Thursday, October 4, 2018

Adapting to a New Life

Why is it that no matter how much you've traveled, it seems you can never be completely prepared for departure, especially on a trip of extended duration?

When I left for eastern Europe last summer, it felt very stress-free, even though I knew I'd be gone at least two months (and ended up traveling for 120 days). The lead-up to my current yearlong trip was quite different. First, my husband Greg and I moved in mid-July and I had to sell all of our excess furniture, pack and unpack everything, and organize my personal possessions and clothing for storage in a friend's basement (thanks a million, Paul!) for the next year. I also was traveling for 17 of the 43 days from the time we moved until the time I left Portland. Plus I was sick and essentially bedridden for an additional three days.

Now here I am in Guatemala, just over a month since I left Portland and 22 days since I left the U.S. I'm still adapting to life on the road after traveling through central Mexico (Mexico City, Teotihuacan, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, and Tequila) by bus and sleeping in hostel dorms, but thankfully things should slow down significantly after arriving here on Monday, October 1.
Guanajuato is a picturesque town in central Mexico
As planned, I am living in an area called Villa Nueva about 20 kilometers south and slightly west of the capital Guatemala City but, due to traffic, it takes an hour to reach the city center by car. I am staying at the family home of my friend Hilda who used to own a beer bar in Portland, OR. She and most of her family now live in Houston, TX but kept their house here to relax and visit relatives and friends in Guatemala during the winter months. I will be here alone for the entire month of October, focusing on improving my Spanish, writing blog posts and working on a book, and researching my travel plans for the next 12+ months.
Casa Perez, where I'm living in Guatemala for the entire month of October
So why do I feel so unprepared for the upcoming year of travel? There are many key differences in my departure for this trip versus when I left for Europe last April or when Greg and I left to travel around the world at the beginning of August 2010. Last summer, even though I was traveling alone, I knew I would be back in the U.S. in a matter of months and also that I would be coming home to the same apartment in Portland I had lived in for several years. In 2010, Greg and I knew we would be traveling outside the U.S. for around one year and also that we would be doing it together. While I had already moved out of my apartment in New York City, my belongings (and Greg's) were spread out among our family's houses in Tennessee, so even though we didn't exactly have a home, we had a jumping off point and a place to land whenever we returned to the States.
Greg and I at the airport on the morning we left for our around-the-world trip in August 2010
Now, I am traveling alone for at least one year through a region of the world I have barely visited (just a few cities here and there in Central America) or never visited (all of South America except Cartagena, Colombia) and where I don't speak the language (yet). There are U.S. State Department warnings for most of the region, which only follows the Middle East, parts of Africa, and Russia in terms of the scope and level of the advisories. Whenever I do return to the U.S., I no longer have a home to call my own even temporarily as Greg's new apartment lease is for only one person, not two. I do not have a set itinerary or even a rough itinerary, other than I have to be in Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 20, 2019 to meet up with Greg, my mom and my stepdad for a two-week cruise around the southern tip of South America, which ends in Santiago, Chile on March 8. Afterward, I will recommence my solo travels with a trip to Easter Island.
Me on the General Jackson riverboat in Nashville three days before I left the U.S. in September 2018
Suffice it to say there is a lot of unknown in my life right now, and even though I thrive on adventure, exploration, and not having a day-to-day routine, it is definitely a bit unsettling to not know what the future holds in almost every respect. Even though at times I may feel unprepared for this year of travel, I have to keep reassuring myself that everything will work out in the end, as I have accumulated years of experience wandering around the globe, assimilating, adapting, and learning from my mistakes.
Me in Siena, Italy in 1998 during a solo backpacking trip through western Europe
I have much to accomplish in the months ahead and I am hopeful that the challenges I face, the people I meet, and the knowledge I acquire will all help guide me through the next phase of my life. One small personal goal that I have set for myself is to abstain from consuming any alcohol for the entire month of October. I am doing this mostly for health reasons as test results from my full physical exam and lab work prior to leaving the U.S. show that my liver is inflamed. I also hope it will help me lose a few extra pounds and generally feel better overall. I am four days in and so far it has been easy but I know the difficulty will come when I am out socializing or when I encounter a beer I haven't tried.

Thank you all for following along on my journey and for checking in to see how I'm doing, commenting on my social media posts and encouraging me to keep going. I enjoy hearing from you and hope you'll continue to interact with me online whenever possible.

Until next time!


  1. You may be alone physically, but we are all with you spiritually mi hermana:) loving your journey so far and looking forward to your blog posts and pictures x

  2. Good plans! And yes -- respect that liver! It's a good idea to check in on that every once in a while. And adapt accordingly. Wishing you a relaxing, healthy, wonder-full, and productive October -- and trip!