El Mirador: Deep Revelations from the Jungle

Imagine walking through dense jungle for five days straight. No music and one person to talk to, but even the best conversationalist would need a break. Imagine then how much time you have to think. Your feet automatically follow the left right rhythm as your mind begins to wander. Beyond just what you’re doing and where you are, but to life in general.

I had many realizations in the jungle. I wrote down some of them at camp the fourth night, that day being the most laden with big thoughts. I was unprepared for how far away my mind went. Here I was, in the Guatemalan jungle, doing a trek that had been a major hope of mine since I set out on this Central America adventure, and my mind was thousands of miles away. I think that’s why those thoughts affected me so much; it took being in the thick of this journey to recognize what I wanted most.

The answer surprised me. I wanted a city, cold weather, my own apartment, a local coffee shop, people who were around more than just a couple of days, a change of wardrobe. I wanted a settled life. I wanted Vienna.

I’ve been toying with the idea of moving to Vienna for a long time. I thought I would end my RTW trip there last spring but we all know that didn’t happen. When I left for Central America I thought I would go to Vienna this spring, a year late. But in the jungle I thought I didn’t want to wait anymore. That my time in Central America was delaying the real last frontier of my wandering existence, which was moving to Europe.

The larger point of all of this was the feeling that I was done with traveling for now. I had to leave again to realize this, but I felt like I was ready to stay put for a while. Have a more settled life. I wanted to be that person who had taken a break from the so-called “real world” to travel, and had come back and begun a successful career. This was accompanied by a thought that was not unlike the one that sent me home in April: stopping now isn’t stopping forever. In a few years I can do another couple of weeks or months somewhere else. I also don’t feel the need to do another year of traveling. I can happily say I’ve done that. Now traveling can be something to look forward to in between more stability.

I accidentally gave myself a mental timeline. I had these thoughts about when I would return to the US to get myself ready to go to Europe. When I got back to Flores I actually started looking up flights. But then I pressed pause. I had been in the jungle, sweating my ass off, walking 80 km, getting eaten alive – I needed to see how I felt when I got to the towns I was looking forward to most, San Cristobal de las Casas and Antigua. Who knows what sort of revelations I could have there?

Writing this from San Cristobal, one of my favorite places thus far, I can tell you that these thoughts have already faded. In fact all my thoughts about what’s next have become less consistent.

Because for the first time in my life, I feel like I really have all the options in the world. It’s confusing, it’s exciting, and I have no idea where I’ll end up.

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