“All I know is how I got to where I am right now”
- Jeff Meyer
A year ago, I lay on a bed in a hotel room in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, listening to strange birdsongs outside the window and wondering what I was doing there, and why.
I knew how I got there; the day before, I left my apartment in Manhattan, got on the subway to Penn Station, said goodbye to my partner, S, took the train to Newark Airport, and flew to San Jose, Costa Rica. The next day; that is, one year ago today, I woke up and took a plane further south the Puerto Jimenez, on the Osa Peninsula, where I lie in that hotel room, listening to the birdsongs, sweating from the heat, and wondering what I was doing there and why.
This morning in Manhattan, I sat in the same apartment I left, listening to the familiar sounds of traffic on 86th Street, the cat impatient for me to take the laptop off my lap, so she could take her place there. In a while I’ll go running in Central Park, and then go back to the same job I left behind, and I’ll wonder what I am doing here, and why.
I had a plan: I was going to get on buses, minibuses, boats; I was going to walk, ride in taxis, on trains, until I got back to Manhattan. In that hotel room in Costa Rica, it seemed daunting, all those miles and days stretched out in front of me, all the unknown in between there and here, all the time. In the end, it was just distance and time; ground to be covered; time to be spent, like money; blank spaces to be filled in on the map in my head.
When I got back and saw my friends again for the first time, they would ask me what I learned. I never really had an answer. I don’t even remember what I said. There wasn’t anything to be learned, no great lessons about life being a metaphorical journey, or how people are just really about the same everywhere, how it had changed me; but I probably dissembled something along those lines in response.
That’s not right though; I did learn some things. I learned to be bored in a foreign place. I learned to be uncomfortable being an outsider watching other people go about their lives, observing, knowing that most of them will never be able to go out and observe in turn. I learned that I most prefer the places in between, in transit, where there are no decisions to be made; where to stay, what to do, how to get to the next place. I learned that travel, when done right, is something that happens in the moment. No reflection, no thinking, just being.
I blogged about it. (you can start from the beginning if you want) I didn’t want it to be just a listing of “I did this, I saw that,” but that is mostly what it ended up being. I’m bad at blogging. I like to edit. First drafts are death to me. I’m not built for instant reflection. I don’t know how to impose a narrative on my life.
Despite, or because of this. I wanted to start blogging again a year after my trip. A year is not exactly arbitrary, but it is a convenient impetus, a deadline for a perpetual procrastinator.
This is the ephemera of my trip: notebooks full of words, a hard drive full of pictures, a tattered itinerary, scraps of paper, receipts, and bus tickets.
What follows is meant to fill in the empty space between the observations as I went along.