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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Notes on a Continent….

Right now, I’m on a plane to Tokyo. Ready to begin the next leg of my trip, SouthEast Asia. I’ve dreamed about visiting places like Vietnam, Thailand, and Bali since college and today is the first day of that journey. But, before I rush off to immerse myself in Asian cultures, I want to pay a little mind to the most fantastic two months of my life.

As most of you know, South America was a most surprising trip for me. When I planned to take this year-long odyssey, it was South East Asia that was the crux of my wanderlust. South America got tacked on the beginning of the trip because I was getting antsy and thought that two months in South America -- not too far away, I could speak the language, I could use it as a test case, etc… I thought it would be fun, but didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know myself as a solo traveler, I didn’t know myself as the person I was going to be out on my own without my New York support system. It was the surprise of a lifetime. In so many ways.

I remember starting in Quito, feeling apprehensive and courageous at the same time. Wondering if I would do everything “right,” if I would make the most of my travel experience. I remember feeling amazed with where I had come to in my life to be able to do this. It felt good. Then I got to the Galapagos, and I made new friends that transcended culture and environment. Seeing that people who have no ties to me, no history with me, could take to me, appreciate me….so great. Doing the same thing in New York for so long, you forget what you bring to the table, sometimes. And, by traveling, meeting new people, making new friends that don’t come from “your world” and have nothing to gain by befriending you, except well, meeting YOU is such an invigorating feeling. I remember feeling melancholy in Valparaiso, adventurous in Cusco, disappointed by Santiago, awed by nature at Iguazu. I remember feeling challenged by Brazil, enamored with Buenos Aires, peaceful in Punta del Este. I felt overwhelmed by history but small in the world seeing the width and breadth of Macchu Picchu, I felt community and assuredness of self in Argentina.

I can’t wait to go back to South America. And, I feel like my time in New York was short and chaotic (it was really really good to see all of you, though!!) and I hadn’t gotten to properly digest my experiences in South America. Changing gears so fast is good because it keeps you moving, on schedule, sure. There’s so much out there I still have to see, so many places I still want to go. But, there’s so much to cherish about where I’ve been and I don’t want to lose sight of that. I’m so eager to see the next parts of my trip, but I’m also wistful they’re not back there.

So now, with five hours left of my 15 hour flight (I’ve come so far, only 5 hours left. . . .) to Tokyo, then another 7 to Ho Chi Minh City, I can open my SEAsia chapter. I just wanted to make sure I did it AFTER closing (well….for now) the one that just ended and made me feel so invigorated.

See ya on the other side of the world in a few days . . .


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