Friday, September 28, 2012

Cogitations 1

Backlog: 8/12/12

Well, we all know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men…our Kickstarter having failed quite epically, and us not willing to give up on our plan for the trip, we were forced to re-route and consider our options.  Though I suppose that there’s any number of hundreds of little things that we could have done to network the campaign better—create a “Proverbial Thousand Miles” Facebook page, for instance (although the new working title we’ve been throwing around is “People Between Borders”, because a surprising amount of people had no idea as to either the Lao Tzu reference or what “proverbial” meant…hmph)—at the end of the day it’s really “who you know” with this sort of business. With a few much appreciated exceptions, the folks who WE knew that were very supportive of the project had no money, while those who had money tended to call the project a “bad business investment”. Of course, since penciling in “make rich friends” on your to-do list is not only superficial, but also just a teensy bit odious, we’ll just have to hope that we get enough of a fan following via this blog (and the upcoming film, of course) to fund our next venture. Until then, a long and wild ride it will be.
                However, not to be defeated, the three of us sat down to palaver one day. JJ and I were on the cat-piss-smelling couch in our crumbling, concrete, ex-servant-quarters downtown apartment in Queretaro, respectively nursing a cigarette and an Indio beer at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Aaron, seriously pushing his glasses up his nose and looking something up on Google every few minutes, was roughly two thousand miles away using the Wi-Fi in his mother’s basement. Thus began a serious discussion of our future.  
                First off, the trip could not be as long as we had been hoping. That was a plain fact, and unless one or all of us either magically became independently wealthy in the next month—or decided to run up a credit card bill that would make Paris Hilton snicker—we needed to downsize.  This downsizing also included the breadth of our journey…doing the same number of miles, but faster, was far more likely to result in us spending MORE rather than less money in an effort to get a decent idea of the places we were in. And of course, there was the fact that plane tickets purchased this late in the game were likely to skin us even more than usual. It was a dilemma that none of us felt good about, but that had to be addressed if we wanted to ever be anything more than “those guys” who were “gonna do that thing”. You know the type.
We talked about Columbia, and it actually got quite a few points before we finally scrapped the idea. Colombia is a beautiful country, and I really think that the general gringo perception of it isn’t quite fair (kind of like the general gringo perception of Mexico), but the fact remained that none of us knew much about what to expect there, and my general mantra continued to ring true—that there’s a giant difference between taking risks and being a dumbass. When that line is blurred, AND you are responsible for the lives and well-being of more people than just yourself, AND you have a general gap in knowledge and very few contacts in a place, it is generally a good idea to err on the side of less dumbassery. Chile and Argentina looked more attractive, both socio-politically and in light of the fact that we had more potential contacts in these places. However, the fact remained that any flights we took to those countries were going to cost an arm and a leg more than those to a closer country, due not in a small part to the time-frame we were working in. And of course, there is always the fact that, eventually, we had to think about getting back. That meant either a round-trip ticket to placate customs officials or some serious squirreling away during the voyage. We talked about getting as far south on the Panamerican as possible, trucking on South through the various Central American countries until we were forced to turn back. But of course, the fact remained that all of us were pretty obviously foreign, non-native Spanish speakers, and may not always be received in countries off the beaten path—general populace aside, it has been heard through the grapevine that the territory in and around that part of the world tends to be a popular hangout for the Mara Saluvatrucha, and that is one battleground we are woefully unprepared to enter. After more trips like this, quite possibly. Right now, no. We even tossed around the notion of not leaving Mexico at all, but simply traveling around our adopted country seeing all of those famed places that we’d been “meaning to” for the last year. Not a bad plan for another time, but it was so far afield of our original one that we let it fall by the wayside.
Of course, those of you geography/tourism aficionados are probably already impatient with my storytelling, because the obvious solution has been staring you in the face for some time now. Well, too bad…I’m building dramatic suspense, and won’t have it ruined by the snotty, well-travelled intelligentsia. For those of you who object to the term snotty, well-travelled intelligentsia, rest easy…I PROBABLY wasn’t talking to you. But watch your ass.
I digress. At any rate, eventually we hit on it…Peru. Starting in Peru and making a general tour of the country would take about 3 months, the legal limit for a foreign tourist visa from either the United States or France (although the fine for overstaying is about a dollar a day, so we weren’t too worried about the wrath of the Andes raining down on us were we to fudge a little on the regulations). Peru also has an amazingly rich cultural heritage, as well as one of the most diverse collections of climate zones in the world, which meant that there would be lack of neither interesting new places nor histories (in addition, of course, to the face-to-face intercultural exchange that is the whole point of our project) were we to spend a lot of time there. We were already seriously considering the idea of starting another, similar fundraising campaign (this one through Indiegogo rather than Kickstarter, since they’re a little more relaxed on both the type of project they allow and the all-or-nothing funding model…stay tuned for updates!) and figured that if it was successful, it would be easy to cross the border from Peru into Chile—possibly even Argentina, if fortune smiled on us. If not, we could still figure out how to survive on prayers and garbage cans for three months before flying back. We also decided to go ahead and throw down for a return ticket to Mexico City, both as a form of insurance (squirrelling away has never been my style) and due to the fact that the Peruvian government gets a little peeved if you don’t have some sort of a return option in place. Plus, in the infinite wisdom of the airline companies, tacking on a return via AeroMexico was only about $80 more—a small price to pay for legal immunity and peace of mind.
And so, the plan is in place—barring death, insanity, or the government randomly kidnapping me as a test subject with which to start a new Super-Spy program, we’re on our way*. We’ve got our tickets, and all of us are reading up a little on Peru so that we don’t arrive quite the blue-eyed babes we are now. I won’t lie—it’s a bit of a disappointment given our original idea. I decided not to delete the first post on this blog, even though there is now a flying subject change in the material, or old-times sake. However, I also understand that that way lays madness. It’s still pretty badass no matter how you slice it to bum around Peru without a plan for 3 months, and there is a lot that we can learn from this experience. Plus, a highly sensible friend of mine (the kind everyone manages to make at one point or another, but about whom they NEVER stop wondering how in God’s name someone that level-headed and nice managed to survive middle school intact) had the good grace to point out that, no matter what the difference, comparing the is with the might-have-been is both foolish and unfair. He told me to think of it like NASA…the reason they’ve managed to go so far is that they think of each and every one their missions as training exercises, leading to bigger and better horizons every  time.  Even the moon landings are anticipating the future.
Being compared to NASA made me feel pretty good. And so, as time ticks on closer and closer to the day when we kiss our ordered lives goodbye and throw ourselves into a journey worthy of the annals of history, I just keep remembering that the famous “Earthrise” photo has always made me feel big rather than small—whether you look at the world telescopically or microscopically, it is only in the act of looking that one remembers how beautiful it is.
And of course, there is the fact that guinea-pigs are among the most annoying mammals that have ever had the audacity to exist, and eating one sounds cathartic in the extreme. But that will be a story for a later time.

*Although, in all fairness, I HAVE instructed my intrepid gentlemen that in the event of me being kidnapped for a Super-Spy program, they are to keep on track AND keep this blog going.


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