Adjusting to life on the road

When we decided to travel around South America for 6 months many were surprised that I’d signed up to camping for most it. How does the girl with the pristine Notting Hill flat and the sizeable shoe and bags collection adjust to nomadic life?

The answer is “relatively easily”. It’s not the shoe collection or the outfits that I miss (though a pair of thermal leggings would be nice). The things that, two weeks in, I am adjusting with are a lot more subtle and complicated.

An alternative working title to this post could be “the princess diaries”. I am well aware that these posts might come across as moaning – it’s a great privilege to be able to take the time off and I don’t take it for granted. But I would not be doing this experience or this blog justice if I pretended everything is rosy; besides that’s what Instagram is for :). 

Lack of over stimulation

My work life revolves around trying to navigate through 1,000 problems at once, holding 3 conversations whilst writing 10 emails all at the same time and managing a team of almost 20 people. Here, I only need to manage myself and maybe occasionally Andy. There is no constant internet connection, no pressing problems to solve, no team questions to field, no TV, no need to complete 100 tasks by end of day. Nothing.

I am still finding this weird. Whenever we get to a place that has wifi I connect immediately, start at least 3-4 what’s app conversations, check emails, read the news (Greek, UK and American news. Just in case there’s something I have missed).

Finding ways to entertain oneself that do not revolve around technology or require spending money is quite frankly new. Modern life is full of ways in which you don’t have to stand still, be quiet and think. Andy reminded me the other day (when I was getting antsy because I had “nothing to do”) of a story I told him about Donald Robertson and his #buythemnothing approach.

Exercise, yoga and my books are keeping me entertained for now. Pamela and I occasionally do timed workout challenges together (she in London, me in the middle of nowhere). And trying to plan our next couple of days and good is also a never ending source of entertainment.

Slowing down

As it’s still the beginning of the tourist season here most campsites we use are either closed or empty. This is great as we get the place to ourselves, it’s dead quiet of human noises (I have come to realise that there is such a thing as too much bird noise) and the owners have time and energy to invite us into their homes, share a cup of tea and we learn first hand about life in Chile (last night we ended up having tea with the surveyor that led the construction of Routa 5 under Pinochet).

The life of a photographer’s assistant
But still such invites take up an hour or so. After that? How do I turn down the intensity with which I approach almost everything in life and just enjoy the time?

I am learning to enjoy the process of not having everything planned out l, every hour marked out for “a thing to do”. I am starting to enjoy the lack of a plan, the need to adjust to weather conditions, the fact that tourist info offices and national park offices are closed on the weekend (and they don’t take online bookings. But then again I don’t have internet 🙂 ). It’s noon here and we don’t know whether we are staying in the little fishing town we are at or if we are moving further south. It’s raining – do we really fancy trekking in the rain? (Absolutely not is the answer).

Ditching the routine 

Travelling has also thrown a huge spotlight in the day to day routine of modern life. You wake up, go to the gym, go to work, lunch at your desk, work, drink / dinner with a friend, some TV time, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

I was so entrenched in this routine. I did not deviate from it even when on holiday where work was substituted for sightseeing / chilling by the beach / doing a thing. Now we don’t have a routine. We are working on setting one that works for us (after all, 3 meals a day are not nearly enough for Andy).

What I have realised is that I am miserable if I don’t sleep well or I don’t have nice food (read tasty, well presented and cooked with care). At least once a day. I am not talking Michelin starred dinners. But a warm meal is imperative (an omelette, a bowl of pasta, Dahl – all have been cooked in the last week).

Camping and cooking
Cooking risotto
I am also not very good with mess. As we are adjusting to sharing the small space Gellan (aka the car) has to offer the last week has been dominated by one question: “have you seen the passports / car keys / my book /  camera tripod / second spoon / towel / salt…”. It’s driving me crazy and I long for the day when I know with confidence where everything is.

What the hell is Andy doing?

Mostly nothing to be honest which is a good thing. Not asking me every 5 minutes if I am ok. No rolling of eyes. No more than the usual patronising comments.

But reminding me that the absence of a rambling stomach does not equate absence of hunger. Suggesting that it everything is that important. Making sure that we get three meals together, some of which involve a table cloth and the glass wine glasses we bought. Giving me time to figure this out. Telling me that the second spoon is in the wash up pile, the book was seen yesterday but he does not remember where and the keys are in the ignition.

What next? 

Reading through this I realise that perhaps in a roundabout way I am talking about being more mindful. Taking time, switching off and enjoying the space the lack of commitments yields. All that after I find a wifi spot to post this :).

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