La Fin — The End
A word of warning to all you readers out there: I’m in a contemplative mood and about to get all nostalgic again… You Have Been Warned! 🙂
Wow…! Well in the blink of an eye my global "Grand Tour" of the past 285-odd days has come to an end. It’s crazy to think that just weeks ago I was living in fantastic Buenos Aires and loving life down there. After a brief stint back home in Australia I recently got back in San Francisco and have been busy since then getting my "life" back together again before I start my new job (but more on all that in posts to follow). It’s all been a bit of a shock to the system coming back here, time’s gone by so quick and so much has changed…! New beginning, new career, new apartment, new car, new friends – new life!
South America turned out to be just what the doctor ordered though. After backpacking the Silk Road I was pretty jaded and depressed – I was well and truly tired of traveling and had been dumped on my arse by a few different things that got me down. I wasn’t sure at all whether I had the energy and wanderlust for another trip. But what a difference a few months makes!!! The experience of living in Buenos Aires and learning Spanish, of getting to know so many great people while I was there, and of traveling around Argentina and South America, was much much more fulfilling and enjoyable than I ever expected it to be. Life’s bloody good down there and there’s so much I loved about it: the culture, the music, the history, the food, the language, the people…everything! One thing’s for certain: Yo volveré pronto! I can’t stay away too long…
I’m certainly a different guy to the one that left SF almost a year ago. You can’t see and experience all that I have and stay the same person. Apart from all the obvious benefits, fulfilment and gains through traveling, I’ve also been fairly deeply affected by the experience, and it has helped me to (re)define a few things of life. Such as what I want to do with part of my life, what I want to set out to achieve, and where I want to do it.
I’ve seen a lot of terrible poverty around the world over the years, and it always hits me hard and makes me feel such sadness and frustration. However even at the bottom of the barrel these people seem to hold on to so much hope (because it’s the only thing they’ve got?), and they all want for the same things in life (regardless of whether I’m in China, Bolivia or Ghana): security, shelter, education and work, good health, water, food and electricity. I’ve worked on several development projects over the past few years, I found them really rewarding and enriching, and I’d love to continue that work by finding areas of work that overlaps with my interest and experience in energy and power gen. I don’t want for much in life but good health and happiness, and I’d love to make a difference, give back and leave something behind.
These past few months in Latin America have also left their mark on me. For years I’ve thought Asia was going to be the area of the developing world I wanted to focus my attention on (because it’s close to Australia, among other reasons), but I’ve shifted away from that more recently. I’ve come to realise through my experiences at "ground level" that there’s so much more I love about South America than Asia: this was my third trip to South America and it just gets better and better and better. It’s a place I could fit in and a place I could belong, and I never felt that in places like China. Who knows how long I might be here in San Francisco – maybe one year, maybe five? – but I’d love to get back down to South America sometime soonish. Time will tell I guess! Who knows what the future holds.
Have no fear, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to dive wholeheartedly into my "new life" here in San Francisco! I’ve come back here for a few important reasons, and even if a bit of the gloss and excitement of living here has worn off over my time away, those of you that know me know that it’s not like me to do anything by half measures!
On a similar theme, I was influenced recently by some things said to me by a few close friends (during one of my bouts of rumination and reflection). They commented that I’ve been so busy racing through life at a million miles an hour and trying to do everything that I haven’t really slowed down to appreciate all I have and all I’ve done until it’s past and gone. I’ve thought about that long and hard recently and it’s quite true, I don’t often stop to "smell the roses". I do have a habit of not living right for the moment and I sometimes find myself always looking to take the next step and see what’s around the next corner. I’ve lost a lot that’s important to me from doing that in the past and it’s been a hard realisation to digest. But, better late than never I guess! It’s time for that to change a little and, dare I say it, act my age (at least a little bit). My mum calls this my period of "consolidation" – I like that description. I’m going to put my feet down here for as long as it turns out to be and really call it home. I haven’t had my feet really down anywhere since early 2004 when I left Switzerland.
I know these bouts of contemplation can come across as real dissatisfaction following all my travels, but that’s no quiet true. I’ve loved so much about it and I’m certainly a better and a stronger person for having lived on four continents and having traveled about a third of the globe. Since 1998 when I first left Australia it’s been a lifestyle choice to throw the backpack on my back just "go" at the drop of a hat. But that choice required me to make sacrifices, it wasn’t all simple "up side". While I feel like I’ve done a lot I also feel like I’ve "missed out" on a lot along the way on so many different levels, and I’m not sure I’m as willing now to give up as much as I have in the past. I’ve enjoyed my time traveling the past ten months or so, but I’ve ahd my fair share of fun and I’m ready to move on – it might sounds strange but I’m ready to work! Earning money will be a nice chance from burning through it! Plus with a new career to get stuck into, there’ll be a lot of great challenges and excitement there.
So, the boots are going to be hung up for a while now (a new job with only three weeks vacation a year sorta make that a given!), but I know they’ll be back on my feet before I know it. Take care wherever you are in the world, and safe travels until we next meet! Cheers, Paul/Pablo/Pablito/Ando.
p.s. I’ll leave you with a few fantastic words from Khalil Gibram:
"True it is that I have climbed the hills and walked in remote places.
How could I have seen you save from a great height or a great distance?
How can one be indeed near unless he be far?
Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.
But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory,
then I will come again,
And with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak.
You have given me deeper thirsting after life.
Surely there is no greater gift to a man than that which turns all his aims
into parching lips
and all life into a fountain."
— Kahlil Gibram, The Prophet (The Farewell)