This morning I woke up in my bed in Hartland Vermont. Tonight, I lie falling asleep in my bed in Quito Ecuador. Sometimes it doesn’t make a lick of sense that what I just did goes by the same name, travel, as what people did 75 years ago. The fact that I can get into a car, fall asleep, board a plane, fall asleep, board another plane, fall asleep, and then wake up in a completely foreign place, 3,200 miles away, still kinda blows my mind. I almost feel like I’m cheating—that the ease of it all somehow invalidates my travels. Part of me wants to know what it would have been like, travelling this distance by train or by horseback—some more intimate means of transportation that would lend more of a sense of the overwhelming bigness of the world. Instead I hop into an air-conditioned tin cylinder and fall asleep while the miles whizz by, largely unnoticed. But then I realize that my trip took 10 hours, rather than 10 months, and I’ll be home in time to catch summer’s end in Vermont… and my nostalgia for the good old days is gone in a flash.
I like going to new places. But new is unknown and the unknown is scary, so by the transitive property I like scaring myself. Kinda twisted, I know. But just as I discovered in my time in Santiago, I am amazed by how quickly that fear of the unknown dissipates after leaving the airport. I’ve found that once I’m done thinking about how terrifying things will be, I realize that new really isn’t that different from old—maybe a different accent, a slightly different skin tone, and a marginally higher ratio of cars going backwards on the highway to cars going forwards. (Seriously, I’m very confused by the traffic laws in Quito.) But otherwise, it feels pretty nice to be back in South America. Granted, I’ve been in Quito for a grand total of 2 hours so I can’t make too many comparisons… but it’s been surprisingly comfortable so far, transitioning back to salsa music, spikey fenced-in houses, stray dogs, and strip malls devoid of recognizable stores. All told, I’m glad I like scaring myself, and as much as I already miss my family, friends and summertime in Vermont, I’m excited to be starting something new again.
These are my digs for the next 2 weeks. Then I’m off to Chone on the coast for 2 weeks, back here for a week, then off to Puyo on the edge of the rainforest for three weeks.