Waiting for the Wave: Part 1
I’m a fan of children’s books. When I was learning German a few years ago, I came across one of my favourites: “Oh, wie schoen ist Panama” (Oh how nice Panama is). It’s about Tiger and Bear, who live together in a little hut in a field between a forest and a stream. They lead a simple life, until one day they find a note that smells like bananas, with the word “Panama” written on it. They theorize that Panama is the most perfect place in the world, where everything is better, and decide to set out for Panama to build a home in paradise.
They walk for what seems like weeks, and meet several other animals, all of whom either don’t know what Panama is or give them the wrong directions. They run in circles until they finally arrive at a little rundown hut near an overgrown field and a quiet stream, and by the foot of the house there’s a note that says “Panama”. They’re thrilled that they finally made it, unaware that it is in fact their own home, a little unkempt and changed by the seasons.
The moral of the story? I guess to appreciate what you have. Home is where the heart is, and so on. But mainly, to keep your eyes open for the little things that make life beautiful.
Some of the people I met were surprised to find that I’m 30, and that I’m not afraid to travel alone, or that I hadn’t settled down and had my third kid by now. I’m sure if I were a man this wouldn’t come up in conversation.
After about a month of traveling alone in Central America, I also ran into a bunch of animals. Some of them human, most of them incredible with kind hearts and intentions. Others less so. I learned, not surprisingly, that for every ill-intentioned person there were 100 well-intentioned ones, and for every negative experience I had with one, 100 positive experiences occurred with others. So in the end, despite 30 years of living in big cities, my naiveté persists, and not without good reason. Some of the people I met were surprised to find that I’m 30, and that I’m not afraid to travel alone, or that I hadn’t settled down and had my third kid by now. I’m sure if I were a man this wouldn’t come up in conversation, but I answered the way I always do:
I try to die at least once a day. If I survive every stupid thing I do, that only makes me that much more invincible, and my life that much more worth living. And as for my third kid, I don’t know where he/she is but I’m glad they’re not here.
The follow-up question is always: Are you not afraid?
Of course I am.
Before I set out on this trip, I was afraid that I would become bored by myself. But I have an obsession with not letting fear dictate my will and action. So yeah, I’ll trust a pair of local strangers long enough to join them for a spontaneous walk into the jungle barefoot and scale up the bedrock of a rushing waterfall in my favorite Little Black Dress in order to arrive at a massive secret waterfall, completely drenched and covered in mud. Did it cross my mind that these could be my last minutes on earth? Totally. Yet here I am.
I’ll wade across waist-high crocodile-infested muddy water to get to the beach because, when in Rome…
And as for being bored because I’m alone? I had to walk to the far end of the world to get some solitude. Even then, it was short-lived. So that fear was quickly proven irrelevant. Thankfully, there are beautiful people out there and they never shut up, even in broken Spanglish.
It seems that when you keep your heart and mind open, even a cynical-sarcastic half-wit like me can attract the good ones.
I’ll trust a pair of local strangers long enough to join them for a spontaneous walk into the jungle barefoot and scale up the bedrock of a rushing waterfall in my favorite Little Black Dress in order to arrive at a massive secret waterfall, completely drenched and covered in mud.
Still, I had been waiting for this journey to show me that I have always been in my own Panama, just like Tiger and Bear. Yet regardless of what I experienced, it wasn’t happening.
Before I left, everything that had been familiar to me for the past six months or more fell away from me as if I was standing on a cliff while everything I was accustomed to went over the edge screaming, and only I remained. It was a suicide club for shit I didn’t need in my life. Boys who didn’t know what they wanted, bosses who didn’t know what they wanted, even friends who didn’t know what they wanted… and me. I didn’t really know what I wanted either. But I stayed behind while all those things detached like a space shuttle and spared me the conjoined aimless floating.
I arrived at my destination at the far end of the earth, a different hemisphere altogether, and waited. I waited for life to tell me what should come next, where I should go, what place I should book, who I should hang out with, and for the most part, it worked.
That wasn’t enough.
I was also waiting for this new place to wow me into awakening.