On a cool, sunny afternoon several weeks ago in Bend, Oregon, I hiked along this quiet trail near Shevlin Park, and reflected on my upcoming volunteer Amizade adventure. Although I have no recollection of any of the particular thoughts I had as I ascended this slight grade, I have no problem sharing that little else has dominated my thoughts over the past months than the details and personal ramifications of this journey.
In less than one week from today, I will start the first leg of a four-month trip which will take me to five different continents, where I will necessarily and directly be immersed in the complexities of vastly different cultures. I have already mentioned that, on the surface, my role is to work as a volunteer on widely diverse humanitarian projects, photograph and write about them and provide useful information for future volunteers. To express this goal in words is easy, but to actually lay the groundwork to pull it off is a stress-filled challenge. The travel preparations, including transportation and lodging, have been daunting. Likewise, it has been no easy task to settle affairs at home to accommodate a protracted absence. There have been challenges predicated by my choice to travel light with only a backpack and a carry-on as to choice of clothing and equipment. Notwithstanding, I have had to consider health issues and have undergone lots of tests, some of which have increased my level of anxiety rather than mollifying me. Last of all, I have had to struggle with an internal battle concerning my separation from loved ones and the effect it will have on my relationship with them. I rationalize that in the scheme of things this trip is only for a short time, and that I'll be back soon, but the reality is that the perils I am about to encounter are numerous and that, as it is often wryly thought at these moments, you never know the last time you say good-bye.
In any case, on Sunday, January 3rd, I leave first for Brazil, with a layover in Rio de Janeiro before heading to the Amazon river town of Santarem. I am excited to share my adventure with you. Yet this blog is so much more than a daily post of pretty pictures and words. It is a lifeline to the world to which I belong. It is a conduit to the people I love. Without it, I am simply alone, the proverbial rolling stone tossed by fickle current down to the sea.