Travel Talk with Andrea: Life as a Digital Nomad & Expat in Chile
My global travels have introduced me to people with all sorts of fascinating backgrounds. I created my Travel Talk interview series to share their stories and hopefully inspire you to also pursue your adventurous dreams. Today’s interview features Andrea Mujica of Where She Goes Today, an American who has lived in Chile for six years and now works as a digital nomad.
Hey Andrea! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Andrea, a Gemini from 1987. I’m a native Spanglish speaker, professional people-watcher, and I seriously love giraffes. Like, hardcore love. I was born in Orlando, Florida and spent the first 24 years of my life there until life pushed me into the arms of an amazing country called Chile. It’s been six years, and my life has changed for the better. I’ve always worked in marketing and program development for the corporate world until last year when I made the leap to become a digital nomad to work independently in the tourism industry.
What inspired you to start traveling?
I don’t think there was a specific “aha” moment for me. Travel is in my blood. My dad drove to the U.S. from Chile in the 70s with his cousin to see the world. I would say that I have definitely inherited his adventurous spirit. He met my mother, who’s from the Dominican Republic, and then magic happened; my sister and I arrived in the world. Any time we wanted to visit family, we had to get on a plane. Time went by, and when I graduated from college I was in a place in my life where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do next. I was quite lost. So my dad suggested I spend a year in Chile, and I said, “Why not?” So I went. It was the best year of my life. Then that year turned into six more years.
What a story! How was the transition to living in Chile? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced at the beginning? What were some of the best things?
Moving to Chile was kind of blur, to be honest. Everything happened so fast. I think it was about two weeks from the moment that the suggestion came up to having me board the airplane. But I just took everything one day at a time. I had nothing to lose and a whole country to gain. The best thing is that I immediately got busy; I started volunteering with a non-profit organization, I learned how to use the bus, and I started teaching English so I can travel as much as possible. I was very lucky to have made some amazing friends within weeks. You know when you meet someone, and you just know that they are going to be in your life forever? It was like that. And the feeling was mutual.
I think the most challenging thing I faced at the beginning was the language. I spoke Spanish at home and felt that I was pretty fluent before arriving. But, I didn’t speak Chilean. That’s a whole different language filled with slang and missing letters, and it’s faster than you even try to process. But it just takes practice. Remember those friends that I made? Yes, they taught me all the bad words and the most common slang words. After six years, I can proudly say that I speak Chilean now.
I consider myself fluent in Spanish, but when I visited Chile last fall, I found it tricky too! What are three destinations in Chile every traveler should see?
Only three? Chile is one of those countries that have such diverse landscapes that there is adventure waiting in every region. If you like the outdoors, then you’re going to like Chile. The Atacama Desert and the Patagonia are two destinations that Chile is best known for and they are a MUST-DO. I visited the Atacama Desert earlier this year, and I was blown away. Patagonia is my next destination, so I’m currently prepping for that one. One of my favorite places is Chiloe, Chile’s largest island located in the Lake District. Check out the wooden churches, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will not be disappointed.
Atacama and Patagonia were absolutely amazing when I visited! What do you love about Chilean culture? What gets on your nerves?
Chileans sometimes have the bad reputation of not being as warm and friendly as their neighboring countries, but it’s not true! They know how to have a good time, especially during the “dieciocho,” Chile’s independence day. It’s basically a weeklong celebration filled with traditional dancing, fair games, and, of course, an overdose of food and drinking. Chileans also have a very sarcastic sense of humor, which is something that gets on my nerves sometimes because it just goes over my head. I don’t really get sarcasm in English, much less in Spanish.
How has your transition to a digital nomad been? What have been your biggest achievements and challenges?
I’m a bit of a daydreamer, yet I have Monica-like tendencies at the same time (like a true Gemini). In my previous jobs, I usually have had great bosses who gave me the freedom to work on my tasks and just check in when needed. Now, I don’t have anyone checking in on me, and I feel that it’s given me a new level of responsibility. If something doesn’t get done, it’s on me and no one else. I’ve grown up a lot in the past year.
Working as a digital nomad for the tourism industry is still quite a bit of new trend in Latin America. I’m not a travel agent and don’t want to do that; I just want to improve the online promotion of travel to Latin American countries. Some countries are totally on board and see the value of my work and others not so much. The challenge I’ve seen is being taken seriously when it comes to being a part of a marketing strategy. People want things for free, but my bills don’t get paid with a “please, thank you, and a share.”
One of my biggest achievements is becoming an active member of the first Association of Chilean Travel bloggers, ACHILETB, whose mission is to show the tourism industry that blogging and social media are valuables channels to add to their marketing strategies and share tips on what to look out for when working with bloggers. We are just getting started, currently with fifteen members, and have established relationships with agencies, airlines and other brands.
That’s amazing, and it will be exciting to see you grow even further! What advice would you give to others trying to become a digital nomad?
Find where there is a need and create a product or service that will fill that need. Find your niche, know what you’re good at, and love what you do. Make friends with other bloggers and digital nomads — you can learn a whole bunch from them. Leave your ego at the door. Even if there is someone who has the same niche as you, your followers will follow because you are unique and different than the rest. It’s okay to make mistakes; I’ve made a bunch so far this past year, but I’m learning and growing from them.
Your advice is spot-on. How did you begin blogging about your travels?
Last year, I lost my job and was forced to make a decision about what do next with my life. I decided to leave Chile and travel until I figured out what I wanted. I think I was in Italy when I realized that I should be writing this stuff down. I’ve always had a journal and wrote down my experiences, so it was an easy jump to move to a digital platform. My blog was really just for me to have a digital copy instead of lugging around my journals. Later, I cleaned it up a bit so others could enjoy them too.
What do you enjoy most about being a travel blogger?
Getting to write about what I really want. I have so much freedom when it comes to my blog. People, myself included, make so many mistakes when traveling or say, “Man, I wish I knew this before coming here.” I love reading other blogs when planning my trips, but I find that there is a lot of missing info or not updated info about travel to Latin America. So I’m just filling in the missing pieces with my posts and hopefully encouraging others to travel to Latin America too.
That’s great! Latin America may be the best region I’ve traveled to, so I fully support encouraging others to go. What’s the most amazing place you’ve visited?
Last year I went to Europe for the first time, and I was amazed by everything. One of the places that surprised me the most was Holland. Everything was just perfect: public transportation was flawless, the food was delicious, people were friendly, and the architecture was just amazing. I had to pinch myself every day because it was just so cool. I loved everything about that country.
I love Holland too. What trips do you have planned? What’s on your bucket list?
I’m taking advantage of doing some traveling in the U.S. since I’m here for a couple of more months. Something that has been on my bucket list for seven years now is Patagonia, and this year I’m finally going. I still can’t believe it, like it has set in my brain that I’m finally going to the end of the world. I’m overly excited about.
Want to be a part of my traveler interview series? Let me know!