Living within the dream when it becomes reality

Buzz Lightyear:

You know how it is. You put it off, new things happen, it accumulates, it feels overwhelming, then all of a sudden, it’s too much to even try. Well, I refuse to let it happen this time.

It’s day 15 now and I haven’t been making the progress I was expecting. I am somewhere to the north of Loma Bonita in a town called Nopaltepec. I’ve spent the last couple of days taking the long way not very far. I’ve been looking for an elusive path that will get me near Loma Bonita, but so far, to no avail. My writing is interrupted every couple minutes by something crawling on me. I turn on my headlamp, open my knife, and scrape the pinolillo onto the blade so I can kill it. Otherwise, they’re too hard to kill. Pinolillos are one of the many blood suckers here and not nearly the worst. Ticks are much worst. My first night on the trail, I must have picked at least 20 ticks off of me and I’ve been battling them ever since. Oh, and it’s not mosquito season yet.

What a way to start my first update on the trail! You know, I could whine alot in this blog. I could tell you how both of my horses are slightly injured because of my stupidness and lack of foresight. I could tell you how I ran out of water and was stranded for a while. I could tell you about the sleepless nights, and my sore ass during the day. I could recount the odors wafting from my saddle blankets turned into sleeping cushions. And I could explain every detail of the rhythmic clip clop of my horses’ hooves during the monotonous hours riding.

I always found it amusing when I told people about my ride and they exclaimed that they were jealous and how it must be such a wonderful experience. I smiled, of course, and sometimes I explained that it will probably not be anything like the romantic image in their heads. But who was I kidding? I had the same romantic vision. Like I said, I could go on about the trials and tribulations, as well as their solutions, but I feel like being positive, so let’s change the tone.

To be perfectly honest with you all, my original idea was to ride to Patagonia. Early on, I decided to tone down my over-zealous expectations and make it Panama.  One of the reasons for this trip is to physically confirm that I am capable of anything. If I can ride through Mexico and Central America without ever having ridden a horse in my life, than I will have proved it to myself. Well, what happens if I don’t make it? Will I have failed? Does it mean that I compromised my dreams and I’m a quitter? To use political terms, would I be a flip flopper?

Whatever answer that you give is of the least importance to me and I’ll tell you why. It’s never really been about you. Sure, there is a side of me that wants to be famous, write a book, sign autographs, have thousands of people read my blog, as well as inspire people and make people jealous simultaneously. I’ve chewed on the idea of writing travel articles, making a reality TV show, and using all kinds of technology that could make the trip more accessible for people. But when push came to shove, I never put much effort into it. The reason being that I didn’t really want this trip to be for anyone else. It was personal.

The truth of the matter is that the main objective of this trip–fully realizing my potential–has already been done. I already feel like I’ve figured out the process to realizing any dream that might pop up. I feel, quite literally, like I can do anything if I truly desire it. And somewhere along the path to this realization, I figured out that the goal of reaching Panama was not as important as the path that got me there.

It’s a cliche, I know, but cliches are cliches for a reason. Along the meandering trail that got me to my departure, I have travelled around South America riding horses and having all kinds of wild adventures, I have gained a love for horses, I have gained a love, I have a dog, I have a well paying and fun job, and I have traveled through Africa, Asia, and Europe in the meantime. I have learned much and I have grown into a man. As the days in the saddle slowly accumulate, and the kilometers click slowly by, I ask myself why exactly I’m doing this ride? If my goal has already been reached, what’s the point?

The answer isn’t really evident because it’s not really clear there is one. Stopping now is out of the question. Of that, I am sure. But how long I ride, and how far I’ll get, and all those questions don’t really concern me. Right now, today is important. So is tomorrow. However, most of what goes on after I don’t really think about. I know that for now, I still have a long way to go. I know that there is still much to learn, and I have a feeling that there will be many lessons learned in the coming months. So, I try to keep the horses healthy, and my eyes open for the possibilities of connection and illumination.

Sometime in March, about a month before leaving, I started to feel strange. I thought about my departure to Mexico, and all the things that could go wrong, and all the things I didn’t know, and how I’d probably kill or seriously injure my horses, and how I wouldn’t make it, and my stomach started to churn, and I felt queasy. As I separated myself with my emotion, I realized that I was feeling anxious. This was a new feeling, and though it wasn’t comfortable, I accepted it as something interesting my body and mind was experiencing. However, one day while riding with a good friend of mine, my friend explained that I had to position myself in the saddle a certain way or I could seriously injure my horse. This was new, and it made me think of how unprepared I was, and how little I knew, and how I was going to fuck up, and…the anxiety started again. But this time, it grew and grew until I had a mini-breakdown.

My veterinarian friend got me out of the funk a couple days later by using of a couple of horse tranquilizers.

Haha, that would be funny if true. And probably illegal. What he did was just reaffirm that I was capable, that he believed in me, and that I would be successful. He was one of the few people that truly understood the details and complexities of what I was doing and I always highly respected his opinion. His encouragement brought back the arrogant-bordering self confidence that has always led me to spur negativity and trust in myself. Since that point, that cocksureness (that is a word, right?) has led me to be confident even when I had no right to be.

The reason I’m telling this story is because while I was in the US, I followed around a farrier (horse shoer) for a while. He was helpful and friendly, but I never got the impression that I’d be able to do it myself. I saw what he did, and eventually, I practiced on some old rescue horses though I never actually shoed them. When it came time to ball up and shoe my own horses, I found that I knew more than half the people in Mexico who use a freaking machete to chop the hoof half off. What I’m trying to say is that experts will always doubt you. There will, hopefully, always be people that know more than you. One can learn from these people and like my vet friend, hopefully, they will support and encourage you. But that’s not always the case. At the end of the day, you have only yourself to depend on so prepare meticulously, learn, study, pray, and muster the confidence needed to make the first step. Once you put your nose to the grindstone, things (in a round about way) have a tendency to work out just fine.

The details of the trip will come out over time, but let me just end by saying that another one of the reasons that I took this trip was to connect with people on a daily basis. I have traveled a lot in these past 12 years. I have seen alot of tourist things. But last year, while visiting the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I found that the conversation and interaction with the family that owned the convenient store next to my hostel was more interesting and enriching than seeing the temples. Not that the temples were boring, it’s just that I’ve started to enjoy the human interaction more than seeing another perfect beach, breathtaking temple/church/shrine, and mystical ruin. As I wake up in the morning and head to a new and unknown destination, I am forced to interact with people every day to find a place to sleep.

I could tell you names, and I could describe each and every one of these temporary angels that have offered me their land and their pasture. That have brought me tacos at night, empanadas in the morning, and coffee at all hours. Their generosity and humility, their smiles and their acts, as well as their resolute firmness in wanting nothing in return is why I love to travel. People here are constantly reminding me how dangerous it is to travel. They may be right and they may have exaggerating views based on their grotesque media obsession with detailed images of bloody cadavers (most likely a bit of both). They never miss an opportunity to tell me that there are many “malos” out there. While I know this is true, my belief, my hope, and my experience in traveling this big world has led me to believe that the “malos” are nothing but a tiny minority that have a propensity to do damage disproportionate to their actual numbers. When people go traveling, rarely do they come back saying how horrible everyone was (and we all know the types that do). Why? Because people are great. Every day, I experience the greatness of humanity and so, unlike my few first paragraphs imply, I really don’t have too much to complain about.


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