March 23, 2007

Amazon River Sunset
Rio Amazonas, Brazil

I don't expect sunny days—I'm in the middle of the largest rainforest in the world. It's been overcast and raining intermittently since I bused away from the coast (several days, and half a lifetime ago). Today was different though; it was a beautiful day, with an equally beautiful sunset over the Amazon.

Sunsets—I've seen hundreds since I went nomad. Tonight, as I watched the sun dip below the horizon, I found myself reflecting on personal preferences—some introspective self discovery.

I've spent a lot of time on beaches, and have clocked in a growing number of days on boats. The realization that I came to tonight was that I prefer to watch the sun setting from a beach in the company of someone, whereas it's my preference to watch a sun setting from a boat alone.

Simple, and a little strange perhaps, but as I reflected on why this was, my thoughts turned to that of boats and privacy. It is easy to feel isolated on a beach, wanting for companionship—but to find moments to yourself on a boat with others aboard, that's challenging.

I'm a rather solitary person, I suppose. It's my preference to travel alone the majority of the time, but often think of (or remember) the pleasures a companion adds to the experience. I need daily alone time to reflect, gather my thoughts, and write.

I've gotten myself in trouble on this boat. I've been too outgoing, and now it's challenging to find a moment to myself. Everywhere I go friendly Brazilians would like to chit-chat or look over my shoulder as I do things. I have a 10 year-old boy as a shadow—he loves to draw my attention.

Sometimes all I want to do is sit alone and watch the river roll by, absorbing the unique and beautiful environment that I'm traveling in. I have a spot or two I can do this from, but sooner or later someone finds me.

Shore Leave

It's 9:30 on a Friday night, and we've just pulled into another port. The crew is unloading the forward cargo hold, and I've been told that we have three hours to do with on land as we wish. This information comes to me in the form of a question, from a group wanting me to go out and drink/dance with them.

I hesitated in my reply; this could be my chance to find some solitude for a few hours. I don't particularly feel like dining, drinking, or dancing, and intentionally buried every cent of my money deep in my backpack (to keep myself from being tempted by the vendors that come aboard). I've spent enough on this neat little boat trip, and feel no need to spend again until I arrive in Manaus.

Like a dead cat though, my curiosity always gets the best of me—I suppose I'll go have a peek.

Conclusion

Well, wouldn't you know it. Even after another ship double-parked along side us (using our boat as a pass-through to unload cargo), the departure horn blew after less than an hour and a half. See? This is why I don't listen to people. I was already back on board by this time.

I briefly walked around the small town, buzzing with Friday night food vendors and motorcycle taxis. I spent most of my time at the playground in front of the dock, sitting on a swing between a pair of kids 20 years my junior, swinging away (how's that for a missed photo op?).

I think more adults need to just sit on a swing again and feel their lift off the ground for a few minutes; it's more rewarding than you might imagine.

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