I would like to look back on this trip and feel glad and proud that I had done it. But I think this is inevitable, barring any disasters. And even if some parts of the trip are regrettable, I have little doubt that the entire thing will be worth it (of course, this could all be up to the discretion of Columbian drug lords and my appeal to them as a possible drug mule).
It’s difficult to really conceive of the trip enough to have something reasonable to say about it at this time. We’re less than three weeks away from landing in Santiago, and beyond picturing how tired and dirty I’ll feel, my imagination just stops working. Even when I’m lying in bed at night, rigid with anticipation and nerves, I’m not really sure what’s going on in my head. It’s just a generalized aura of apprehension that will, at times, seize me in its grip, but it won’t really clarify anything. So I’m not sure how I want to look back on this trip (besides feeling glad and proud), when I can’t really say how I look on this trip now. Hopefully in a good light. That’s the best answer I can come up with.
One of the most gratifying things when talking to people about this trip, especially older people (barring my mother, of course), is how approving they are. Even before I knew when this trip was going to happen, I would ask patients for a piece of general advice on life, and the majority of them would say, “Travel.” And when I tell them now that I’m taking this trip, every one of them says, “Good for you.” Like I’ve just told them I signed up for calligraphy courses, or something like that. It just seems so simple to them, and I suppose in hindsight, it must be.
If you think about globetrotting even 20 years ago, it was a truly mad endeavor. Loved ones would have to anxiously await a letter that could take weeks to arrive, before they could be assured of a safe passage. How terrifying! And yet, people managed it. No wonder that generation looks at me and says, “Why wouldn’t you? With your blogging and your email and your twitter.”
So maybe, in the future, taking a year off from work and roaming around the globe really won’t be a big deal at all. It’s getting easier and easier to keep in contact with people abroad; the world is getting smaller in many ways. A blog post could be read instantly, tens of thousands of miles away. A reader could be immediately reassured that I was alive and well. In many ways, traveling has gotten much less difficult and scary.
I see myself in those same shoes, years down the road, pointing my finger and saying solemnly, “Go west, young man.” (Meaning, of course, to travel… I’m actually not too keen on manifest destiny or the desecration of native populations.) Because, in fact, millions of others are uprooting themselves, too. Teenagers on their gap year, ex-pats finding homes in faraway places, idealistic ones doing Peace Corps, or even just a young woman, wanting to try something different and going abroad for a year as an au pair. All of these travelers, wandering the world in search of knowledge, peace, enlightenment, or experience. What’s another two people joining their ranks?
I expect that’s what I’ll tell people: We’re nothing special. You could do it as well… And I really hope you will.