It’s 1 November and I’m nowhere near the equator. As I write this from Huacachina, Peru, I am in fact as far from crossing that line as I was a month and a half ago, when I was waiting for my bus to Trinidad in Santa Cruz’s ant heap of a bus terminal, destination: the Bolivian Amazon. I started a fresh travel journal that night at the terminal, and glancing back, I was bloated and gross with apparent wisdom:
Samaipata and surrounds – the discovery of a kind of paradise that could only occur unplanned; the making of friends when and where you least expect it; the quiet after the storm; the constant outpouring of generosity that never fails to stun, to change, to nurture.
The near-miss devastation of losing my journal and the epic mission – unbelievable successful – to recover it. The welcoming, surreal tranquillity of El Jardin, and the rejuvenating adventure that followed with Simon, Samia and Rabah. It’s an appropriate story with which to start this journal, because this feels like a new beginning of sorts.
I have learnt a lot in the week that has passed; seen a lot. The quiet contentment of people fulfilling their life’s passion. A renewed appreciation for what I’m doing here. Fresh energy and excitement, a little wiser, a little calmer, a lot more quietly confident. Happy – regardless of what might transpire.
Like you, I am nauseated by the pretense of those glowing moments; or maybe, as I sit here re-establishing the kind of equilibrium that befits someone privileged enough to be travelling like this, I am trying to reconcile the fact that accidental bliss and existential drama are not mutually exclusive. Those age-old chestnuts: ups and downs, mistakes and victories, yins and yangs, wants and needs, independence and insecurity, home and away.
It has not been with great pleasure that I discovered a range of weaknesses in the time that has passed since the Amazon. I worked behind a bar in La Paz for three weeks, which was enjoyable enough in its own right, but on the handful of occasions when I coloured outside of the lines, I exposed myself as needy, a fickle bitch, shallow, fumbling around with an essence in crisis, contradictory, selfish. These were fleeting moments (and people loved me despite it, I met some unforgettable fellow human beings), but they represent a far heavier load and influence than any of the airy-fairy hippie moments do.
At least I can say that my asshole chakra has now been blown wide open. Maybe I can really get to work on the dark side that’s always pushing its way through the veneer of enlightenment. Maybe being a good person is always going to be a work in progress. And if you’re not always watching yourself, it is almost inevitable that the gremlins will come out to play. I feel pathetic for being 30 and still struggling with the most basic of ambitions: to be a good person. Has everyone else got this figured out already? Sometimes I hate myself, the way I did 25, 15, 5 years ago. Sometimes all progress seems an illusion.
Those are the times when I doubt my writing, when the smallest line from an internet troll can freeze any writing confidence I may have had. Or a throwaway comment from a new friend. That’s when ageing becomes a curse, not a blessing. When travelling feels like escape, not arrival. When every person I meet becomes a potential act of rejection. The narcissism spirals into itself and compounds issues that are not there. Memories twisting and turning into imagined futures.
Dis nie alles maanskyn en rose nie, julle. That’s all I’m trying to say. Most of the time the self-conscious act of writing is where I find my solace. But sometimes it’s the only thing that makes me feel like a fraud.