So I was fortunate enough to take my first (hopefully not my last) backpacking trip by myself around South America for about 4 months beginning in November and ending in March. It was a very exciting moment at the time, mixed with a lot of fear. I couldn’t tell if I was more scared or more excited because I was never the super adventurous or spontaneous type and the introvert inside of me was scared out of its mind. I originally planned to go to Argentina for a semester but my brother Rubin told me to go for a year. At first I thought, HELL NO. This was my SENIOR YEAR in college and no way in hell was I going to leave everything behind and miss out on it. Then my brother said,” Your friends will always be there, Cali will always be there, just trust me. Do it. Don’t even think about it. Just do it.” That’s basically all it took for me and I took it to heart. My brother has always been a role model to me and he traveled quite a bit after college as well. He wanted his little brother to understand how lucky and fortunate he was to have the opportunity to live in a different country at the age of 21/22 and to be able to see some of the things I was about to see. I got to LAX on July 18th, knowing that I wasn’t going to be back for basically a year, my eyes filled with tears, an emotion I couldn’t explain or quite figure out myself.
I’ve never kept up with a journal and wasn’t much of a writer but I thought I could share some things that I’ve learned to maybe plant some interesting ideas or thoughts to my friends, also so that I could look back to this in the future and not forget some of the unforgettable things that I’ve learned which will hopefully change the way I view things permanently. As you guys know, I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina right now, but the things that I’ve learned on my backpacking trip is indescribable and is what I wanted to share. I was able to go to Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile during those 4 months and I learned many things about myself that have positively affected me. I logged in more than 200 hours of bus time and those bus rides benefitted me the most, not the big tourist attractions like Machu Picchu etc.etc.
Those long 7-25 hour bus rides are when I would see the real land of the country, the in-between cities that nobody cares about and the families living in houses on deserted fields all too often ignored. This is when I would just think, sometimes good thoughts, sometimes bad, sometimes random, sometimes serious, sometimes scary, and sometimes nothing. Many times I re-lived past experiences that I am ashamed of and the same emotions I felt then would creep back up. I re-played those images over and over again and tried to learn from my mistakes to see what I could’ve done better and tried to get past them. I know God forgave me, it was just a matter of forgiving myself, that was the hardest part. And then the thoughts of my loving family, especially my parents, and really the smallest and most random things that they did for me popped up often and just being grateful is all I could feel, I would never understand how much they love me. Far too often at home, I was too “busy” to think these thoughts, which is a shame because it’s realizations like these that really shape your personality and help you look at things under a different light.
I saw a lot of many different people on this trip. Tall, short, dark, light, rich, poor, and DIRT POOR. It’s incredible to see some of the conditions that these people live in, ABSOLUTELY incredible. No electricity, no running water, and food is not easy to come by for some people either while most of us in the Western World are talking about how hard of a decision it is to decide “what to eat” out of all the restaurants that we can choose from (I fall guilty of this myself). Or when the electricity is out for an hour and all hell breaks loose. And when the water stops coming out of the faucet! Oops…….that never happens, ever. I encourage you guys to go see this for yourself, because I know reading this can only do so much. I’d like to share an amazing thing that happened to me when I visited a Favela in Brazil. These are poor neighborhoods without running water or electricity, and three kids playing out on the street saw me and offered me gum. I said, “No, thanks,” and smiled. Then they tried to offer me candy and after I said no, they offered another different candy. It moved me to see these kids that had SO LITTLE wanting to offer me whatever little they had, they must have been about 5 years old. How many kids do you know in America who literally wants to give out their candy to a stranger for no reason while having a smile on their face. Maybe it is true that people that have less are happier? I guess to a certain degree…..
Although I do want you guys (myself included) to appreciate more of what we have, that’s not the biggest thing that I learned while traveling. Because reality is, we live in a developed country where necessities are handed to us and we live in a consumerist society. Our “wants” are our new “needs” and it is what it is. I’m not expecting myself or anyone else to change this. We have our own problems as well, although they might seem relatively small compared to others, they still bother us the same way as other people’s problems bother them. For some it’s the career they are trying to figure out, THAT job that they desperately want while others are born without the opportunity of choosing what they want to do, Or that gf or bf or wife or husband, that body or physical appearance, the fresh clothes, the next meal we want to eat or CAN eat, family issues, someone’s health, and trying to deal with our emotions and feelings all at the same time. We usually are always thinking of things that we believe will make us happy right now or later but in the end, most of these fade away. No matter what the problems are, the problems that occur to each person are big and important to that individual and revolves around that person’s mind constantly. We are naturally selfish beings. The World revolves around each person’s mind, it’s not our fault but it’s just the way it is. The way we naturally think, mostly everything is about our own interests and happiness in the end. Think about some of the thoughts you think of, they’re probably for your own happiness, or for someone’s acceptance and love, which is still about you. But if you really think about it, when everyone has this self-fulfilling mind, the world really isn’t about you. Everyone thinks like you, EVERYONE around you.
The way I see it, it’s really all about how you enjoy each others’ company and making a difference to those around you and showing love. We are social beings who just want to be loved and accepted. I mean isn’t that what makes us the happiest? To receive acceptance, friendship and love from others. So just slow down sometimes, look at the people around you, and enjoy life with them. Your problems can be a joke to some others half way across the world, and if you do have a serious problem that you’re dealing with that I could never understand, then I’m sure there are others feeling the same thing or experiencing it somewhere in this world and that’s just the way life is. I’m not trying to sound like I just came from LaLa land and throwing the word love around like we should be holding hands and playing ring around the rosy. Or that since I traveled, I’ve changed into this self-less, humane being. Not at all. I’ve just become more aware of what I have, my family and friends, not material things, and it’s a good first step for me to live a happier life and realizing what’s important to me. That’s all it is for me. A first step.