There are all kinds of travelers out there. Some form traveling communities with people they have just met and migrate from place to place in peaceful loving herds. They watch each other’s backs and prop each other up. These are some of the most laid-back people on the planet. Other travelers wander from place to place carrying a notebook. They are quizzical and approach strangers without hesitation to pick their brains. If there is a language barrier involved they will figure out how to get around it. There are those fashionable or trendy travelers who move to their own music and tend to pull others to them like magnets. And then there are people who stand back and watch how the world works. They feel like strangers in new surroundings, strangers even to themselves, and worry a good deal about looking stupid or uncomfortable because that is exactly how they feel.
I would not normally consider myself a timid person. In a familiar situation, I am just the opposite. I walk quickly, laugh loudly, and ask a lot of questions. I am blunt and rarely get embarrassed, stating things like “No thank you, grapes give me gas” without missing a beat. I make it a point to remember people’s names and will cross a street to help someone who looks like they are lost or confused because I myself hate being lost and confused. I will walk them to where they need to go. I will sit right next to them on a coach. I will ask to try their pasta and then offer them a bite of mine because it is so stinkin delicious. We will likely correspond for years to come.
But take me out of my comfort zone, like to Ecuador where my husband and I have recently moved, and I shrivel up like a sad little prune. All of that energy and confidence just disintegrates and I find myself lurching out of people’s way on the sidewalks and murmuring “Lo Siento” in horrible Spanish with flushed cheeks. In restaurants, my eyes skim the menu like a scared rabbit and that is when I quickly point to a random item written in a language I don’t yet read and mumble “Por favor.” When the waiter leaves with an amused expression, I hang my head.
It is no secret that traveling can be intimidating. I myself have never been much of a traveler and I have recently married a wonderful person who has also never been much of a traveler. One of many major differences between the two of us is that my husband has a passionate desire to travel. While I’ve always thought that it would be a highly worthwhile experience, I never imagined that I would actually be brave enough to try it. But behold! The stars aligned and we had the opportunity to try something new and so we took it. Who cares that we’re two unemployed, blond-haired, fair-skinned country bumpkins from rural Wyoming. He said “What do you think?” and I said “You bet.”
We are beginning our journey in Cuenca, Ecuador where the city’s population of 500,000 people is roughly that of the entire state from which we’ve recently sprung. Ye-haw. Our plan is to continue traveling through South America for the next two years to visit Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. As I have mentioned, neither of us can speak Spanish or has much experience traveling. But Ryan is good at research and I have a travel wig and a willing attitude. During this time, it is my goal to become a less timid traveler. Wherever I am, I want to feel like I belong there. I want to find a way to make a home away from home in any way that I can, for Ryan, but more importantly, for myself.
Wide world. Here I come. Hola!