I currently sit in my friends expansive living room with broad windows lined with wooden frames. The windows allow a constant flow of warm natural light and offer a view of the fertile land of Brasilia. There’s a window to my right that is slightly ajar and letting in happy bird tunes carried in by a gentle breeze. I am at ease, for the most part, but deep down I feel a raw yearning for missing home. The feeling began a few weeks back when I found myself physically tired after a tremendously demanding trip to Peru. My time was limited and I felt the pressure to see as much as possible in a short span of days. I reached a resting point upon my arrival to Bolivia, a place I dedicated to recollect my thoughts and plans. After an arduous day of finding a place adequate enough for my budget and needs, I felt it. I felt my adventurous spirit begin to break down, to reach an exhaustion period that could only be mended with familiarity and routine.
I missed home.
A few months back, when I stayed in a hostel in Quito buried under five thick blankets for the night (Quito is cold, don’t judge), I dreamt I had returned home. Somehow, in my delusion, I had found myself at the airport and saw my parents, clear as day awaiting my arrival. They hugged me, kissed me, and even shed a few tears, but my reaction was of confusion and discontent. I woke up with tears in my eyes, realizing after a few eternal seconds I was still in Ecuador. What a relief and what a drag to be in the United States right now, jobless, and constantly being reminded how many bills and money I owed.
The more I traveled and the more I learned, and the closer I was heading to appreciating what a privileged human I am. How easy I have it compared to many elderly women in Bolivia, who are well past the retirement age, carrying loads of vegetation on their backs. How much simpler my life is with relatively orderly traffic laws back home, that a 4-hour bus ride means 4 hours, not 7, no worries about mudslides or disastrous potholes. And sometimes I just miss the silliest things, like being able to throw toilet paper in the toilet, rather than a dingy trash can littered with unthinkable germs. Or a CVS, wow… Never have I needed the facility of buying Dr. Scholl’s insoles so much as the day after my shoes were stolen. How easy my life is back home.
Easier than most.
But still hard.
Being the daughter of immigrants, I have seen the ugly sides of the U.S. and experienced them first hand. I have been present in an encounter where an ugly soul told my mother to speak English, because, you guessed it, this is America. I have seen my dad break his back day and night at a job he never imagined, just to be able to pay his monthly bills on time. My status as a Hispanic-American woman has made me tougher, always knowing I have to work twice as hard as all of my other American peers. And why? Why don’t I just move back home and make triple the amount of money with my American diploma?
Because the United States is my home.
Because I was brought at the age of 9 and developed the rest of my young life there. Because, despite the ever-growing corruption, I do have liberties I cannot imagine exercising anywhere else for fear of death.
Because I feel a constant need to prove myself and hope to give my parents back everything they sacrificed and more.
* * *
I can definitely say backpacking isn’t for everyone and the overall experience has changed my perspective socially, culturally, and spiritually. The societal issues here are, to say the least, different… the corruption is noticeable, not as well sugar coated as it is in the U.S. The prioritization of issues also differs, wherein the US racism is extremely prevalent, in Peru it’s about fixing the roads or in Mexico the high rates of femicides. I’m learning every day and attempting to understand/comprehend the overwhelming influx of information, trying to make sense of it as much as my mostly Westernized mind can.
It has been beautiful, but also chaotic and complex. I am sure of one thing though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And not to toot my own horn necessarily, but this trip has permitted me to develop a greater self-assurance in my future endeavors. Perhaps I can blame it on my youthful positivism, but I feel that in this life, I can do anything.