Despite the fact that almost everything on this trip has gone well, spectacularly well, we both are getting weary. We are closing in on six months since we left and slowly but surely I feel a sort of burn out approaching. I know it´s an odd thing to complain about but the wonderful experiences are coming so fast and furious that its nearly overwhelming. And it would be a tragic waste if these profoundly unique experiences start to blend together. Because we both felt this sneaking up on us we had decided to take vacation from our vacation by working on a farm in Ecuador for a while. It seemed like it´d do us good to settle into a relaxing routine for a time, but as you know it was anything but routine. So, happy but bewildered by that adventure we trudged on.
Although I´ve lived abroad for much longer, a couple times, never before have I been so rootless for so long. I always had a place I called home I could return to and eventually a group of friends I could count on to be there. But today, now that we seem to averaging three to four days per new destination the only constant in the blissful maelstorm is my brother (and I can´t describe how grateful I am for him!).
Although we´re both far from breaking we got to talking about what we should do. We needed a place to recharge, a peaceful space amidst the chaos, a place to slow down and process all that we´ve done. In other words, we needed an Oasis.
I hadn´t realized it until I got here but much of Peru is dessert. Fortunately, as with every well run dessert, Peru has a share of oases, one of which is near the cute town of Ica at a resort called Huacachina. Tyler and I got there, surrounded by vast dunes and settled into comfy hostel with hammocks, a swimming pool and a lively bar. There are several "adventure" options based out of the resort. From sandboarding on the dunes, to riding buggys off into the sandy sunset. Both being fans of skiing and snowboarding we strapped a board to our feet and tried it
It turns out that snowboarding and sandboarding are exact opposites.
One is done in temperatures below freezing. The other is done in sand that gets so hot by midday its painful to walk in.
One is spent mostly cruising downhill after riding a lift up. The other is a relatively short ride after long slippery trudge up.
One is hard to learn and neccesitates learning to dodge trees and people. The other is straightforward and the slopes are empty.
One moves quickly and can easily speed out of control. The other is painfully slow, where often you have to hop to slide down another few feet.
One is a lot of fun. And the other...
Fortunately upon arrival we immediately we ran across Edwin, a friendly Peruvian that Tyler met in Medellin. He lived and worked nearby so he took us out to explore the tiny town, grab a beer and catch up.
Although my Spanish is slowly and steadily improving ít still has a loooonnnnng way to go. Usually, when asked, I shrug and say "I can´t discuss the finer points of philosophy, but I get by." So that´s why I was shocked when, during our long conversation with Edwin, we rambled into some philosophical questions that I'd been wrestling with. We had gotten to talking about relationships and the pitfalls we stumble across. Edwin said that his problem was that he "loves with his heart, not with his head" and so consistently gets into situations that inexorably, predictably, lead to heartache. For example, he got into a two year long-distance relationship with a European that painfully wound down to nothing because neither could afford to visit the other. It´s something both knew would happen but his heart just took over so he couldn´t stop from falling in love and plunging headlong into an intercontinental relationship.
Throughout the course of that conversation, I realized that I struggle with the exact opposite problem. I fall in love intellectually before I let my heart even have a say and then wonder why I often find myself rootless, unconnected and alone. I´ve got a history of leaving or never pursuing really wonderful women because the circumstances aren´t intellectually ideal.
This desire to control life from my head, I think, came from my childhood. While growing up I was constantly moved around and manipulated by my parents and others without anyone so much as asking my opinion on it. So now, as an adult, I instinctively fight for my personal independence in any and all situations. "Never again," I swore to myself long ago, "will I let anyone else control my life." In some ways it has served me very well, the independence it engendered gave me the ability to leap through any interesting open door I found without having to ask permission. It made it easy to ignore group conformity, travel alone and discover who I am.
But as time goes by I´m recognizing the huge cost of it too. Since I instinctively resist a situation where I am told what to do I often find myself alone on an unneccesary uphill battle. In college I was interested in fields that my advisor didn´t know much about partly because I was genuinely curious and partially, I suspect, because I wanted no one to have a say over what I did. How much easier, and how much more productive, would it have been if I allowed myself to take orders and inspiration from any one of the knowledgable professors I knew?
And, in retrospect, I´ve most painfully felt its effect on my love-life. I´ve been fortunate enough to connect with some really remarkable women in my life but I am also notorious for entering into a relationship with a preconcieved list of what I have to offer: time, energy, and when I´m next moving away (thus ending the relationship). In other words, my head lays out the ground rules for my heart to love by.
This is not, suffice it to say, one of my more endearing characteristics but it also has a cascading effect on every other element of the affair. It limits how deep a connection is made, how much either of us can share and what sorts of mutual daydreams we can concieve. I sometimes don´t understand why anyone puts up with me.
I know it´s something I need to grow beyond but at the same time I don´t think I should go totally the other way. I´ve also been in an irresolving intercontinental relationship like Edwins so I learned the hard way that there is wisdom to listening to some of my heads practical opinions. But somehow I need to learn to balance it with those of my heart.
This exact conundrum, oddly enough, is another reason why this trip with my brother may well be exactly what I need. Tyler, having much the same childhood, responded in the opposite way. He throws himself whole-heartedly into every relationship he forms romantic or platonic. Where I can´t seem to commit to anything, he often commits to more than he can handle. I have much to learn from him.
This trip and our plan to finish it by getting an apartment in Colorado together does something important for the both of us. For Tyler it gave him a chance to pull back from all of his commitments, take a deep breath and decide what he wants out of his life. For me, oddly, this is the biggest committment I´ve ever made. Not only am I with the same person all day every day for 8 months but we are planning on living together afterwards for an indefinate amount of time. So the same trip, ironically, helps us with two opposite problems.
After a few days of pondering, laying in the hammock, rereading a great book and trudging up a few sand dunes Tyler and I were re-energized enough to make it to another city. We took another overnight bus to the beautiful and exceptionally clean city of Arequipa
While walking around town, exploring an undermaintained botanical garden/zoo and visiting the center plaza we had the phenomenal good fortune to meet some lovely locals to show us the nightlife and remind us just how great Peruvian people are.