I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like a less spontaneous person in my life than the day I found my Israeli friend unpacking his bag in our hostel in Salvador, Brazil, taking out everything he wouldn’t need for Europe but had been essential during his last year in South America. “I found a cheap ticket to Barcelona and I’m leaving tonight,” he said. I was incredulous.
I’ve met those people who can just pack up and travel to another country with only a few hours notice, but I’m not one of them. Sometimes I think I’d like to be that way, but I actually enjoy planning my travels. And although I avoid researching my destination too much–because I like to be surprised and to discover a new place my own way–I refuse to arrive somewhere I don’t know to walk around looking for a place to sleep.
Before I arrived in Manaus in October, 2015, I already had a clear idea of what my route and schedule would be. Sometimes I’ve wanted to change my plans, to miss my flight or just leave without a word, but I’ve only deviated a few times from the journey I planned in my mind and on maps after my first visit to the Amazon in 2012.
Because I’m travelling slowly and cheaply, with the intention of learning Portuguese and as much as I can about Brazilian culture, I’m always going to choose the cheapest ticket even if it means buying it two months in advance, and I’ll take a discounted price on accommodation even if it means committing myself to staying “long term” (ten days up to a month). Until now, I feel following my plans has taken me exactly where I need to be.
Beyond that, I honestly don’t like getting too comfortable, because when I’m comfortable I forget that one of the things I enjoy the most about this journey and my nomadic life in Brazil is movement itself. Besides, I’ve learned that discomfort leads to creativity, curiosity, and productivity, while comfort turns into complacency and the consolidation of repetitive routines.
After living in six different countries across four continents, I have not only gotten used to being uncomfortable, but I actually really enjoy it. OK, I love it. There’s nothing like arriving at a new place, unpacking, starting over, and leaving again, to do it all over. It’s almost as if I liked comfort, but not too much; almost as if I liked stability, but not really; almost as if I wanted to stay still, but not enough to actually do it.
With every passing year, city, country, river, and beach, my love for movement grows, and each time I move more slowly, with more time, calmly, without forcing the discoveries one can only make when living far from home. I’ve followed my whims through this parallel universe and haven’t stayed more than two months in any place; I’m always moving to a different bed, different room, hostel, city, state, latitude, beach.
At this pace, in a country as big as Brazil, I’ve inevitably spent countless hours and even days in motion: on ships and boats, buses, trains, cars, planes… With nearly 30 kg of luggage on my shoulders, I’ve walked kilometres along steep cobble-stone, dirt and asphalt streets, going up and down stairs, fighting for space at rush hour, smiling at the shocked looks from those who can’t fathom what I’m doing alone with those bags, on that road, sweating, under the sun or the rain, always with a bag of nuts or sequilhos in my hand. No one imagines I’m waiting for another bus, another train, another map to take me to my next destination, wherever that may be.
Transport—movement—has been an inescapable part of my journey, although it’s usually discarded as a necessary though unimportant vehicle, an inescapable way to escape whatever it is I’m running from—or toward?—on this journey with no beginning and no end.
But it’s in those moments that a sense of adventure truly takes over me; when I’m by the side of the road waiting for a bus to pass by, or at the terminal waiting for another one to leave; when I arrive in a new city, reading the street names and looking at the little hand-drawn maps on my notepad, trying to find my place. It’s these moments when adrenaline and excitement take me to my destination despite tiredness and hunger, and desperately wanting a bathroom that’s not moving, and sleeping horizontally. It’s these moments that mark this journey which is taking me around this country-continent, and I will continue devouring maps and imagining routes until the next bus comes around.