Mom, Dad, I gotta come clean with you now that I’m safely back home. During this last month of travel through Chile, I’ve been almost exclusively hitch hiking. I feared my decision would get the same reaction as if I told you I had taken up a drug habit or I’m rushing into a marriage with a South American sweetheart. One of those decisions that kind of just happens and everyone is sure I don’t know what I’m getting into. But I’m here to tell you that my this was one of the best travel decisions I made.
When I first arrived to Colombia, I had all the nervousness of being in a new country. A few timid trips to get food; a short bus ride to the beach; that was about my thresh hold before I felt like I needed to retreat to safety. But after 11 months, the routine of catching buses, staying in hostels, and day trips seemed well within the comfort zone. My current mission was to collect stories for my great grand-kids. That was something I couldn’t do firmly in my comfort zone.
So I found myself on the side of the road in the Atacama Desert, feeling somewhat foolish, and doubting my chances of making it to Patagonia in a month. That first day I made it only 100 km, and ended up camping behind the police station in Cuya (10 points if you can find it on a map). Buses had passed by, and I had stubbornly refused them, insisting to my self that I was going to do this all via hitching. But after 24 hours in Cuya, I changed strategies, took a bus the shortest distance possible which happened to drop me off in a ghost town.
Over the next month I took a few more buses but focused on hitching. Sometimes it was out of necessity, like in Patagonia where buses only ran once a week. But mostly it was a choice. I could take a bus, zone out, listen to music, and wonder what was passing me by. Or I could stick my thumb out, speak Spanish, meet people, and hear the stories roll through the landscape.
So, ma, pa, I hope I haven’t given you any more anxiety about your kids traveling. I know I’ve probably already already given you enough as it is already. I was never naive about risks, and always scoped out potential rides before getting in. But the way I think, riding a bus, riding a bike, walking, or staying in your house, also has danger. Being in a car with a stranger isn’t as scary as holding back and regretting all the adventures that could have happened. Ultimately, when faced with a dangerous world what else can you do but use your gut, trust God, and throw yourself into it?