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The Big Journey • Intro

For those of you who have read my previous entries in the Pateando Calle series, thank you very much. For those of you who are new readers, welcome.

This is an introduction to a very personal series of articles I will name The Big Journey

You hear everyone tell you different stories when you’re on the road. Some people are traveling to see the world and learn new things. Some are traveling purely for fun and don’t care about temples, festivals or traditions. Still, others travel to meet new people and relate to their lives in some way.

For me, it was a bit of all these things, because I was running away.

At this time in December 2013, my life was bittersweet for two reasons. The first bitter reason was that I felt pretty miserable. 3 months prior I had broken up my two-year long relationship with the Swiss girl, Petra, that I keep mentioning in my articles.

I had always wanted a relationship like the one we had. It was freeing and stress-free. It made me a better person in spite of not agreeing with a lot of the things she said at times, which in hindsight is probably why it worked so well.

I needed to take a long, hard look in the mirror and answer the hardest question: what do I want?

We saw each other for a year and 6 weeks during the whole time our relationship lasted, and this time wasn’t continuous since we had to separate every three months so I could return to my country — per Visa restrictions in Europe.  During our second year she came to visit for a month and a half, but in spite of these interruptions (or maybe because of them) we both agreed it was the best relationship we’ve ever been in.

So at the turn of our 2nd year anniversary, I was struggling to see if this is what I wanted out of my life; if I was really ready to commit to one person and one place on Earth. I would need to move to a country with little grasp of a new language and people who didn’t feel all that welcoming aside from Petra’s friends and family. It felt like a hard decision to make.

But I had to know. I needed time alone to think and to really know who I was. I needed to take a long, hard look in the mirror and answer the hardest question: what do I want?

The Big Journey • Intro
Metro Manila looks beautiful from here.

I think the easy choice would have been to simply commit to life in Switzerland and to live till the end of my days next to Petra while secretly grieving over all the things I didn’t do on my own. All those what ifs and opportunities that life placed before me at the time. The easy choice would have probably saved both of us a lot of pain, at least for the immediate future.

The second reason is that by this time last year, I was also getting ready to see a part of the world that most people I know have never even considered visiting: South East Asia. This was the sweet part.

I had mentioned this in passing to my family and friends, and it was always hard even for me to come up with good reasons I would want to go there. It all boiled down to one thing: I was running away from the current state of events in my life, so I could think and live on my own for a while.

I had been traveling around Europe for two years and met people I had no idea I would befriend in my lifetime. I had grown accustomed to seeing the world and particularly, to not being in my home country, having the same conversations, being a shut-in because I felt I had no friends to talk to or who shared my views on the world.

Granted I have people I call friends, but they’re not around and they don’t all know my history. Over time, some went away and those who stayed didn’t seem to care that I was leaving anyway. Most talks were relegated to phone calls or Whatsapp messages. And this is a situation I perpetuated myself out of not wanting to leave my house, since there wasn’t really anything I wanted to see in the city anymore. For better or worse, I had become bored with life where I grew up and the few people who seemed to know this didn’t seem to care. They just accepted this as a fact and let me go.

Deep down though, I wanted to see for myself if my wanting to leave Panama had to do more with Petra or with the fact that Panama had become too small for me. I had to know if moving to Switzerland and staying with Petra was what I truly wanted or if it was just a momentary thing.

And Ironically I had to let both Petra and Switzerland go, knowing that they might not be there waiting for me when or if I found my answer.

This is The Big Journey

The Big Journey • Intro
A beautiful sunrise from Kiltepan Peak in Sagada, Philippines.

It’s funny because I’ve always heard that comedians shoot themselves because, at some point, the joke becomes too real to laugh about. I mean, these are people who observe everything going on in the world around them. The good, the bad, the ugly. They turn it into something we can all laugh about while saying “yeah, that’s true!”, but does it really change the fact things are the way they are?

Doing the right thing. What is that? Is it roaming the Earth on a shoestring, while trying to figure out who we are in the hope the answer will pop up some time? Then I guess I did do the right thing.

Along the road I laughed and I cried. I made new friends and I think I lost many more. I got lost and I found myself and then I got lost again.

I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, until I found life waiting for me in a rice field in Philippines. I didn’t know what it was like to feel love from a complete stranger until I tried to hug an elephant in Thailand. I had no idea what true adversity was until my laptop fried in a thunderstorm at a beach in Cambodia. And then I realized hope was a fickle thing when I could look back on it all and smile while riding on the back of an ostrich in Vietnam.

What happened to my dream? What happened to my plans and my hopes? What happened to my life?

All these things and more I did and were done to me while looking for myself in uncertainty and happiness and despair and amazement. And I loved it.

A single thought just kept popping in the back of my brain while moving forward: “do I love Petra?” This is the reason I started and the reason that kept me going. Did it matter in the end?

What happened to my dream? What happened to my plans and my hopes? What happened to my life?

This is The Big Journey. Where I get into personal detail about what’s it like to travel on my own for five months through four countries in South East Asia.

These articles will still be part of Pateando Calle, but I’ll tag them with #TheBigJourney for the sake of finding them easily. I hope you come along on the road with me this time. The first article starts the trip in a most unrelated place: New York City.

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