Now that I’m all packed up for the trip and ready to jet and have some free time to ponder and pontificate, I figured that I might as well take a moment to reflect on where it is that I am going and why it is that I am going there, and what my expectations are for the trip, as well as more existential concerns.
I am going to Colombia for some very simple reasons, which I have already detailed elsewhere, but will very quickly enumerate again in a cursory manner: 1) I had a great time in Peru two winters ago, and fell in love with South America in general, and knew that I had to go back down to explore some more; 2) My cousin, who just got married in Bogota 3 days ago (we’d already bought our tickets before the marriage was announced; I really wish I could have gone), lives in Armenia and grows platanos, cafe, and raises cattle; 3) a dollar still goes far in Colombia; and 4) what other reason do I need? Colombia is beautiful!
I always try to reduce my expectations for any event in life as much as possible in order to allow for the unknown, but I know that I still hold certain notions in the back of my skull about what I want to occur. For instance, I am very hopeful that the bag I am checking in will not be lost either on the way to or on the way back from Colombia. This is a somewhat dubious hope, considering that on the way back from Colombia, we swap 3 different planes. It’s something I guess I’d just rather not consider, because there’s nothing I can do about it one way or another. The bag must be checked, so I must remain hopeful.
I also have certain expectations based on my last trip to South America. I have the expectation that I will be able to waltz into any town and find cheap accommodation. I expect that the women will be beautiful and will wear very tight-fitting jeans. I expect that there will be the highly visible scourge of poverty everywhere I go. I expect to be seen as a gringo and have some con-artistry attempted to be performed upon me frequently.
But I realize that even as I have these expectations, that Colombia is also a completely different country than Peru. Different ideologies, different histories, different everything. Many cultural aspects, of course, will be comparable. But I want to give the country the chance to speak for itself before I relegate it to the vast gringo conception of “South America.”
What I want to occur on my trip is: I want to experience the people and the culture as it is, not as it is boxed up and presented to a tourist to strip him/her of their money. Such manners of accumulating experience are: talking to everyday people in their contextual environments and in their language i.e. on the street, in bars, in their homes, etc; experiencing daily life in as close a manner as to the locals in each location i.e. using the same transport methods, drinking the local drinks, eating the local food, dancing to the local music. In other words, I’d like to experience Colombia in as an ungringo-like manner as possible. This is impossible completely, but not completely impossible, you know what I’m saying? It’s mostly achieved by not only being adventurous and somewhat willing to take some risks, but furthermore by befriending and hanging out with locals as opposed to backpacking foreigners.
Traveling is also an interesting dilemma when viewed from an environmental and social conservationist conception. To travel by plane is to create a large carbon footprint. To exchange one’s money into another currency wherein it is stretched out multiple times its value is a possibly unscrupulous enterprise. To simply have the express freedom to even travel at all includes you in the percentage of a limited aristocracy in comparison to the vast multitudes that can’t ever leave their country, let alone travel far from their place of birth.
So I do not want to take this trip—nor any trip—lightly, and this is why I even bother to sit and inscribe these inarticulate sentences into my blog right now. I am fully aware of just how fortunate I am to be able to travel for so long (55 days, to be exact), and just to be able to travel at all. This is an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to become enriched with life experience, to gain more understanding and insight into a language and a people and a differing perception of the world. So I do not see this as a “vacation,” especially given that I don’t even have any work nor home of my own to come back to. This is a form of schooling. This is an exercise in understanding, a training in dealing with alternate universes. And I am extremely excited to be doing this!
The next post will thus successfully convert this blog into a full TravelBlog for the space of the 55 days that I will be there. So it will become even yet more mundane, even yet more trivial, then my normal meandering abstract posts of yore. But hopefully, also more grounded in reality, more palpable to the touch, and more fruitful in vicarious excitation. Til then, hasta luego.