Go, There's Nothing Stopping You

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  , Santa Cruz,
Monday, November 7, 2011

Today I set out on foot braving sun, heat, and humidity to explore the afternoon delights of Santa Cruz.   This pleasant enough city is so unlike La Paz, I just can't even believe they both are planted in the same Bolivian territory.  Aside from a few minor technicalities like just about every business taking a siesta between twelve and two, parts of the city feel like a beachless version of Miami with palm trees, highrise condos, cafes and restaurants.  About the only thing happening at high noon besides me getting drowning in sweat (so nice after the cold, dry Altiplano!) were some people lounging around the main square and kamikaze drivers in American SUVs looking to mow down anyone who dares cross from one sidewalk to the other.

As I got to thinking about actually being in Santa Cruz and the amazing unscripted, unplanned journey that got me here, my most memorable times have been anything outdoors requiring some level of exertion.   Kayaking at Isle Royale was the kickoff and nothing I've seen since can even hold a candle to those four days.   Colca Canyon will always be with me in a way I can't describe and the starkness of Isla del Sol is something I will never forget.   Even camping in the San Blas Islands gave me some of my most relaxing sleep in a while.  I find myself now in a part of South America that is less than inspiring with few scenic wonders aside from Igauzu Falls to explore, and I spent hours looking at a guidebook for anything here or in Paraguay and beyond to Rio that could test my stamina...sadly not much at all.

Have you ever felt like you are losing your fire because what was once exciting now is the everyday mundane?  I think part of my problem is that everything is same, same but different no matter where I go. From Cancun all the way down to where I sit and type this, it's been Spanish language, similar enough Latin cultures, and aside from a few gastronomical gems like Mexico and Iquitos, the same crappy food.   I move from town to town, country to country and nothing changes.  It's the same drill...get by with broken Spanish...use extreme caution after dark because it's dangerous...be careful which taxi you get in because some are scams out to rob you...DON'T drink the water...watch what you eat because you don't know if it's the meal that could send you to the porcelain god...And speaking of the almighty Porcelain God...Heaven forbid should you flush the toilet paper down that commode and cause the plumbing to explode. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is one of Latin America's dark secrets I debated ever exposing.   Every bathroom from Mexico south has a plastic trash bin for used toilet paper, and anywhere frequented by visitors from abroad has a reminder not to flush TP down the toilet.  Disgusting? Yes indeed!!!  Tales abound of travelers who defiantly spared the bin the appropriate square and then woke up in despair as their rooms were filled with all sorts of a sewage brew.  Maybe this is why everyone wants to emigrate to America with its solid plumbing that can handle just about all.

The above points are are all part of traveling I open mindedly embrace, but we need to have our senses stimulated with new thoughts and ideas from time to time.  In my past travels, I have jumped from language to language and culture to culture in short amounts of time and my mind has always been hit with fresh sensory overloads on all fronts.   In other words, I've had balance, and that is a good thing when traveling!   My main motivation for getting out there and exploring is to experience new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.   I passed a shop today selling empanadas.   They looked like the same greasy pastries soiling napkins from Cartagena to right where I was standing today.  

I need something new and it kind of reminds me of that cheesy Brady Bunch episode we all wince at with "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."    For me it has become "Latin, Latin, Latin."  Not that there is anything wrong with Latin America.  For all you politically correct types out there, yes, I know each country is distinctly different, but in my mind the sounds of each are just blending all together into one noise I can't hear anymore.

Indeed, this part of the world is one of my favorite places due to the richness of its culture, pretty colonial architecture, the kindness and helpfulness of random strangers, and how a little bit of work is required to crack each country's shell.   Inside each it's like a rich chocolate waiting to be devoured, but at this point I need some green curry or falafel or even some bun cha from a stand down the road from my Hanoi apartment.  The old saying holds true...too much of any one thing can make it lose its taste.

So I got to thinking even more now about how it's probably just time to head on home before I burn out and stop enjoying life on the road.  I came, I saw, I conquered.  This trip may be physically ending, but it will live on forever in my mind.  I packed more into a few months than a lot of people could ever hope to see in a lifetime.   This whole adventure has felt like the Food Network, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and National Geographic all rolled into one big fat happy episode.   Ending on such a high note is an amazing feeling, and I am proud to have safely and successfully navigated many backroads (aside from one donkey cart wreck) using my Spanish that improves each day.

My friend Candy said it best...We travel to recharge our batteries. Once they are full, we tire of looking at other peoples' lives and just want to get back to our own and share what we have seen and learned. I am fully recharged and feel amazing.

Scenery and cultural experiences aside, the people I have met along the way have hands down been the best part of my trip.   Some of the most fascinating souls have crossed my path, and their stories have inspired me to find my own.   And find my own I have for the past couple of months.   I am lucky to have already been to Latin America many more times than I can count, and I will be back.  Thanks for following along, and I hope you are now inspired to create your own journey soon to somewhere you never dreamed you would visit.  

I hesitate to borrow from AirTran's ad campaign but the tagline truly fits...Go, there's nothing stopping you.
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