Travel is More Than Just a Destination: An Interview with Hilton Davila, Founder of Visit South America

Travel. Lately, I’ve been pondering what it truly means to me. We go about our days as usual—we usually talk to and encounter the same people daily or weekly—and sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we have no time to think about travel, or of temporarily leaving our comfortable and settled lives behind. Travel. There are all sorts of variations. Whether it’s physical or spiritual, I believe that travel isn’t just about taking in new sights and sounds, but it is also a spiritual journey of personal growth, and learning more about ourselves and the people we encounter along the way.

Traveling to distant destinations helps us expand our horizons and view the world as we’ve never imagined it before. So many people get stuck in their routines, and I fear the less one travels, the greater chance they have getting trapped in a monotonous cycle, devoid of exciting opportunities or experiences. When many people get used to routine, are they truly living life to the fullest? Perhaps not. This is why I believe it is so imperative to break out of our typical routines every now and then, whether it’s through travel or by other means. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you for it sooner than later.

Be a traveler, not a tourist

Considering I’m not much of a travel expert, I realized I needed to seek out a true and experienced traveler to gain more insight on the subject. This is when I knew friend, Hilton, was my guy.

Founder and entrepreneur of Visit South America, Hilton Davila is changing the way we experience travel with his group programs that allows others to travel on a budget, and form lasting memories and friendships in South America. I feel that South America often gets overlooked when traveling. This is why I find it so wonderful that Hilton has created an opportunity to help promote and draw more people to beautiful developing countries that need help building their economies.

Check out the interview I conducted with him below!

What is Visit South America?

VSA believes in affordability and traveling that ranges from four day treks to 14 day excursions. VSA also makes it easy to set up your own itinerary and pick a trip that matches your budget. Choose from destinations such as Peru, Bolivia, Chile, or Argentina. Visit South America encourages people to see countries not just from a tourists point of view, but also through the lens of an actual traveler that isn’t afraid to get their hands a little dirty and explore off the beaten path.

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Interview with Hilton Davila
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Hilton Davila. Photo by Zeek Yan
[Interview conducted via email]

 

Me:  Please tell us a little about yourself! (i.e. who are you, where did you grow up?, etc)

 

Hilton: My name is Hilton Davila, I’m 25 years old and was born and raised in Southern California. Since I was a kid, I always loved being outside and getting lost around my neighborhood. Forward 15 years later and I still have that urge. Only now it’s defined as traveling. Through my travels I found passions for photography and videography as a way to document my experiences. I’m also a big advocate for being outside so surfing, snowboarding, and skating are all hobbies of mine.

 

Traveling for me is a way to break down barriers and expand your worldview. Your perception of the world, depending on where you travel, completely changes. For better or for worse.
-Hilton Davila

 

I remember you were involved with Izzigadgets when I first started following you on social media. What brought you to make the change and start your own tours and set up Visit South America?

 

I worked at iZZiGadgets as their Marketing Director for about 4 years. During that time I was able to learn a lot from two of my bosses, Trin Salaloy and Jayson Guzman. They taught me a lot in the areas of business, marketing, and discipline in which I was able to bring together to start my own company. I felt it was the right time to take the leap and apply everything I had learned into growing my own business—so I just went for it. We’ve been in operation for 6 months now and I have no regrets. Don’t know what the future holds for us but I do know that as a business owner you have to work day in and day out to make your dream a reality. And that’s exactly what we are doing.

 

 I believe that travel is very important to the human experience. What does travel personally mean to you?

 

I completely agree. Traveling for me is a way to break down barriers and expand your worldview. Your perception of the world, depending on where you travel, completely changes. For better or for worse. You become much more appreciative of the things back home and realize that everything you knew and hold dear is small potatoes to the grand scheme of things. Not only do you learn about other cultures but you also learn a lot about yourself. When you travel, especially when you travel as a backpacker, you have so little on your person that you are stripped down to basic needs. A few t-shirts, one pair of sneaks, and a handful of under garments. It’s one of the purest ways of experiencing new places and meeting new people. You have no material possessions so there’s no one to impress. It’s just you and your bag. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

 Describe a day in the life of a traveler and adventurer such as yourself.

