Under a clean mind, pure experience precedes thought, but for most of us, our incessantly chattering egos corrupt the sincerity of a moment to some degree. As someone who’s obviously a bit of a headcase, my reality is largely composed of a persistent stream of anxious thoughts; thus, perceiving truly and with high awareness comes difficult to me. Friends & substances are the only things that have most consistently brushed aside some of my neurotic thinking, but these are imperfect methods of dealing with an unruly mind. After bidding toodles to my chums in Valpo and arriving quite sober in Pucon, I sunk deep into my tangled dingle. (ʃ⌣́,⌣́ƪ)
Perhaps this particular rut had to do with my 30 minutes of fitful sleep on the bus ride to Pucon. Perhaps, as well, it had to do with my modest budget combined with the unexpectedly high prices of Chile that only increase as you travel south. Perhaps my lack of travel planning contributed, too. I could go on, but the point is that these moods are never far from the surface, and the moment was certainly ripe for a good mental & emotional turtling.
So turtle I did, thinking in circles while standing in place, making no progress to abate my stress as I was crushed by a giant wet diaper.
It’s Turtle Time!
Your turtle shell is like your own personal cave where you can run around naked and scream at yourself & nobody else hears it (At least I think so. Sometimes I get paranoid that everyone can hear my thoughts. If that's the case, I am SO sorry)! When your head’s stuck inside, all you see is a sliver of the external world while your voice echoes all around you. With an amazing hostel and breathtaking nature including an active volcano, Pucon was paradise; yet I spent my first 2.5 days there mentally spiraling and doing nothing under the guise of working on my blog & recuperating from the sleepless bus ride.
As I wandered around, I realized that continuing South into Patagonia would cut months off of my travels (an unacceptable notion), yet my mind failed to recalibrate upon reaching this understanding. My mind panicked, running into the walls of itself and blindly bursting through doors of unrelated concepts. I found myself wildly questioning everything from what I ate for breakfast to my raison d'être. Meanwhile, all I see of the outside world is what I “need” from it. This is actually a fairly normal day for me.
Luck & Just Good People
In A Soft Landing in Santiago, I mentioned my life of good fortune. In retrospect, positioning it as “my good luck” feels self-centered, as it doesn’t pay homage to the goodness of the people who helped me. Undoubtedly, I’d be banging my head against a padded wall as I mumbled to myself if some kind souls hadn’t chosen to bail me out of my mental prison. Naturally, there is an element of luck at play, but I’d also like to highlight my saviors who pulled me out of the trenches of my dirty dingle.
Saviors of Pucon
After 2.5 days of flailing around, Javier—Pucon’s genial, well-traveled tour guide who also lived in my hostel (lucky me, haha)—struck up a conversation with me in the kitchen. The discussion naturally meandered into my travel concerns, for which he provided invaluable insights. I came away with the seeds of a new travel plan—most excitingly, I’m now certain that I will visit the recently-opened Cuba! With a confident destination, no matter how far-off and fuzzy, my mind began to stabilize. I could feel the edges of reality.
Subsequently, Santi (the world’s coolest hostel receptionist) and I gabbed in broken Spanish & English about connecting souls with bodacious babes, how true love is free, and how you just gotta chill & do yo’ thang. In a matter of minutes, most of my anxiety dissipated, and for the first time since coming to Pucon, I felt light. It’s astounding how heavy your mind can make your body. Quite likely, such a silly, deep, open dialogue with Santi would not have been possible without my prior talk with Javier.
I confidently made plans to hike Volcán Villarrica. This would be my one personal allowance before departing Pucon, as it costs $100 (a lot for me right meow). I canceled my plans to explore Huerquehue National Park the following day, as the agency for the volcano required me to test the equipment before the ascent. No problem. I was still high off of having some direction so I felt fine. Yet as “luck” would have it, a family at the hostel I ate breakfast with planned to leave to the park just after I finished testing the equipment.
