I'm sort of doing this. I moved to Switzerland for the summer. 5 months in total. It's lovely.
A few things to note:
The cost of living here is low, about the same or less than it was in Los Angeles. So depending on where you live, it may not be that bad. This goes for grocery store food, rent, utilities, and non brand clothing.
The cost of entertainment here is ridiculously expensive. A cheap meal eating out is around $20. Even Burger King is $13 for a cheaper meal.
Drinking is expensive. They typically don't have anything aside form beer on tap. So getting a drink with coke, soda water, red bull or anything of the sort means you are paying for a double shot and the beverage. A whiskey w/ soda water, a drink I'm used to paying about $5 for, costs around $13. Yet, if you go to the grocery store, you can get the cheap beer for about 45 cents a can.
People here are way more stand offish. Making friends is a lot more challenging. I'm used to telling someone if I like their bag or shoes. Here, that's socially strange. Most of the people I've met have been through couch surfer. Those are people looking to meet people.. so it's a little less creepy than using a dating site. It's weird though, as soon as I'm in France or Germany, people are so nice and excited to talk to me.
Name brand clothing (as long as it's really an international brand) is about the same price. Things like Vans, Levis, and Armada are stupidly priced out here. I think I saw a pair of Tom's shoes on sale for $80. But I was looking at a pair of 7 jeans and they were around $140 so, about the same.
There is no good asian food or mexican food, the Indian food is ok. It's hard to find hot sauces/chilly sauces. But that goes for most of europe unless you are in huge cities like Paris (but even there, the legit thai food place I went to used no chilly sauce).
For how safe this place is, there is still a weird sense of paranoia. No one will ever let me walk home at night by myself because it's "dangerous." I messaged my friend that I was reading under a street light by the lake around midnight and he freaked out and said that is no place for a woman. They also have bomb shelters, pretty much every house has a gun, the police carry AKs... It's a very strange thing. No one believes me when I tell them I lived in Downtown LA for years and would walk home at night by myself.
The German/Italian parts are very catholic (not sure on the French side). Everything shuts down for holiday's I've never heard of. Everything is closed on Sundays. People dress a lot more conservative.
Get a Few Eurail passes. If you get the first class ones, it becomes a lot more worth it. Only buy passes for 2 or 3 countries and do limited days. That way you can explore the different regions and save a bit of money. In the end, the total cost ends up about the same as it would be if you had bought on the spot second class tickets only you don't have to wait in so many ticket lines.
Anyway, that's it on Switzerland. No idea about South America. That's next on my to do list.