expand my business to reach thousands of people
  • Travel alone through South America on a bus with my backpack
  • Get my dogs to quit fighting
  • Fall in love with an amazing human being who loves and respects me with reciprocity
  • Run a 100-mile race somewhere interesting in the world
  • Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
  • Finish and publish my next book
  • Spend six months living off the grid at the Yurt without coming back to Seattle for any reason
  • Take the kids (meaning my brothers’ kids) to Italy to see their cousins
  • Speak on international stages about how to live a really empowered/inspired life
  • Get Second Wind turned into a Netflix Series
  • Etc….

Anyway, you get the idea. You write down the big things and the small things both. You don’t ask if your “passions” are reasonable or reachable or practical. You just write them down.

THEN… you pit them against one another (sort of—you don’t assume you can’t eventually have/do them all, but you do ask which one is most immediate). If you had to pick between item #1 and item #2, what would you pick? You do that with each item until one supersedes all the others. Whichever item comes out on top, you pair it against the others, until, through this process you figure out which item should be your most pressing focus. Then you do the same thing over again to find out what is second priority… and third… and so on.

I was surprised to discover that what my heart longed for immediately, not ABOVE but BEFORE anything else, was a trip on a bus with a backpack through South America.

When I finished the test with that result, while I was surprised this came out as a first priority, I instantly knew why this was true. 

First of all, I truly did love my time in Chile and my excursions through Argentina and Brasil in 2014. I loved, also, my marathons in 2009 (in Brasil) and 2010 (again, Chile). But all of those trips had been undertaken with someone else—negotiated inside of a marriage I eventually chose to leave. And, while so much about each of those trips carries many good and beautiful memories, there are also memories of disempowerment in them—of moments when I couldn’t find my own voice or when conflict and negativity ruled the day (not blaming here—just reporting my experience). I knew I craved to see South America again on my own terms—alone, to feel into these countries I’d enjoyed and wanted to get to know. I wanted to let my own rhythms and moods lead me through the landscape.

Plus, by the time I did the test, I’d become enthralled with the idea of visiting Uruguay, a country I’ve never been to. I’d read about how this particular country has flown under the radar of mass tourism, but how it is a country with a stable government and economy and—on top of all that—it has a quiet but robust wine industry. I had to get there.

So, I put the idea of backpacking alone through South America on my “manifestation” list, thinking I would get to it in 2024 or 2025, but when my company (the one I own with the awesome Lisa Dailey of Sidekick Press) decided to come to Chile for our 2023 Wayfaring Writers trip, I knew I would just extend my trip and figure out how to bus my way across the continent.

And here I am, having manifested this dream sooner than I could have hoped.

Here are a few pictures of my most recent stop in Mendoza and what I’ve learned while here.

So as you can see, I spent one day wine tasting. Then, the next day I took myself for a run (during which, I got solidly lost for a half hour—thank the goddess for the GPS on my phone).

Then I showered, and went shopping.

Later that day, while shopping, I met Pablo, a friend of the vender I bought some jewelry from, who is in love with New York and was eager to speak English even beyond helping me complete a transaction with his friend. Pablo asked me if I wanted to get a drink. I agreed, and… friends, this is what travel is about. If I were traveling with others, I probably would have said no to hanging out with a local at a non-tourist restaurant just shooting the shit and talking politics.

But being alone, I could just let my instincts guide me.

So… Pablo is a dad of four kids (all grown), a guy who makes his money as an artist, selling his work on the street or in small venues. One of his kids is in med school; he splits the cost of tuition with his ex-wife. Over Malbec—which we started drinking at 11:00 due to the fact that Latin American socializing skews MUCH later than in North America (I did okay, but damn, that’s a late start!)—he told me about how JUST YESTERDAY the value of the Argentinian Peso had been cut in half compared to the US dollar. Tuesday there were 400ish pesos to the USD. Yesterday there were 800! Although I can’t claim to follow all the ins and outs of the politics Pablo explained to me, I did understand that his rent, his kid’s tuition, his cell phone bill, his materials for his art… everything just doubled in price, essentially. 

What a thing to discover over night!!

I saw how someone in middle class could instantly drop into poverty if they didn’t have a contingency plan—and hope it won’t happen for Pablo (I think he’s pretty badass, so I have a feeling he’ll be okay). 

Pablo is delightful. He’d spent enough time in New York City that he peppered his story-telling with well-placed F-Bombs that made me laugh, and he had stories of selling photographs on New York street corners to Hollywood celebrities, including Sandra Bullock. He talked and I (mostly) listened for a couple of hours. We parted as Facebook friends (hi Pablo!!!). I came back to my hotel at 1:30am a better world citizen than I was when we ordered our first Malbec at 11:00. 

And this is why I longed to travel alone. I wanted to get lost running through a city and to say yes to drinks with strangers,. I wanted to decide when and where I wished to go—on a whim, learn what people who live in a place long for and fear. 

Tonight (Thursday the 14th) I will take a bus to Buenos Aires and then catch a boat to Montevideo, Uruguay tomorrow afternoon. What an adventure.

One thing Pablo said to me was this, “Most north Americans won’t exchange contact information or go out for a drink with a stranger. I don’t know why. Seems like they are afraid of other people. But you just said, ‘Hell, yeah.’ So, I thought you were different.”

Maybe so, but if I have any influence… Pals… say, “Hell, yeah,” to whatever life presents. If you have to go it alone to get the permission to be a little “out there,” so be it. Maybe you’ll meet some other “Hell, yeah” people along the way! 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This