Traits and Bubbles

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Brazil  , Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of you asked me why it is I am doing all this, why I am traveling.  This question was posed to me about a month ago and I still haven't replied to the asker.  I suppose that under normal circumstances - with most of you out there - this question wouldn't be as difficult as it seems to be at the moment.  But semi-unfortunately for me, the particular asker unwittingly embeds a little extra weight in the questions he/she throws at me no matter how lighthearted the context may be, so when the asker asked me the 'why' question, I had to give it the consideration it deserved.  I didn't think I'd have to deal with this weighty question so (relatively) early in my travels - but I can't avoid it forever.

There are many answers to the 'why' question - or should I say The Question. Some answers are superficial, some subcutaneous, and others subcranial.  I won't get into the latter two areas - those are best saved over a drink and a bowl, respectively - so I'll stick to those that are superficial and lighter in nature since they might be more palatable for internet consumption.  Kind of a let down after what I said above, huh?  Or maybe not.  I'm really just thinking of you - I know you come here to be entertained and not to be brought down with my incessant thinking and over-thinking.  

Anyway, the most obvious answer to the question is that I wanted to see how other people live; but not only that, I wanted to see if there was a way of life that I particularly liked and I wanted to see if I could live that different way for a while.  This has been my stock answer to The Question since I started traveling even though this is the most superficial of all the reasons why I am traveling.

But I'm getting way too ahead of myself.  Let's first talk about Paraty and Trinidade.

I left Sao Paulo for Paraty late on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  When I looked at the map, I thought that the journey would be no more than a couple of hours so I would still find some time to get myself sorted once I got to Paraty - I was too lazy to reserve some sort of hotel or hostel before I left SP.  

Boy was in for a surprise. Seven and a half hours later, I arrived in Paraty.  

When I got there, the entire town was closed - except for a few bars.  It was close to midnight (maybe even past) when left the bus station in search of a bed to sleep in.  I walked around town ringing doorbells at various posadas (B&Bs) but got no answers. About 40 minutes and a sweat-soaked-t-shirt later, I found one. It all worked out. 

This brings me to one of the superficial reasons about why I am traveling: I'd like to make myself less uptight.  I try to think of myself as carefree and easygoing - in some respects i am, but really, i'm not.  I'm normally the kind of person who would have had a minor freakout about arriving someplace late at night without knowing where I would be sleeping.  It didn't occur to me until days after I arrived in Paraty that I'd been on the road long enough now that this sort of thing doesn't bother me anymore.  Planning is too much of a hassle and besides, everything always works out anyway - even if it doesn't seem that way at first.  When I was trolling around Paraty looking for a place to stay, it didn't bother me at all that there was a real possibility that I would be sleeping outdoors or at the bus station that night.  It's hard even for me to believe this, but I really see this as a step forward in trying to make myself less uptight and anxious.  I know I still have a long way to go, but (a) I'm making progress; and (b) I have plenty of time to work on it.  Next step: stop making (a); (b); (c) lists.

The next morning, I spent wandering the cobbled streets of colonial Paraty.  It's a handsome town - lots of character.  But its 20 or so square blocks were just not enough to keep my attention.  I went in search of something else.

I'd heard of a little village an hour south of Paraty called Trinidade.  It's one of those places that has few year-round residents and no cash machines.  Seemed like it was a place I'd really like (are you seeing a pattern, too, in places I tend to go in search of?).  The only affordable place for me to stay there was a hostel - the only one in town, I think.  When I arrived there, I thought it was great.  It was up on a hill in the middle of what seemed like a rainforest, but at the same time, it was no more than 200m from the beach.  It felt almost like a treehouse because the deck at the back of the house looked out onto a jungle-like forest.  The hostel had two buildings, which were separated by a small stream and there was a wooden bridge that connected them - this added even more to the tree-house feel of the place.  

After getting settled in, I walked out to the beach and to my surprise, it only took about 20 minutes of walking to find a stretch that was completely empty and isolated.  At this point, I knew that this village was a winner.  I got back to the hostel later in the afternoon and got to know the others staying there as well as the owner.  I would come to find that the owner of the hostel, who was just a few years older than I am, worked some fat corporate job in a previous life.  He decided some years ago that he hated working a suit-and-tie job, so he traveled for a couple of years before finally deciding to park in Trinidade (the place he decided to come back to after seeing the world) to open up a hostel.  Running a hostel certainly wasn't as lucrative as high finance, but he was quite happy doing it.

This brings me the other big reason in the superficial category about why I am traveling: I am trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up and where I want to do it in (I know, at 31, this might be kind of late in life, but my pace has always been different from everyone else's).  Initially, I found some comfort in hearing the hostel owner dude's story. It was even kind of funny because even before I got to Trinidade, I'd already entertained the idea of opening up some sort of hostel (not an annoying one) because it seemed like such an easy way to make money without having to work hard.  But after a few days of staying in that hostel, it kind of took a weird turn.  I had some minor stomach issues while I was there, so I mainly sat around and observed people.  I noticed that the owner dude, being surrounded constantly with overly energetic kids who just wanted to drink and party, is stuck in a kind of hole that keeps him young'n'fun all the time.  It's like he created an alternate universe where he would remain 25 forever - whether he liked it or not and whether it was intentional or not.  When your house regularly recycles its occupants so that it's inhabitants are mostly 25-or-less year-olds all the time, then you never have to grow up -- you can be 25 forever.   I felt kind of sad after seeing this. I am not saying any of this to be judgmental about the owner dude because he was a super nice guy and he's is genuinely inspiring in that he's found a way to live a happy life a paradise-like setting.  But he kind of burst a small bubble that had been blowing up inside my head - it would be a terrible idea for me to do something like running a hostel.  

Like I said above, I am trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up and where I want to do it in.  All this time, I'd been focusing on the "what I want to do" part of the statement; after spending those days in that alternate universe, I shifted my focus temporarily to the "when I grow up" part - because even though i will always have many child-like traits I still want to be, er, I like being a grown-up.  

Despite my like-almost-love for Trididade, I had to leave on the fourth morning I was there.  I just couldn't sit and watch it anymore.

On the quiet, almost-empty bus up to Rio de Janeiro, I had to admit to myself that the reason I was so uncomfortable seeing hostel owner dude in action is that I did see a little bit of myself in all of it.  There was a part of me that does want that (why else would I have thought that running a hostel was a real possibility as far as a future occupation?).  But that part of me is usually shamed to the back of my head and relegated to the dumpster marked "Stupid and Shameful Ideas".  

The old saying is true though, isn't it? Often times it's the things you dislike about yourself (traits you feel shameful of) that you find most annoying on other people.

At least now I can cross something off the list of what I don't want to do when I grow up. 

To the Asker of The Question: I do have an answer coming. Watch for it in your inbox in the next few days.


Reading list: Technically still High Fidelity.  The book got wet so I couldn't really read too much of it -- I spent a few days drying it out.

Playlist:  Jeremy Jay. Thanks to CA for giving this to me a long time ago. I still enjoy listening to it.  Click here and here for samples.


Until next time.

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