I write from my favorite place in South America so far: the balcony of the Flying Dog Hostel, overlooking Parque Central in the heart of Miraflores. In front of me is a circle filled with vendors, to my left is a playground filled with children, both of which bustle with activity until late at night. Below is El Parquetito and other parkside outdoor restaurants and to my right is Tasca Bar, which is affiliated with Flying Dog and from where I brought back tres mujeres my first night to shoot pool at the table behind me, even though I´m not allowed to bring back guests (whoops, I should have read the rules). Both sides got a “lo siento” from me when they got kicked out.
It was an antithetical moment for this low key hostel, where travelers from around the world meet and mix easily. Last night, a group of us was supposed to go dancing at a club called Aura, but we ended up partying in the hostel all night after getting field reports of super long lines. Oh well.
I am back to the beach today to lounge and perhaps surf, walking past Parque del Amor, with its massive statue of lovers embracing. This is bustling city, punctuated by car horns that drivers toot almost constantly, as if using sound to navigate, like bats. It is great to be on vacation around people at leisure. There is an ease to our interactions and I appreciate being able to speak English and communicate more fully than I can in Spanish (although I am getting by just fine). It is a problem that might become more pronounced starting tonight in Bolivia, where I need to have more significant conversations but fewer people speak English (yo creo). Perhaps I should be studying Spanish now rather than writing, but I am smoking a Cuban cigar, drinking a Franca cerveza, and waiting for a birthday party to begin here, so writing in the window seems better.
Traveling alone is an interesting experience. I´ve done it before in Mexico for a few days at a time and I have been enjoying the independence and introspective nature of it so far. But I imagine that there will be moments of real loneliness over the next five weeks, particularly with how engulfed in my own head that I can get. I am older than most of the hostel guests, although the guy on the bunk below me is far older than me. I want to get his story, and those of many others here, yet I feel a need to remain a bit self centered for another day or two. It is my transition period, the beginning of my journey, and I think it is enough to just be for now.
That´s not to say I have been a loner. I have met dozens of people and made a few friends, including Katherine, who left today on a Bolivia bound bus and who I plan to see in La Paz. And there are several Californians I have been paling around with, including Uriah, a 30 year old open spirit. I could see settling into this, as he says he has, just not wanting to go back. There are lots of people here like that.
Yet I realize that I am just trying on the travelers life for now. Five weeks seems like a long time to me, but it is a shorter trip than just about everyone I have met is on. My life is in San Francisco. But if my dress rehearsal goes well — and I already sense it will — I still have a long life in front of me, one that could include fewer responsibilities than I have had for most of my adult life. And there is a big world out here.