THE DOG BLOG
Lovers of Travel
~~~from Panama to Colombia~~~
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As the author,
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Dear Appreciators of Animals and/or Travel,
I'm just beginning to realize the uniqueness of what I'm doing. Yes, there are others traveling through South America. Yes, there are a few traveling with their dogs. There are women traveling alone. Others are also keeping a blog. There may be people traveling while earning a living, though I haven't met any. But all of these combined? And in an ex-surveillance van almost thirty years old? Mine is a 21st century South American version of John Steinbeck's odyssey, Travels with Charlie.
In 1999 while living in Kenya I got the idea I wanted to write in beautiful places accompanied by my dog. The first trip to Tanzania was an unproductive but eventful ten day trek in a 1983 Land Rover. I also had the idea of living in one wonderful locations for six months while doing freelance work, and then moving on to explore new areas of the world for six months. Alas, the man I married didn't take to the idea and for various reasons we parted. Nevertheless, I felt the ideas were good and could work - IF some of the kinks were ironed out.
Late in 2003 I began writing from a Jeep Wrangler while traveling in America's SouthWest with my two Kenyan born dogs. It was a productive time while camping. I also accepted the house invites of friends scattered throughout the states. I loved this way of seeing friends, as our lives were joined for priveledged moments as opposed to rushed visits.
In late 2005 I journeyed for three months through Central America to Costa Rica in a Chevy van which used to be a police surveillance vehicle. Again, it was a very productive way to work. My schedule was to wake at 6 am, walk the dogs, and be writing by 7. If it was a travel day, I wouldn't be on the road tll 12 and would start looking for a new campsite at 3pm. I'd walk the dogs again, make a campfire, prepare dinner and do a bit more work in the evening. This schedule would be broken up with chats with new friends I met on the road, or with taking in tourist sites, buying groceries, doing laundry and the other routines which make up most peoples lives. I was pretty happy.
I found a place to live in a Costa Rican fishing village, but after 13 months took off for South America and envioned that my work-while-traveling schedule would resume. I was mistaken. The last two months have been difficult traveling and it's been a continual struggle to balance my work needs with the needs of my two dogs and the needs of myself.
The biggest challenge has simply been that camping in both Central America and Colombia thus far is difficult. Or rather, camping as I mean it. I spent about four weeks in Panama City camping in a huge car park which is a meeting point of other travelers who are transporting their vehicles by freighter over the Darien Gap, an impenetrable stretch of jungle dividing Panama and Colombia. I realize there's a huge amount of people in the US who camp at WalMart and other parking areas, but I've only done so once in an emergency. However, as parking lots go, this was pretty ideal. It was on the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal in view of the Bridge of the America's, and I was able to get wifi and water from the Balboa Yaught Club, as well as some social interaction from some of their regulars and sailors who all seemed to be sailing round the world. Some had been en route for five years. It was also a great place to walk the dogs except there was an endless supply of scraps on the ground left by picknikers and partiers. Bruiser reverted to being a scrounging street dog and even with decreasing his regular meals, he still gained weight.
Meeting other travelers was encouraging as I was petrified to head south. I had few fears about Colombia since all the reports from others who'd ventured there within the past four years had been extremely positive. I did feel however that I was jumping off the deep end. Once I paid the $1500 to get the van across, there was no turning back. This part of the journey symbolized the beginning of the end. There was no way that after traveling through South America, I would then ship a van I bought for $750 back to North America or elsewhere. Instead, after thousands of miles of driving, depending on the van's condition I'd either ditch it, or see if I could re-coop my money. The engine was strong and it was possible I might even make a profit. And then what??? Either Africa, Europe or back to the states. I had no idea what the future would hold. But the journey wouldn't continue in what I now consider my 'home'.
There was another reason for my fears. Traditional nomads revisit the same grounds year after year despite their roaming lifestyle. Retired RVers in the states and Europe do the same. There's a reason for this. We need familiarity and consistency. During the two years and 30,000 miles I traveled in America I too revisited the same places again and again, and stayed with the Doughty family in Houston many times as I passed through Texas from east to west, and west to east again and again. These repeated revisitations with places and friends were solidifying and gave my voyage a sense off continuity. Heading to South America felt like dropping into the unknown. This was a continent where I had no contacts, and no friends. Everything was new, new, new.
But was this true? I'd visited Santiago, Chile for five days last year. I now know two lovely couples traveling ahead of me. There's two Argentinian men behind me. There will be others I have yet to meet who I might visit with again. And a few old friends from the states who might fly down in the future. I have my van, which is my movable house and my two dogs who've been my faithful and enduring companions almost 24 hours a day for the past four years. And I have a daily working and living routine which surprises people in it's rigidity, but gives me a sense of solidity. Free spirit I am not. We all need stability in one way or another. Once I took the plunge and committed to putting the van on a freighter, a huge weight was lifted and I sensed I'd be fine. And so far, I am. Fear can be consuming. It's up to us to question what is true, and what isn't.
Please check out my two new set of photos at either www.LorraineChittock.com or www.WorldWideBeasts.com. If you would like your photographs signed, please email me and we can set up a personal arrangement.
Best wishes to you all, Lorraine