I came to San Pedro de Atacama on Friday, which I already told you (if you read my last post -- if not, keep up with the times!). I met a couple of backpackers on the bus here from Salta -- Annie from New York and John the Aussie from "Melbun" -- and have been hanging out with them for the past few days. (So, in travel terms, they've become my closest friends :) ) It's been really nice having people to plan things with -- whether that is drinks in the bar down the street, going on a day trip, or finding somewhere for dinner -- rather than sorting it all out on my own.
Oh, I don't mean that I never meet people or that I'm a total recluse on the road. I'm not, by any stretch -- it's just the consistency of having the SAME people to hang around with for more than a day or two at a time that's novel. Usually I'm moving on, or they're moving on, and it's a 24-hour friendship at best. And it gets hard always saying goodbye to the good people I meet.
I went with John the Aussie tonight to our "local", a very cool little bar called La Cave that's just down the street from the hostel, to see him off in traditional Aussie fashion with a beer or two, before he went off to catch a night bus tonight. As you do when travelling, we started chatting to the guy at the next table. He turned out to be Adrian the Calgarian, originally in Chile for work (for an oil company, big surprise for an Albertan) but extending his trip for a couple of weeks for personal travel.
|Adrian the Albertan (left) and John the Aussie|
Adrian looked like the quintessential computer nerd (and was, by profession), but also turned out to be an avid rock climber, ice climber and extreme backcountry skier. So we kept chatting after John left for his bus, and what was originally going to be a quiet night in the hostel reading my novel instead became a long conversation with a random Calgarian about the best huts in the Rockies for backcountry skiing and camping. (Bow Lake wins as the Taj Mahal of backcountry huts, should you wish to know.)
It was just fun, in a strange and random way. Chatting up strange Albertans in a bar is not how I usually spend my time -- I can't remember the last time I went to a bar in Toronto and started talking to any guy at the table next to me, just on a whim (much less an Albertan). But it was good -- no pressure, no one trying to pick anyone up or flirt or anything, just a couple of people passing an evening together because they happened to wash up in the same bar in the same town at the same time in a foreign land. That's all it was, all it will ever be ... but I liked it.
I like the Carol I am on the road better than I liked the Carol I'd become back home. This Carol appears to be a lot more willing to engage with the world outside her comfort zone, live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is ... without over-analyzing it or taking any of it too seriously as Toronto Carol was prone to do.
I just have to figure out how to bring this back with me when I become Toronto Carol again. I have realized that I don`t have enough people in my life back home -- no, I don`t mean that exactly, I mean that I don`t make enough time for the people in my life back home and I haven't been willing enough to let new people in. I had become closed off and insular and hid from the world in many ways, and I don`t want to turn into that person again. I don`t necessarily need to make a habit of chatting up Albertans in random bars ... but I`d like to remain the person who doesn`t automatically say no to the possibility.
So remind me -- Toronto people especially -- that the other Carol needs to come back from the road with me. I used to know her well -- the Carol who would seize the chance to go dancing at midnight instead of going to bed early, or try something new and laugh at failure instead of refusing to take the chance. Or open her heart to the chance to make a new friend or to fall in love, instead of withdrawing from the rest of the world.
She's still here; I caught a glimpse again tonight. Just gotta keep her around more often.