My current travel companion, Mike, is a 28 year old developer who is one of the most natural adventurers I've ever met. He's part of my Remote Year group, but opted out of Month 11 in order to explore Chile and focus on work. After the Delta representative changed my flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago without my confirmation, I took the whole change as a sign from the Universe and informed Mike to find us a two bedroom AirBnB, because we were going to be chillin' in Chile.
This accidental side trip has been perfect, because not only does Mike have enough energy to get my lazy ass out of bed in the morning to go hike up a mountain, but he's also the VP of Tech at his own company, which means we naturally block out chunks of time to get work done. As a result, we've found a nice balance of exploring the city while also being responsible adults. And by that I mean that Mike adults while I nap, ponder my Yes Quest, and map out the next six months of my life.
What's particularly interesting, though, is how traveling one on one with Mike has made me me more aware of the frequent, seemingly insignificant situations where I instinctively fall toward no instead of yes. He heads to a local cafe to work. I convince myself I'm more productive at home. He sees a long line outside a food cart and decides to get whatever they're selling. I think to myself, "I just ate lunch" and walk on past. He sees something he likes, and takes a picture to remember. I see something and think, "I'm sure I can google that if I need a photo." And of course, what inevitably happens is that I don't spend much time in the culture of wherever I'm at because I'm too busy staring at my computer at an AirBnB, I never find that one particular street food again, or I realize that yes, I can google a particular image, but that image doesn't have my memories associated with it. After 11 months around the world, my biggest regret is not experiencing and documenting more of each of the places I've been in, because I was too busy convincing myself that what I needed was to rest, live quietly, and anchor.
So now I'm trying to absorb Mike's curiosity through osmosis, which means trying random foods even if I'm stuffed (like the mote con huesillio pictured above, a bizarre Chilean drink with dried peaches, barley or wheat, and a topping of cinnamon sugar water), planning on leaving the house after 11pm, and taking a picture of myself without judging myself for not putting down the camera and enjoying the moment.
This habit of mine was particularly consequential back when I was in Cambodia, riding on the back of moped through the Kampot province on day three of a five day long second date. We were on our way to nowhere and somewhere, with a vague idea of what we were looking for but no real time constraints or goals. We were in a low density area, with not much going on between little towns other than the occasional rice farmer or some locals selling jackfruit on the side of the street. We were looking for a specific turn and thought we had missed it, so we pulled over to look at a map. Though we could forget about the sticky air at forty miles an hour on a motor bike, the moment we putted to the side of the road our backs instantly stuck to our shirts, and the heft of our helmets seemed to cook our heads like a pot roast.
We figured out where we needed to go and scrambled to mount the bike when I looked up and saw a fifteen foot elephant slowly coming toward us, with a local perched atop him, balancing a bundle of twigs on the elephant's rump.
And you know what I did? Sat there and actually thought to myself, "Oh I don't need to get out my camera, I'm sure another elephant will come by." In what world is that the acceptable reaction when you're in god damned Cambodia on an epic second date with a man you just met and you randomly come across an elephant casually walking down the countryside? It's not even like this was a don't-have-time to grab the camera situation. No, this elephant was walking at the speed of...and elephant, which is decidedly not fast, as I'm assuming you know because you've probably watched Animal Planet or been to the zoo. But instead of taking the 20 seconds to get out my phone or camera, I just watched a once in a lifetime moment fade into the horizon, as if I'd have the chance to capture it again.