An introvert in Central America
Whew! What a relief it is to finally put an end to the despair I’ve been feeling. Something has had me off-and-on depressed and emotionally overwhelmed for a few months now. And just today, I’ve put a finger on what I think is the problem.
Ambition was in no short supply when I left Texas in March. An inferno of it burned within me while I rode the difficult roads of North Mexico. Either by coincidence or by the will of my subconscious, I was riding exactly where I needed to find happiness and self satisfaction.
The adventure felt more alive than ever before. I was camping most days, and I was preparing most of my own meals. The challenges were rewarding and life-changing. My eagerness to continue could only be quelled by the need for rest itself.
The road seemed to offer tranquil paradises just as I needed them. Mexico is such a huge country of wide open space that I could weave in and out of solitude as I wished.
And then the flame started flickering around Mexico City. I got sick with diarrhea. An encounter with the police brought me down. Everything from food to accommodation increased in price and degraded in quality. I quit camping. The people were no less friendly. There just became too many of them.
The solitude of the north was disappearing, and I failed to realized my growing depression because magnificent experiences would occasionally renew me.
The rugged terrain of Oaxaca and Chiapas felt delightfully sparse compared to Mexico’s capital city. The jungle of Palenque introduced me to monkeys and the wonders of the ancient Maya. In Merida, I found peace in the beautiful underground swimming holes. In Cancun, Eric came to my rescue with his healing power of love.
Each of these brightened my mood — if only briefly — and encouraged me to continue.
Leaving Mexico for Belize was supposed to be another great renewal — a doorway into a new continent. It wasn’t great; it wasn’t renewing. Every day in Belize was a day I wished to leave.
Guatemala restored my hope with the ruins of Tikal and a magical week in the Lanquin River valley. I camped for the first time in more than a month and felt just as great as I had in Palenque. And then Antigua introduced me to Guatemala’s incredible pollution problem. I left feeling breathless for actual air and not just the metaphorical type.
What I realized today is that in Central America, people are everywhere.
To make matters worse, the continent continues to narrow. The opposing coastlines squish everyone and everything into a tiny little spit of land where not even a road exists to relieve the pressure. The only way out is by boat or back through the overwhelming weight of the North.
I’m just not compatible with this kind of population density. My kind of riding is tuned to the open roads of North America where people and square kilometers can be synonymous. Just look at the population heat map to see what I mean.
The solution to my despair is to leave Central America. That happens in exactly one month on August 4th when I start a nine-day sail to South America. The continent looks promising, and with this new realization, I can at least plan a route through the north and into the beautifully sparse land of Chile and Argentina. I want to camp more nights than I sleep in a bed. I want to ride for hours without seeing another human. I want to breathe clean air and swim in unpolluted rivers and lakes.
Come on South America! Don’t let me down!