“Although wherever you are going is always in front of you, there is no such thing as straight ahead.”
– Jeanette Winterson/ The Passion
I’m about to flip a coin. The result will determine the direction of the next 8 months of my life. Heads will send me back to Colombia, to meet back up with friends, study Spanish and continue exploring before heading south at a leisurely pace. Tails will send me on a frantic two-week transcontinental journey from the far north of South America to Ushuaia on the southern tip of the continent by bus, and then hopefully on to the inhospitable ends of the earth – Antarctica.
This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever faced (I have to acknowledge how incredibly privileged this statement is.. A lotta other folks got a lotta harder decisions to face on a daily basis. But this is mine, so..) After a couple of unplanned extended stays and ‘just one more’ days in Colombia, I’m now on a massive time crunch to get to Ushuaia. Antarctica has always been a dream destination of mine and this is probably my best chance of ever going there. At the same time I’d be missing out on so much by leaving Colombia and Ecuador without taking the time to explore. I could catch a plane south to save myself some time but I’ve decided that I’m not willing to compromise on ‘no planes’.
I thought the decision was made. I already have buses booked all the way to Santiago but suddenly I lack the conviction I’ve held until this point, so I gave myself the day to explore and ponder. I went through the activity recommendations in the Lonely Planet guide for Quito – church, church, museum, church, museum, museum, museum… Ugh, cities. I skipped the church/museum loop of death and instead wandered through the Quito Observatory, went to the park and generally ambled aimlessly around the city.
I vacillated back and forth all day. Several times I thought I’d made a choice only to find myself wracked by uncertainty again moments later. Now I’m back at the hostel and it’s time to make a decision. Beer in hand, I’m sitting on the rooftop terrace with a stunning view of the violent thunderstorm currently pounding the city, listening to hail hit the surrounding roofs and watching lightning strike the mountains in the distance. It’s a dramatic backdrop for my decision but I’m no closer to knowing what I want than I was 6 hours ago.
Inspired by ‘The Dice Man’ by George Cockcroft I resolve to give the choice to chance. I take a deep, nervous breath and toss the coin. Heads. I breathe out slowly and my face breaks into a smile. Colombia. I’m excited about going back but more than that I’m relieved that the decision has been made. The clouds part – literally AND figuratively (hey-o Joe McGinn). Until now I wasn’t stoked on Quito, but suddenly I’m excited to explore. A large statue of an angel dominates a nearby hill and I resolve to walk to it tomorrow morning.
Note from the future: I ended up spending the entire night tossing and turning, unsure whether Colombia was the right decision. A week and a half later, back in Colombia, I think I’ve finally realised that there was no right decision. Either way I had to give up something that I really wanted. But sugar, that’s life. And now I’m already set up with a major life goal once I get home after this trip – figuring out my next shot at Antarctica.
Things I learned about myself:
- I don’t like cities. I already knew this, but it was strongly reinforced by my experience in Quito – I spent the whole time looking for green spaces to hang out in.
- I am stubborn as a wine stain – it was really hard to ‘admit defeat’ and give up on Antarctica
Soundtrack: Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Atlas Hands