Machu Picchu + Llama, Peru
The final blog post…how I’ve both looked forward to and dreaded this day for a very long time. When I started this blog way back in July I don’t think I fully realized what I was getting myself into. It seemed like a nice idea to chronicle my trip and all but I did not realize how the Extravaganza blog would come to define each and every day of my trip. Every morning for the past 9 months I have gotten up with the same thought on my mind…”What am I doing today that is blogworthy?” I found myself often weighing a decision to go somewhere or see something based on whether or not it would make good blog material. In a word…I became obsessed. And now I wonder, what will be my first thought in the morning now that the Extravaganza has come to an end? It’s too soon to tell, I think…
Sister Lindsay at the start of the Inka Trail, Ollantaytambo, Peru
Stacey and Lindsay at the top of one of the three mountain passes of the Inka Trail, Peru
Snouts…at El Mercado Santa Ana, Cusco, Peru
Pre-Incan tombs, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru
Lindsay in the jungle…
It’s a tough job trying to guess what people will be interested in…especially when you’re dealing with a wide and varied audience of people. Some of my readers I know well and some are strangers that found me on a Google search or the Bootsnall blog homepage. When I first set out to keep this blog, my intent was largely selfish…to preempt the let-down of returning from a big trip and finding out that few people are actually interested in how your trip was and what you’d been doing. By keeping a travel blog the people that are truly interested can keep up in twice a week doses and those that aren’t interested don’t have to bother. This plan worked brilliantly. Perhaps even better, though, is that the blog served a purpose that has long been a problem for solo travelers everywhere. As much as I love, love, love traveling by myself…sometimes it really sucks to not have someone with you to talk about the cool stuff that you just saw. The blog ended up serving that purpose admirably and was an amazing and altogether unexpected benefit. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the ride as much as I have.
Leaf-cutter ants in the jungle, Manu National Park, Peru
Manu National Park, Peru
Karen and Stacey at the orphanage in Arequipa, Peru
Some of my orphans enjoying the beach, Peru
My one regret with regards to the Extravaganza blog is that I fear I failed to portray the culture and everyday lives of the people that I encountered everyday…specifically in the poorer areas where life is so different from what we’re used to. I didn’t set out to just write about the tourist spots and what I was doing…I really wanted to give you all a slice of life in the places I visited. Starting in New Orleans, I quickly realized how difficult this task was going to be. As I drove along the Katrina-ravaged coast I was shocked and dumbfounded at how destroyed those areas still were several years later. I wanted to take lots of photos to show everyone how it was…but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t shake the thought that my picture-taking was reducing the lives and troubles of these people to mere entertainment value and I became painfully aware that I could choose to respect their lives or exploit them. Perhaps to the detriment of the blog, I erred on the side of respect.
Fun time at the beach…
So why do I mention this? Well, in all honesty because I fear the words that follow may not carry the weight they might’ve had I been better at showing my readers what I was seeing every day. For all the progress of modern times, South America remains firmly in 2nd world (Chile and Argentina) and 3rd world (Ecuador and Peru) territory complete with the inherent problems of unstable economies and extreme poverty. I don’t want to turn this (already too long) post into a lecture but I implore you to take my word on one thing. If you are reading this now you are likely among the world’s luckiest…born to (or immigrated to) a first world nation where our “problems” are often nothing more than mere annoyances in the grand scheme of things. Only got to take one vacation this year? Be grateful for that…most of the world has never taken a vacation. Didn’t have to stand on the street all day with a baby strapped to your back in hopes of earning a few dollars (or soles, or pesos)? Count yourself lucky. Live in a house made of something other than concrete bricks or corrugated tin? Kiss your mortgage paperwork or landlord the next time you see them…most of the world would give anything to live in your house.
Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Stacey and her hostess on the island of Amantani, Lake Titicaca, Peru
View from the island of Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Expedition Colca Canyon, Peru
Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa, Peru
I know that we all know on some abstract that we’re lucky to live where we live and that it’s hard to wrap our heads around the concept of extreme poverty having never seen it. I’m not naïve…I know that the clock on my idealism is quickly dwindling down with each additional day I’m back at home. In a few months I will be just where I was before…worrying about trivial things…contributing to the resource-hogging and capitalist economy that George W. (and the rest of us) need to remain wealthy. If I could ask but one favor of you all it is this…be generous. If not with your money, then with your time. I know we’re busy but everyone has one hour a week to give. One hour a week is all it takes to change someone’s life. And my extra-special plea to the men who are reading…if you are a man who likes kids…I beg of you. Join a mentoring program or volunteer in an after school program…kids (both boys and girls) the world over are starving for male role models. An hour a week really can change someone’s life.
OK, that’s it. Lecture over. Thank you all for reading and allowing me to stray a bit from my normally charming and witty banter. I swear I’m wrapping up…
Vulcan Villarica, Pucon, Chile
Now for a few updates from happenings along the way of the Extravaganza…
1. Amy, Alan and Xander (Mile 3847) welcomed Xander’s new little brother Zachary into the world on February 8. At last report both mom and baby (and Alan and Xander) are doing well. Congratulations to them.
2. Also from Mile 3847, my old DC friend Stephanie just got married in a gorgeous ceremony in Barbados on March 15. Congratulations to her and her new husband Craig.
3. My cousin JJ’s murderers (Mile 10,143 Part 2) have had their trials postponed yet again. Kelsey, who is being charged with felony obstruction of justice, will find out her trial date at a May 6th hearing and is out on bond. Cal who is charged with deliberate murder and felony evidence tampering charges, is being held in the Choteau County jail and will not be tried until October 20. Your continued thoughts for my family would be appreciated.
4. Matt and Jen (Mile 3510, Mile 10,143 Part 2 and the Final Mile)…the Extravaganza’s most mobile readers have relocated to the island of Tasmania off the coast of Australia for the next 1-2 years where Matt is working on a post-doctoral fellowship. Guess where my next big trip is planned for?
My kids singing to me on my last day at the orphanage, Arequipa, Peru
Julio, Claudia and Eydan, Arequipa, Peru
View from Cerro Catedral in Bariloche, Argentina
And finally, since this is about as close as I’ll ever get to an Academy Awards speech…I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people:
1. First of all, a big thanks to anyone who ever took time out of their busy day to read this blog. I can only hope that you laughed, maybe cried a little (lots of crying reports on the orphanage stories from Home 1), learned something and maybe…just maybe…got inspired to take your own Extravaganza.
2. To all of the amazing people I met on this trip…and the ones I already knew who made it so memorable. Thanks to everyone who put me up while I was cruising through the roadtrip phase of the Extravaganza…there are too many to count but I will remember and appreciate each and every one of you. Also to those who made the Extravaganza all the better with your company…Guillermo, Tori and Stevie, Hanna and Clara, Karen, Conny, Pascal, Claire, Jane and Graham, Femke and Remko, Lindsay, Jonathan, Rob, Jesse, Mary, James and Morag.
3. Secondly, to my friends and family…and especially those friends where the lines have long been blurred…thank you for never telling me I’m crazy and that I should stay home whenever I decide to skip the country (even if you actually think so!). You will never know how much your quiet support means to me.
4. Thirdly, for my most prolific commentors…my mom, Andrea and Jenny. On the days I wished I’d never heard of the Extravaganza Blog I was writing for you three. Thanks for keeping me on track.
5. And lastly but most importantly, an enormous thanks to the people who manned my Stateside life while I was gallivanting through South America…Colette, Ryan and Karren. The first two I’ve long known have among the biggest hearts on the planet…and the last a new friend who proves how quickly strangers can turn into friends. I could not have taken this trip without of you.
And with that, we here at the Extravaganza blog are signing off. It’s been fun, exciting, occasionally stressful and sad but always an adventure. My very best to all of you…buen viaje mis amigos and as always thanks for reading the Extravaganza blog.
Rose Garden, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Perros waiting to be walked…Buenos Aires, Argentina
James, Mary, Vincent Van Gogh and Jesse, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Morag and Stacey, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side
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