Following my Intuition to South America

Today, our guest post comes from Lauren Sytsma, the creator of the blog The Other Big O.  This post is part of the Nutrition and Intuition Blog Event, January 2012.


It all started in February 2011. My husband and I had just returned from 7 sunny days in Jamaica for my sister’s wedding, and we were faced with the cold, harsh reality of Canadian winter. Sunrise (if at all) at 7:30am, sunset at 5:30pm, highs of -10, lows of -25, grey, slushy, salty, windy, wet mess.


We’ve both survived 29 years of Canadian winters, but this one was the straw that broke the camels back. Maybe because it was our first winter as dog owners, but both of us agreed that we weren’t going to be in Canada for winter next year. We weren’t sure how we were going to do it, but we were determined.


For the past 3 years I have worked for a large company in downtown Toronto. I enjoy my job, but felt the need to pursue my passion for nutrition in my spare time. In October of 2010 I enrolled in the Distance Education program at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. For the past year I juggled working full-time, studying 2-3 hours per day, blogging and regular life – it was a lot.


My husband John is an entrepreneur and his business partner Jesse lives in Colombia (he’s a Canadian boy, but fell in love with a beautiful Colombian woman, and is marrying her on January 28th!). John’s business is unique as it allows him to work from anywhere as long as there’s WiFi. An opportunity presented itself.


Put our lives on hold for 8 months, and go live in South America. Easier said, than done. What about work? Our condo? All our stuff? Our puppy? I’d miss my family too much. What would I pack? Leave behind? I had so many questions & concerns. Doing something like this was definitely out of my character. I’m a planner. I don’t like casinos because I don’t like gambling – I’m risk-adverse. I like the comforts of home and my routine. It’s a big part of who I am. Could I just leave all this?


After much thought, discussion, prayers, tears, anxiety, and excitement we decided to go for it. I can’t really explain it, but it just felt right. I guess you could call it intuition. We rented out our condo, stored our valuables, gave away half our clothes, and dropped our puppy off at the in-laws. We put our life on hold.


I took an 8-month leave of absence from work, and have been living in the Colombian mountains since January 4th, and I don’t have any regrets. I wake up every morning to the sun streaming into my room and birds chirping. I can spend the entire day doing what I love – studying nutrition, exercising outside, blogging, and experiencing a new culture. It’s like I’ve been given the gift of time.


It hasn’t been all easy though. I miss my family & friends, my puppy, and the comforts of home - specifically cooking in my kitchen. My Sunday ritual is to go through the grocery store flyers, find what’s on sale and plan my meals for the week. It’s a little different here. The closest grocery store is a 30-minute walk on some of the steepest hills I’ve ever seen; 6000 ft above sea level, and there are no flyers.


That being said, I’ve really come to appreciate the local food. Avocado is served with every meal (including breakfast), bananas grow everywhere, beans & tomatoes are staples, they have delicious bread made from Yuca (a local root vegetable), and papayas, mangos and other exotic fruits are abundant. It’s forced me to use the basics, and get creative.


One of my favorite local dishes is Pico de Gallo. It’s basically homemade salsa, but better and totally natural. We’ve made it a couple times as a filling for fajitas or a topping for grilled chicken & fish. I’ve included the recipe so you can add a Colombian twist to your next meal!


Next week our adventure will continue as we move on to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’m looking forward to experiencing a new culture, new cuisine and trying new recipes. Stay tuned!


Pico de Gallo


1 large tomato coarsely chopped

1 small white onion diced

2 limes juiced

¼ cup of cilantro chopped (sub: 1 tsp cumin)

sea salt & pepper



Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and season with s & p to taste. Enjoy!