Unbelievably, I walked for many, many miles along Clearwater Beach today – barefoot and in my bathing suit – and this is mid-December! Granted, I live in Florida, but we have already had some cold weather and when things get chilly, I bundle up. Today was summer warm though, and even the Gulf water was okay for wading. So, it was good to get one last long walk in, just to make sure I’m still in shape.
Two weeks till takeoff and things are coming together. Lots of duties to accomplish yet, but there sits my well-stuffed backpack, right over there on the sofa, all set to go. I put it on, loaded now, and it feels very good. This is the new 65-liter one and is fitted properly to my body, not the man-sized, 85-liter one I used on my last trip. However, it weighs exactly thirty pounds right now and I have a few more last minute things to add. The luggage limit is fifty pounds so I have some leeway, though the pack won’t hold much more.
Next week is Christmas and some family members are coming. No plans, at all, for New Years but that’s the way I always celebrate that holiday, just quietly happy to see the calendar roll over and eager for the coming year. This one starts with a bang for me, taking off for parts unknown the following day, and then it will suddenly be late Spring when I roll back into town. An eerie feeling with today acting so much like the middle of summer, which is the season I’ll soon be jumping into in South America.
In the meantime, my present time-fillers, such as lists, ordinary duties, housecleaning and remembering essential trivia to be done, add up to pretty paltry blogging subjects. I shall make up for this lack, hopefully, when I begin to post reports from a rapidly changing ground zero, meaning wherever I happen to be at the moment – unknown to me, unknown to you.
I’m starting out in Columbia, which I hear is a very beautiful country. To us, in the States, its reputation is considerably one-sided. All that most people know about it, or associate with its mention, is drugs, cartels, and rough, grabby things associated with that world. But, that snap judgment dismisses a whole country filled with wonderfully sincere people, so it has to be a truly narrow-minded conclusion; though there’s also an undeniable reason we make that connection. I’ll be going in with eyes wide open expecting to find the beauties of the country and of its people and then I’ll share what I find out here in this blog.
In the summer of 2004, while backpacking through another much-maligned country, Nicaragua, and staying at the lovely Oasis Hostel in Granada, I met Jewel and Caroline, two young Canadian schoolteachers who had just finished a year teaching school in Columbia. They were returning home overland all the way to Canada, having collected the money that the school system would have used to fly them home; instead spending it on hostels and bus tickets to take the long, slow way, planning to be home by Christmas that year. They had loved Columbia and urged me to go there someday. This is the way that prejudices get busted. Word of mouth. Somebody’s experience. Later, those girls went to teach for two years in Dubai. We were supposed to get together in Mumbai, India, but they had visa troubles and we missed each other. I wonder how they liked it in the United Arab Emirates and if that spot will show up on a future list of mine because they did.
This is often the way it works. Very often, in fact. I wound up discovering and falling in love with Croatia because I sat next to a sailor on an airplane as I was flying home from Budapest. He was Scottish and had married a woman from Split and raved so about the place that I made a mental note. The very next year, I went to that country. Split did not impress me, but I so very much loved Dubrovnik and the rest of the Croatian Dalmatian coastline.
In fact, Columbia went to the top of my list when someone at a recent talk of mine raved about Cartegena. Check. That’s the first place I’ll head after flying into Bogota, the capital. So, I plan to pass on all my good news and special spot tips to you….just as soon as I take care of business in these last few days at home.