a cold summer in montevideo

It’s funny, because I love to learn languages and meet interesting people and experience new things, but I’m learning that I am really not a good traveler. Like, I really don’t like to be away from home. Who knew that after spending my entire childhood and adolescence begging for boarding school, for my mother to accept a job working abroad, for college out of state, that I would end up a homebody who loves spending time with her family? This is some weird sort of karma.

It’s not that I don’t like being in Montevideo. On the contrary, I was actually really happy yesterday to return after a weekend in Buenos Aires (beautiful, beautiful city, but snooty people and lots of dirt and a somewhat unpleasant hostel experience). I’m sad that I haven’t gotten to take full advantage of my classes or internship, having missed more than a week due to my flu, but I really like working at NGOs, and working at a Latin American NGO is twice the experience, because it’s work experience and language practice. But traveling in a group is just not my thing, and I feel very off-balance not being at home. I’m too accustomed to being settled. Apparently I don’t like change. Apparently I actually like my life in Tucson. Interesting.

Something that has always astonished me is that I can’t really write when I’m on vacation, even though being in another country (or just another state–pretty much everything is different from the desert) gives me a lot of inspiration and generally feels exhilarating, at least for awhile. But I don’t feel compelled to pick up my journal, I think partly because there is so much to say that I don’t know where to begin. All of a sudden there is a new climate, new streets to learn, a new culture of people, new stores and restaurants and foods, new phrases, and now a language that I’m starting to think in. It’s like there’s so much to say just superficially, just to establish my new place in a new world, that I can’t actually get to the point of talking about my feelings or new friends or specific experiences. It’s a daunting task, and I simply can’t say anything without spending two hours just writing in a journal. And there’s no time for that, because I’m on vacation on a specific program and I have things I need to be doing. And on days like today, when I spend my afternoon alone in my hotel room on my computer (though I was actually looking up important information for the rest of my trip, like hostels and bus fares and things), I feel like a failure on both parts, because why should I be in my hotel room when I’m neither experiencing the country I’m in nor doing something I would do at home, like work on my writing? I don’t have all the things I need to feel at home, but I also feel a bit overwhelmed always being here.

So while I can’t bring myself to be totally me, neither can I stop myself. I really want to be writing. I want to be working on my novel, and I want to be working on my essay for Ann’s book, and I want to be working on that other novel I started, and I want to start developing some really good short pieces, because it’s about time I started submitting stuff and making money off my writing, and it would be prudent to start publishing in the genre I want to have a career in, rather than in all the others that I just do for fun. But I can’t work on things here, because I’m very materialistic and high-maintenance, and I don’t have all my drafts or my big old desk or my things. Things, things, things. This is why I’m a bad traveler. I can’t pack light. Physically, mentally, or emotionally. I have lots of baggage.

It’s not all that bad. I’m learning, and that’s really all I care about. This is probably the first summer experience that doesn’t feel like summer (which it shouldn’t, because I’m in the southern hemisphere and it’s freezing). What I mean by that is this is the first summer experience where I’ve gone away to a program and have not felt like it’s completely magical or that I’ve made friends for life. In fact, the only person I see myself really remaining friends with is the one person I knew before coming, though I really did not know her very well. That’s totally fine, I guess. I am a huge cynic, and since college I have become a lot more particular about the people I make friends with. I know lots and lots of people, and I really like it, but I also really like just having a handful of really, really good friends, not a bunch of friendships that are all high-maintenance. There are people I have a deep necessity for, and they generally make me happy. The rest make me happy, but they’re not necessary. And that’s the way life goes. In this group of people, I feel very, very old and stuffy, and I guess I kind of am, but it’s also just how I’ve developed within this group of people who are not very much like me. And it’s fine. I am enjoying my learning experiences, and I am very excited for my two weeks of travel with my friend.

I am all over the place. And where I’d really like to be is home, but I know if I were there, I would be complaining about how I never go anywhere. There is definitely more to traveling than just appreciating where you come from, and I hope I am doing that. I think I am more meant for individual and small-group travel experiences than strict programs with boisterous personalities. I am slowly drawing into a shell, and I really shouldn’t do that.

BUT planning for my traveling is so exciting! Another three days in Buenos Aires by myself, this time to meet my grandmother’s cousin and to go to museums and experience traveling the way I like to do it, then a bus ride to Iguazu, a stay at a hostel for a day or two, bus ride back, boat back to Uruguay, perhaps a day in Montevideo, then travel to the hot springs! It’s going to be a packed two weeks, but it’s going to be great.

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