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The Search

Pete and I just arrived in Ireland on Friday, and so while we recover from jet lag and get our heads wrapped around the fact that we are *actually here*, I thought I would share something a little different.

Unbeknownst to most of you, I have enrolled in an online travel writing course at MatadorU. Even though I am only a few sections in, it has definitely provided challenge to me as a writer, and I believe I have already seen improvement in my skills. Below you will find one of my early submissions that was well received and in which I am quite happy with.

However, I need to preface the piece with a couple of things.  While it may come across that I am desperate and unhappy in our travels and concurrent search for that ideal place in which to settle down, that is definitely not the case.  The assignment for which I wrote this asked to focus on using effective transitions between a recent day and a flashback to some time in the past.  This piece reflects a particular day when I was miserable from the heat of Honduras, and I paralleled it to a time in Patagonia when I felt the same misery from the exact opposite climate.

Pete also asked me to point out that he is indeed a loving and compassionate husband, and does not always sleep through my troubling times. :)

I hope you like it.

The Search

I toss. And in the turn that follows, the fitted bed sheet snaps loose from the corner once again. I curse, not so quietly, and rise to pull the turquoise sheet back into place. Peter fidgets on hearing the elevated tone in my voice, he is slightly disturbed by the movement of the sheet beneath him. Milliseconds later his peaceful, quiet snoring is restored and I plop back down on the bed with an exasperated sigh.

It’s too hot. The euphoric rush of the cool shower before bed lasted only an hour before the sweat beads on my forehead begin to form again, dripping down my face, the salty liquid sometimes stinging my eyes. It has been several sleepless nights in a row now, and I begin to wonder how much more I can stand. I turn and look at Peter, silently wishing I had his ability to ignore the temperature, slightly hating him for his ability to turn off the world. And even though he is mere inches from me, I feel totally alone in my misery and discomfort. My tears begin to mix with the sweat. It wasn’t so long ago that I remember silently crying from exposure to the extreme opposite element, but that chain of thought provides no comfort now.

Think of warm things, think of warm things,” I said to myself through chattering teeth. I pulled the opening of the sleeping bag tight around me and my toque further down on my forehead until it covered my eyes. Stray llama wool hairs tickled my exposed nose, and the urge to itch my eyebrow overwhelmed me. I pushed the toque back up, and exposed my forehead to the chill once again. I couldn’t win.

I actually paid for this experience,” became my dominant thought, wedging out any attempt to conjure up images of beaches and deserts. Indeed, I paid good money to explore the nether regions of Patagonia. By day we glided across the frigid waters in kayaks, marveled at the majestic glaciers and the sight of the elusive condors. We enjoyed the serenity of the gently rushing river and the stark absence of other tourists. This tiny corner of mountainous eden was ours to explore autonomously, and I reveled in every minute of it. Near frozen fingers and toes were ultimately forgotten, or at least made bearable by the intense beauty surrounding us.

But at night, beneath the canopy of the thin vinyl tent, the pleasure from the day past provided no enduring warmth. The wind whipped and shook my eyes open from the promise of sleep. My several shifting attempts to find a comfortable position were futile given the uneven ground beneath me.

Beside me, he snored.

Peter was not shivering from the chill, nor was he disturbed by my fitfulness. I attempted to snuggle closer and be enveloped by his body heat, but found a large rock under the tent right where I would lay. I retreated to my corner and tearfully shivered. For the first time during our excited travels around South America, I cried myself to sleep and wished that I was home.

Home. Where is that now?” I think to myself as I run a cloth under the cool tap water. I return to my bed, drape the cloth across my forehead and settle on the warm sheets, careful to keep my distance from Pete and his feverous radiation. My mind drifts to our time in Patagonia, drawing an obvious parallel to our time here on this tiny Caribbean island. Two extremes, met with misery and tears, and suddenly, painful revelation.

The southern region of Chile was too cold, this small Honduran island, too hot. The cities we’ve visited have been too busy, the country, too quiet. Too rainy, too dry, too many bugs. Our almost two year journey to explore and perhaps find a place to settle has thus far, come up empty. Nothing seems just right.

I wonder where my happy medium might be.  Or if it even exists.


33 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. A good way to get over jet lag quickly is to break up your sleep into a bunch of naps for a day and then try to fall asleep at a normal time the following day. Hope that helps in the adjustment and I’m excited to see posts from Ireland!

  2. Great prose there girl – the to ‘n fro transitions add spice. Good for you for ever striving to polish your (already impressive) travel writing skills.

    Oh and… welcome to “The Emerald Isle”!

    - this, from a lass pecking here in “The Emerald City”! ;)

  3. That was very well written Dade. I could feel the emotional frustration you were feeling & of course it brought tears to my eyes. Looking so forward to your posts about Ireland.

  4. Great post! My husband also has the same uncanny ability to sleep through my times of misery. I can feel your pain as I am now in Nicaragua and there are days where I do nothing but sweat at every moment, minus the two times I am in the shower.

  5. Very well written. One thing I like about this post is it shows that a life of travel isn’t all roses. Sure there’s adventure and so many new experiences, but there’s also a lot of discomfort and adjustments to be made. Looking forward to reading about Ireland!

