By the hour

A look at the first 24 hours of my latest travels beginning 19 Nov 12:

04:45 iPhone wake-up call
05:45 leave home
06:45 arrive at YYZ, check-in
07:45 boarding
08:45 take-off!
09:45 I see NY state!
10:45 start reading book, feeding my Balkan fascination
11:45 attempt at some sleep
12:45 meal service over
14:09 touchdown at Panama City!
14:40 speaking Spanish in immigration; officer smiles trying to find an empty spot in my passport to stamp
15:00 I get on a colourful school bus just outside the airport, after failing to get onto a modern bus because I have no bus card
16:15 I recognize a building from 10 months ago after a long, crowded ride, get off the bus (surprised that the fare was just $0.25!)
17:00 get to Panama Viejo, disappointed that the museum is closed
17:20 get to posh Multicentro mall, have nice dinner
18:40 meet with taxi driver outside mall to take me back to PTY
19:40 arrive at PTY after lots of traffic
20:40 boarding for Santiago!
21:18 take-off!
22:20 dinner service, with a very sad-looking salad
23:20 attempt to sleep
00:20 falling asleep (gotta love the extra leg room in the exit row!)
01:20 snack service
05:22 touchdown in Santiago! (really 03:22 but lose 2 hours)

Back to where the ball got rolling

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I basically live, breathe, and, and eat to travel. It’s become a defining characteristic of who I am, and though I may not consider myself so, it’s flattering to hear people say that I’m brave, adventurous, a risk-taker…

Almost 4 years ago, I spent a couple months in Peru where I forged a seemingly instant connection with other volunteers at the home stay where I was living in Cusco. Two of them, Andy and Julia, were continuing their South American journey and I and two others, Kushal and Hiyasmin, tagged along for the wild, unforgettable ride. Though I’d done a bit of travelling before then, the weeks I spent with this amazing group of friends is one that I constantly look back upon with fond memories that never fail to put a smile on my face.

These weeks challenged me, provoked me, made me see life from a different angle, and were responsible for making me feel capable of so much more than I thought. These weeks in Chile and Argentina, staying in hostels, taking long distance bus rides, trekking every other day, climbing volcanoes, sliding down glaciers, seeing the beauty of Iguazu Falls, the splendor of Santiago, and the sophistication of Buenos Aires…

It’ll be interesting to revisit the capital cities of Chile and Argentina and see how they’ve changed, and reflect back on my time there where so many doors of my life were opened. I imagine that I’ll feel that bittersweet nostalgia more than once along the way.

Those weeks in Chile and Argentina was when the ball got rolling. At this point, the ball is unstoppable.

Flashback to volcano climb

I had a job interview yesterday and by far the most interesting question posed to me was to describe an achievement, personal or professional, that I have experienced and why it was so memorable.

Immediately, my mind floated back in time to March 2009 and the memory of Volcán Villarrica outside of Pucón, Chile. The past couple months had been filled with unforgettable days and nights of novel experiences – hikes to Incan ruins, new friendships, living in the jungle without electricity or internet, 24 hour bus rides, running down a sand hill in the Atacama desert – why not add climbing a volcano onto the list? So I joined my friends in planning to climb this volcano, blissfully unaware that it would be the most physically demanding activity of my life at that time and still is to this date.

Volcan Villarrica

Why was it such an accomplishment? Because the climb consisted of 5 and a half almost merciless hours of ascent, stopping periodically only for nourishment and rehydration, and being frequently reminded by our guides that we had to get to the top before the increasing winds and cloud cover threatened to prevent us from making it all the way. Part of the volcano was covered by a glacier, and we even had to sport special gear on our hiking boots part of the way to avoid slipping on the snow and ice. Continue reading