 

When I’m guiding a tour, I’ll be the first one to wake up. I make sure we are on time for the activities we have to do that day and proceed to executing the itinerary. However, when I’m not working a tour, I wake up and do some sort of physical activity. Whether that’s playing basketball, going for a swim, surfing, or jogging around the block. From there, I make a to do list for the day and get to work. Lists can vary from replying to emails, to making new content, to brand outreach, to updates to our site. Each day is a bit different when I’m not on tour, which is exciting.
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Ausangate, Peru
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There are lots of people such as myself that aren’t as experienced with traveling often. What are your top traveling tips, whether it’s out of the country or taking a simple road trip?

 

My number one traveling tip would be to just go! There’s never the perfect time to do something. No matter if you go to your nearest mountain range or go cross country, explore new places. If you don’t have enough money, then save for a few weeks, months, or what have you, and refrain from spending on things you don’t need. If you really want to travel you CAN make it happen. You just have to have good disciple and really want it. Another tip would be go with a group of friends. An example would be going from LA to Yosemite. If you jump in a car with 5 people and head to Yosemite, gas ends up being less than $40 per person and if you get a campsite, less than $20 a night. When it comes to food everyone head to the nearest Costco and stock up on what you need and divide it amongst the group. Tops you’re looking at $50. All in all you could spend a whole weekend in Yosemite for less than $150. If you break it down it the equivalent of refraining from having coffee for a month or not going out drinking with your friends for two weekends. All in all my two tips would be to just go and if you can’t just go for any given reason, then look at where you can save and cut down on spending and save it for a trip.

 

What have been some of your biggest traveling challenges, and how did you overcome them?

 

Teamwork is huge in this type of work. You rely on one another to communicate, plan, and
execute tours that are countries apart. Any drop of the ball in communication can prove to be very hurtful not only for the company but also for the experience of the customers, which is the most important. On our very first tour, we had someone get a parasite in their stomach, had a strike blocking roads to Machu Picchu, and an ATM machine that decided to eat our ATM card, so pulling cash out to operate the tour was out of the question. Each obstacle presented itself at the worst of times, as they always do, and so we had to be quick on our feet. I won’t bore you with the details but if it wasn’t for solid communication between our team, we wouldn’t have been able to successfully improvise and find solutions for each obstacle.

 

Being in different environments allows you to grow as a person, even if you don’t realize it. You have to think differently and your problem solving skills are enhanced because you’ve never been in that situation or environment before. It’s crazy to say but in doing this, you willingly put yourself in a state of vulnerability.
-Hilton Davila

 

What kind of work goes into planning out trips/scheduling and accommodating people through VSA?   

 

It’s a lot of planning. And I mean a lot of planning. Our guided trips are less stressful because we have a designated tour coordinator but when we have custom/private trips that’s when it can get a bit tricky. The team has to constantly check if the customers are where they need to be and are getting the proper attention they require. Being in South America, a place where strikes, road blocks, and illnesses are a reality of everyday life doesn’t make it any easier; we have to be prepared for any type of obstacle that could prevent our customers from having a great trip. Thankfully we’ve had a 100% satisfaction track record!

 

How does being in different environments inspire you (your photography, and you as a person, for example)?

 

My favorite feeling is not knowing where I am. It activates a part of my brain that makes me feel nervous, excited, scared, happy, thoughtful, and all sorts of other emotions. Being in different environments allows you to grow as a person, even if you don’t realize it. You have to think differently and your problem solving skills are enhanced because you’ve never been in that situation or environment before. It’s crazy to say but in doing this, you willingly put yourself in a state of vulnerability. You leave your body and brains comfort zones and put yourself out there. And so my photography and person are constantly being inspired because of that fact. Whether it’s meeting someone new or being in a new city, the smells, languages, architecture, and noises I hear all trigger new inspiration for me.
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Ausangate, Peru
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La Paz, Bolivia

 

Where do you see the future of this company?

