“All Journeys Have Secret Destinations Which The Traveler Is Unaware” – Martin Buber
For many, travel planning is a lot of fun. Choosing the destination, what accommodation you’ll stay in, how you’ll spend your time and which restaurants you’ll eat it helps build anticipation for the impending trip; however, when you travel with an open mind and sense of adventure, these journeys can take you further than you anticipated.
This reminds me of the time I went to Ecuador. I expected to go hiking, eat cuy and see a volcano or two; never did I expect to fall in love and see an old friend. I had been in Cuenca, sitting out on the porch blogging about exploring the historic city center, when Javier sat down across from me. I didn’t notice his smooth dark skin and rich chocolate eyes at first, too engrossed in what I was doing; however, when he slid the plastic cup filled with cheap rum and coke across the splintered wooden table, I looked up and his smile made my skin prick and my palms sweat — in a good way.
We ended up traveling through Ecuador for the next three weeks — bathing in hot springs, hiking mountains, cycling waterfalls, gorging ourselves on choclo con queso and fried plantains with cheese. When it was time to part ways, him going back to his home of Argentina and me staying in Quito for a few more days, it was truly bittersweet. Then something incredible happened. As I lay in my bed, missing Javier and feeling down, I received an email from a friend named Carrie whom I hadn’t seen in three years. She had seen my Facebook status about being in Quito, and apparently she was there doing an internship there.
When I went to a local bar to meet her, she brought another girl in her internship, and my breath caught in my chest: Delia! Oddly enough, I had met both Carrie and Delia separately — Carrie while jogging on the beach in Fiji and Delia while teaching English in Thailand — and somehow they’d ended up being in the same intern abroad program in Quito, at the same time I was there. It was an unexpected yet welcomed coincidence.
I was at a beach bar with a girl named Anna, who spoke a little English but not much. She also wasn’t very talkative to begin with, and seemed to want to use me only as a prop so she wasn’t alone at the bar instead of actually conversing. Suddenly, a local guy named Gustavo came up to me, flashing a huge grin, and asked, “Você quer dançar (Do you want to dance)?”
“No Portguesa,” I responded, shrugging. “Ingles or Espanol?”
“Un poco Espanol,” he smiled.
The problem was, we both only spoke “un poco Espanol,” which made communication quite a challenge; however, because we both genuinely wanted to communicate with each other it was also very fun.
And this is how I had a date without words. We interacted through a mixture of Spanglish and charades until we were too exhausted to utter another syllable. Then, we decided to interact through dance, as he taught me to samba like the locals did. For the rest of the night, no words were spoken, just hips winding and bodies spinning like tops, until suddenly the sun was coming up. While the experience may sound simple, for me it was a lesson in the many ways people can communicate. It also showed me that sometimes, the best nights are had when you forget your problems and just roll with the punches.
These are just a few examples of some of my unexpected journeys. The truth is, I have them almost every time I travel. They say curiosity killed the cat; however, I believe my curiosity is what leads me to these secret destinations that cannot be planned until one arrives.
First Photo courtesy of Paul Bica.