This is Part II of a seven part series – read Part I here, then follow the link at the end to keep reading. If you enjoy the journey, please support this blog by making a contribution to our Paetron Page.
In Granada, Nicaragua, on the second day of our trip, I had a Skype date with a friend of mine from high school. We spoke for nearly two hours, mostly about the realities of our two very different lives. My friend is a doctor, or a soon to be one, going through her medical residency in New Haven. She also has an incredible capacity to see the positive aspect of anything, and to encourage others towards the same. She, like many of the kids I was raised around, was brought up to be a solver of problems, a finder of solutions so to speak.
For such a long time I took my upbringing for granted. Inside of my house, things were generally a mess, and that took the focus off of the rest in an unfair way. Because outside of the house, I was brought up around really smart, motivated people with the ultimate blessing of limitless opportunities.
Witty banter and informed peers, frequently on the cutting edge of their field, were commonplace. One our our classmates developed a facial recognition software when he was 16 that was purchased by the US Defence Agency. Another was studying cancerous cells, searching for a cure. I remember my friend creating a detailed spreadsheet and graph presentation mapping out the ideal time to commute to school to minimise her transit time, measured in color-coordinated, ten minute increments.
It is a marvel to be surrounded by people who hunger to learn. Problems aren’t negative, they’re something to find a solution to. It’s perhaps the best mindset you could give someone.
So, it was when I Skyped with my friend, thirty hours into our journey and still fresh out of my black hole, that I began to see the possibility of answers existing. I wasn’t traveling pregnant anymore. Things were different now.
“How can I help?” She asked me, after hearing a muted version of my horror story of the last year and a half.
One of the things I had most been feeling was out of touch with the world. That was part of going back to America. I reckoned she could put me in touch with anyone who she knew who might be working in writing or editing, whom I might be able to speak with. She thought of two – Sarah, a travel writer friend making ends meet as a freelancer, and K, a health journalist turned business editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
My black hole was deep. Pregnancy was hard on me. My sciatic nerve pinched in the first few months, and I could hardly get out of bed. It was a surprise pregnancy, and I took it hard. We had no jobs, and we’re living in a shit cabin in Florianopolis. Cheap as chips, and with a great view, but with no insulation so it was full of bugs in the heat and icy enough to sleep under seven blankets when it got cold. Douglas had balked at spending anymore, even though we could have easily gotten a great little house for half of what I had been paying in Rio. Instead, he pushed me up the steep hill when we went out, and up the fifteen stairs to our front door when we came home. I didn’t leave the house on my own.
One month after we found out about the tiny feijao growing in my belly, we were on a plane to the Dominican Republic. A fresh start was in order, and a cold contact had gotten me a work exchange at a sport hotel on the North Coast.
We arrived in high spirits. We had walls, a sort of comfortable bed and use of the staff kitchen. After a week, I made a formal work proposal to the owner of the hotel, and was hired full time, with a salary and living expenses. We were elated. Thinks we’re looking up.
We moved from the hotel to the owners’ family home, where he rarely stayed. It was to be ours for the duration of our contract – luxury beach camping we would end up calling it. The house itself was a minimalist concrete two bedroom affair with a king sized bed and large, double headed shower in the master bathroom. The back side of the house opened up to a yard lined with coconut trees and deep green grass, ending at our own private beach on the other side of the fence.
The house had a few trade offs though, as everything on the road does. We were 100% off the grid, and the solar power system lacked the batteries to keep the electricity on through the night. The refrigerator would turn off, and we would often wake up sweating when the fans stopped blowing around three or four in the morning. If the sun didn’t shine for a few days our food would spoil. That, and we were next door to an upscale brothel. The Latin pop and club beats battered through our open windows until just before sunrise, often starting in the late afternoon on weekends. Still, as long as we had sunshine and earplugs it was doable.
Taking what you can get, Settling for good enough. That’s life on the road. You become flexible in a way it’s easy to grow to hate. You’ll settle for less than you deserve, because you feel you don’t have any other option. There’s no support network to hold you up. You’ll know there are better things out there, and you’ll know we could have them. But you have to let them go unless you want to live your life fighting.
In that concrete beachfront space We fought so much. For starters, between each other. Two things make the road really difficult. The first is Spending too much time together. You’ll do this partially because you feel dependent on each other and partially because you don’t know anyone else to spend time with. The second is not seeing your friends or family. When you stay places longer, these two things smooth out, because you get to know more people or maybe your friends and family come to visit. If you’re not with anyone, sometimes the road just gets lonely, and it’s a fact you have to deal with. Either you draw inside yourself, or you become gregarious in meeting strangers. Still, it’s not the same as having people around you can count on. After a long time it can be isolating, even inside of a relationship. There’s no outside factors to act on you and change the status quo.
The third difficulty is not having personal space, but we at least had the big house and no kids, at least not yet.
Europe cured us, at least for a while. When I had to go to run a workshop in Solihull, DG went down to Brazil for a few weeks to be with his family. Thinks had gone back to good, so bought him a ticket to come meet me in Barcelona.
We took the overnight train to Lisbon – a disaster as I had managed to book tickets without sleeping berths. It was my second trimester and I was traveling pregnant, but the worst of the pains had subsided. At about three AM I was given a bed, while DG had to spend the night sitting up. Nothing like the experience I had imagined for us.
Portugal though, now that was good. We spent three grand in two weeks. I have regretted spending money on idiotic things, like cell phone service and taxes, but I have never once regretted a single penny I spent on living.
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Keep traveling with us. Read Part III here