“What is too foolish to be said must be sung. Lyrics are written on bubbles” ~ Blaise Pascal~
It’s the last dispatch for the Latin American Overland Trip. I thought I’d have some fun by punctuating the paragraphs with songs stuck in my head. I hope you have enjoyed the road trip and stick around for the next adventure.
|The Beagle Channel|
They call me Captain Lucky
“Change. Nothing stays the same. Unchained. Hit the ground running!” ~Van Halen~
What happens when your dream becomes a reality? When it becomes an actual persisting reality? The answer is it gets taken for granted. I work hard to remind myself of the following:
Not only was I born birth defect free, white, male, and in a developed nation, but I (we) were born at the perfect time. 2 generations either way and life could have sucked. And this on a timeline of 300,000 years of being Homo Sapiens. Way to catch The Sweet Spot.
Think about this: life didn't change for Homo Sapiens for 290,000 years (we were hunter gatherers and life was brutally hard). Then it didn't change for 10,000 years (we were sedentary agrarians and life was a different brand of brutally hard). A couple hundred years ago we were welcomed into the industrial revolution (Do you know the photos of Lewis Hine? Jacob Riis? Still brutally hard unless you were a Vanderbilt). But gradually - Electricity Elevators and Plastics made room for Microwaves Television The Internet and all you can eat buffalo wings. We lucked out. And I'm serious about two generations in either direction and it could have sucked. Your grandparents didn't have our options. Their menu was a single page with only one condiment, and all dishes were hand washed. And the kids of the future? What if you were born in 2020? That means you're 50 in 2070. You think the world will be better? Not with an extra 3+ billion people and a middle class in China & India. Civilization as we know it is untenable. We scored in so many ways. Soooo Lucky! Not grateful? Get grateful!
|This is how bad it could be: Homeless & Insane & Trapped in the 3rd world|
Trimming Trees And Doing As We Please
|Trimming trees means breaking things on my roof|
“We ain’t got no government loans and no one sends a check from home and get this, we just do what we wanna” ~ Cracker ~
The Motto: “Go everywhere, Do everything, See it all”. A list of goals? A mission statement? – You’re thinking too small. We made a declaration of independence. We wrote a constitution for maximum freedoms. We were a mobile nation of 2, in the front seat of a massive truck with the biggest camper I could fit on the back. “Go everywhere, Do everything, See it all”. Our bill of rights mandated throwing our arms around those we met and embracing new cultures head on. At times it was expensive, risky, and even dangerous, with lots of hard work. We weren’t on holiday. This was travel. “Go everywhere, Do everything, See it all”. Sometimes our moxie gave way and we came up short. Sometimes our frontier spirit sagged and we asked too little of ourselves. But sometimes . . . we caught a glimpse of that noble splendor that makes one squint into the klieg light of actualization.
But What Did You Learn?
"And the gypsy that remains faces freedom with a little fear" ~ Fleetwood Mac ~
It truly was a research vehicle. The drone and the metal detector are among the most obvious items for evidence of this, but it was more than that. I learned so much. We’d hear stories but then we went to see it with our own eyes. Here’s the laundry list:
• Most of life’s problems can be solved with these simple words: “less pressure on the accelerator”. Just slow down. Think it through. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your foot off the gas please.
• I learned a lot of Spanish which is good for 2 reasons: 1.) I can now ignore people in a second language and 2.) Pixies songs have taken on a deeper meaning
• Midlife crises: I never had to get divorced to have mine. I'm 52 & living with a 25 year old. That's every mentally defective married guys dream. No ex to pay for. No kids get hurt. This is the new model. Maybe we should rethink the institutions of marriage and procreation?
|In Latin America - even the mannequins are different|
• Do 2 rivers converge? Guaranteed there was an ancient civilization at the confluence. Guaranteed. Start digging.
• Geology and geography shape the economy of a given locale and that in turn shapes the culture. Is the soil chalky with cool night air? They will probably end up growing grapes and making wine. That shapes the culture. Is it cold with very short unreliable summers? Then they will be industrious or they will die. Congratulations you are in Patagonia or Scandinavia and that shapes the culture.
• Hero worship is for ninnies on both sides of the equation but there is something to being on a sustained trip of this magnitude that tends to bring about immediate acceptance (respect) from the new people you meet. Undertake big things and people will embrace you.
• I've got no gripe with the third world. I've lived in it for ten years. I've hand knitted a formula to make it wonderful. Earning $USD$ and spending it abroad is the easiest way to guarantee a sweet existence. If I had it all, I'd split my time in thirds: Asia, The Americas, Europe. Good contrast. Delicious food. Wonderful people. The only flaw in my algorithm is the flight costs.
• Smile, it’s like giving yourself a facelift. Wanna know what you’re gonna look like in 10 years? Stay up all night. Old age looks just like exhaustion.
• My many years of adventuring have given me some measure of enlightenment but I confess to still having an ego. I was once told that I was not an adventurer. That may be. Everything is relative, but I wasn’t going to hear it from this pudgy yob with his neon dayglow “Sunday Funday” wristband still on from 3 nights ago like it’s jewelry. “I stay gone for years, and I learn the language. I did it in Indo and I did it here. And, I date the locals. How many weeks have you been in country? Do you even know what a Michelada is? No, because you’re still jamming a lime wedge in your beer. That’s not even beer anymore. You’d be right at home in a Munich beer garden. And now how are they gonna get that lime wedge out of there you stupid git? You just set recycling back 2 generations. Do you know how hard it is to find a Colombian small enough to climb into that bottle and push that lime wedge back out?” It may have been my finest moment.
