Well, that’s not exactly right. I might have just finished the first step in writing a book, getting the major parts of my two-year journey from South Dakota to South America by motorcycle down on paper, but technically I have miles to go before I sleep.
I’m not a writer. That’s evident from the period of time it took me to write this draft (a year), and from the content of it (errors, poor punctuation, run-on sentences, etc.). But I’m not sure that I care. I do in the respect that I don’t want to waste people’s time or money, and mostly I genuinely want to do justice to the incredible experiences I had along the way. But I didn’t write it for anyone’s individual approval.
It’s filled with shameless personal details, TMI really, but I’m cleaning that up in a round or two of edits. It’s filled with sappy stories that probably won’t mean anything to anyone except me. But the fact that they mean something to me is enough. It’s longer than I wanted it to be, and yet shorter too. How can you possibly squeeze two years of life-changing experiences mixed with beautiful everyday nothingness into a few hundred pages? There were so many lovely people I met along the way that I wanted to celebrate somewhere in my memoir, but those moments really aren’t served by an abbreviated phrase or two.
It was, at times, hard to go back and read my journals while working on this draft. They made me miss the road and the people I met along the way. But they also reminded me of how hard the journey was sometimes, and how often I turned to my journal to pour my feelings and fears into it instead of carrying them around all day. Of all the things I brought home, I used to think my favorite souvenir was my new perspective. But being home for a year and a half is changing my perspective yet again, and I’ve lost touch a little with the woman who came home from Argentina after a long two years on the road. Now I’ve decided that my favorite souvenir from the trip is my journals. They’re detailed enough to take me right back to each moment of my trip: back to the smell of a lamb roasting over an asado along the Carretera Austral, back to the feeling of wiggling my toes in the warm sand and sea of a tiny islet in the San Blas off the coast of Panama, back to the fear I felt getting back on a motorcycle for the first time after my wreck left me with a badly broken leg, back to the tears I shed saying goodbye to a beautiful Ecuadoran family who had taken my boyfriend and I into their home for ten days and treated us like family because we were friends of a friend, back to the taste of fresh passion fruit juice at a little cafe on Easter Island, back to the neon orange and fuschia sunset I watched from the deck of a ferry from Baja to mainland Mexico, back to the night an alpaca came running up to shove his face in my pot and camp stove as I tried to make dinner in the mountains of Peru, back to the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished a hard section of road in the Andes and looked down thousands of feet to the valley below to see the slender thread of road I had climbed to get there, back to the faces of the children begging at border crossings, back to the dogs who were scavenging in roadside ditches, back to the elderly dairy farmer in Venezuela who tipped his hat at me one morning while I loaded my bike, back to the milky broth filled with six chicken feet I ordered for lunch in Colombia, back to the smell of eucalyptus trees along the sides of the road near the equator, back to the sting of raindrops hitting my face as an inflatable boat carried me out to a small rocky island to see penguins, back to the feeling of jamming my crampons into a glacier for the first time, back to the small neighborhood plaza in Buenos Aires filled with dozens of couples dancing the Tango…and to so many other memories that I’m blessed to call mine.
So now on to the next step, and the one after that. Little by little.
Someday I hope it’s worth a read.