PINE CITY, Minn.
The South American experience was the best decision of my life. That might be bold, but so was the trip.
As if I were Simon Bolivar — the man who freed part of Latin America from the Spanish — I felt like a liberator. This trip was a personal Bolivian Revolution.
By quitting my job to travel, volunteer and write in foreign countries, I felt alive, free and well.
However, I didn’t discover myself, as is often the context such trips are put into.
I uncovered myself. I uncovered that I truly love to write. I uncovered that I want to commit myself to more environmentalism. I uncovered that I enjoy a healthy challenge. I uncovered that Spanish is tough for me to learn. I uncovered that I want to help people more. I uncovered that I’m more of an introvert.
I’ll use the environment as an example. Before the trip, my environmentalism didn’t extend beyond recycling when it was convenient and tying to walk or ride my bike to work.
After the trip, recycling is a given. Plus, I want to devise a rainwater collection system for my family’s farm, set up a composting system, plant more trees and, among other things, sell produce at the farmers’ market. (Check out the online home of the Greder family farm.)
“You make choices along the way, and in the end, the choices become you,” said my horoscope on one of our last day’s abroad.
For once, a mass-produced newspaper horoscope actually fit what I was up to.
I had chosen to quit my journalism job in Duluth. It became a chance to volunteer at a reforestation project and organic farms in Ecuador and Argentina. And in the end, I’m trying to live alternatively and more sustainably in Pine City.
This is just one example of how the sojourn became my new avenue in life.
The trip also gave me an opportunity to be more reflective.
Today marks the four-week mark since I’ve returned to the U.S. While I’m happy to be back, I can’t help but feel wanderlust. Part of me wants to be on the road.
As strange as it might seem, I felt at home there. I ate up the romantic notion of how everything I owned fit into the pack strapped to my back.
There was excitement in the unknown. … Thoughts of: Where is this bus going? When are we going to eat, I’m starving? Where are we going to sleep tonight? What do you mean my bank account has insufficient funds?
Resulted in: Seeing a new town. Appreciating food once we ate it, a bed once we collapsed into it and cash once we got it.
There are many feelings, beliefs and stories that are internalized from those six months. I’m more than willing to share, but having someone relate doesn’t come easy. It takes more than seeing photos, listening to tales or reading a blog. (But keep reading this one, of course!)
My strongest belief is that you must get out there and see for yourself.
I can’t say it better than this Wookiefoot song:
“The purpose of this life is to live a life with purpose
So don’t get trapped inside your safety net
So fill your well and light your flame
But go on seeking service
Life without a cause is life without effect
So drop your bags and drop your fears
Lift your voice and voice your cheers
Hoist your mug and give some hugs
Shout your mantra, sing your prayer”
I, indeed, was shouting my mantras when my parents picked me up at the airport on Aug. 17. Although I had been traveling for more than 20 hours, I was energetic, euphoric.
My parents — and new roommates — were off to bed when we got to the farm. It was about midnight.
Retreating to my new basement bedroom alone, I grabbed a beer, sighed, and asked myself, “Now what?”
The start and finish shots
The first self-portrait shot was taken during our first week in Quito, Ecuador. We were laying on the bed at our host family’s apartment around March 6. I can’t help but think about nervous and naive we were then.
The last self-portrait shot was taken during our last week in Mompiche, Ecuador. We were enjoying a beach trip around August 15. Besides the smiles, I believe you can see two people who are genuinely calm, confident and happy.
The Declaration of Independence kicked off the trip from the Houston airport. See how it began right here.
I want to take a moment to show my appreciation to everyone that read this online journal while we were on the road. I was flattered at how many people mentioned to me how they followed our trip here. It was more than I expected.
[Note: The Gonzo Think Tank will not die now that the trip is over. It will simply revert back to its old form, a spot to post a weekly muse. I hope to continue diatribes, rants, opines and features such as Noxious (and Nice) Numbers, Unquote”, My 5, Lucid Lang, and Swine of the Week.The Tank hopes you come back now, ya hear!]