It’s 3am and about 24 hours until the taxi comes to whisk me to the airport so I can fly away on my amazing adventure. I’m not asleep because I am wired from constant activity over the past few days. I guess you could call it travel jitters. I still have things to do and I still feel unprepared, even though I now know my itinerary (roughly) by heart. I guess that’s life. I would love to be the suave guy who can rock up and travel anywhere without batting an eyelid. That person really isn’t me – why pretend otherwise? (And those suave guys? They’re bricking it too and they probably packed too many condoms and not enough pants as well.)
My housemate preaches self-reliance as though it is the best thing since sliced bread. I bet those suave guys do too. My housemate thinks that asking for help and sharing experiences are terrible flaws and/or weaknesses. She prefers the individual over the collective: a hot water bottle is better for her than having the radiators on is for the rest of us. I’ve known her for nearly four years now and she seems to regard even the smallest offer of help as a huge insult. She puts you down with the simplest of remarks without checking whether she is hurting your feelings. Her brutal honesty seems funny in hindsight but it’s strange to realise that what I consider my strongest friendship of the past few years was in fact pretty dysfunctional. All espousing this supposedly noble ideal of self-reliance.
I have no truck with it at all. Sod self-reliance! As humans we are swarms of people, all interconnected and interdependent. Self-reliance is the self-martyring cry of the oligarch, the dictator and the terrorist: the rest of the world seen as a lazy underclass that doesn’t need any help, just a better work ethic. At the end of the day, the wholly self-reliant person just wants a bigger and better throne of skulls to perch upon. Yes, we are individuals and freedom of expression should be enshrined as a human right insofar as it doesn’t impede the well-being of others (and that’s another strike against self-reliance right there), but we succeed in procreating and in protecting one another from harm by acknowledging the needs and feelings of others.
Now I’m not saying I intend to freeload on this trip. I intend to get stuck in and help my fellow travellers. I want to look at South America and really see it, even if it is passing by through the windows of the truck or if I snake around in guided tours on the touristic golden path through colonial cities. I am excited about getting to know my fellow travellers, even if they all turn out to be those suave guys (and gals) I alluded to earlier.
Now it’s 4am and I really should get some sleep!