I feel like I won the lottery with my first trip. Nothing bad happened to me, I met wonderful people, the weather was fantastic, the activities I did all wildly exceeded my expectations. I saw a new side of myself that I really liked.
Now after 3 weeks back in Minnesota, I’m back on the road again chasing summer in the Southern hemisphere, headed to Latin America and Antarctica! It’s going to be an epic trip. I’m starting in Peru where I’ll go with a tour group through from Lima to Buenos Aires, going through Bolivia and Chile and most importantly to me, stopping in Machu Picchu and Salar de Uyuni! Then, on to ANTARCTICA! After that, I’m on my own, but right now I’m planning on going up to Costa Rica to take Spanish classes and then traveling around a bit more. I might meet up with a couple of friends. On my first trip, I had a hard stop – December 20 in Tokyo I was going home for Christmas. But this time, no return flight has been booked and there’s so much of South America that I’m excited to experience.
My interest in South America started young. I studied Spanish from elementary school all through college. In 4th grade I was obsessed with the Mayans and taught myself their number system (it was non-base 10. I don’t remember it now, but it does remind me, good joke – there are 10 types of people who speak binary code. TAKE AWAY, I’ve always been a loser). In 5th grade we did a presentation on Venezuela. My essay to get into Georgetown for undergrad was about how I thought the US should redirect the efforts from spraying chemicals from planes on coca fields to investing in healthcare and education to give people opportunities to work instead of being forced into gangs and drugs in the “war” against the FARC in Colombia, because I wanted to work for the Colombian embassy (I got waitlisted. The plan had some holes). I still like reading Pablo Neruda poetry because my Spanish teacher Sr. Diaz was from Chile and was so passionate about the golpe de estado and Chilean history and it made such an impact on me. In college, my majors were economics and political science, and in econ my areas of emphasis were management (liberal arts and their lack of a business school hehe) and international development. In political science my emphasis was Latin American politics. I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane that my head is going through faster than my fingers can type… but the point is, I had a vested interest in the region. Ok, ha, I’ll share one. In my Latin American politics capstone, I did a comparison of states that didn’t like the US – Cuba and Venezuela, and I in the end, I thought that when Fidel died, Cuba would take a step backwards but if Chavez left Venezuela would get stronger bahaha St. Olaf, you can’t take back that degree 😉 And actually, in my other poli sci capstone I looked at the differences in ethnicity and nationality and I used Spain as my case study (I really did like Spanish) and compared the Bosque and Catalonia, and I thought the Bosque would try to secede from Spain not Catalonia. So I was 0/2. HA.
But I digress. It’s funny, I have thought about this post a bunch of times. Really, I want to share how I’m feeling going into my South America trip, but it always changes. The day before I left, I had a weird nervous pit in my stomach. The day I left, the same thing, but more excited. But still, I would just get these flashes of things to worry about. What if I’ve built this up too much? What if I have a false sense of confidence after my first trip? What if this area actually is more dangerous than I’m imagining it? What will I do if this happy high I’m on from my first trip fades? And what if it doesn’t and I never want to go back?
But the funny thing is, I was delayed leaving Minneapolis, so I missed my connection in Cancun and had to spend the night in Mexico City. But through that turmoil and being lost and confused, all my other anxieties seemed to go away? It’s like, yeah. I can speak Spanish. I can travel on my own. I can roll with a bit of adversity and actually turn it into an adventure.
So I’m sure things will be bad, and I have the hope that things will be great. And I might not make it to Angel Falls in Venezuela for 5th grade Vanessa, or eat in the cafes in Santiago that Neruda and Allende ate in for 11th grade Vanessa. Or visit the Plaza de Mujeres for senior year of college Vanessa. But I think I’ll have a great time, and be exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing the things I’m supposed to do, enjoying this journey of South America and of my life 🙂
The next 35 days!