I’m writing this at 10pm on a Thursday night having just eaten 3 packets of crisps with a glass of wine.
Because time doesn’t exist anymore, and clearly, neither do social norms.
This month started with intense anxiety about travelling that seemed all-consuming at the time – to the point of literally crying at work – and now I can barely remember it.
There aren’t many travel bloggers admitting to that, are there?! But I want to be honest about it. There’s no point pretending everything’s fine and dandy when travel anxiety is very real and perfectly okay. For all that I love exploring new places, it always makes me nervous, especially as this was my first solo trip. I’m so grateful for all the awesome people I know rallying around to support me.
I wrote random thoughts as I was travelling in a little notebook. Here they are:
Couldn’t sleep till 1am (no surprise). Up at 4.30 to drive to the airport – so so nervous. Loved the complimentary croissants from Air France. Liked this quote from the book I’m reading: “embarrassment is just the kind of worldly concern which I believe the dying relinquish, often perhaps with relief”. Why is going through security such a chore in English airports and so quick and easy in other countries?
Dropped pretty much all of my toiletries (all in tins) in the bathroom this morning so everyone in the hostel probably loved me for that. Not sure why, but I like being in towns with an obvious “centre” e.g. Salamanca and home. If there isn’t a square of some sort it makes me weirdly uncomfortable. This solo travel thing is so exciting but I also kind of want someone to share the excitement with.
Nearly got the wrong coach to the airport but made it safely in the end. Screened for temp twice at Quito airport because I was so hot from carrying my bag! Cute conversation with California couple on the plane. Looking forward to meeting the other volunteers but so nervous.
Met Abe, he’s my age from Holland and seems really cool. Went for a walk around town and got lunch. He’s travelling for 4 months. I think I could learn a lot about being more confident from him! We bought stuff for breakfast and looking at supermarket prices I can already tell this is going to be an expensive week.
The other volunteers are Anja (Norway) and Sander (Belgium). They seem cool! Volunteer coordinator Christian is really nice too. Love the work that we’re doing; feels genuinely valuable. Abe and I went for a gorgeous hike this afteernoon/evening. Watched the sunset from the viewpoint which was amazing.
After a day to settle in I’m trying to practice Spanish more so speaking to Christian in Spanish as much as possible even though he speaks good English. He’s easier to understand than everyone else here, maybe because of his job, I don’t know. Already feeling super comfortable with the others. Booked a boat tour round the island for tomorrow. Chilled at the beach this afternoon and watched the incredible sunset.
Boat tour today! I’m SO sunburned but it was amazing. Snorkelling with sea lions and turtles…even saw a few sharks! Nice chatting to the other people on the boat; laughed all day. Really proud of myself for just going with it and enjoying the new experiences. It’s our last night with Anja so we all went out for tea and spent a while on the pier on the way back.
Said bye to Anja early this morning – can’t believe I only met her 3 days ago! Worked at the farm today, where Abe peeled a banana for the first time (!). Sad to say bye to them after only working with them for one day. The interpretation centre was really interesting – didn’t realise how recent (and violent) human history in the Galapagos is. Slow walk back via Playa Mann. Conversation turned to how weird it is being here, oblivious to the near apocalypse happening back home. Sander doesn’t want to go home (he leaves Saturday). We all agree it wouldn’t be bad to be stuck here. Abe’s hometown has a lot of cases.
Walked Sander to the taxi. As soon as he was gone I was hit by this intense wave of…something as I realised I was on my own again. But, it was different this time as I’m in a place I know and love, even if it’s all the more real that I’m leaving tomorrow. Super proud of myself for doing the highlands tour alone. Got chatting to a guy on holiday with his family from Quito, who was really nice. His family, not so much (“esta solidaria esa nina. Ah, me entiende”). Another volunteer arrived in the evening, Kris from Denmark. Showed her around and was nice not to spend my last night alone. She was so nice and chilled despite having quite a stressful journey. Sander called when he got to the mainland to say that the borders are closing Tuesday and warn me that we might run into issues – he doesn’t know if he can get home. Stayed up on the balcony until the early hours as I didn’t want to sleep.
Woke up early to decide whether to continue to Peru or not. Had pretty much decided to stay put just in case the situation worsened but next thing I know I’m on a flight home tomorrow night. I know it’s the sensible thing to do but can’t help feeling heartbroken. Cried a lot – feel sorry for Kris who only met me last night and woke up to find me like this! Everyone’s been really good about it; Ivan said I could extend my stay as long as I need and even offered surfing lessons! Saw our Brazilian friend in the airport getting the same flight as me to Guayaquil. Luggage nearly continued through to Lima but managed to save that one! The hotel gym is closed as is the city centre so I’m pretty much staying in my room for 24 hours. I’ve now been asked 3x if I’m from Spain due to my accent – not complaining there! Also found out that Kris was in ISLA Salamanca literally weeks before me in summer ’18 – and stayed with the same host!
Need to check out at 12 so I guess I’ll go to the airport super early. I know I’m very lucky to be getting out but I don’t feel very lucky. Galapagos is slowly but surely shutting down too so I don’t know what the others will do.
I don’t know how well my little notes convey everything I was feeling. Probably not very well! I guess the feelings were so obvious to me that I didn’t elaborate on them. Even looking back I can remember the emotions so vividly. Coming home was strange – the whole 60 hour experience that it became. We’d kind of been living in a bubble on the island. There were tears. Lots of tears. I pride myself on being a fairly flexible person – I can change plans without much stress and re-calibrate pretty quickly. But this was different. I think it was the feeling that the world was changing faster than I could keep up with that made things difficult. That, and the uncertainty as to what the best action was. If it was as simple as being told by authorities to come home, that would have been easier.
Anyway, I have my family to thank for the fact that I was back home within a few days and not stuck thousands of miles away from home. The others all made it back ok eventually, and until then were able to relax on the island – so, as lockdowns go, theirs wasn’t too stressful!
The rest of the month was…weird? I’m not 100% sure how I’ve spent my time. A lot of blogging, I guess. I think I threw myself into making an unnecessarily long article as a way of distracting myself. And Netflix. And a bit of studying. Days all kind of blend together and I pretty much measure time by how hungry I am. I read somewhere (maybe it was a tweet?) about how life feels like everything’s normal but shifted a bit to one side and I thought that was a great description. Like walking into the kitchen to find the table’s a few inches further away from the wall, or something.
As a rule I try to end months by looking back at everything I’ve achieved, and it’s fair to say that my first solo trip, to South America no less, was an achievement. If nothing else, the personal improvement was massive.
However long the current situation continues, I only hope April contains more routine and less uncertainty, but I know that those things are my responsibility and no one else’s.