Travel is not always about the highs. As Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel articulates so perfectly, you go with yourself wherever you are; and your habits and reactions to difficult moments go with you.
This post was written during a difficult patch in Bolivia. I thought about not publishing it, as of course my experience there was not ALWAYS so please-poke-out-my-eyes-right-now hideous. But I’ve decided to post it as it was true of the moment in which it was written.
I never expected to want to leave a place as I have done here in Bolivia. I imagine that this feeling stems in no small way from the constant sensation that I am coming down with something. It seems that my immune defences here been shot – constant running nose and food poisoning above all – and that my normal ability to roll with the punches has not been able to extend to being capable of afronting nicely the unexpected nature of the people here.
Never have the people in a country I have visited blown so hot and cold. I’ve usually felt welcome. There’s more often interest, questioning:
“Why are you here?”
“What made you choose OUR country?”
But Bolivia…oh Bolivia, you’re like an on/off relationship of the most hurtful kind.
You seem to be a land where the smile and happy buenos días offered by one stranger is instantly ripped away like a bandaid by the too-long, unsmiling look of another or their refusal to answer your questions.
Fast-forward to a shop assistant reacting to your obvious tourist status by calculatingly multiplying the price of her produce, to be followed by a long, sweet exchange with another.
Next, the long walk to the bus terminal, eyes following you all the way, faces stern.
“Do many travellers pass through here?” I felt compelled to ask the owner of my hostal in Vallegrande.
“Yes, many…very often.”
Then why do I feel like such a freak?
Life’s like a box of chocolates…you never know what you´re going to get.
(I bet Forrest Gump’s momma was in Bolivia when she came up with that.)