Updated: Dec 12, 2020
The three stars of Orion’s Belt blink brightly and familiarly at me from an unfamiliar night sky. I smile then laugh, shaking my head in disbelief. What the hell am I doing, fifty-four-year-old me, riding alone behind some stranger on the back of a motorcycle at 9 at night in Colombia?
I feel like I’ve stepped into a book and am watching myself behind this young boy. I hold on to him tightly but with some trepidation, as the pavement races by way too near my feet, on a machine which I hate, fear and have sworn never to ride. Neither of us are wearing a helmet and another motorcycle races beside us, not more than a foot away. A warm wind sweeps across my body, somehow relaxing me. Again I laugh, then settle myself in for…what did that sign just say?? A thirty-kilometre ride? Holy crap – on this purveyor of death? Maybe my decision-making skills were a bit off tonight. I should have probably taken that nice taxi driver up on his offer of a safe and sane ride to town.
I take my thoughts back a short week. Four hours into an eleven-hour flight, I’m flying away from everything comfortable and known. My mind is whirling with excitement, fear and trepidation and I’m asking myself, “What the hell am I doing? Why am I, a single, slightly less than youthful fifty-four-year-old, heading out with a backpack to South America for one year? Am I still fit enough to carry a forty-pound backpack around for an hour, looking for a place to stay? My God, I haven’t travelled alone since I was twenty-three years old! Will the ‘kids’ at the hostels want to talk to an ‘old lady’? Will those budget dorm rooms I used to love staying in still hold the same appeal, or will the snores and smells of unwashed twenty-something boys drive me to the hotels that my more conservative friends tell me a person of my age should sleep in?”
As I sit on the plane in my allotted, twelve, uncomfortable inches of space, nervous about heading out on this long-awaited solo trip, I know, having had my fair share of travelling adventures under my belt, that my life is about to get very exciting! I’m not as naïve as I once was, heading out on my own for a year-long adventure in Europe back in 1983. I remember thinking then I’d soon be travelling through countries whose lands were different colours like the maps I’d always pored over, dreamed about. Twenty years later, heading off on the solo adventure I’ve always wanted to do again, I realize that, although that kind of thinking was very naïve, I’m not so silly. The colours do exist as a rich and vibrant tapestry of languages, accents, foods, landscapes, characters and culture.
So, how lucky am I now? A year to explore an unknown continent, to practice Spanish, to meet adventurous fellow travellers who will become part of my already rich circle of friendships. To have adventures. Perhaps my story will inspire others to travel, to live their dreams, to take chances, no matter if they are young or less young, like me. I hope so.
Hi all. So, this was an excerpt from my hopefully-soon-to-be-published book about my one year adventure backpacking in Colombia, Equador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. I'd love to share bits and pieces and hear your thoughts about what I'm writing. Does it inspire you to dust off your backpack? Do you want to hear more?
Off to Argentina and Uruguay in January! Hope you tune in regularly. See ya soon!