Laura and Abbey were just my kind of gals! They liked to have fun, were adventurous and open minded, but responsible and sensible. I could rely on them and at the same time let loose with them. They were both traveling and exploring on the inside and out and this complemented my desire to soul search! We met through the Rio Couchsurfing group during my first week and instantly knew we wanted to backpack together. They loved that I had planned my next stop to Peru and I loved that they had planned a trip to a small remote island off of Rio that next week! What was even more crazy was Laura and Abbey were from Austin, so in terms of "getting each other," well, this was easier because we were from the same earth!! We knew no strangers, we were all brave and we were all very good with our money ( very important when traveling in groups due to group thinking.)
This leads me into my crazy story about our trip to Ilha Grande, which we took a week before our departure from Brazil to Peru. The island is known for its beautiful quiet and secluded beaches, its rugged hiking and very very small town with homemade foods and some nightlife. The hippies, richies and wanderers were all present and this was the first place I had visited that was scarcely setup for travelers. So in other words, it was like going even further back in time. I was excited. My first true adventure off the beaten path.
Top Right Picture- left to right; Abbey, Dreadlock man, Laura
It was completely pitch black outside, the blackest I've ever seen. Not one light for a mile around. Texas summer nights are loud with crickets, but it was indescribable the cacophony of sounds that emanated from the Amazonian Rainforest. It was as if there was a full symphony of a million bugs, all playing just for me. It was the last two days of my week long trek in the Amazon and the 10 other travelers in the group left early, I was the only one left. Our main camp was all outdoors, even the bathroom, so at night we just had hammocks strung up under a wooden frame that resembled a picnic covering. It was very intimidating and alarming to know that when my group left I would be sleeping alone for two nights in wide open, pitch black space; just nature and me. The tour crew had a bungalow about 100 feet away, but I still felt so alone and so vulnerable. I kept imagining that movie “The Ghosts of Africa," thinking a jaguar would come surprise attack me in my hammock; but those fears soon turned as I found peace in the forest sounds and cool breeze. This was the first moment on my trip I was completely comfortable being alone and more than that, happy with it. It gave me confidence, and a confidence I would need for my next stop Rio de Janeiro.
It was October 13, 2009 and I sat in the Los Angeles airport awaiting my first international flight of my big world trip. It was going to Manaus, Brazil and this would kickstart my adventures into a world very different than my own. A place where everything is different and unfamiliar. As I sat waiting for my flight, a feeling of complete heaviness fell upon me and I began thinking, " what the world am I doing?!" I felt that deep Nausea form at the pit of my stomach and felt, for the first time, very alone. I called Bret one last time before calls were impossible and I remember crying hysterically as I told him I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing. I wanted to crawl into a hole and forget that I even wanted to travel, I wanted to fly back to Bret and stay in his arms forever, because the thought of leaving and never seeing him again was unbearable. I was indeed alone, but not in spirit. Bret calmed me down and reminded me that I was prepared and that I would be just fine. He assured me he was there and he would be there every step of the way. His phone call got me through my overnight flight and I hung on to his every word. As soon as I boarded the plane, I realized there was no turning back at least not for a while!
I had 1 year to prepare, from the time I decided to take a long term solo backpacking trip to the time I would leave. I chose my departure date carefully, by going with my favorite month and number! It was October 3, 2009. I did have to take other things about my timing into consideration, for instance thinking about what seasons I'd be traveling in, festivals and other big events I could luckily coordinate, but it was mostly about the weather. That's why I chose to go South first, so I could experience nicer weather and no rainy seasons!
The reason I gave myself a deadline or departure date? I knew myself all too well, and I knew I’d work best with an end goal; in my mind making everything else easier to figure out! Since I knew my initial direction was South, and I knew I'd be using Couchsurfing, this allowed me to start planning the countries and cities I'd visit. To the forums I went. I love forums, there is so much raw info there, no fluff, just experiences. I learned a lot through these travel forums where avid travelers would share tips and tricks to traveling wise and safe, as well as their favorite destinations and hidden gems. Coupled with my internet research, I also took loads of recommendations from the Blackfriar crew and customers and family/ friends. If someone would mention a place they wanted to go or had been, I would write the place down in my journal ( which I always brought to work; I called it my bible, a funny way my drill team director used to call her most important book!) and then I would research the place later. I ditched some but realized people were mostly giving me really good recommendations.
Bret and I instantly connected through writing and in person. We had the same ideologies in life and the same hunger for learning and knowledge. I loved his intellect and southern charm, his kindness and gentleness. Our grander visions in life meshed so well, we became soul mates instantly, although I was stubborn at recognizing this in the beginning!