The Adventure Begins (Portugal $)
It was my own fault. If I had not insisted on buying the strangers next to me on my flight to the Azores a beer upon arrival, I would not have been in this situation. I would have made it to the camp at 7:00 p.m., the time they were expecting me, and were waiting patiently for my arrival in order to give me the customary welcome tour of the phenomenal Banana Eco Camp on the Azorean island of Terceira.
I should have been resting comfortably in my cozy little teepee log cabin, and reflecting peacefully on the first day of my adventure around the world. Maybe I would have shared my first meal with my camp neighbors, or perhaps opened a bottle of wine with the owners as a celebratory offering because they were my first of many stops around the world. And I almost certainly would have joined in for a few sing-along campfire songs, while asking everyone in sight with a guitar if they knew how to play “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. Because if there is one thing in this world that I am good at, it is singing “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, but I digress.
But I wasn’t sitting around a campfire, or settling into my new teepee cabin for the next four nights. I was at an airport bar, basically holding two strangers captive and forcing them to commemorate the fact that they were my first “friends” that I made on the year-long Venture Twelve project.
So, needless to say, I was late. Multiple hours late.
As soon as the taxi drove down the long, narrow, and dark dirt road heading towards the closed gates of the camp, I knew that I had made a big mistake. After pounding on the gates for what seemed like hours (remember the celebratory airport beers that I HAD to have), an off duty employee opens the gate only to find a disheveled, buzzed American with enough luggage to fill an 18 wheeler.
“Hi, I am Ryan… the writer from America. I am staying here,” is close enough to the words that I probably uttered.
“You’re very late,” replied the worker, who I more than likely unceremoniously awoke with my banging on the gate (along with the rest of the campers, who are clearly way more responsible than me, and were tucked neatly into their beds way before my grand entrance.)
“I would give you the tour now, but it will be best if we hold off until tomorrow, you know, so you can actually see what I am showing you, and so we will not wake any of the campers that you haven’t already startled half to death,” said the very friendly, yet stern older gentleman.
“That’s totally fine,” I said, as I was in no condition to be led on a tour after an international flight and multiple beers anyway.
“Oh, and you’re going to have to sleep in a tent tonight, because the owners already went home, and you were not here in order for them to give you the key to your teepee cabin.”
“Sure, no problem at all!” I managed to exclaim in my most overly-dramatic positive tone, almost as if I was a pep rally cheerleader. But inside I was desperately trying to hide the panic in my voice that I was going to have to attempt to assemble a tent while heavily buzzed, all on my own at nearly midnight, in a banana plant jungle.
I am a lot of things, but a manly man is not one of them. If you want to laugh your ass off for hours on end, ask me to assemble a tent by myself… or start a fire… or change the oil in my car… or kill a spider… or know what the hell a wrench is.
So you can imagine my relief when the poor man that was sleeping just minutes prior, and now was forced to converse with some strange beer-drinking, American man, tells me there is an extra tent they set up for me way over in the banana fields and I can sleep there for the night. Tomorrow morning when I get up I can move into my new fancy teepee cabin.
More like when I get up tomorrow LATE afternoon, I said under my breath, because of my uncanny ability of sleeping in.
So there I am, too lazy to unpack and lying fully clothed in a tent. I am in the middle of a banana jungle, in the middle of an Azorean island, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I know exactly zero people on the island except for a man that very likely hates me. My two “best airplane friends” that I insisted on making, were only there for a few hour layover before heading off to Lisbon.
I have no sleeping bag, no pillow, and all my electronic devices are dead. It’s day one and I already misplaced the $75 headlamp that I deemed a vital purchase before the trip, so I couldn’t even read a book. But I did have some entertainment because the constant battle of killing mosquitoes before they bit me kept me plenty entertained for a few hours as my head slid deeper and deeper into a ditch at the end of the tent. Despite all this, I managed to doze off to sleep for a few minutes before being stirred awake by the sound of rain. I awoke even further once the rain started dripping into the tent. Then dripping all over my face, all over my clothes, and all over my luggage. Basically all over my life.
And to think, just 12 hours earlier I was in my home, with everyone I love. My family and friends not only had a killer going away party for me, but they also hired a party bus to take me on the hour and a half journey to Logan Airport in Boston, MA to get my venture started the right way.
Never have I regretted anything more in my life than in this moment. Why did I leave my perfect life back home? I left a great job, amazing friends, a loving, supportive family, and perhaps most importantly, a very comfortable bed, to travel around the world ALL BY MYSELF.
Between physically slapping myself to avoid getting a mosquito-borne illness on day one and mentally beating the crap out of myself for up and leaving the life I loved at home, I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears that first night in the Azores; the first night of my venture around the world.
I made myself a promise that night… that this would be the only night I would allow myself to feel this way. This is the saddest, most doubtful, most pessimistic, and most scared I will be all year.
Tomorrow I will wake up and I will be a new man. Tomorrow I will wake up and be ready to see the world. Tomorrow I will get up and explore. Tomorrow I will apologize to my neighbors for walking them up at midnight with my yells of “Hey! I am Ryan, can someone open the gate.” Tomorrow I will wake up and become the travel writer that I have always wanted to be. Tomorrow I will wake up and my life will change forever.
Just not until like at least noon. I really, really am not a morning person.