We came out of the mines grateful for fresh air, sunlight, and space to move around. I can’t say it was the most pleasant tour, but I’m extremely glad I went. It’s easy to discount stories of terrible working conditions from your couch, but meeting miners, putting on a jumpsuit, and going down to see where they work makes it much more real.
As the sun rose, I was filled with a simple, unqualified joy. I inhaled, exhaled, and said thank you for the day, for the chance to be there, and to be alive.
There are things no one really tells you about traveling. In most blogs or travel websites you can find stories about great adventures, breathtaking scenery, language learning, making friends, getting to know new cultures, etc., but rarely does one read about the challenges that come with a nomadic life.
It’s not much for them to live on. It seemed like a hard life to me, but I also realized that they are further away from the cycle of consumerism that defines so many of our lives. They’re always with family and spend time with each other instead of looking at screens. Maybe it just seems hard to me. When that’s all you know, why would you want anything else?
We’ve learned that we can’t go 100% all the time. It’s important to take time now and again for a “personal admin day” when we have lots to do or a “spontaneous weekend” when we’re just plain tired.
As the hours turned into days, I grew used to the silence. I started to like my thoughts and I enjoyed spending time focused on my body. I thought I might feel lonely, but I had myself and that was more than enough.
So what does it feel like to hike at 5,000 meters? Slow, mostly. We were all breathing much more heavily than normal and Andrea got hit with a big headache. At one point, Andrea even said that she felt drunk: she was processing information more slowly, felt uncoordinated (try to put foot in one place, her foot ends up somewhere slightly different), and couldn’t think straight.
We love the change, the challenge, and the variety that comes with constantly being on the move, but we do occasionally miss knowing our way around. Stumbling upon this family-run restaurant in Quito helped us feel grounded. We found comfort in their food and their company and felt truly welcomed. Sometimes what seem like the most banal, everyday moments, like having breakfast, can become some of the most powerful memories, if you’re open to it.
The unexpected upside of buying cheap plane tickets with our miles was that we got to fly over almost every major city in Colombia. From the sky, we were able to appreciate just how diverse Colombia is. We saw the beginning of the Andes, the ocean, coffee plantations, the high-altitude capital city of Bogota, the red brick city of Medellin, and much more. By the time we landed in Cartagena, I couldn’t wait to get off the plane, to be in South America, to taste the food, meet the people, see the colors, get carsick on the windy roads, admire the landscapes, and feel the climate change as we move from one city to another.
Traveling is all about new things. New places, new faces, new foods, new languages, new weather, new bus systems. Traveling with family is about spending time together, taking in all these new things, and grounding them in the familiar. It’s about taking the time away from your regular lives to connect, share experiences, and enjoy. After several months of wandering around Latin America, I really appreciated the chance to be “at home” for a few days.