December 22, 2013

by Paul Rosenthal in New York, NY


Timing is everything. Get a sudden summons to Bolivia, with departure in an hour, and it seems paralyzingly sudden – a feverish flurry of packing and mental adjustment that leaves you dazed and wobbly and tense. Two weeks’ notice for the same trip is something entirely different, however. It’s still fairly short notice, but you have time to glide from surprise to panic to acceptance to packing.

Surprisingly, longer is not easier. I’ve learned that if two weeks gives you time to prepare mentally, nine months is actually much more like the unexpected last minute surprise. Over such a long span, the departure seems so remote as to become mythically vague, something that you might expect is coming some day, like old age or the Rapture or a really good corn dog, but which always seems perpetually in the hazy future. So when it actually rolls around, it knocks you off your pins.

That, at least, has been my experience with the South America rally. After nine months of planning and meeting and talking, I suddenly awoke Sunday to find an ambulance parked outside my apartment. I packed my clothes hastily, tried to pierce the frenzied flurry to think of what to take, and then before I knew it was cozily squeezed between duffles and daypacks watching the exotic landscape of Northern New Jersey fly by.

The adventure begins.