Couchsurfing South America: The Shifts of Blasé

<i>Couchsurfing South America</i>: The Shifts of Blasé
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I had never used the term blasé until I hit my eight month traveling anniversary.

Blasé:

  1. Unimpressed or indifferent to something because one has experienced or seen it so often before.

I like to believe that everyone has varying levels of, let’s call it, a blasé threshold. For myself, and I know how dumb-privileged-teenagery this all sounds, it’s hard to stay anywhere for more than a couple months, sometimes even weeks, before the newness of a honeymoon period ends. My blasé threshold is reached, and I’m bored, or better yet, outright unhappy.

Photo credit: jackripper via Flickr
Photo credit: jackripper via Flickr

Because of this, when I was traveling I made no commitments: never booked a hostel until I got there, only paid for one night in case I wanted to leave, and said thanks to each Couchsurfing host that I left early.

Obviously though, everyone is different, and some people like to stay camped in one place, and that’s fine. There are a lot of advantages to staying in one area while traveling: learning the language, getting a job, saving money, meeting a friend group, really getting to know that specific place…

But still, that’s not me.

So when I finally reached Patagonia and felt contentment, and adventure, and comfort that didn’t pass, I was utterly shocked and amazed. It’s my favorite place in the world, and I’ve been here for three months; which is by far the longest I’ve stayed anywhere, or any country, during this whole trip.

But now, as I stand under the wooden shelter of an antique bus stop on the Carretera Austral hitchhiking my way up through the most jaw-dropping, pristine forests laced with light blue glacier mountains, all I can think about is this term blasé and how I hope the next driver will take me up to Chaiten where I can leave Patagonia and book a flight to Colombia.

I landed in Bogota that following week, and after four days, I was miserable, stuck in the empty, mud thoughts of my blase’ delusion.

But I knew it wasn’t Colombia. It was me.

I was getting sloppy. I was doing everything I trained myself not to.

There’s really only two rules one needs to follow when traveling: stay focused on where you are and stay focused on the present.

I had been doing so my whole trip, or at least had been putting forth a great effort to do so, and I truly believed I had built up samurai-like skills focusing my thoughts only on current happenings. But when I got to  Colombia, I knew I only had one more month of traveling, and this caused my mind to ruminate on everything else, but where I was.

I hated it.

For the last month of my travels, my mind kept switching from being thrilled, enthralled, and overjoyed with where I was, while simultaneously being unable to stop thinking about returning to the States.

A whole different world was before me in Colombia and the only thing I could think about was if I should move away from California or not. Do my parents look different? My dog. I can not wait to see my dog. If I skip Panama, then I can use that money to move to a different state. American music. Being home, on the couch, eating peanut butter. A barista who speaks english. Those old friends. If I want to see my friends in northern California, I’ll have to make a facebook event to go backpacking in Sequoia National Park. That’d be more fun than heading to San Francisco. I don’t want to stay in California for too long though…

I even started to fuck up Couchsurfing, and as José flared down the grasshopper-colored street bus, and I held onto the upper iron railing as we planned out where to meet for coffee in an hour, I couldn’t help but feel that it would be the same happenings I’ve had with thirty or so other Couchsurfer hosts.

But again, I knew it wasn’t José. It was me.

Unsure how quickly my blasé threshold was going to be reached, I completely stopped Couchsurfing. This wasn’t like me at all. I didn’t like Bogota and left. I stayed two weeks in the quiet, antiquated town of Barracha, then caught a bus to Cartagena.

Everything was becoming more like check offs on a worn restaurant printout listing the chorus to be done before closing.

I wondered how long I’d be in the U.S. till I’d want to start traveling again.

I caught a bus up to Santa Martha, went on the Lost City Trek, swam in jungle rivers, and six days later caught a cab to Cartagena’s airport.

I woke up in Florida, transferred flights, took on and off my seat belt, and suddenly was walking out the automated doors of LAX where I hugged my dad.

We drove for forty five minutes, passing the hospital where I was born.

Walking into my old house, my mom kisses me on the cheek, and my dog jumps up against my knee.

She hold me out like a painting straight in her arms, “It’s so great to finally see you! And you’re home safe!”

Her face erupts happily in that way staged, still photos never capture. She does this thing she always does when she sees one of her kids after an extended absence. She starts running her hand too quickly up-and-down my back unintentionally causing an Indian burn till she returns her hand into the other, squeezing them tight, while she makes a small, squeal sound.

My dad crackles deep laughter in the background, and It’s good to be home. After all my traveling alone, there’s this voice whispering in my ear that maybe this is the good stuff you remember and care about when it’s all over.

They head off to bed because they have work in six hours, and then I’m in my room on a king-sized bed placed between the four walls where I spent my youth and adolescence.

At the top of the walls, reaching to each corner, surrounding the room in an unbroken square, there’s a five inch vertical stretch of wallpaper that’s been there since I was in a cradle. In my childhood, middle school, high school, and even college, I can recall this wallpaper banister.

My mom always wanted to take it down, but I never let her. By the time I went off to college and she remodeled the whole room, I thought surely she was going remove it, but for one reason or another she didn’t.

And now, as I lie in bed with my nine month, grungy, traveler’s beard hiding my neck, I look up at the top of the walls and the wallpaper imprinted with sport attired teddy bears. There’s four different bears, and they repeat in order across the room: one playing baseball, one playing tennis, one playing hockey, and one playing football.

I stare and stare at them, and it’s like nothing changed, and it’s the most unblasé thing I’ve ever seen.

Jordan David Hargreaves

Jordan David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves is homeless. He currently spends his time traveling South America asking strangers online if he can sleep on their couches. He writes, plays music, wanders, gets groceries, drinks, sleeps, and wakes up to do it again, hopefully in a different place, hopefully on a different couch, hoping a good story comes from it. You can tell him what you think at [email protected]

David Hargreaves is homeless. He currently spends his time traveling South America asking strangers online if he can sleep on their couches. He writes, plays music, wanders, gets groceries, drinks, sleeps, and wakes up to do it again, hopefully in a different place, hopefully on a different couch, hoping a good story comes from it. You can tell him what you think at [email protected]

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