It was about three years ago and I had just arrived in Lima, Peru. I was terrified. It was late and we almost got into the only unmarked taxi outside the airport, but another driver rushed over to rescue us just as we were putting our bags in the back. We got into his cab instead and drove through the nighttime streets, along the coast, aggressively, accelerating hard then braking even harder until I wasn’t just scared but sick too. He didn’t stop talking. Then he couldn’t find the hostel. We crawled along dark streets and stopped to ask other drivers. I wasn’t so scared anymore, I just wanted to get to the hostel. Eventually we found it.
We put our things into the room and headed down to the pool table because we didn’t quite know what else to do. There was one other person there, a French guy, who seemed friendly enough, but we didn’t stay long. It had been a LONG day and my fear had refocused itself. I got undressed, into bed and lay under the covers, trembling, begging and twitching, hoping not to die. When I woke up in the morning, I felt shame.
YOU DAMN PANSY! I thought
I’m not terrified this time round. Only EXCITED. As far as visits to Colombia are concerned, I’m about to bust my cherry.
Lima was just the beginning of a 12 month trip around the world that ended in Hong Kong. I returned home in October 2011. It was nice to be home, to walk into my room and see those familiar objects all around me. First, I found a gym membership, then I thought I’d better find a job. I put in dozens of applications but I couldn’t find one. I couldn’t believe they weren’t choosing me. Meanwhile, I babysat the dog and the kitten. It took up a lot of my time, persuading the cat to come out of the dishwasher, stop hanging upside down from the kitchen blind, to come down from the Christmas tree. The dog was always there, shouting at the little baby with me, as if she’s never crapped on the carpet.
Times were hard. I listened to Skid Row ‘Wasted Time’ on repeat, sang it along softly to myself. I couldn’t see the road ahead of me. I wanted to go away again, just didn’t know for sure that I would because it all depended on SO MUCH.
Eventually, after eight months I found a job. It was local. It wasn’t what I was looking for but I took it because I was desperate. Well, I thought, that’s it then. In two years I’m GONE. I’ll save some money then I’ll quit. I hadn’t gotten the career I wanted, so fuck it, right?
So I went to work every day, and made plans the odd Saturday and life was simple and without much pain. I was contented (because I knew it was temporary?) I could see the road ahead.
The only time I really doubted it was in bed at night, lying there like a frightened little girl (there were other times)
WHAT’S WRONG WITH LIVING COMFORTABLE AND DULL? I’d think
Then I’d think about the future and having something to look back on and I’d decide, “I HAVE TO GO!”
Back to the jungles, beaches, mountains, danger, INSPIRATION. It beats throwing away my salary on drink and rent, always miserable and ignoring it. Somehow, throwing it away on cheaper drink and lower rent thousands of miles from home in a foreign country makes it more meaningful (whatever that means).
I quit my job after 18 months, packed my bag and got on a plane to South America.
We’re at the gate, Boxhead and me, in Miami airport, waiting for our connection to Bogota. It’s been 15 hours. Last night, we failed the first test of our mettle. We planned to sleep on the airport floor, but there was very much noise – people, announcements, the damned elevator music, and it went on and on and on, and then there were the lights, and the floor was cold and hard. After many hours we decided to get a hotel room instead, an EXPENSIVE hotel room for six hours because we figured SOME sleep was worth it. When I awakened this morning it was beautiful (it would have been more beautiful at half the price). I showered and shaved and we had a complimentary breakfast.
We’re almost there.