The last three months have flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the hostel in Cusco scared and trying hard to “get it”. After phone calls, emails, blog posts, talking to people in the hostel over breakfast and then finally leaving for Puno, I did “get it” and I’m extremely glad that the pangs of terror eroded as travelling is the best thing I’ve ever done.
There are some points in a trip like this that beg for reflection, for that sit down with a coffee or a beer and think what has been and gone. For me, these points have always been something tangible like crossing a border, sitting on a plane as it taxis down a runway, riding a bus out of terminal or simply walking away from a friend after that cuddle/handshake goodbye. This is the biggie though, I’m leaving a continent. I’m heading north to Central America and I’m reflecting not on a couple of days, but the start of my journey. The change from simply dreaming to actually doing.
I’m writing this a little early as I still have four days before I depart from Quito so there isn’t that tangible change just yet, but the moment seems apt to sit back and reflect on what I have done, what I have seen and the people I’ve met. The reason is simple, I’m entirely alone. I’ve recently said goodbye to a friend whom, without her knowing, pointed out the differences and similarities between the Stefan of three months ago and today. I’m also in the perfect place to sit back and chillax as I’m am sitting in a truly beautiful, private, cabin hotel on the outskirts on Mindo, listening to the croaks of frogs, the chirps of crickets, the calls of birds, the buzz of insects, the rain beating down on the wooden roof and the wind chime tinkle. I’m watching humming birds hover, butterflies flutter, squirrels charge through the trees, dragon flies buzzing, parrots eating banana’s and bears playing in the woods. All this whilst gently swinging in a hammock, smelling the wet foliage and drinking fresh natural coffee. It may only be seven hundred metres from the main village but I like this little cocoon of solitude, it’s the perfect place, at the perfect time, for a spot of reflection.
I remember my last days in the UK vividly. I was a cauldron full of despair, nerves, regret, anxiety and guilt. I mixed the broth with more tears than I’ve ever shed before and without a shadow of a doubt, I knew that stepping into the unknown by myself was the hardest thing I’d ever faced. I remember talking to my dad through my tears and explaining that I didn’t feel an ounce of excitement and wondering if I was making a huge mistake leaving everything I’d known before behind. When the day to board the plane came the only thing that took me out of the door and into the waiting car of a friend was the thought of failing. The logical side of my brain kept telling me that the emotions I was feeling were only temporary and that to give in to them would not only be failing myself but also all my friends and family who’d invested countless hours listening, talking and helping me plan. I knew that to not go simply wasn’t an option.
After three months of travelling alone it’s safe to say I’m no longer the same frightened little boy who left Newcastle (well, not completely anyway).
One of my old bosses once told me that by travelling alone you learn more about yourself than you can ever imagine. He argued that that people who never travel just wouldn’t understand and whilst I knew he was right, I couldn’t appreciate what he actually meant. After three months I now understand, I know me. I know my desires, my wants and my needs. I know the things and people I like and those I dislike. I know what frightens me and what makes me smile. I know some of my best qualities and some of the worst. I know what I’m capable of achieving. I know that I’m willing to try that which I considered impossible before. I know what frustrates me and that which I’m yet to fathom out. I know what was missing from my life in the UK and also what I’m missing here. I know how to deal with the unexpected. I know how to sit patiently. i know how to relax. I know how to remain optimistic in the toughest of scenarios. I even know how to apply sunscreen…
After three months I’ve learnt an awful lot about me but thankfully I still don’t know where my trip will take me, where I will end up, what else I will learn nor who else I will meet.
What is the greatest thing I now know? I know that one day I will be content and completely happy. It’s the first time in my life I’ve felt it’s attainable.
I love travelling.