December 31, 2019
Usually, this time a year I would be in the newsroom, working on “the year in review” – kind of stories. It’s a tradition I’d like to keep, even though, unlike anytime before, this will be a story about my year in review. And in pictures.
2019 has been THE most interesting year of my life. After more than a decade in the newsroom, priding myself on my workaholism, I took a leap into the unknown. For the first time since I can remember, I stopped. Completely. A defeaning silence ensued. It was scary. Then, excitement, friends, family time and THE WORLD.
I’ve travelled across 2 continents and 10 countries. I must’ve slept in close to a hundred different beds. I’ve seen 3 of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Marvelled at the greatest sunrise I’d ever seen, on top of Pidurangula Rock, in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. I was then able to compare it to the world famous sunrise at Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. I forgot about the world on the most perfect beach, on a Filipino island. I was mesmerized by Japan. I was petrified by the crowds at the Great Wall of China. I was in awe by the perfectness of Singapore.
I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” right in the author’s childhood home, in ‘real-life Macondo’, in Colombia. In Medellin, I immersed myself in the history of the narco wars and the rebirth of the amazing Colombian nation. In Peru, I climbed Machu Pichu Mountain and truly saw the beauty of the lost city of the Incas. But I was even more struck by the otherworldliness of Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain.
In Argentina, I ate and drank until I understood what joy that can bring. I was teary eyed at a tango show and overly enthused by the presidential elections I got to witness. I crossed the border into Brazil at the breathtaking Iguazu Falls, a natural spectacle unlike any other. Then, I went deep into the Amazon jungle and understood the true power of a community.
I couldn’t leave Brazil until I had seen the fog rise from the base of Christ the Redeemer statue and then see the sun set from Sugarloaf Mountain and fall utterly in love with Rio. And so I left a continent struggling with so many political crises, a continent where the Venezuelan refugee drama was just about to suprass in scale the Syrian one. But I also left behind a continent rich with culture, history and thirst for life.
The country I came back to
2019 has been the year I climbed mountains, walked through deserts, been on beautiful seas, gazed from atop some of the most impressive cities in the world. I became a nomad who is now very cautious in the face of overtourism. I saw the beauty of places, but also got to discover the extent to which human beings can be cruel to one another, how they can be corrupt and truly inhumane. I realized how common our mistakes as peoples are, regardless of the differences in our cultures and geographies.
I read a lot this year, I recorded all that I feared I might forget and then, when I got home, I needed some time to truly reflect on the stories I had discovered (this will explain why I have yet to start publishing).
I came back to a country that, like many that I’ve discovered this year, is still struggling with its past. A nation that still doesn’t understand the danger of a bankrupt and failing media industry. A people energized by a new civil society, by new hopes.
On the road again. The stories to come
When I look back now, I feel that this year I’ve lived for an entire decade. It hasn’t always been easy and picture-perfect days. Don’t let my social media posts fool you. Long-term travel does take a toll on one every now and then. The constant moving, the longing for familiarity, the homesickness, the fear of not having a purpose anymore – they all crept in every now and then. But I wouldn’t trade 2019 for any other year.
And so today, in the last hours of this whirlwind of a year, it’s only fitting that I’m on a plane again. This time, I’m doing it like back in the day when I still knew what city breaks were supposed to be. And this time I’m staying right here, on the continent I will always call ‘home’.
When I go back, I’ll bring you my cherished stories from the South American travels.
I’m excited for you to see the how the Venezuelan exodus truly looks like and how dangerous nationalist populism can be.
I want you to meet Max, a Venezuelan immigrant living on the Colombian Carribean coast, who shared with me his story of how he came out in a Conservative family and how he had to flee his beloved country.
I can’t wait for you to see Angelica, from Cuzco, explaining what Peruvian women struggle with.
I’m sure you’ll love Ismael, from an Amazonian community, as much as I loved him, while he told me what family and happiness meant to him. I’ll also introduce you to Gero, a Brazilian tour agency owner, passionately talking about the struggles of the Amazonian people and about the impact of the news coverage of the wildfires earlies this year.
To all of you who have been here in my journeys and to those who have just stumbled upon this post, I wish you a wonderful new year and a world that is kinder and closer to everyone!
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