Solitude on the Busy Highways of Life
Matt's point of view in black // Clo's point of view in pink
Traveling around the world, seeing new and exciting places, eating lots of great food, meeting so many interesting people. Most of those things are accurate, but the sort of traveling we are doing usually does not include meeting any people, never mind interesting ones. In fact, we rarely get to know anyone at all. In many ways it is a very socially isolated type of traveling. Part of it has to do with the places we've been visiting (lots of nature-ish places, national parks, remote beaches, etc), part of it with budget (we aren't staying in resorts or going out drinking at bars) and part of it because we simply don't spend enough time in most places to get to know people.
We all have been traveling before with our back packs, sleeping in guest houses or hotel de jeunesse (youth hostels), this is a lot of fun, everybody meets everybody, usually the rooms are not made to spend a lot of time in them. Smoking for me used to be a really social act, get in the front porch and have a smoke with other travelers. Get a beer and everyone invites everyone to continue the evening somewhere else etc. But the way we are traveling now is very different. It's a way of living more than a way of traveling. And Life is a Lonely Trip!
I like it. I enjoy being alone, and the vast majority of time, being with Clo is a lot better than being alone. I certainly enjoy social situations as well, but not frequently. I've described it before as 30% (or 10% or 50%, it depends on how I feel) of the time, I want to be 100% social. And "being social" to me is not being around a big group of people, but spending time talking to a one, two or a few people in depth. Getting to know them. What they are like, their perspectives, their ideas, their family; in essence, having a meaningful conversation where I can learn something and share my own ideas and opinions.
I am not sure if I like solitude that much. I think I have evolved a lot through the years. For sure I am not the perfect extrovert, I like my alone time, very often spending too much time with other people tires me more than it energizes me. I think these past years I am more comfortable to be alone, but alone but with Matt. Because I know that we don't need to talk to each other all the time. We can spend the entire day not talking but he knows I am happy. Being silent doesn't mean we are sad or upset. It often means peace and quiet. I love that solitude with Matt. It's a safe and positive solitude.
All that to say our travels so far have been conducted in relative solitude. While this is what we expected somewhat, our plans from the beginning were to spend at least 20%-40% of our time in a place for a longer period of time so we could get to know the places, people and have more social engagement. We decided to give that a shot in Creel. We had spent a few days here previously, but were very focused on some paperwork and planning so we didn't do much besides walk around the city. It's an interesting place; tourism is certainly the main business, but the residents have their own vibrant lives that are obviously ongoing in parallel with the tourist activities.
In the three days we spent here, I quite enjoyed walking around the city, watching people, exchanging smiles, eating tacos in the city square, and basically feeling for the first time like I wasn't just an outside observer. My Spanish is still at the level where I can have only the most basic of transactional exchanges (unless I have a lot of time and patient people, such as at the Basaseachic Falls), but I still felt like I was part of the city. It's difficult to explain, but at some point I feel like I am part of the background of a place instead of an observer looking down from above. It's a very pleasant and relaxing occurrence.
I still didn't get that "homy" feeling ('being a part of') like Matt just explained. I feel like up until now, the places we stopped for a few days are more a place where we can have our basic habits back: pooping on actual toilets, have wifi, shower, wear jeans and not hiking pants, organize our next steps and the most important: argue. Yes argue. Because interestingly we don't argue much when we are one the move. I think there is some sort of relative and mutual respect of the space and the futility of wasting time and energy to have a bad day when we are anyways confine in a small space with no escape from each other!! haha Makes sense?
All good things must come to an end, and after a few days we left Creel and drove towards Batopilas. Like Urique, it is at the bottom of one of the canyons. Unlike Urique, the drive there is on fully paved roads and much less stressful. It is a much different town though, it feels like the sort of city you'd see on a postcard, very picturesque but quite abandoned. Even if I wanted to feel like part of the background, there really wasn't any foreground to offer a contrast. The only sign of life was later in the evening, as Clo and I were drinking beers on the city square bench (there was free wifi... a good example of the difference from Urique) we observed what seemed to be the entire (small) population of the city hang out in the square.
Batopilas was fun, the city square we sat on that evening was very full of life: young couples, ladies hanging out, tons of dogs begging, kids running around. That was a full of life evening, and at the same time, with a note of solitude. The communication is not that simple. People are living their life. It's not a touristy place where you meet expats and share travel story or just start chit-chatting with the lady next to you when she is obviously on a date. There I felt more like we are 2 UFOs in the middle of a square. Clearly you are the one that is different / not at your place, and it can make you feel a little lonely.
