Welcome to the second segment of my TRUE tales from my South American misadventure. This is my “Throwback Thursday” series because;
- I’m too lazy to start a different blog
Thursdays are very close to Fridays and I like to schedule in an extra nap to prepare so coming up with unique content is too exhausting
3.This shit really happened to me. It was 20 years ago and it’s time I told the tale.
So – back to the story. Why exactly did I kite off to South America with no preparation and no real plan. One word. Men.
At the time I decided to take this trip I was dating a guy I had been with for close to three years. We loved each other. We liked each other. We broke up and got back together every six months or so after having too many conversations that sounded a lot like this;
Me: I don’t feel like you really love me love me and I really need to be loved loved, you know what I mean?
Him: I do love you…I just wish I could fuck other girls*
(*that last sentence is a direct quote – seriously. And what’s more he meant it in the nicest possible way – he was just being really, REALLY honest. Boy deserves credit for that)
So disclaimer here – the guy I am talking about here actually reads my blog because against all odds we have remained friends for over 20 years. We don’t talk that often and see each other even less and sure, he blew off my wedding but deep down we still love each other. And now he gets to fuck other girls so it’s a win. And I will go ahead and break the “anonymous internet” rule (which I just made up) and tell you his name is Tom and he has a great smile, is super fun to hang out with and has an amazing mane of awesome wavy blond hair. Oh what the hell…here’s a picture; (you’re welcome Tommy – love ya buddy)
So my relationship was floundering and I needed an exit strategy. Enter Paul the Englishman. I had met Paul when I worked at a summer camp in Maine as an art instructor a couple of years back. We enjoyed a few make out sessions (sorry Tom, I’m pretty sure we were dating at the time) and forged a friendship. I still haven’t got upstairs to dig out my photos so here is an idea of what Paul looked like… Sure not exactly…but close enough.
Yeah close enough for me to book a trip to South America to travel for an indeterminate time with Paul. So why SA? When Paul and I were counselors and tickle buddies back there in Maine we met a girl named Anna who was from Venezuela.
Anna had brought 15 highly over-priviledged Venezuelan teenagers with her to camp to experience “luxury American culture”. Obviously they had no map or real idea of what Maine was all about. In retrospect they were probably shooting for the Hampton’s but instead they were in bum-fuck Stephen King country and they were pissed.
Their first week at camp the posh teenagers threatened to fly home due to lack of; air-conditioning, cable tv, carpeting, indoor plumbing, conveniently located shopping malls, and (I’m not making this up) butlers. It’s fucking Maine, people. We have trees, rocks, more trees, wooden cabins, outhouses, trees, some more rocks and mosquito’s that can stand flat foot and fuck a turkey. No butlers.
Somehow Anna talked them into staying and I was lucky to be her co-counselor and become her friend. By summer’s end Anna had decided I HAD to come visit her in Caracas and that Paul should come too. A plan was hatched.
It took about six months for the plan to gel. Paul and I exchanged letters about our trip and built up a slow flirtation through photographs, mix tapes and innuendo. It was the cavemen version of sexting. We spoke on the phone maybe twice and talked to Anna once and the deal was done. I called a travel agent and purchased my one way ticket. About a week later my ticket arrived in the mail because this was before the internet (yep – I’m old)
and that was how things were done back then. But instead of listing Caracas Venezuela as my destination my ticket was a one way trip to Moldova. In the Soviet Union. Paul thought I should just go for it (early warning sign) but I chickened out and got the ticket changed. Then it was time to prepare.
This involved a lot (a lot) of teary conversations about my feelings with Tom, reading and re-reading my letters from Paul and imagining our amazing foreign travel romance in detail (ooh those mix tapes. Actual Cassettes. Swoon.) and thinking very heavily about spiders.
Big spiders. Huge spiders. VW Bus – sized spiders. You would think heading off to a foreign continent with no plan, very little money, not speaking the language and having a travel partner that I barely knew would be cause for concern (let me tell you my parents were concerned. Poor things. Sorry mom and dad.) Nope. That was all good. I was just worried about having a run in with a huge-ass spider. And this was before we had the CGI-ed beauties compliments of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I don’t know if it was denial but this irrational fear of getting fucked with by a giant spider kept me up nights in the weeks before my trip. What kept me calm? Well, my imagined romance was a plus (and that turned out to be pure fantasy, believe me. A total fail.) But even more than that I was excited to see a Morpho Butterfly.
I had seen them on some nature show ( probably Mutual Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. If you know that reference you are old like me. Hi!) and for me they represented the exotic beauty and wonder of a place I couldn’t even imagine. That butterfly was the potential of this journey made real in electric blue. And in the end that was the real reason I went to South America.
Yes I went for adventure and the promise of romance. I went to break out of a rut and leave a failing relationship behind. I went because I was young and naïve enough to believe everything would go just like I imagined it would.
But honestly I went on this journey to face down my fear of spiders – the unknown and unknowable. The terrifying possibilities of what was wrong and what might go wrong (I had led a reasonably sheltered and comfortable life up til now). I went to South America to stop being afraid of taking risks – socially, emotionally, personally etc. etc. and to start being more like the Morpho – wild and free and beautiful.
And like all self-important crap that you generate about your choices in your early twenties I was completely wrong about everything. Comically so.
Next Week: Tree Sloths and Narco King Pins; Welcome to El Hatillo!