The Plan, Stan (Part 2)

Santiago is a different city in the spring, which it finally finally is. Sure, the temperature still varies wildly and the sky is known to occasionally open up with a 10-minute rain and hail downpour, but for the most part it simply varies from brisk to beautiful. The sun is out, the flowers are starting to bloom, the young horny couples are inappropriately touching each other in inappropriately public areas, it’s Spring!

On my part, I’ve been trying to make opportunities to walk as much as possible, something that seems to scare the hell out of most Chileans. “You’re going to walk home? From here?” my friend said incredulously. “But we’re right next to a Metro stop!” I attempted to go to a movie yesterday, but ended up stranded on the far end of Providencia, needing to get home (long story), the Metro just closing, and decided to walk home. I arrived about two hours later tired, but in a good way.

Today I went to Los Leones to check out the leather jacket shop I’d seen my first week in town (god a nice new leather jacket for about $42), and was on my way back when I decided to stop in to the Mundo a Mil (basically their version of a $1 store). I picked up a SUPER 3D PUZZLE of the USS Constellation CV-64, an aircraft carrier, and I was blown away by its amazing descriptions on the packaging. In its unedited glory:

Use hand and head — Training kid’s flexible for their proportion on the hands and eyes.Develop them imagination ability. Make a teaching fairyland.

Design munificent — It can be assemblaged detached over and over,and looks like vertiable.It needn’t any assist tools.

Perfect in workmanship — Materials are daintiness. Safety and slightly.Full of colour printing.

And there you have it.

Sorry for the flood of emails today. I finished my article at the ST fairly early today, and uploaded a bunch of old stories from the ST to TBJ. For most I remembered to turn off the auto-send on the subscription email, but I missed it a few times, so apologies to you and your spammed inbox.

I also want to give the utmost recommendation for the book Marley and Me, by John Grogan. It is a hilarious, touching, sad tale of a man and his best friend, a Labrador retriever named Marley, as he goes through his life. For anyone who has owned and loved a dog, it´s a touching tale that will hit close to home. I´ve had dogs all of my life and love being around them, sane and out of their minds, and I don´t mind saying that this book brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Grogan, a long-time reporter and columnist, carries the book with his fun writing style and the candor in his introspection, more than once questioning the nature of such a loving relationship with a “stupid animal,” but making the book all the more real. Read it. I know absolutely nothing about the movie, though it seems a bit hard to make a movie nearly as good, especially because it´ll most likely end up as “family” movie, which I´d worry would diminish it.

But before I go to build my teaching fairyland (pictures to come), I wanted to “quickly” talk about the trip I was planning, the original point of this post. For the record, of course, by “planning” I really mean standing in front of a map of South America and tracing my finger around.

I am graduating after this quarter, which means that as of this coming December I will officially be a deadbeat drain on society: a college grad with no job. That said, I figure that this is the best time in the world to go travel, as I have no job, no school, no girlfriend; no reason to rush to get home. I love my family and friends, and miss them dearly, but this is something that I think would be worth the distance for a little bit longer.

My plan? I want to get from Chile to California by land and sea, taking buses and trains and boats in and around Latin America, following every suggestion and traveling with nothing more than a final destination in mind and the freedom of not having a schedule. I want to go everywhere, snaking in and around the continents, checking out most of the major cities along the way. I´ve been sketching out a few months for this trip, though I´m quickly realizing that it would be pretty ridiculous to try to travel that far in a little bit of time, so it may end up going longer.

Why, you ask? That´s a damn good question, and one that I´m having trouble answering with more than just a gut feeling. I think part of it is that, as much as I love Santiago, it´s not a paradigm shift for me. It´s got its quirkiness, no doubt, but it´s essentially just a Spanish translation of a quirky American city. I´m eager to get out and see more of the area.

I think another part of it is the wanderlust that comes from being raised as I was. I was extremely, incredibly blessed to be born to parents who were able to provide for me, to make ends meet and finance my hobbies and passions, to allow me to find what interests me and follow it, to learn more about myself and the world. I think one side effect of this, though, is the desire to find something that´s hard to do, to rough it a bit, to hitchhike and camp out at bus terminals and sit on a bus with a chicken in the lap.

I think that that´s what originally drew me to John/Enrique´s wire art, the raw, “authentic” nature of it, as little as that word has come to mean recently. As globalization has flattened the world and people get to travel more, many cultures have redesigned their manufacturing with we rich gringos in mind, cranking out identical quirky llama hat after identical quirky llama hat, until even the most handmade-looking item probably came straight from a factory.

This was certainly the case in Peru, where we´d marvel at the beautiful tapestries that people say they “made themselves,” only to see identical items at the next table, and even in stores on the other side of the country. Exotic art, to go back to that strange definition of exoticism, has been hard to find, and the more we go out looking for it, the more we end up in tourist traps.

Which is partially what´s driving my desire to avoid travelling like a tourist, and start doing what really interests me. I´m becoming more and more interested in people, and I´ve been finding myself trying to talk with more random people, whether it´s my cab driver explaining how he only works in the mornings because he wants to “spend the last part of his life surrounded by the people he loves,” or John/Enrique talking about the constant worry of police showing up to take him and fellow artists to jail for not having the appropriate permits.

This kind of stuff is impossible to plan, which is why I love travelling without a plan, letting the wind and my gut feelings take me where they will.

The long travel times actually appeal to me greatly, strangely, as the other point of the trip is to give me a huge amount of time to read, to write, to think, to talk to people, to look out at the scenery… whatever it takes. Writing will be a big part of the trip, as I hope to either keep this blog going, or accumulate everything into a book or, perhaps, both. Imagine that.

There are plenty of logistics to work out, naturally. I´m also not ruling out the opportunity to
do a WWOOF project – working on a farm in exchange for room and board kibbutz-style – or any number of other things. I also, despite what I´m sure my parents must think, have no intention of being captured by FARC, and I´m going to do everything I can to avoid that. That doesn´t necessarily mean that I´m going to avoid every country that´s had troubles, but I will look extensively into safety issues before I go anywhere.

Another big question is whether or not I´d like to travel by myself. I´ve never really travelled by myself, aside from spending the last two days in Israel on my own after my friends caught an earlier flight, and I´m honestly not sure if I could spend that much time by myself without going stark-raving mad. The alternative, it would seem, would be to travel with a friend, one who I have the deepest affection for but honestly have not spent much time with one-on-one, let alone the forced 24/7 intimacy of months on the road.

Maybe a mix is the best solution, or maybe I can do one now and then the other later in life.

This quick post is already past 1500 words, and going on about two hours of writing, so I´m going to head home and eat, and continue to update as inspiration strikes. For now, please enjoy this joyful tune:

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One Response to The Plan, Stan (Part 2)

  1. Mombo says:

    Responding to the part I can deal with – I’m so glad you liked Marley and Me. I loved it and cried like a baby. Great post. You sound like a combination of Daddy the traveler and Grandpa the befriender, plus your own adventurous self (where did that come from?).

    Love you,

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