#25 - Expedition Life
Jeff Willner - 21 January, 2002
(Santiago, CHILE) – I've been counting the number
of times I had to set my wristwatch alarm on this trip. I am almost up
to 20, its worrisome. Most mornings we sleep till 10. Nice huh. We go
where we want, eat where we wish, and have virtually no deadlines. For
seven months this idyll has gone on. Who could complain?
Our routine has changed a bit since the truck got
wasted, these days we leave the work to the bus driver. But the pace
is similar. Up at 10, coffee and bread for breakfast, and a tour around
whatever town we happen to be in. Lunch - whenever. And a bus ride to
a new town. A few days ago we walked through Santiago with Susan, a script
reader from Hollywood on vacation in Chile. "You've been through
38 countries so far, don't the towns start blending together?"
Sometimes. But you live for the quirky stuff, and the
unexpected. Buenos Aires is a great example. Originally we had only planned
to spend one day in town. And that day happened to coincide with the massive
riots that forced President De la Rua out of office. The running, the smashing,
the tear gas - good stuff. Then we had our unfortunate incident with the
Land Rover and ended up back in town for three weeks. This time experienced
the sublime side of the city. Laid back. The cafe and plaza scene.
Don't get me wrong. We have a schedule. We have to.
There are shipping deadlines, visas, and entry permits that had to be
arranged in advance. Plus, the whole around-the-world thing imposes a
tyranny of movement. Simple division. 60,000km / 12 months = 5,000km
per month. That's over a thousand kilometers per week.
As a team, we have some marathon negotiations prior
to starting each continent. Poring over the guidebooks to find the listed
highlights of each country, we string together a route with suggested
dates. If the book recommends two days to experience a site, we plan
one. Fourty eight hours by bus from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia - we'll drive
it in twenty four. And after we have a solid idea of our options we are
free. If we like a town we stay on. To make up time we drive all night.
No reservations, no demands. When we arrive in a town we check the guidebook
for a $10 per night hostel, make sure it has hot water, and check in.
You are probably thinking you would never stay at
a $10 per night hostel. And you know, I was not very keen on it myself
when we started the trip. After all, once you have tasted the fruit of
a generous corporate expense account it is hard to downgrade. But what
is comfort? It is associating with the familiar. And luxury is just a
sample of something better than usual. After a few weeks hostel accommodation
became normal. And these days, an upgrade to a room with air conditioning
is as indulgent as ordering room service from the Four Seasons was in
the old days.
At the lower end of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs things
are pretty simple; shelter and food. I regret spending so much on the
easy stuff. Where it gets tricky is at the top end. Self actualization.
That is a tough one. I have a limited budget for this trip but by spending
ten bucks on a bed I have plenty of time to think about what I am doing
and why. What makes me happy - why. What the heck am I doing with my
Hours of driving, or sitting in a bus, at the beach,
or in a pew at the back of a cathedral listening to an organist practise
- there is a lot of time to think about the big picture. Too much maybe.
I sure wish books didn't weigh so much, I would have brought another fifty.
I think I will look back at this trip as one of the
best years of my life. "Don't the towns start blending together?" Yeah,
some of them do. But the world has become a much more intimate place
for me. Countries aren't as different as you might think. Folks are folks,
no matter what kind of hat they wear. And there are moments that stick
with you. At the end of the day, those memories are the only thing that
will be irrevocably yours.
And if you get them after 10am, so much the better.