It seems like a million years ago that Brian and I were sweating our hearts out in the Amazon, tromping through the thick, dense Peruvian jungle, swinging in hammocks and flirting with monkeys. In reality, it was only one month ago.
But in the month since we left the jungle we’ve found ourselves eating dinner with an indigenous family on Lake Titicaca, sleeping in a straw bed and slurping soup over candlelight. Then, hiking deep into the world’s second-deepest canyon, then trudging through the honking, polluted chaos of Arequipa, then ducking behind the walls of an ancient monastery. Then, finally, on a cramped plane to Chile, touching down in the windswept, wide-open expanse of Patagonia, the most beautiful place I have ever been.
So much happens and I don’t know how to explain it all. I can tell you about the family we stayed with on Lake Titicaca, I can describe the cool feel of the mud wall of their kitchen, the early-morning crow of the rooster that struts through the field behind their home, the dampness of the grass on my toes as we navigated the tiny village by moonlight. But how can I explain why I burst into tears, unexpectedly, when I leaned in to hug Maria, the woman who’d welcomed us into her home? Call me mama, she’d said, because now you are my children. I can’t explain it because I don’t understand it myself.
Traveling can feel isolating because I know that no one, except for Brian, can ever understand all that we are experiencing. We look and sound as we always have, but I can already tell that we are profoundly and forever changed inside. It’s a subtle change, to be sure, but it is deep and real. The world will never look the same to us.
We are changed not only by the experience of learning about the world firsthand but also by the experience of having true freedom for the first time in our lives. We have no work we have to do, no bills we have to pay, no deadlines to meet, no papers to write. Any pressure we feel to live up to this or that standard is only the pressure we put on ourselves. Who else, at this time in their lives, can understand what this means, how it feels, to live this way?
As a former control freak, I’m constantly amazed at how easygoing I’ve become. For example, when we arrive in a new place we just simply show up. We ask around. Where can we find a bed? A good meal? The best beer? If one hostel doesn’t have a room, the next one will. If we can’t catch one bus we catch another. If we can’t go north we go south. I’ve stopped exhaustively tracking the money we’re spending because we spend what we have to spend.
I can’t stress enough that I never thought that I would learn how to relax like this, but I see that I am able to relax because I do not have to plan everything down to the smallest detail in order to maximize my precious time. I have so much precious time right now and it means everything. It is so much better than having so much precious money.
5 a.m. and hunkered down outside a bus terminal. Waiting for the 8 a.m. bus.
In one month we will be in India. INDIA! My brain can’t wrap around it. And yet, I don’t think about it much. There is still here, where I am. There is now. India will happen when India happens. I have seriously spent more time planning dentist appointments.
I sat down to write a completely different post, one about falling behind on the blog, promising to catch you up on all of the stories, and apologizing for not responding quickly to all of your wonderful comments and emails, but this is what came out instead. It’s been on my mind, I suppose, for awhile, but we just had friends come to visit and there is nothing like old friends to reflect back to you who you have been over time and who you are now.
Today we’re headed to Santiago before busing over to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. After a few days in Mendoza we’ll head to Buenos Aires, then Iguazu Falls, then Rio de Janiero. Then, we’ll catch a flight to Delhi, India, but not before a two-day Christmas layover in Germany where we will spend the holiday with the lovely Ali and Andy. In almost 30 days I will be in a rickshaw bumping my way down the subcontinent of India.
So many stories to tell and so many more that haven’t happened yet. Thank you all for experiencing this journey with me.
A technical note
Those of you who subscribe by email may have noticed a change in the way the email hits your inbox. I’ve switched post-to-email providers and am still working out the details, so please let me know if the new format doesn’t work for you. Also, check out my last two posts which you may have missed because they weren’t delivered by email: