But again, some things that I thought would be useful have really not been, and so were left behind – mostly left at the last hostel I found myself in.
Things I left behind:
Super Dry Travel Towel. Super light, super absorbent…but felt like rubbing a bed sheet over my body. Sometimes you want a tad more comfort, and for me a towel is one of them.
Collapsible plate. Thought I’d use it, never did. Ironically, I am in a place that doesn’t have a kitchen I can use, and this might have been used today. But I am moving out because of the lack of a kitchen, and will only stay in hostels that have one – so no plate needed.
Travel Chess. Small, lightweight – yet never used. I like chess, but not enough to harass fellow travelers to play. Cities often have dedicated tables to play – and while I used to do that, I find myself without the desire to match myself against others in a game. Out!
Windsock for the boom microphone for my iPhone. It’s a tad bulky for it’s size – and I just never used it. Never found myself in windy enough conditions to justify it’s use. Out!
I actually did use this a couple of times, but what I’ve found is that hostels typically have a place to hang clothes, and if they don’t I also have a security cable that can double as a clothesline in a pinch. I used it in this manner a few hostels ago to both secure my luggage to a bedpost, and also to lay wet socks and underwear to dry. Since I have an item that I use for the same purpose/multiple purposes, I let this one go.
Some items, I just lost, like my beloved Outdoor Research Helium II jacket. Probably left somewhere in Arica, Chile. Still looking for a replacement. Also, my beloved Sea to Summit Ultra Sil daypack. I lost this in San Pedro de Atacama. I know exactly where I lost it, as I was sunning myself after dipping into a hot mineral spring fed river. I was actually using it as a pillow. Then, the tour van was leaving, I just got up – and left my bag. Luckily, there was nothing of value in it – except my toiletry bag. The only thing I miss is my compact sonic toothbrush.
As a replacement to my old N-Rit Super Light Towel, I got the slightly larger N-Rit Super Dry Towel in Xtra large upgrade version. Made by the same company, this one is just more like a towel – has a softer, slightly thicker cloth, but still bundles up to nearly the same size. Since getting rid of my other towel (and other items) this made room for something a little more deluxe.
Travel toothbrush that folds into itself. Not a sonic, but also doesn’t use batteries. Plusses and minuses.
Here’s the thing: If I don’t use an item, (or use it infrequently) in a period of 2 months – then I discard it. Other items that get lost is kind of the price you pay for traveling. A fellow traveler after hearing my tale of a lost coat said: ‘I’ve lost 2 coats so far. That happens, don’t worry too much about it. You can always find something suitable.’
And, he’s right.
I’m still looking for a replacement for my Helium II jacket – but I am holding off for now. Arequipa is sunny and really dry. The store here that has Camping Gear has a North Face waterproof jacket, but it’s a tad heavy for my tastes – but may work if necessary. Right now, I have all that I need – and that’s enough.
As I’ve said before, expertise is not just expressed in knowing how and when to use things, it’s also knowing how to do without.
The day of departure I felt an enormous pressure, as if I was under the deep ocean. I checked, and double checked my packing, a third of what I have brought are electronics and computerizations of various sorts: a miniature speaker cube 1.5” per side, my Macbook Pro, noise canceling Bose earbuds, my iPad for watching Netflix, iPhone 6s, a charging brick with 2 USB ports. At the last minute I bought a warmer jacket – a waterproof soft-shell a tad warmer than the shell I bought earlier – as soft as the one I loved so much the zippers no longer zipped, and estimate it will make my trip 10% more comfortable.
I weighed the decision on whether or not to bring my white ExOfficio shirt, or the one that had a khaki pattern and was less likely to show stains. There’s a reason English expeditions went with Khaki.
But I liked the white shirt!
I weighed its heft in my hand, and muttered ‘fuckit’ – brought both at the waning hour.
And still I am sliced thin. A forgotten bag, and coat mistakenly left behind would not spell absolute disaster, but ordinary disaster can be failure enough.
At least that’s what the melodramatic side of me calls them. But this I know: because of the additional weight, any of the above could be assigned as an asset or a liability.
I am kitted to do some tech work, some web work for farmer’s in Chile, to build an ERP system for them. I know nothing of Chilean localization and formatting, but I am keen to be a quick learn.
A curious thing happened though: once I boarded the plane my anxiety dropped away. All my preparation caught up with me, and sailed me through Ft, Lauderdale to Lima, Peru, and next: to Santiago & Frutillar, Chile. And while I haven’t set foot in a hostel for a couple decades, I knew now, slash proof backpack and combination lock in hand, I was fully prepared to take that fateful step.
The Peruvian server at the Pachakama Restaurant on the Hollywood Beach boardwalk in Ft, Lauderdale very kindly disabused me of the thought that I might be at all fluent in her native tongue. She herself flawlessly shifted from speaking slowly in Espanol to me, catching me in Ingles when I faltered, then shifted to francesa for the French couple at the table next door.
After looking up traditional Peruvian dishes online, I settled on Lomo Saltado – a traditional beef dish of tender chunks of beef marinated in soy sauce and vinegar – like the marinated chicken I ate as a kid. This dish emerged from the Chinese influence in Peru, and melded into something with a Latin American twist. It even had the molded Chinese white rice, but also a slightly spicy green sauce as a side that didn’t appear remotely Chinois to me – but I admit I haven’t tried everything Oriental.
The beef also had sautéed onions, and not-chinese fries as a side. All washed down with a Peruvian lager. I asked which was her mad favorite postre (dessert) , and she said “Lucuma”, which was very sweet, and tasted somewhat of Dulce de leche custard, but she said it actually came from the fruit by the same name. She told me to find it once I got to Peru.
As a passing gift she wrote on a lined yellow piece of paper
LUCUMA IS A FRUIT
TUMBES IS A CITY TO VISIT – FRONTIER WITH ECUADOR
BARRANCO IS A GOOD PLACE TO VISIT IN LIMA
(EL PUENTE DE LOS SUSPIROS)
She also told me to be careful in Lima – it’s a big city with big city dangers.
The kindness of absolute strangers staggers me.
I see what I am doing as if outside my body. I question what the hell I am doing, but paradoxically have no doubt about what I am doing. I hope to limp with my palsied Spanish till I can walk, with possible visions of running. I hope to rock climb, and know that I am destined to do so, even though it is not clear as yet. I figure providence will hold me aloft to push me towards the right place at the right time.
I carry a letter from a person I have known for 3 decades and refused to talk to in the past 2 years. One page, typed, packed with as much sorrow as a page could hold. I carried it for 2 months, burning like something radioactive in my bag. I responded with a 4”x6” postcard I got from a tourist shop on the Hollywood beach walkway with a happy “Hollywood Beach” sign, and folks strolling along the beach.
The 4”x6” space conveyed less than I would have liked, but all that I could really express. I failed to fill the last inch, so I drew a picture of what was in front of me: a couple on a park bench on the right – palm trees to the left. It was dropped in a cloth shopping bag marked “MAIL,” the cashier taking a longer glance than I would have liked at the contents, stopped when she saw me watching her scan the lines of what I had writ. I paid for a 2nd postcard to write to a happy friendship to wash the sad taste from my mouth.
A line from my fateful 1st postcard sticks with me: ‘I am leaving the states. Do not write to me at my old address because I am no longer there…’
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.” ~Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk
For the past year, I have not had a job. After fighting a lawsuit for 5 years I was awarded a legal settlement, and this allowed me to do what I always told myself I would do: take a year long sabbatical. What I was going to do with that sabbatical was unclear to me at the time.
And, as my money slowly drained away I contemplated work and life and what I really wanted to become, and while I didn’t quite have a clear picture on who I wanted to become, I knew very clearly what I didn’t want to do.
I didn’t want to work for a corporation, other than my own, for the rest of my life.
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” ~ Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything
Working for corporations is unnatural. People go to school to learn skills to help some asshole head honcho get rich. They work 40, or more likely 50-80 hours a week during the best part of their lives with people they may or may not like – and for what? Retire at age 65, if they are lucky, realizing that they will never realize their big dreams of traveling the world, or some other big dream, if they even had the time to have a dream at all.
We make compromises with our lives, we make peace with ourselves, and scale back our big dreams because, well, reality you know? Need to pay the mortgage, or wait until you save enough, or until your pet/relative/friend dies. THEN life will happen!
I’ve learned, over time, that there is no practical difference between a reason and an excuse.
Both will hold you back, if you let them. And the barriers to doing things that could enrich your lives – learning a foreign language, lack of money, and fears: fears of heights, of travel, of foreigners – are barriers we self-create which prevents us from the kind of experiences that would well and truly blow the hinges off the doors of our complacency.
For most worthwhile things, in order to get to the exciting adventure – you have to be willing to go through the fear.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over His works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. ~ Helen Keller
Helen Keller, for those of you who may not know, was born blind and deaf. She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, and couldn’t speak. This quote, from a person with true barriers saying security is a mostly a myth.
I was going to roam the US in Conchita la Casita, but while the dream was big, it wasn’t my biggest dream.
My biggest dream was to travel the world.
When you ask people what they would do with a million bucks, a common answer is: I would travel the world. But if you dig a little deeper, the barriers come up: I don’t have enough money, I don’t know the language. Don’t they have terrorists there? I’m afraid.
The last is the worst: I’m afraid. When you say that, barring things that are actively dangerous, what you are saying is that you are confusing what you feel with what is real.
All those barriers are really nothing. Less than nothing. All you need is the will. The will to do what is necessary to be able to do the things you want to do.
Everything else is an excuse.
“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~Lao Tzi, Tao Te Ching
Someone asked me what motivates me. They were honestly puzzled. And I answered without thought: ‘One of the things that motivates me is the idea that I could die at any moment.’
It seems at first like a very negative thought – the idea of dying as a prime motivator. But it’s real. The thought that you could die at any moment should scare you into life.
Last year, I had a cousin die at the age of 42. She died of a brain aneurism in front of her husband and her children. Dropped dead, was unable to be revived. No one, her included, had any inkling that this could happen to her.
Whatever your dream is: to start a business, find the love of your life, rock climb in the Dolomites, travel the world; what is it, right now, that you are doing in order to achieve this dream? What are the barriers to entry? and the final important item:
When do you plan on doing this?
“A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal–Panama!” ~Long palindrome by (possibly) Guy Steele
Because a plan without a timeline is not a plan at all: it’s a day dream. It’s a fantasy. It’s the child when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, and says s/he wants to become an astronaut. Maybe it will happen, but most likely it won’t.
Figure out your wildest dream, make a plan, tie it to a timeline – and off to the races you go! Don’t let anything, or even anyone stop you.
You are not your fucking khakis. You have dreams and aspirations and hopes and things and experiences you want to do.
This is your one precious life – what are you gonna do about it?