“The beauty of travel, as of love or terror, is that it regularly turns all your ideas on your head and reminds you that you really know nothing at all.” Pico Iyer
I need three feet; no, make that four. And that’s because right now I still, at least in my mind, have one foot in Myanmar, both actual feet firmly but temporarily planted here in Aotearoa, and one foot already somewhere in the Americas.
Yep, soon John and I are setting off again. This time to …. drum roll, please … The Americas; all three of them; North, Central, and South. We kick off with a road trip around Minnesota, North and South Dakota. We’ll be catching up with old and special friends, including going to my High School reunion. I’m excited. Very, very excited. I can’t wait to see everyone. I’m thrilled to be able to revisit a unique part of the world. One that first worked its way into my veins four decades ago when I lived there for a year on an AFS student exchange.
In total we’ll be travelling for more than three months, our longest trip yet. After we leave the States we’re visiting Nicaragua, Costa-Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Phew! That’s a lot of places.
How’s your Spanish? asked the salesman who sold me the relevant Lonely Planets.
Good question. Very good question!
I’m trying to learn it from an app. The idea is that I repeat into the app the correct Spanish pronunciation of key phrases. According to the app I’m 7% fluent. The app also says, too frequently, “Let’s move on from this one for now”. You can almost hear the exasperation from the machine. I’ll be taking the advice of the salesman, a traveller himself, and writing out a cheat sheet.
We also had to visit an approved travel doctor.
That meant jabs and pills. So many pills the chemist telephoned to query the scripts. We have antimalarials, tablets for altitude sickness, antibiotics for almost everything the doctor could think of, as well as creams and insect repellant. Will there be any room in my bag for other essentials like, you know, my kindle. I don’t go anywhere without that. Or my camera, or … or … or . Attempt number one at packing is just around the corner. There could be several practice runs before my bag comes in under weight and I can close the thing without John sitting on it.
These days when it comes to travel even my dentist knows the drill. I went for my check-up this week. You’re off on another trip, she said, before I had a chance to tell her myself. The tell-tale sign? Jaw pain from clenching! It’s a regular thing and it happens on cue one month before departure. You must like being scared, she said. I can tell from the places you visit.
I didn’t tell her that I almost bailed on the whole thing—well, maybe not the Minnesota, Nth and Sth Dakota part. I can’t think of anything that would stop me from the chance to catch up with my friends. But I’ve discovered that rabid, vampire bats are a thing. True. They are. I saw it on a website.
Heart racing, make that pounding, make that palpitations so bad my voice was squeaking, I read this tidbit of information out to John.
Always a skeptic he opened Google Maps on his phone. Now, he said, tell me the name of the village where this is a problem.
I told him.
He entered it … there might have been a sigh, there was certainly a lengthy pause while he worked on keeping his cool:
That’s in deepest, darkest Amazonia, he said. We’re not going there.
But we’re going to Peru! I said. And we’re going to the jungle. They’ll sniff me out. They’ll hunt me down.
At which point he did sigh and went off to do the dishes. I busied myself double checking the distance between me and those bats. (I’m good at avoiding the dishes, have been since I was a kid. My sister will vouch for that.) Suffice to say, those bats are never closer than several hundred kilometres, I think I’ll be okay … although there are no guarantees.
I do like the thrill of going places I never thought I’d get to. But rabid vampire bats aside, I have my limits. Someone asked if we are doing the Inca Trail.
My answer: A big fat nope to that one.
Porters are there to help you, they said. In fact they carry everything including your oxygen … and … errrmmm … certain solid human waste product. They have a leave nothing behind policy.
It’s still nope!
Because, aside from the indignity of someone else packing out your poop, oxygen in cylinders means only one thing: heights. You know me and heights. There are limits. I’m not paying all that money to be scared Sh****ss for four entire days! I am, however, fairly sure I’m brave enough to visit Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. So, all is not lost.
At the other end of the spectrum some friends and family think we are mad, even irresponsible. They are convinced the worst will happen. Although I’m still considering renaming this blog The Trials of a Timid Traveller, I also happen to know the worst can happen right outside my front door, or inside it for that matter. Staying at home guarantees nothing. And meanwhile there are wonderful amazing places to visit, people to meet, old friendships to rekindle and new ones to make.
I’ve said before that going places is in my DNA. And it looks as if that’s been handed on. I’m typing this as my four-month-old grandson touches down in Australia with his Mum and Dad, after his first international flight. He’s already been places I’ve never seen.
Living a life that right now really does require extra feet means my twice weekly posting schedule has reduced to once a week at the most. I keep hoping that will change, but perhaps not, especially if my “To Do” list keeps on growing the way it has during the last few days.
In the meantime here’s a shot, one of my favourites, from our visit to Myanmar. I just love this woman’s attitude. Says it all, really.