• The sign off “Ciao” is like the metric system, used everywhere but the US. – Max Guarnaccia
• Aleja likes to say; “The Transformation Is Complete”. We laugh that I’ve gone “Full Colombian”. I lie around naked, I eat crackers, I put salt on everything, I’ve developed a taste for fried plantains. I even eat rice with eggs & I like marmalade with cheese. But she is addicted to S’mores. So I ask you . . . Who do you think won?
• As you might know, Richard Henry Dana wrote a book entitled “Two Years Before The Mast”. I’m a guy who has spent 10 of the last 13 years traveling by boat and camper in the tropical 3rd world. My hiatus in the USA should have been called "Three Years Without Mildew". I gotta give my lungs a break at some point. I don't know which is worse; the mold or the smell of the vinegar that erases it. 6 YEARS BEFORE THE MAST AND 4 YEARS BEHIND THE WHEEL. MY PULMONARY NIGHTMARE. THE MEMOIRS OF ROBERT SEAN FRIEDMAN.
|Cocoa Bear; The Seal Pup Of Love (& her dinosaur)|
• I used to say: “Fortunately for me, I’ve suffered my last gut wrenching heartache and I’m finally dead inside. It’s all black in here.” I used to think of myself as a cold dry husk of a man, and that love would forever see me and hurriedly cross to the other side of the street. I was pleasantly wrong. Sure, I'm a wizened old flank steak now, but I used to be almost handsome, and in those final waning years of “barely acceptable” I met a girl. I am not a “hopeless” romantic. There is nothing hopeless about me. I am a “pragmatic” romantic. We fought, we struggled, we healed. We took on an enormous adventure, and we did it together. Because I was with Aleja it became a much richer experience than I could have ever hoped for. I was 2 years into this trip before we met, so it’s very easy for me to compare. There is no comparison. I won the lottery with that little Cocoa Bear; The Seal Pup Of Love
“If the life you have created, has buried you in luxuries outdated, and you ask, what is the purpose, too weak to claw your way up to the surface” ~Grant Lee Buffalo~
I find I learn much about humanity from the ones who are willing to scrape food from the finished plates of others, and sleep on rooftops without mosquito nets. I’m no longer willing to dip that low but I can support the lifestyle. Do you know the character “Zorba the Greek”? If not you should read the book. His attitude of being completely absorbed in whatever he is doing or whomever he is with is the essence of the “be in the moment” movement. His zest for life is on equal footing with Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady), a character that Jack Kerouac wrote at the same time Kazantzakis wrote “Zorba”. I’ve lost that skin, but I can still appreciate it and how they can feel as much as they do with their callouses so coarse. I find the feral Zorbas in every country and from every country. I was 23 and living in a cave on a Greek island with some South Africans. They were wonderful people and we shared our food and stories and we were young and we were vibrant. I suppose I’ve spent the intervening years trying to feel that again. Travel does it for me and I’m sure that in some ways I’m just a parasite trying to soak up the glow that those Zorba types give off. I’ll always buy them a beer or pay them for their wrist tie jewelry. Zorba on brothers and sisters. Zorba on!
|I hired this Zorba to do some work. Rum was his tip|
There are some maxims that are absolute and should never be challenged: “It’s always colder on the water”. “There’s always free cheese in a rat trap.” “Never go to a second location with a hippy”. Here’s one more: "I’m never going back". None of us are. We are only going forward. Make sure you pick the path that makes you the most alive. I’ve made lots of bad choices, but this road trip - I got it right.
“Playing in the dust. We find the seeds of doubt. Don’t water them with your tears. Don’t think about all the years. You’d rather be without”. ~INXS~
I Cuss At Inanimate Objects
“I walk from my machine” - Bush
I’m the oldest son, of the oldest son, of the oldest son. Talk about a douchebag (baggaducci in Italian) with a ridiculous sense of entitlement. I somehow feel that I deserve this incredibly lucky life based on my birth order lineage. How is that for the epitome of nonsense? Here’s more nonsense: I cuss at inanimate objects. I learned it from my intolerable father (great band name). I might not be masterful with the “F” word, but I say “Goddamn it” better than just about anyone. Know why? Cuz I’ve said it more times than just about anyone. Practice makes perfect and I’m no quitter, goddamn it. I think Elsie generated more swear words than anything I’ve ever owned before. But, having said that….When we parted company - I hadn’t cried that hard since my grandma died in 1991. Walking away from Elsie absolutely broke my heart. All you really get to keep of anything is the memory. Elsie was indeed a Freedom Machine and deserves every superlative with which I could possibly label her. I cuss at inanimate objects and apparently I fall in love with them too. It’s been odd to realize. It was a hard, gasping, uncontrollable sobbing. I suppose beneath the callouses there might be a sensitive soul inside after all.
Next Up – Asia
“Now's the time to have some big ideas. Now's the time to make some firm decisions. We saw the Buddha in a bar down south, talking politics and nuclear fission” ~Shriekback~
It was 4 years, 3 months and 9 days. It was 20 countries: 42,000 miles driven and 3,000 miles sailed. It was the trip of a lifetime, and now it’s over. The overland trip is dead! Long live the trip! What’s next? - Aleja and I return to the lands of our birth for 2 months and then we rendezvous in Vietnam. We’ve been demoted to mochileros (backpackers). We’ll be taking public transport and sleeping in a hundred different beds as we crisscross South East Asia over the course of the coming year. And so begins the next chapter. . .
“Mellow is the man who knows what he’s been missing. Many many men can’t see the open road“. ~Led Zeppelin~
Your man on point,