A few days ago, a colleague asked if I was nervous about my upcoming trip—the trip that I am on this very moment. Normally, I brush off these questions (What, me? Nervous?), but this time I took a moment to check in with myself and realized that I felt remarkably…unremarkable. Many years ago, when I first started my love affair with traveling, I got butterflies of anticipation before every big adventure. Now, there was nary a flutter. I suppose there is both good and bad in this: on one hand, traveling has become so commonplace to me that aside from my ongoing desire to do it, it barely registers with me physically. On the other hand, there isn’t the same titillating thrill, or the feeling that you are about to jump off a precipice into an abyss of the unknown. What was once a flirtation with travel—with all its butterflies and lustful yearnings—is now a full-blown long-term relationship. That doesn’t mean it’s without its own special thrills, mind you, but the thrills have metamorphosed into something deeper and more profound, while having all the comfort and ease of a lifelong partnership.
With these thoughts rolling in my mind, I embarked upon my flight to Bolivia, a country that’s been on my travel “to-do” list ever since I saw a friend’s vacation pictures. I have three flights before I reach La Paz. The first is late, but no worries, I have plenty of time for my connection. I just don’t want the second one to be late because I have no time to connect to my last flight. Sure enough, the second one is running 20 minutes late and is due to arrive after my next flight begins boarding. I have no idea how big Miami International is, but my guess is that it’s big. So, I resign myself to the possibility that I will miss that one, but I’m prepared to go down fighting. When the plane lands, I put aside my usual politeness and sprint out of the plane (ahead of my turn) and make a mad dash to my next gate, which is in the same terminal, but 44 gates away. Forty four. Naturally, all the slidewalks going my direction are not working. If I’d known I would run so much or so hard, I would have worn a more supportive bra. I make it to my gate sputtering and breathless, then crumple into my plane seat dripping with sweat. I note that I made it with five minutes to spare before take off, which leaves me feeling very smug with my bad self. Five minutes later, the plane isn’t moving. Twenty five minutes later, the captain announces there’s a hydraulic leak and the flight is canceled. I hear gasps and groans around me as the other passengers register this new information. We de-board the plane and discover there isn’t another flight to take, so we must stay overnight in a hotel, return the next day, and they would fly us out in the morning. Once again, I check in with myself. Butterflies of nervousness? Stress? Ripples of anger? Nothing. Miraculously, I still have my chill. These things are just part of the experience.
The next day, we return to the airport to take a flight created just for us, with the same crew, but a different plane. However, when we get to the gate, we’re informed that due to air traffic, our new flight cannot fly into La Paz, so they have to fly us to another city in Bolivia instead, where they will then send us on to La Paz. I roll my eyes at this news, but it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a longer travel day than I anticipated. We board our new flight. The captain welcomes us aboard and assures us this plane is in “perfect shape.” We take off and settle in for the duration, happy to finally be on our way. An hour into the flight, the captain’s voice is heard again. I’m starting to dislike Captain “I-have-some-bad-news.” This one’s a doozy: our new plane is having engine problems and we must return to Miami. “Don’t be alarmed by the emergency vehicles that will be waiting for us,” he says, “that’s just standard procedure.” Finally, something more than an eyeroll registers within me. Continuing my earlier analogy, travel has become a comfortable, much-loved partner…who occasionally annoys the hell out of you and farts under the covers. This one was a real ripper.
After waiting another 8 hours at the airport, I was able to take their next scheduled flight directly to La Paz. Apparently, even when it comes to functioning airplanes, “the third time’s the charm.” So here I am, 24 hours later than expected, but in one piece. I even have my luggage, which seems like a small miracle after so many plane switches. What will I do while I’m here, you ask? Those who know me well know that my travel patterns have changed these last few years, primarily because I had to take a so-called normal (i.e., non-consulting) job in order to meet some financial goals. In the U.S., unless you’re a teacher, a normal job = very little vacation time. Certainly not the amount I was used to as a consultant, where I didn’t have to abide by a company’s vacation policies. This shift has had both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, I am well on my way to meeting the financial goals I set for myself. On the negative side, company politics affect me more and of course, the all-time clincher: I have to take shorter vacations. Wait, you mean more company politics = more stress, but we have less vacation time to recover from that stress? How does this make sense?
Anyhow, what’s a person consumed by wanderlust to do with such a terrible equation? After being inspired by a friend, this year I decided to try a little experiment. I already work remotely for a company in another state, why not try being even more remote and combine work with travel? This is something I’ve never tried before, but if it works for me, it could be the ultimate compromise: a way to satisfy my need to be leisurely about my vacations, while not technically taking much time off.
So, my plan this time around is this: I am working for three weeks in La Paz (the highest capital city in the world at 11,942 feet!). Although I will fill my weekends with vacation-type things, my “true” vacation begins afterward when I embark upon a trek in the Cordillera Real, Bolivia’s Royal Range. Given that I’ll be working, I will post a little less than normal to save y’all from the “woke up and worked all day” drudgery.
So it begins.