FOREWORD: The following piece was written by the Partners of the Americans, an organization I joined upon returning to the United States in September 2011.
DECEMBER 13, 2011 (LINCOLN, NEB.) — At what point did mild-mannered Trevor Wright, child of the Dakota and Nebraska Plains, become intrepid, world traveling Trevor? As he tells it, a flash of clarity struck him during a summer break from Wayne High School when he lived and studied Spanish in Barcelona, Spain.
He’s never looked back.
After earning degrees in International Business, Spanish, and Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he spent a couple semesters in Mexico and Costa Rica, perfecting his Spanish. He’d barely touched U.S. soil again when he moved back to Costa Rica to attend a public university, supporting himself as a bilingual telemarketer and professional translator.
Later, he worked for a study abroad organization in Austin, Tex., and spent summers in Costa Rica as a program director. During his time in Texas, Wright purposely avoided driving a car, opting to invest in a “Surly” bicycle and “Bob” bicycle trailer (from which was born his biggest adventure to date as well as his blog: Me, Bob & Surly: Three Friends Bike South America”).
In June 2009, Wright backpacked through Trinidad and Venezuela. In July 2009, he was “reunited” with Bob and Surly and began bicycling in Cartagena, Colombia, with the goal of “heading south” yet keeping his options open. He traveled through Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Bolivia. In June 2010, he entered Brazil and it was in Belo Horizonte and Florianopolis, he chose to live until April 2011, first learning Portuguese and then eventually working as a Portuguese to English translator.
“I never expected to stay in Brazil for nearly a year, but the cultural differences were so different from the rest of Latin America that I felt more time was needed to understand this huge country and its people. Without a doubt, Brazil is my favorite country I’ve visited,” said Wright.
His amazing journey logged 6,500 miles, during which time he visited every South American country except British Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana.
Though no stranger to long stints outside the United States, Wright has undergone some cultural and social readjustment challenges since returning from his latest two and a half year absence.
“The American handshake now seems awkward. All over South America, cheek kiss greetings are common, and in Argentina even men greet each other with macho cheek pecks, like in Italian mafia movies. When I instinctively lean in to greet people here, I have to remind myself I’m in the United States where different rules apply,” Wright said.
One of the first organizations he considered himself fortunate to connect with on his return home was the Nebraska Chapter- Partners of the Americas.
“Not only did I meet an energetic group of Brazilians at my first event, but I’m growing my network of Latin America-minded people. Some live here in Nebraska while others will return to their respective countries,” Wright said. “Through this organization, there is a very real opportunity to help each other professionally in the future.”
Wright now works as an interpreter in Lincoln while he explores other entrepreneurial opportunities. He maintains his languages by video Skyping with friends in various South American countries.