The origin of this blog is one of my worst-kept secrets. But I haven’t published it online. So here it is:
I am writing this from Santiago, Chile. Having flown overnight, I am embarking on a three month trip across South America.
Chile is my first destination. I’ll be honest: I came here first because I wanted to go skiing in July. Chile is regarded as having the best ski resorts in South America. And it’s winter here, so the conditions should be excellent (I hope).
The plan, as far as there is one, calls for three weeks in Chile, followed by a flight to Buenos Aires, which I only booked because entering Chile requires proof that you will be leaving, and also because I have heard more great things about Buenos Aires than any other city. The month of August will be spent traversing across Argentina. Targets include Mendoza and wine country, Cordoba, and the northwest roads through Salta and Jujuy.
September should bring me back into Chile at San Pedro de Atacama, with its otherworldly landscape. I will continue north into Peru, where I hope to visit Macchu Picchu, the great wonder of the Incan empire. If all goes well, I should reach Lima by the end of September, and return to the U.S. in early October.
Three months is a long time, and that’s the point. I’m not rushing to get everything done in a week or two like a typical vacation. I want to go slowly, take in as much as possible, and move on only when I feel ready to do so. If a place captures my attention, I reserve the right to stay longer and cut back on other parts of the trip. A friend recently suggested that I may not come back at all, and until I do, I can’t really say he’s wrong.
I reject the notion that I’m doing this to “find myself.” If I was trying to find myself, I wouldn’t travel half a world away to do it. I could just look down, and, hey! There I am.
This is about testing myself. It’s about learning to distinguish between discomfort and danger. Because I mistake things that make me uncomfortable for things that are dangerous, I avoid pushing my limits and finding out what I’m capable of.
It’s going to be uncomfortable at times. I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t know anyone here, and it’s hard enough for me to meet new people when I have those two things going for me. The thought of being lonely on the road scares me as much as getting robbed, getting sick, or getting hurt. And if that doesn’t make any sense to you, rest assured, I don’t really understand it myself.
Fear can be a good thing. Healthy fear keeps me grounded, and makes me watch my step. There is nothing wrong with treading carefully into the unknown. I just decided, this one time, to forcefully throw myself into the void. Call it an overcorrection.
Not that I didn’t do a ton of homework. I asked every friend I could think of with extended overseas experience for advice. I read as many travel blogs as I could. Part of my inspiration came from Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Workweek and Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding, both of which contain tons of actionable information about long-term travel.
When I began my research for this trip, a blog seemed to be the ideal way to keep friends and family updated to my whereabouts and goings-on. I’m not a travel journalist, so I won’t be reporting back on the latest news from abroad. I bought a camera, but I’m not a photographer–I just like to share what I’m seeing. I have been practicing my writing, trying to put down some words every day, but I can’t promise that I will post a new blog entry every day. So if you don’t see anything here for a couple days, relax. I’m probably looking for WiFi.
I’m surprised by how many people have told me they are envious. As if I’m doing something they could never do. I wonder where that idea comes from. I’m certainly not special. There is a Marcus Aurelius quote I like to apply in situations like this:
“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe it is within your own compass also.”
Hopefully, through my journey and this blog, I can help others realize how much is within their own abilities. And if that sounds arrogant, well, it’s about time I tried something new.