I have a cousin whose husband has a job in Ecuador for about two and a half years. I went to visit her with another cousin and her family last June. I had planned to return to Ecuador for ten days with my mom and aunt. Then I wondered why I was coming back after only ten days. Last time, it was to start The Trip. Now, however, I have seen the West and do not have a lot of interest in seeing the east, and especially the North East in the Winter. I have lived in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. I have a pretty good idea what it is like there. I decided that what was keeping me from staying in Ecuador for an extended stay was fear of traveling alone in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language.
The silly Four Hour Work Week guy said that we make bad decisions when we base them on fear. He was right. Fear as not a reason not to go. I can learn Spanish.
Do you think it is crazy that I allowed a silly (or brilliant) marketing/self help book shame me into and extra month in Ecuador? That is nothing. What really did it was a week in Spain with a twenty one year old woman whose Spanish is not substantially better than mine. Last December I spent a week in Madrid with my twenty-one year old cousin. She had been there for a semester and had traveled all over Europe. She had not bothered to learn Spanish that semester. In fact, she claimed to have actually forgotten Spanish while she was there. Go ahead, argue that it is shameful that she had failed to take advantage of this opportunity to become fluent in Spanish. What struck me was that she was totally comfortable traveling all over Europe. One day, for example, we arrived somewhere and needed a bus to get to our destination. “That looks like the right bus” she said confidently.
“‘Looks like?'” I said, “Do you think you might want to, say, ask or look at a map or something?”
“No. If it goes the wrong place we can just get another bus.”
Sure, it was the only bus there, and it did, in fact, go where we wanted to go, but I was amazed at how easy it was for her. How did she do it? The first time she and her twin brother traveled in Europe (at eighteen), as she packed the night before, she asked her mother with a sense of urgency what it she absolutely needed to pack.
“Identification and money” Mom said matter-of-factly. “With those, everything else will fall in to place.
“That’s right,” I thought. As I have traveled in Walden, I have generally tried to live as economically as has feasible. When something went wrong, though, like the day I went to Mt Rushmore, and it was so hot I thought I’d die, I got a hotel room. It was more expensive than I thought it should have been, and, if I had bothered to look a bit harder, I would have found that I could have driven another ten miles and gotten a much nicer hotel for considerably less money.