LETTER HOME: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY OF WANDERING THE WORLD
Dear Family and Friends,
The world did not end on Saturday! And if you’re anything like myself, you probably think that’s just dandy. So in honor of this lovely occasion (the non-apocalypse), I thought I’d take a moment and really ‘self-reflect’ on my travels thus far. There’s nothing like a bit of introspection to celebrate not going to hell!
During the past few months, I’ve been so busy planning my next destinations that any reflection has been generally scheduled for January 2012, when I return to Canada. I can’t wait to be all smart-like when I get home! Instead, extra time has been generally spent researching host organizations, booking travel arrangements, finding affordable accommodation, etc. Being present in the moment has been challenging, let alone delving in the recent past and “processing learning experiences”! Jeez!
But I have officially been on the road for twenty weeks. And I decided to permit myself the privilege of pondering the highs and lows of my trip thus far. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly of wandering the world.
Meeting new people. Hands down the greatest part of this journey has been connecting with fascinating people who have fascinating perspectives. I’ve had myself smudged beside a fire at a full moon ceremony with Edda in New Orleans. I’ve learned to make ceviche with Estella in her kitchen in Trujillo, Peru. I’ve chatted about race and dreams and life on the top of a mountain with Moses in Cape Town. These are the moments that can’t be purchased on a tour.
Space away from routine. At various points in my life I have craved the normative 9 – 5 lifestyle, as it afforded the stability I needed to refocus my energy on greater goals. My travels are providing the opposite of this. And it’s a wonderful way to keep me on my feet, while augmenting creative potential. Which leads me to my next point…
Continually finding creative inspiration. I’ve set some significant objectives for myself: a daily video, a weekly letter home, regular photo updates. And sometimes I worry that I won’t have compelling content for my blog. But then something always seems to happen – a provoking conversation, some emotive music, a new landscape, a fortuitous mugging – that provides fodder for a video, photo or blog post.
Eating all sorts of delicious new meals. Each destination has provided a culinary education, and my palette is wiser from experiencing new flavor combinations. Everything that you’ve heard about food and travel is true. I cannot not marry a well-versed, internationally trained chef now.
Decline of physical performance. Back in November I was in ‘marathon-running’ shape. Last week I went for my first jog in three months, and I’m fairly certain that my lungs were bleeding red wine. In the juggling of primacies, maintaining cardiovascular endurance and flexibility through regular running and yoga have unfortunately ranked lower. I’m not whining, however. I’m just stating a fact. It’s all a question of priorities. And goddammit a glass of pinotage keeps winning.
Not sticking to financial goals. This month I had planned to exchange work for food and accommodation at a mountain retreat. Plans changed, and I ended up staying in the city. And that required renting a room for the month. But then I got to hang out with my new friend Moses. I keep telling myself that any debt that I incur will be worth it. I like this advice. My bank account doesn’t.
Loss of sex-bomb status. I’ve had the pleasure (sarcasm) of fire ant bites in New Orleans, post-raw-vegan-farm-gaunt-inducing-weight-loss in Costa Rica and a slightly horrific mosquito-bite-facial in Buenos Aires that made me look like Voldemort’s ugly brother. The challenges of ‘the road’ have left me weary and unsexy. Okay, I’ve never actually seen myself as a sex-bomb, but that romantic imagery of a rugged, tanned traveler was confiscated at customs many months ago. I’m generally an unfuckable mess of insect bite welts, dandruff the size of Canadian snowflakes and sloppy sneakers that could disintegrate and fall off my feet at any moment. Beggars have started to offer me their change.
Being seen as walking ATM. As a tall white man, I’ve tended to stand out in many of the places I’ve visited thus far. The word “TOURIST” is often unavoidably stamped across my forehead. In Trujillo, for example, a group of guys scammed me with some fake currency, and then a week later I had my first iPod stealthy stolen while I was sitting in a café in Lima. In Cape Town, things were a bit more categorically corrupt. Two guys approached me, grabbed my wrists and mugged me, taking my cash and my second iPod. The ugliest part of my travels has been the energy required to be guarded. It is far easier to trust people, as faith in humanity is my default setting.
But despite the tough stuff, I keep on travelin’.
* * *
I was talking to my friend Laura (in Montreal) the other day about the challenges that I’ve come across, and why I keep going. She asked me, considering my track record, how I could continue trusting people.
“Are you done yet with your shenanigans DB?” she drilled (mostly) jokingly, “Can you just come home now?”
And after some of the shit that I’ve experienced, she had reason to make her case. But I told her that, when I place all my travel experiences on the grand scale of wonderfulness versus mercilessness, the good stuff just keeps outweighing the bad stuff. And that’s what keeps me going.
And to be honest, if the world would have ended on May 21, as the crazies had predicted, I would have been happy to have begun the rapture knowing that I was chasing my dream of world travel. I think God, knowing that I was chasing this dream, might have even made an exception for my obvious sin-filled past, and might have even spared me from the fiery depths of hell.
And maybe I’ll celebrate ‘not scorching in hell’ by getting myself some anti-dandruff shampoo. Besides, God probably wants me to start being a sex bomb.
With love and itchiness from Cape Town,
PS: I’m constantly looking for music that summarizes my emotions and my experiences. Since beginning my travels in January, perhaps the song that struck me the most has been “Walking Far From Home” by Iron & Wine.
Have a listen. Maybe you’ll love it too.