I promised to blog for a cause for International Women’s Day. In the days leading up to today, I thought of all the strong, inspirational women I knew… and felt fearful and weak in comparison as I started my trip down south from Huancayo to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. It was going to take over 50 hours to get from one place to the other via three buses, which turned out to be four, that arrived late at each destination. I imagined I would use all those extra hours to think about this blog post, but traveling is exhausting, especially when you’re on the verge of fear.
I was afraid about traveling alone as a woman, meeting the wrong people, turning into one of the tragic tales that grace the front cover of daily newspapers and being a victim of the fallibility of developing countries. I’m neither a traveler nor an adventurer; I prefer to settle in and make myself a cozy nook in another country. I chose to purchase tickets from more reputable bus companies, put a lock on my backpack and sleep with my foot slipped through the backpack strap, but there are no guarantees here.
Thankfully, I made it from one end of the Andes to the other smoothly and in one piece even though I can only catch around 50% of what Chileans (and Spaniards and Cubans) say because they speak so quickly. I wondered why I was worried in the first place and am trying to convince myself that the trip back in two weeks will be easier now that I know what to expect. On the way over the Peru-Chile border in a shady-looking mafia car, one of the men I was traveling with told me I was brave for traveling alone. Maybe I really was brave if a person can be brave and afraid at the same time. Today, I want to recognize all brave female travelers and adventurers who aren’t afraid of taking risks, being alone and living without plans.