Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

It has been 3 months since I've been out, and this one's certainly got month 2 beat.

-first time sailing
-first time being sea sick
-swimming with jellyfish
-fresh fish
-pirate country
-waking up and diving into the Caribbean
-diving into the Caribbean any old time I felt like it
-skinny dipping
-dance parties with Colombianos
-New Year!
-many attempts at salsa
-coffee with cinnamon
-being an illegal alien
-conquering DAS (with too much money)
-overwhelmingly kind Colombianos helping me out for no reason at all
-robbed: once
-robbing foiled: once
-mugged: once
-mugging foiled: once
-cable cars: 2
-boys: 3 (this does not mean what you may be thinking)
-books read: 4 1/2
-new friends: countless
-stranded due to bus strike
-business class for the first time! wearing the same shorts and shirt for the 3rd day in a row, awesome.
-so much local street food
-frutas!!! everywhere!!!
-lots of country trekking
-early mornings
-GREAT pizza
-bumpiest road EVER
-surviving Colombia mostly intact
-cautionary tales
-Colombiano art
-F.A. Cano
-little old Colombiana woman totally freaking me out in the dark on a mountain and then blessing me
-hitting my stride as a solo traveler
-modes of transportation: bus, foot, horse, plane, taxi, swimming, sailboat, launch, dinghy, motorcycle, metro, cable car
-being called a diamond. Really genuinely.
-Yellow Spectral Warrior
-Colombian coffee
-movies in a theater: 2! (Sherlock Holmes and Up in the Air)
-constantly dirty feet
-sick from food or water: I've avoided it thus far, knock on wood!
-flu: once (currently)
-overnight buses

It's been a fantastic month. So much of what my journey is has been completely unexpected. I imagined a lot. I never imagined this. Everything changed once Sarah left, and it is exhilirating to head into each new day, not knowing where I may be when the night arrives, literally or figuratively. I try to roll with the punches and accept the good that comes my way. I stay true to myself, and only myself. Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of strings pulling me, nudging me; Mormon strings, family strings, backpacker strings, career strings, well-meaning strings, etc. And I may follow one or two or five. But I ultimately follow my own path, and it's been a really exciting, empowering one. I try almost anything once and say yes more often than no. It's strange to live day to day without bouncing everything that happens to me off of a close friend, or at least someone I've known more than a week. Locals, taxi drivers, bartenders, travelers, receptionists, strangers, frequently tell me how strange it is that I am traveling alone, or saying how adventurous or brave I am. I smile and accept the compliments. I am someone right now that I never saw myself being. It has been a complete surprise. I think that's pretty amazing, how quickly it happened, and hell, when does this happen? I feel like such identity changes are usually slow evolutions, fairly predictable. But this solo world traveler, this empowered, independent woman, suddenly appeared. Was forced upon me, really.

In Antigua one morning, I was listening to Ragtime. There's a lyric, sung by Mother, that talks about women who are ''unafraid to be strong''. And it struck me as false; aren't we always afraid to be strong (or should be), because being strong implies that we are experiencing something exceedingly unpleasant or challenging. Something which necessitates a bold counter-action to maintain some balance, to maintain forward motion. Before we get to an experience which necessitates ''being strong'' we are all talk; once it gets to that painful challenge, the one which requires the bold counter-action, all we can feel is pain. It's the rule of opposites, you can't feel strong without feeling weak. You can't feel brave without feeling afraid. And once we are experiencing a challenge, how can we not be afraid?

I am not completely on the other side yet, but I do feel that in this last month I have emerged from something. I've moved ahead, I've achieved forward motion, I am finally starting to hit my stride as a solo traveler. This is shot to hell sometimes; when I thought for 5 minutes the other day that I had made some horrible mistake and missed my flight to Lima, tears were brimming and panic had started rolling by the time I got to the desk of the check-in attendant. And I still feel ridiculously exposed when I walk in a city by myself with a bag. But as a whole, I feel the exhileration of someone new, someone different. Someone I came to Latin America to find, even though I didn't know who or what I was looking for when I came.

Alright, no worries, I still have a healthy sense of my flaws and areas of improvement. Musn't forget those.

And now that the land transportation strike has ended, I'm off to get a 22-hour bus ride ticket to Cusco. Inca Trail, here I come to get my ass kicked!


Sven said...

Happy Anniversary! Have fun!