The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Days 70-73, Stepping away from the Tourist Gig

The following takes place between Saturday, February 5 and Monday, February 7, 2011

After I finished the trip through the Salar de Uyuni and the subsequent lagoons and such, and crossing the border into Chile, I made a decision. I was done with tourist things. Besides the short little stint in Cochabamba, and the few days of bed confining sickness in La Paz, I’ve been rushing around signing up for tour after tour after tour for weeks. I was getting sick of it.

I was getting sick of spending hours going through tour agencies looking for the best tour for the best price. I was losing my sense of wonder and awe at the things I was seeing. In a way, I was relearning the major differences between a trip like mine, and a regular holiday from work.

You would think that having already come to terms with such an idea a month or so ago that it would stick with me but I think that at times, us backpackers can get pulled into being a typical tourist quite easily. When you get to a big city, a big tourist city, the sheer numbers of travel agencies offering tours to see this and tours to see that can be overwhelming and could easily cause even the most seasoned of travelers to get pulled into the “OMG! I have to see EVERYTHING!!!” mentality.

Now there is nothing wrong with this. But I think one needs to remember why, more often than not, people tend to need a few days to recover from their vacations when they get home. They cram so much sightseeing into a short amount of time that they come home almost more exhausted than when they left.

“Oh, but we got to see everything!” and you would feel guilty if you went all that way and didn’t see everything.

IMG_1943But for those of us traveling for an extended period of time, it’s not feasible to think that we can keep that sort of travelling style up for very long. We’d burn out. And yet, I still get pulled into that mentality. It doesn’t help sometimes when people assume that because you’re traveling for so long, that you have that much more time in order to see everything. Well, ok, I digress, if one stays in one place for a long time it is probably very possible to see all there is to see. But I think that begs the question as to whether one really wants to. You shouldn’t go on a tour or something out of a feeling of obligation, that you might as well see it while you’re there. No. You should go on the tour to see something because it’s something you want to see.

And this is where my head space was while I was in San Pedro de Atacama. This is a tourist town if I’ve never seen one before. Dozens of hostels, dozens of travel agencies. InIMG_1946 a town that only has a population of a few thousand, over half of the people walking the streets are tourists. And there is no shortage of tours to take. Star gazing tours in the desert, wine tours in the desert, lagoons, geysers, rock formations. The list goes on and on.

And I could have cared less. I made a conscious decision to skip out on all of these tours. I wanted to just enjoy where I was without feeling obligated to see these sights. And being a small town, I only stayed there Friday night. I left Saturday afternoon for Calama. A bit bigger of a city, and with more options for buses onwards to the coast.

Calama itself is a mining city. Lonely Planet literally called it a shithole. Honestly I didn’t see that. Sure there is not much that one can do here tourist wise(But after my rant, do you think I’m complaining?), but I would not go so far as to call it a shithole. The hostal I stayed at was nice and clean. No guest kitchen, but for $5 you can get a full pIMG_1959late of fries and meat with a drink. The streets were spotless, and the street art was really cool.

It’s strange how a decision to avoid tourist stuff can actually make a city seem so much nicer. While Calama had opportunities to take tours of the large copper mine just outside the city(which, btw, was also featured on one of the seasons of The Amazing Race), I just didn’t feel like it. I ended up driving by it on the bus from Calama to Iquique anyways.

After doing so much in the way of tours and trips while in Peru and Bolivia, Chile is starting out as a very chill place to hang out. Which is good considering it is also much more expensive than those other two countries. I’m still below budget, which is great, but finding places that are less than $15 a night is difficult.

Sometimes you know subconsciously when you’ve had enough of something. Getting sick and exhausted while in the Salar was my bodies way of saying "enough is enough.” It’s time to relax. It’s time to get at peace with yourself.

S0 with a bus ticket in hand, I left Calama on Monday afternoon. Destination: Iquique.

I didn’t know it then, but Iquique was going to become memorable for more than just its beaches. Corinne from the New Zealand family I met in Cusco was right. Fate has a way of putting people in the right place at the right time. Everyone comes into your life for a reason. There are no coincidences.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering when all of those tours were going to take there toll on you. When a person goes on a one week to two week holiday, you try to cram in as much as possible and you end up needing a holiday from your holiday. It's sheer exhaustion! You are gone for over a year and can't keep up that kind of pace. You are right, you have to have the mentality of seeing only the things you have always wanted to see. if it's something that really doesn't interest you, why bother? That slower pace sounds a lot more enjoyable.