 

I don’t want to jinx anything so I will say that the future is bright for VSA. We just have to keep putting in work day in and day out to make that future a reality. Slowly but surely!

 

To date, what is your favorite traveling experience by far?

 

To date, my favorite experience has been from a backpacking experience I had in Peru when I was 20 years old. I was in the middle of the desert at a race event, and a car had gotten stuck in the dunes. There were people all around but no one was helping the man with his car. So I decided to jump in and help. Soon after more and more people started to join in trying to help move the car. After a few attempts, we were finally able to get the car going by placing the car mats in front of the tires so that it could get enough traction to move out of the trench that each tire had made for itself. The man was incredibly happy and left on his way. Because of the race event, certain walking areas were closed until the final racer had crossed the finish line so I had to walk around the entire campsite to get to the main highway to hitch a ride to my next location. I was dying of thirst at this point because the radius of the campsite was at least 2 miles and all the shops were on the other side of the camp. After about an hour, I’m able to see the highway and cars passing through. However, to my dismay, I realized I had spent the cash I had and only had enough coins to jump on a bus to the next city. Still dying of thirst, I make my way through the final leg of the desert towards the highway. About 200 meters away, I run into another car that was having issues with his car. And again no one in the area was helping him. Only this time I already knew what to do. I approached the man and said I could help him. I asked him to unlock his car to get the car mats out and placed them in front of the tires. Him from the driver’s seat and myself pushing from behind, we were able to get the car
out of the rut. The man was so thankful he called over the nearest shop and asked for two
waters. I was so thirsty I drank them both in less than 30 seconds. Not only that but he offered to drive me in the direction he was heading. I’m not sure if this story is a you-had- to-be-there kind of story, but that’s when I realized that the universe works in interesting ways. You never know how you will be rewarded by helping others in need.
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Manu National Park, Peru
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Bolivia
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Peru
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Bolivia
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Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
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Ausangate, Peru

I feel inspired by Hilton’s words and experiences, and I hope you all are too! Travel is about the connections we make not just with other environments and people, but the beauty and connections we make within ourselves when we go out and explore the world with open arms.

Traveling helps rejuvenate the soul. To travel is to experience wonders of new sights and sounds—to let go of fear of the unknown. People travel to meet other people from all walks of life, to get away from the mundane, or to open up their eyes to a world outside their own. The more one travels, the more wisdom and insights people gain from the world. To travel is to feel alive. It is a revival of your personal well-being. And so many people miss out on this. Is it due to fear, possibly? Perhaps it’s also the fact that so many people also feel bound to their routines and comfortable little bubbles. There are others that also simply cannot afford it, or perhaps they are tied down with family matters. Either way, people should still somehow try to find the time and energy to get out and explore at least once in their lives.

I still have many places to go and many places to see. Even when traveling to various parts of California, I still feel a sense of freedom and new and exciting beginnings. I learned at a young age that life can be cut short, and anything can happen. Sometimes you just have to take chances and take risks. And in a way, this is another aspect of traveling. There is always a risk factor. It is also a commitment. With that in mind, I believe in the importance of travelling with caution and staying safe, but learning to have fun at the same time is what truly counts. Have fun, meet new people, be safe, and make memories that will last a lifetime. After all, travel is more than just a destination.

Cheers and safe travels,

Nico


Follow along on Visit South America’s journey via the links below!

Instagram: @visitsouthamerica.co

Twitter: @visitsoam

Facebook: Visit South America

Follow Hilton on Instagram: @hiltondavila

Want VSA delivered to your doorstep? Subscribe or pick up the latest copy of Visit South America online (digital or hard copy available for select issues). No advertisements!


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