    • Thanks Brenda! It isn’t all roses for sure, as I’m sure you know! I’ve had my share of nights when I cry about it, wondering what I’m doing. Thank goodness that those don’t happen often enough to change my mind… :)

  6. I wonder that too, sometimes. But I also think that the “perfect” place might not be out there because of me. Because I feel like a shark sometimes – I must stay on the move or be bored. I try not to think about these things and live in the moment. I totally felt the way you said – “I paid money for this?” – when we were camping on the Inca Trail. Nice piece!

  7. Congratulations on getting back on the road….hey, I think I can almost see you guys from over here in Glasgow…..

    Cool idea about the writing course – good for you – best of luck with it…I have no doubt you will be awesome!

  8. I feel you. I still believe the right place is still out there. It might take a couple of variables to make it perfect, the right mood, the right people that we meet, the right time in our life, but it’s there somewhere and the search continues.

  9. Dalene – that sounds pretty extreme. I can do hot much better than cold. I used to camp in January in the midwest when I was younger – I don’t think I could do that anymore. If I ever do extreme cold, it has to come with a minimum of a cabin.

    What always helps me in hot climates, assuming you have a fan blowing on you, is to take your wet cloth and run it over your exposed skin, and the evaporation will cool things down.

    Pete – keep snoring, man!

    • Don – thanks for the tips. My fave thing to do was put my clothes in the freezer for a little while! I am the opposite of you – I prefer the cool to the hot, as it’s easier to pile on the layers (except for when trapped in a tent in Patagonia) but you can only go so far down in the heat! Now that we are in chilly Ireland, I am sleeping like a baby and loving it.

      Pete can sleep anywhere, anytime, and has always been that way. I am super jealous. He always feels like he needs to apologize for this ability, but I just remind him to be thankful for it!

  10. Nice piece! I’ve had those miserable thoughts of everything being wrong in the middle of the night too. I think it takes a lot of work to feel content in one place, and then it’s still not perfect. Kind of like a husband. ;)

    • It does take a lot of work, but I think the point is to find a place that takes the least amount of “work” (whatever that definition is to you, in my case, work = sweating!), and is also still enjoyable at the end of it. Neither of these are obviously that place…but we will keep looking… :)

  11. I can definitely relate to this post. We just got back from Yellowstone where it was 30 degrees at night and to say we were not prepared with our sleeping gear is an understatement. I would have loved Honduras because it’s almost never too hot for me. :)

    • Ohhh…then you are the same as Pete! He doesn’t mind it at all, but I will take the cooler temps, any day. We are now bundled up from the cold, and running the wood stove here in Ireland….I’m bundled under a pile of blankets and sleeping like a baby!!

  12. I think that is what travel is all about. We all at some stage have these mixed feelings. I love to travel and due to my education I have moved a lot during the last years. And even though it is kinda “normal” I still get the same mixed feelings at every destination I go and there is always something which I love about the new place and something I miss from the previous places. I think the PERFECT place doesn’t exist but once we think we found a great place it’s on us and our attitude to make it perfect.

    How is MatadorU? I was thinking of doing the course soon.

    Great writing btw ;)

    • “I think the PERFECT place doesn’t exist but once we think we found a great place it’s on us and our attitude to make it perfect.” I 100% agree with you there. And I’m glad that we are spending our time “testing out” different places like we are. It was always my dream to live on a tropical island somewhere (having grown up in snowy Canada!) but now I realize that I just can’t handle it. Glad I figured that out before I settled down there! But, the quest continues for that place we can make ourselves most happy!

      I’ll send you a separate note on MatadorU…. :)

  13. It’ll be too rainy in Ireland!! Very well written piece and your transitions were spot on. I like how you moved from two very different regions and temperatures. Shows the extremes- both in experiences and emotions that travellers go through. All part of the journey and I don’t think any traveller has a moment or two where they don’t wonder if they will ever find their place in the world.

    • Thanks Caz! So far, no complaints about the rain, we’ve been three days without, I think that might be some kind of record?! And the cooler weather is such a welcome relief from all the heat of Honduras, it will be a long time here before I complain (although I do reserve the right to – ha!)

  14. Dalene, I think this is a brave attempt at a new style. But I think you’re trying too hard to be writerly, and use words you normally wouldn’t use. Don’t sacrifice your freshness for writerly adjectives: I’d love to see this piece with half the adjectives and a quarter of the drafting. Don’t let Matador spoil you. I’m serious! Because I love your normal stuff, and I’d love to have heard this in your normal voice. Just, y’know, you…
    Theodora recently posted..The Sunday Six: The Joys of Asian Roads

    • Hmmm! This was all me, no Matadorian influence really, they didn’t suggest I change a word of it.

      I do know what you mean, for sure, about it being more writerly (ha) then stuff I usually do. And I do like to try new things and new styles to see what I enjoy, and this was one of those!

      Thanks for your comment though, really. I always appreciate an honest opinion!

  15. Enjoyed reading this. Good for you for stretching your writing skills.
    Donna Hull recently posted..Saturday’s scene: View From the Kootenay Rockies

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