What If All This Crazy Travel Kills Me?
It’s my last full day at El Panchan, just outside of Palenque in the Mexican state of Chiapas. (Go ahead and google it, I’ll wait.) I’ve spent 5 days here, sweaty and content. The casitas right in the jungle at El Panchan, the isolation that brings on a feeling of time warp back as much as 40 years, the lack of English speakers, the waterfalls of Misol-ha and Agua Azul, the ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilan, and Bonampak, the river ride in an oversized canoe with a huge motor along the border with Guatemala; all these things I will take home with me, and the memory of them will bring me back again despite the difficulty of getting here.
I signed up for a Blogger Bootcamp with T.W. Andersen from Marginal Boundaries back before I really realized where Palenque was, much less that I would have to ride a bus overnight to get here. Before I knew that we’d be staying in the jungle with no air conditioning, and before I really thought about what it would be like to go by myself. It’s been an adventure, and an incredible learning opportunity.
I say opportunity instead of experience, because there is always the potential for enlightenment but sometimes we refuse, we focus on our own discomfort and close our eyes instead of looking closer.
When I came here I was afraid of a lot of things:
What if it was so hot it made me sick? I’ve never been to Mexico in the summer, much less the middle of the jungle.
What if I got on the wrong bus and got lost?
What if T.W. and I didn’t get along and irritated each other all week?
What if the bus was attacked or robbed and I lost all my stuff as Suzanne from Boomeresque pointed out? (And thanks so much for putting that scary thought in my head one week before I left.)
What if the backpacker haven of El Panchal was dirty or loud or full of hippies or otherwise unacceptable in some way?
What if I was unbearably lonely spending three weeks traveling by myself?
What if I couldn’t find my way around with my very limited Spanish vocabulary?
What if I couldn’t keep up physically?
What if I missed my kids so much I was miserable? What if they missed me so much they were scarred for life?
What if it just wasn’t any fun? What if I wasted my money and spent time away from my family for an experience that wasn’t worth all that trouble?
I decided to take the risk, scary as it was, and it paid off. There was a moment in the bus station in Cancun when I really, really thought I might have been better off staying home, but it passed. Since then I have been grateful every day not only that I came here, but that I stayed when things got a little bumpy. I could have gone home-I even used that knowledge to calm myself, the reminder that there is always the option to just quit and have it be over with. But I knew deep down that I would regret it if I did, so I took a deep breath and pushed on.
I think the what-ifs hold a lot of people back. It’s easy to let them, to play it safe and stay where you are, but then you miss out on so many wonderful things. A lot of people tell me they could never do what I am doing, what my family will be doing next year when we move to Cozumel. Why not? Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to grow and see how strong and capable you really are, and I’ve done that this week.
I’ve climbed mountainous ruins (voluntarily!) swam in turquoise waterfalls, ate whatever was put in front of me, clung to my seat on treacherous roads at breakneck speeds, passed safely through a Zapatista roadblock, pondered the strange grunts and screeches in the jungle and enjoyed being immersed in a world completely different than the one I live in. I’ve found places where I am lacking, such as Spanish, and places where I am stronger than I knew, such as my physical endurance. If I had gone home I would have missed all that, and my world would be smaller. That would have been a shame.
So there will be more stories about Palenque, but for today I am saying goodbye to my jungle home and letting you know that it really is worth it to do the scary things, to put yourself out there. To take the leap, to stop making excuses, stop listening to the what-ifs, just get on that overnight bus and head off into a new day. That’s what I’m doing-I’ve got a ticket for the bus to Tulum.
Note: this was written my last day in Palenque but I was unable to post anything that day because what little internet there was had stopped working. I am safely in Tulum now after another 12 hours on a bus.