Meeting ourselves

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Andean Adventure

Meeting ourselves
January 19, 1998

At some point in every journey one returns to the point from which they started. Returning to a point of departure is an opportunity to consider differences in perception; it is a rare window through which personal change is visible.

We'd hoped for such on our return to Quito — our home of two months a year ago. Quito and the environs shaped our first perceptions of South America and our return would be an opportunity to re-evaluate those impressions against a continent of experiences.

Unfortunately, the loss of my bike relegated us to the busing population for the remaining distance to the capital. Through the window we watched the countryside fly by at 50 kilometers an hour. It was hard not to think of all the experiences we were missing. At least the traffic looked bad. We needed some consolation.

Despite a disorienting entry into the city, Quito looked the same as we'd left it. Memories of our life here flashed through our heads as the taxi brought us over familiar streets toward our friend Nina's home. I wasn't sure what to expect until I saw it and then it was exactly as I remembered. Wait, where did that Arby's come from?

The South American Explorer's Club had been our base of actions a year ago and it was our first stop Monday morning. We'd left a box with them and for months I had anticipated what we'd find inside. I rummaged through the storage with the excitement of a boy on Christmas morning.

What were we thinking?! We stared inside the cardboard treasure chest. An enormous pile of clothing returned our gaze. It seemed we'd have a chance to evaluate our changes after all.

Item after item, we picked through the contents. The items were familiar, but strangely distant as if belonging to another lifetime. Here were the things we had considered essentials a year ago; so important, we'd selected them after weeks of honing our luggage. Worn T-shirts, lipstick tubes, guidebooks, bug spray, a deck of cards ... Surely, somewhere in here lay the good stuff.

We also received a cache of letters and email sent from a forgotten time. After six months Nancy's parents had written us saying they anticipated us coming home soon — we'd been gone so long. Greetings from Mr. T and other old friends. News of who was doing what with whom a year ago.

There it stood in front of us: a worn cardboard box full of someone else's laundry and greetings to a couple who'd passed this way once upon a time. Reminders of who we'd been. Proving you can always go home; you're just never sure who you'll meet there.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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