The thrill of the unknown, that is, perhaps, for me, the essence of travel.
To follow an open road that beckons with a sweet sultry strangeness into the immense horizon, then to find yourself on the other end of that road in a novel town, wheeling over the choppy cobblestone that you should appreciate as well-preserved colonial ambiance, yet can’t help but loathe as your teeth and sanity chatter out of your skull, ambling down street after street in this unknown place looking for an unknown destination where you can strip off those clothes encrusted in white layers of dried sweat, one layer for each day since your last icy cold shower like anthropomorphized tree rings, all the while dodging llama toting natives, creaky hand carts piled to the heavens with fresh colorful vegetables that put the surgically sorted shrink-wrapped cartons of genetically engineered greens and reds from your homeland to shame, and, don’t forget, the put-put-ing mototaxis that swarm around you in a choking cloud of black exhaust like metal bees from some Industrial Revolution era experiment gone horribly wrong; to lose yourself in this otherness, in this now-ness, with no intentions other than to keep moving, this is the essence of travel.
However, there is a certain comfort in the known.
For example, one can’t deny the mundane pleasure that comes from seeing familiar faces, such as the little old lady’s craggy face that is split by a large broken-toothed smile, as you approach in the neighborhood market to buy your three dollars of weekly produce. You’re no longer just another well off gringo, emissary from the land of iPads and flip-flops, but you have a name and a small loyalty, for a time at least.
Moreover, the comfort derived from a reliably hot (if not reliably flowing) shower and a familiar bed cannot be overstated.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
I’m slowing down for a stretch in Cuzco, Peru. This involves breaking my minimalist tradition and obtaining a few things: an apartment, roommates, and a real towel. But I’m not calling Cuzco home, rather I’m temporarily taking advantage of the location to indulge another hobby of mine: language learning. This week I started studying Quechua, the native language of the Incas and second official language of Peru.
Off the bike saddle and into the classroom. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the road, that irresistible temptress, seduces me back.
Where Is Casey?
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