Almost Home: Comfort When Travel is The Pits

The Brazilian bus where I served a 26-hour sentence

Twenty-six hours with little sleep on a cramped bus – most of it beside a crying, fidgety child sitting on his pregnant mother’s lap. I’m hungry and weary of cheese sandwiches – the only vegetarian option at rest stops. I forgot to unpack my healthy snacks which are buried in the storage below. I’m under the weather – sneezing and congested and low-energy – from the cold snap that hovered over the region for a few days.

I feel alone in this less-trodden corner of Brazil and miss my companions on the backpacker-friendly coast. I left Cuiabá disappointed by the cost-prohibitive Pantanal wildlife (3-day tours are nearly $800 USD) and the bureaucratic hurdles at Chapada de Guimarães national park that made it very difficult to enjoy.

So I feel the last few days have been a bust. Things just haven’t quite worked out.

Bus break in Brazil

Travel is full of shitty moments like this. Like most things in life – a job, a relationship, a hobby – there’s no shortage of let downs. And when on your own it can feel worse, there’s no one to turn to amid indifferent surroundings.

With the battery dying on my mobile phone, I opened my calendar and counted the days remaining in Brazil. Almost home… I tell myself. What a relief!

As if by chance Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song “Almost Home” plays in my random mix:

I’m not running
I’m not hiding
I’m not reaching
I’m just resting in the arms of the great wide open
It’s gonna pull my soul in
And I’m almost home

Almost home… is momentarily forgetting the thousand tiny details that travel demands, knowing things soon will be logistically easier. It’s thinking of those I love and miss. It’s setting an anchor by filling my mind with familiar things.

Almost home… is remembering that I choose this life. Being away has allowed me to let go of the demands and dull routines of home. Knowing home is around the corner helps me to accept the here and now.

Almost home… is not being homesick. It’s part of the journey, a destination too. It’s appreciating the home I carry inside that lets me find comfort in new places and with new faces.

Almost home… is a great place to be. It means I’m out there. Travel is a permanent part of my life and home is what connects all the trips, it’s the pause in the middle between adventures.

Almost home… is time to start dreaming about my next travel destination!

Sometimes I’m not happy, things aren’t wonderful and my surroundings don’t delight. Tomorrow will be a new day. I’m just resting in the arms of the great wide open.
And I’m almost home.

Brazilian sunrise as seen from a bus window

Home Is Wherever I’m With You…

Adios, amigo... ¡otro viaje maravilloso contigo!

Well… another arrival and departure of Paul. It doesn’t get easier.

We had an extraordinary five weeks together in Ecuador’s wild playground: traipsing through the rainforest, flying on zip-lines above thundering waterfalls, crisscrossing the Equator, hiking past volcanoes, descending the steepest railroad track in the world, lounging on Pacific Coast beaches, galloping through the tropics on horseback, mountain biking from the Andes to the Amazon — we did it all.

It’s been a transient few months for us. I’ve been living in South America, volunteering and traveling through four countries. Paul has been moving between friends and family and joining me when he can. We have no fixed address since we rented our home.

But we’re not homeless. We’ve long yearned to be free of the hassles and headaches of maintaining a house and being tied down. It has been a long (and arduous) process of letting go.

We’re working to establish a new way of living, one that is freeing but also fleeting. The bonds of living together under one roof become slippery; special care is required to keep our relationship on meaningful footing.

This is new to us. It’s exciting, tricky, bold, and irregular… We’re learning as we craft new ways to engage our interests and passions and each other.

Today as I entered Colombia I was marveling (as usual) at the breathtakingly awesome Andes. And reflecting on my rambling ’round life — now in its fifth month.

The truth is I deeply miss Paul. But I’m also very happy. It puzzles me.

Then as this song popped in my headset the light bulb went off:

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you
Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is whenever I’m with you

This feels crazy but it all makes sense.

Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros:

Mil gracias, Kiva y Bolivia… What An Awesome Ride!

Me with Bolivia, a great love affair!

It seems like ages ago that I was frantically working on my Kiva Fellows application back in the spring of 2012 while traveling in Southeast Asia. Then the tense months of interviews followed by the thrill of being selected. And finally the excitement of preparing for my placement in mesmerizing Bolivia.

How time flies when you’re having fun and loving your job!

Now, after a blink of the eye, I am leaving Bolivia and my Kiva Fellowship after three whirlwind months of motivating work, meeting endearing people and learning fascinating things in a whole new world.

My moving on is bittersweet – while I am eager for the new journeys that await, I am so thankful for the meaningful opportunity Kiva has given me in the world of microfinance. I have absorbed so much and witnessed how access to low-interest credit can make a real difference for those living in poverty.

At every moment of this incredible adventure Kiva has provided outstanding support and open trust in my work and my mission.  My Kiva family has showered me with love from beginning to end. I am eternally grateful.

And Bolivia! Oh my beguiling Bolivia: you welcomed me with the smiles of your handsome people, you gave me a home that I simply loved, you treated me to splendid sights and vigorous geography, you nourished my body with wholesome foods and you gave me friends to fill my days. My heart is heavy as I leave you.

I already miss your rugged landscapes, the comfort of familiar places and people, and my routine and purposefulness in your midst.  You have shown me a new way to travel, one that comes slowly after considerable effort but rewards in powerful ways. I can’t wait to see you again!

I am so proud of my Kiva Fellowship – proud of the difficult changes I made in my life to get here and proud of the work I accomplished.

No, I probably didn’t change the world. But it changed my world.

And the best part of all this is knowing that it is only the beginning…

Kiva Fellows Class 19... we rock!

Kids flying kites above La Paz

Visiting a potato farm in Colomí

Mysterious and mystical mountain ruins

Chola women watching a bullfight in the altiplano

CIDRE colleagues enjoying an afternoon chicha break

Beautiful Lake Titicaca and Island of the Sun, spiritual center of the Incas

With Angélica, my bestie at Emprender in La Paz

Street fiesta in Tarata

A Day in My Life: Scenes from Cochabamba

Scenes from my daily life in Cochabamba

My life as a Kiva Fellow was obviously different than my normal travel mostly due to the fact that I lived primarily in one city, had an apartment, went shopping for food, spent time in an office, and had time and energy to socialize at night.

Here are some pictures and captions that I hope give a sense of my daily life in Bolivia.

Home: More than just a place to hang my hat for a night or two…

Office: No cubicles, a 10-minute commute, a two-hour lunch break, and not a word in English…

Client Visits: Time spent with the best “users” ever… an awesome part of my job!

Work: Still lots of time in front of the computer but I could definitely leave it at the end of day…

Leisure Time and Food: Fun friends and new experiences and a vast new universe of flavors to explore…