1. During my TEFL course and travels, it has been a great comfort to meet other travelers in similar places in their life, at crossroads and in limbo, traveling and opening, living more simply, giving themselves time and giving themselves to time. Out of a job and into TEFL, out of college and diving into life in Peru, traveling before making decisions regarding jobs and college . . . people tell me about the circumstances that brought them here, and many people I have met made the decision quickly, in one night, to come to Peru, but the idea had been brewing for a long time. Some people I have met are alive and awake in their new life, and they express how they love how simply they are living, and everything that they are experiencing. Others are jaded from long careers that stretched them thin and tight, or love gone sour. The traveling cliches are true. We are all running from something. I like to think, as well, that we are running toward something. Or maybe the point, above all things, is not that we are running from something or to something, but that we are running. Present, lungs pumping and feet pounding pavement and red dirt and the bright white salt flats. Awake to our surroundings, to what keeps us from sleeping. Not sure, exactly, where we are going, but knowing, feeling to our bones, that our legs will take us there. Running, present, here. Wherever we are. Because one time I read on a candle, ¨If you can´t see the truth right here, where do you expect to find it?¨
2. The kindness of strangers is immense when one is traveling. Without a community, the new towns and new people are your community. It is amazing how people reaching out can affect you. After Santiago, which was gray and swallowed me as big cities often do, I felt withdrawn. When I arrived in Valparaiso, the kindness of a taxi driver (have I mentioned how much I love taxi drivers?) put flowers in my cheeks. All he did was smile at me and tell me I didn´t need a taxi, and then pointed me in the right direction. It is not so hard to be kind, to be decent. The waiter at this wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Valparaiso, Jarden de Profeta, didn´t hurt, either. He was intuitive and sweet, as all good waiters should be, and offered me a shot glass of post-meal bitters.
3. It is easy to be lonely when you are traveling by yourself, and it is easy to feel suffocated when you are traveling with others. Taxi drivers and hostel owners become your friends, as well as your sources of information. I am in Chile without a guide book. At first I tried to find one. I was tenacious, but it could not be found. Now I ask taxi drivers and waiters about geography and sites, population and weather. It frustrates me not to have all of this information in one place, in one tangible book, but I had to let go of this guise of control. I am depending, instead, upon others.
4. Traveling is transient, and you learn to make friends with small comforts like pizza, which is universal, and hot water, which is not. Walking alone down city streets I feel too toursity to look at my map or to take pictures, but I am not from here. Everywhere I go is never where I am from. Because of my pride, today I missed out on newspaper confetti scattered on top of old cars on the sideline of a protest in the Valparaiso streets.
5. Everywhere I go is never where I am from. That is the beauty. That is the truth. But here I am, headed back to Cusco, which is now one of my homes, which is where I have a nest of community and friends, familiar places and faces. I am from a small town on the Oregon coast and I am from not owning a TV and I am from gardening on Saturdays and sometimes forced Catholic church on Sundays. I am from a family with three brothers. I am from toasted marshmallows on saltine crackers and apples with tomato soup. I am from the United States, which I thought would be this bone of contention, but I haven´t run into any trouble so far. I am from England, it is in my blood, and I am from parents with different pasts and family backgrounds. I am from the white speckled sunglasses at the mall and theatre camp. Everywhere I go is never where I am from, but I am continually finding new ways to connect, to be here, where I am.