The next day we started to head out of the Sierra Madre range, east towards our eventual goal of Saltillo. After driving most of the morning, we ended up in the city of Guachochi. Bigger and much more of a "normal" city than Creel, it was nonetheless still rather small. However, as we stopped for a late lunch, we soon realized we were definitely no longer in the remote mountains. The restaurant had wifi! FAST wifi! We spent a blissful couple of hours enjoying the speed, updating our phones and engaging in a strange sort of physical solitude as we reconnected on social media/chat/txt/etc with family and friends.
100% agree with this. As soon as we have Wifi it's like reconnecting to our outside Wilbur / Mexico life. Interesting feeling.
Soon enough we continued on to where we were going to spend the night, another well (if strangely) maintained overlook above the Sinforosa canyon. As usual, we were alone (besides a few donkeys). Being alone and relaxed in nature is a different type of connection, and equally (perhaps even more so) valuable to me for feeling content and satisfied about my life. I find it very peaceful, welcoming and frequently awe-inspiring. It's a reminder for me to slow down and enjoy all of the things in life that I am so lucky to experience. The world is a huge and marvelous place, and my life will only happens once. The sound of rain dripping slowly off the leaves, flashes of lightning in the distance and the muted rumble of thunder. The donkeys make some weird noise as they bray quietly to each other in the gentle storm. All of these things also give me a feeling of connection, of belonging in the world. I always get this feeling in nature and the outdoors, and it is something which I treasure greatly.
Nature used to make me feel claustrophobic. Haha. All that green, only trees and flies, you never see the end of the road when you trek... A green anxiety type of thing!! I am adjusting very well tho. I am definitely enjoying long walks and hikes, the beauty of some of the places we walked by is just incredible. For me there is never a feeling of solitude in those places. But more a feeling of emptiness. For some reason nature makes me a bit sad; sometimes nature is boring. Who said: "You know a country by learning to know its people". I agree 100% with that. You don't learn to know a country looking at its trees. ;-)
As we continued east, we came across the first "Big City" we'd seen in a couple of weeks. Hidelago de Parral has it all; Walmart, McDonalds and of course traffic. Yuck. I was happy to leave the next day, looking forward to the camping we were planning on doing in the Mapimi Biosphere Reserve. Besides being in nature again, I was curious to see if there was any truth in the rumors to the "Zone of Silence" supposedly located there. After a long drive down a dirt road (which, frankly, seemed to be smoother than the highway we had just been on), we arrived at the visitor center.
That was the most fun silent place ever!! We started laughing when we got there, cause it was so silent. So empty. Out of this planet almost. This was too funny/awkward.
It was certainly silent. As in, no other human beings here. The center was boarded up. No signs about when they would open. No signs about where to go to hike or camp. Plus it was really hot. Our radio worked just fine. So did our phones. So it was silent in some ways, but not nearly as fun as we had hoped to be. After eating a very warm lunch, we decided to continue on to Torreon.
It was a good choice! Smaller than Parral, and our first stop was at a genuine cafe. Really good coffee, reasonable food and fast wifi. Amazing. We decided to spend a couple days here, and I quite enjoyed exploring the city. Their downtown area was quite nice, and I spent most of one day walking around and checking it out. A couple of museums, sculptures, murals, a cool old restored (and mysteriously unknown in origin) tunnel, walking street with no cars allowed and generally a chill vibe. On the downside, it was also really hot. Oh well, can't have it all.
After a couple of nice days, we headed towards Saltillo. Have you never heard of Saltillo? Us either. It's about an hour from Monterry, which is good for the airport (Clo needs to fly back to France for some health and paperwork tasks). But the real reason we choose it is because of the fantastic weather. Monterry is hot and humid. Saltillo is about 500m higher in the mountains, and has no humidity and generally much cooler and more pleasant climate. It's also big enough (about 1m people) to find a cheap airbnb and a Spanish school for foreigners. Because while Clo is frolicking around France with her family and friends, I am going back to work and must learn Spanish before she gets back. Otherwise she's threatened me with some pretty terrible things which wouldn't even be appropriate to write here.
On the plus side, I was definitely looking forward to really getting to know a place and maybe some friends. I would be staying at an airbnb so hopefully the people there would turn out to be nice (they are AWESOME; but more on that in a later episode), I could really get to know a city, I could have a few routines and generally take a break from constantly being on the move. The best part is that Clo was going to be there for a few days with me too, so we could explore together and she would get to know a bit of what I would experience while she was in France.
I really wanted Matt to have a good time while we were apart, and I know he was looking for that feeling of belonging somewhere. Have a regular coffee place to go write at, some new friends to go party with and have long talks, practice his Spanish with locals etc. I am very very happy this is happening. It's always hard to leave Matt when I have to fly back for diverse reasons tho, and it gets harder and harder. Being together 24/7 is something I enjoy more that I can explain. It's the way I want to live our life for sure. The solitude pops back up the moment I cross the security line of the airport. Surrounded by millions of people. But without him.
It's going to be an interesting month.