How is it that things fell into place so perfectly? Did I simply open myself up to opportunities that tend to always be there?
The day before I was to leave, I set my sights on Mendoza in Argentina with the idea of hitting the affordable country of Bolivia soon after. After some advice & a pep talk from Santi, I hitchhiked 800 km back to Santiago in one day, three rides, and no more than 25 minutes of waiting with my thumb in the air. One night on a bench later, I was on a bus to Mendoza.
Savior of Argentina
Mendoza itself is underwhelming. I found it interesting for its variety compared to what I saw in Chile, but the city itself holds no special appeal. Just like Pucon, Mendoza’s attraction lies in the surrounding nature activities, which means you gotta be ready to drop a bucky on rafting, skydiving, or horseback riding. For me, it was the latter.
True to my nature, I forgot to bring literally everything one should bring horseback riding on a hot summer day (i.e. sunscreen, water, and snacks). I solicited my riding partners for sunscreen, and without hesitation, a young man handed me his. Later during a break from riding, he noticed my inadequate preparation and wordlessly offered me water & cookies.
Mateo, his girlfriend Tatiana, and I got to know one another throughout the ride & dinner. He’s a promising electro-mechanical engineering student. She’s a badass culinary student that makes a mean cheesy bread ball. I’m a confused kid whose direction in life goes as far as Cuba. Spot the odd-one-out. Nevertheless, we got along well, and Mateo offered me a ride with them from Mendoza to Buenos Aires the following day. I suppose Bolivia can wait.
More than I Imagined
The car ride was nothing short of magical as we drove through the open plains of Argentina. Massive clouds lazed across the sky, complex colors swathed the horizon, and just as the sun began to squeeze below the horizon, Oliver Schories’ song Sunset (Joris Delacroix Remix) began chanting “the sunset,” which I swear ended just after the last sliver of sun disappeared. I considered taking some photos for you, but sometimes you just need to enjoy the moment. God, that’s cliché. I’m embarrassed. (/ω＼)
Mateo invited me to stay with his family in San Antonio de Areco—quite possibly the most charming little town I’ve ever been to. For 5 days now, his family has housed & fed me for no reason but kindness itself. Mateo gave me a tour of the town, ushered sweet delicacies into my mouth (っ˘ڡ˘ς), introduced me to his hilarious friends, and so much more. It’s the type of kindness you must simply accept graciously, as there’s no way to repay it immediately.
Am I in heaven?
Taming the Mind
I won’t lie—despite everything good I spoke of, I constantly find myself craving the sweet security of alcohol. Since coming here, I’ve noticed me convincing myself to drink in order to better practice my Spanish, as it quiets the mind and improves my listening & speaking after a couple drinks. I’ve also long-noticed a dependence on other people to keep me from sinking into my mind. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be without my friends. At the very least, my entire trip would be one big waste of time without them.
Again, these are clearly imperfect methods for controlling one’s mind.
Perhaps of greater import, however, is that I’m simply doing wrong to others by perceiving them selfishly. Currently, my recognition of others is restricted by what they mean to me. This is one of the ugliest characteristics one can have.
For years, I’ve highlighted vipassana meditation as the correct solution to taming my wild monkey mind, as it is a secular technique focused on discerning the current moment truly & without judgment, and it requires no adoption of intellectually-insulting beliefs. Despite this understanding, I’ve failed to integrate vipassana into my life, and now that I am traveling, I find yet more egoic obstacles to engaging the practice.
I know that you want to read about someone great—someone who’s sure of themselves, with a sense of unquestionable purpose & direction, who lives intentionally according to their knowledge & beliefs; but I’ve never been that way, and I’ve only gotten farther from it as time’s moved on. I keep waiting to find myself in a quiet, nonjudgmental atmosphere to practice vipassana, but I know that’s not right, as the judgment I feel is coming from within. I need to stop needing things to be perfect because they never will be, but unfortunately, I’ve lived with this understanding for years and been unable or unwilling to adjust accordingly.