Sunday, February 26, 2012

Far Off Travels

 Our first heavy snowfall of the year happened late in the season.  Winter is here.  It’s in the stillness of the early morning, the crunch of snow underfoot, in branches and tree crooks accented with white.  A few days ago, I saw shades of brown everywhere but when there’s this much snow the world is white, punctuated with black accents.  Things are simple and straightforward, easy to discern.  I saw several bikes out this month as weather crept into the 50’s.  I take the insurance off the bike (and thus the bike off the street) during the Winter to save a little money.  This year I wish I hadn’t. 

On the way to visit Lisa in Muskegon for lunch I found myself enveloped by a sea of snow-coated trees rising out of the earth.   For just a moment I was part of the scene, swimming in it- much like when I’m on the bike.  I wished for my bike so the feeling could continue.  So I could be part of the world around me instead of just watching it.  When everything around me is buried, I often bury myself in books or movies or writing.  Once I’m outside, tromping in it, I welcome the season, but it takes a few hours to pull me from my bed, from word-making as pictures swirl in my mind.

I’ve been pre-occupied with trip planning over the last few weeks.  I’m going to Peru, Bolivia and Chile in November on a motorcycle adventure tour with others from RIDE motorcycle club.  I’ve got a plan to help the months in between go by.  I’m checking out travel books from the library, designing t-shirts and completing my passport paperwork.  I have a calendar on my fridge and I’m marking off the days until it’s time to go. With each paycheck, I tally the vacation I’m saving - now at 57 hours. I need 102 so I’m more than halfway there.  I'm also shopping for gear.  This year I hope to purchase a new set of 3 season waterproof gear- no more stopping to put on the rain suit.  No more frustration that I left the warm gloves at home.

There are 10 of us going on this trip so there’s about 10 different ideas of what we should do.  In our early discussions, we were doing a 17 day trip starting in Arequipa, Peru going east into Bolivia down across the Andes then west into Chile and north again back into Peru.  This route didn’t include Machu Picchu however.  As one of the great cultural sites of that region, there’s a big push to incorporate it into the trip.  There are enough of us who want to do it and do it right, that we are willing to tack on a few extra days to make it happen.  I’m looking forward to getting the route firmed up so we can purchase our tickets and get the travel dates locked in. 

I look at pictures of the country-side we’ll be traveling and it’s such a lush green I can barely fathom it, especially when held against the gray brown Winter peeking in at me from the window near where I write.  It seems such a long way off both in time and in territory.  I am looking forward to the travel for so many reasons.  I enjoy experiences that get me out of my current view of the world- I think I like foreign films for this reason- so being in another country, with a different landscape, culture and customs  is exciting.  Every now and again I look at this life I’ve carved out for myself and I wonder how much longer I will participate in life in this way.  I still spend more hours working a job that takes more from me than it gives only to come home to a house and responsibilities that require more time and energy than I want to put into them.  Travel out of the country is also a symbol for me of traveling out of this life I have known, in search of another life.  The drive to take this trip has been so powerful, and the fear that something will interrupt it so palpable, that I know it is something I must do.  The reasons why aren’t quite clear to me.  I don’t know what will be introduced into my life as a result of these travels but I know I must find out.  Over the past several months I hear myself say over and over, “I’m going to Peru!”  And like an oft repeated line in a play, the effect of the statement continues to change and expand.  It’s a promise of adventure, of exploring new territory and discovering new worlds.

Winter skies this season have been more blue than grey and the ground more brown than white so I’ve been tricked by the landscape.  I expect to see the crocus peaking up in the front yard.  But then I step outside and see my breath in the air and the crystals that have formed on my windshield overnight.  I run inside and grab my gloves and a scarf.  Peru is still many months away.