Time Well Spent
I was very excited to return to Panama. For the next year, I wasn’t going to be leaving the region and we would be traveling (almost) everywhere via our good buddy Wilbur. The only exception was getting from Panama to Colombia (a short flight for us and a container for Wilbur) and Clo returning to France for a film festival in January. Besides that, I was very excited for a full year of non-stop traveling to start!
It will be the longest stretch of the trip without going "home" or seing friends and family. Just me, Matt and Wilbur. Focusing on where to go, where to sleep, and where to poop. It's going to be a fun (and long) ride!!
Of course, before we could really start moving, we needed to wait for a while. Waiting in Panama until we could ship to Colombia. Waiting in Cartagena until we could get Wilbur out of customs. Waiting in Santa Marta for my fever and throat infection to get better. Waiting in Bogota so Clo could get a shot in her eye and recover.
And wait to have a data connection so we can find on the IOverlander App: where to go, where to sleep and where to poop.
It’s a strange thing, waiting. Everyone handles it differently. It spends the one currency of which we will never have more: time. It can be viewed as something between other things which are more valuable. The definition of the noun seems to agree; “a period of waiting; pause, interval, or delay.” While it’s difficult to argue with a definition (although I still do it frequently and with great enthusiasm), the overall feeling of waiting is not usually a positive one for most people. I don’t agree with this perspective.
I don’t mind waiting. To me, unquestionably the best part of these last two years has been the (mostly) complete freedom I have with my time. I can do (almost; of course many things Clo and I still decide together) whatever I want, which is a huge privilege and freedom. It’s a topic that Clo and I frequently speak about. We have very different approaches, feelings and perspectives on the whole concept of waiting, wasting time, using time and other time-related topics.
I have been pretty lucky in my working life to be very free to use my time as I wanted. The concept of having someone else timing my time is not one that I know. I always have be the boss of my used and wasted time. And it has been my responsibility for a long time to USE it; I think in our modern society you have TO DO things. You can't just be in your right mind and spend your time doing NOTHING. You have to be active and pro-active and over-active. You need to achieve things, you need to make the best out of this and out of that... Well this is the description of the parisien Clotilde, and this is the kind of pressure I feel from my entourage when I go back to France. But nowadays I spend my time looking for a place to poop.
We kept busy while we were waiting. In Panama, we met our shipping buddies Bryan and Alaina (and their most excellent canine companion Brown Sugar), explored local breweries, drove to the Darien Gap and finally spent nearly a week with Max and Marta. We stayed in the same airbnb, cooked each other some of our favorite meals, talked a lot and generally had a great time hanging out.
In Cartagena we waited a couple of extra days to claim Wilbur (a surprise public holiday slightly delayed our reunion), explored the city, enjoyed our air conditioning and tried to do some planning of how our next year would look. We were finally in South America! While I have enjoyed Central America greatly, I have been looking forward to South America even more because I feel it is a much larger unknown quantity for me. I’m very excited to explore it.
Having the freedom to do whatever I want with my time is the greatest freedom of all. There are times when I want to do nothing “productive” and just watch a movie. Or play on my phone. Or drink a coffee and watch people. Or listen to music. Or sit there and think. It’s a rare privilege and during our travels it is one I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to enjoy.
It reminds me a bit of when I was a kid, as one of the things I learned very early is that being bored was something completely within my control. A few times I went to mom and tell her I was bored; quickly I learned this was an express ticket to doing chores I didn’t even know existed. It didn’t take long for me to always be able to find something more fun to keep myself occupied.
Santa Marta held more waiting in store for me. We hung out a bit with Max and Marta again (this has been a theme the last year and will assuredly continue to be one in the future) and prepared for the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trek. We planned to start on Saturday, but delayed a few days because I wasn’t feeling too well. A few days later, I still wasn’t feeling great. These fevers and throat infections have been intermittent in the past few years, but in the last six months they have been uncomfortably frequent. Anyway, we decided that I would stay in Santa Marta and relax and Clo would still go do the trek. More waiting around for me while I rested and became healthier.
I was not sure I wanted to do the trek without Matt. We are pretty much always together, and trekking is mostly his thing (it became my thing during this one tho!!!), and he was sick (what a bad wife who leave a sick husband at home??!) But I went: and what an experience. I felt like I "used" my time and my leg muscles wisely during those 4 days. It's wonderful to feel that you achieved something on your own. Being apart added a little independent conqueror feeling to it.
And the view from the top of the Lost City was just ... mind-blowing.
In a way, this type of waiting is my favorite. I normally have a very difficult time hanging out in bed; to me, beds are for sleeping and intimacy. Not much else. I really am not a “hang out in bed” type of person; why not go read something? Or walk? Or have a coffee? Or almost anything else. Anyway, when I feel like crap and it’s physically not as comfortable to sit up or do some exercise, laying in bed and watching Netflix is really not too bad. Laying there and listening to music and thinking is also very enjoyable.
The bed is my favorite place in the world. That's why I love Wilbur. This car is a rolling bed !!
A few days later I was feeling much better, and even more when Clo returned from her hike. She had quite the experience, and it great to hear what it was like for her. After a couple days of showers, sleeping and doing the laundry, we were finally ready to get back on the road again. I was very excited to finally leave the coast, heat, humidity and cities behind us.
Excitement and anticipation are some of the best parts of waiting. I love to know things that are likely to occur in the future, and while I don’t dwell on them too much, I love the feeling (it’s almost a little tingle) of contemplating what is to come and how it will affect me. What I’ll see. Who I’ll meet. How I’ll feel. What I’ll do. It’s quite enjoyable to have those little bits of delayed pleasure hanging out sometime in the future.
Lately the close future anticipation is really exciting, the South America part of the trip started, in a weird way it feels like we are now getting closer to the end. Enjoying every minute of it.
There were a lot of both anticipated pleasures and concerns in the future when we arrived in Bogota. It was a busy two week period for us in this (wonderfully) chilly, complex and busy capital. Clo was working on a project for which she had been anticipating and planning for weeks and weeks. I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist for my repeated throat infections. We took Wilbur to an excellent garage for a few planned maintenance issues and a full inspection after a year on the road.
The overall outcome was quite good. I didn’t need to have my tonsils removed and learned some ways to (hopefully) prevent the infections from returning, Clo’s project went very well and Wilbur is in better shape and only needed one unexpected fix (steering rack bushings replacement). We were also lucky enough to find a very cheap (~$11/day) airbnb in an awesome apartment in a great place in the city, so we were able to cook our own food and relax in relative luxury. I was still ready to get back on the road and return to spending my time doing things less stagnant.
I have a project I have been working on for a few weeks, and that drains a lot of energy out of me, but that is fascinating and very rewarding at the end of the day. I will talk about it more later. Taking a lot of Time, but it's a great use of it (i think!). I hope Matt think the same way, even if it sometimes means that I have less time for him, physically and mentally.
I really, really enjoy being active. To me this is the most important criteria to evaluate and choose how I decide to spend my time. If the activity keeps my brain and/or body active or gives me the chance to learn and/or experience something new, I consider it a meaningful way to spend my time. The biggest change to my attitude in the past two years is how much this is impacted by my own attitude as opposed to actual activity in which I’m engaged.
It’s up to me if I want to waste my time in this world, or not. There’s no one else who is going to choose what I do and having the freedom to spend my time however I want involves a lot of choices to make sure it’s valuable to me. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly worth it.
Amen to that!
I’m very excited to see what’s ahead as we continue south into Ecuador and the rest of South America.