"The trip never comes to an end" thelukey's Profile
My travel motto comes from the final pages of the Spanish translation of Portuguese writer (and 1998 Nobel Prize winner) José Saramago’s book _Viagem a Portugal_ (Trip to Portugal). A longer version of the quote, and my own rough English translation, follow:
“Se ha acabado el viaje.... No es verdad. El viaje no acaba nunca. Sólo los viajeros acaban. E incluso éstos pueden prolongarse en memoria, en recuerdo, en relatos. Cuando el viajero se sentó en la arena de la playa y dijo ‘no hay nada más que ver,’ sabía que no era así. El fin de un viaje es sólo el inicio de otro. Hay que ver lo que no se ha visto, ver otra vez lo que ya se vió ... Hay que comenzar de nuevo el viaje. Siempre. El viajero vuelve al camino.”
“The trip has come to an end.... No, that’s not true. The trip never comes to an end. Only the travelers come to their end. And even they can continue on in memory, in stories. When the traveler sat down in the sand at the beach and said ‘there’s nothing else to see,’ he knew that it wasn’t true. The end of one trip is only the beginning of another. You have to see what you have not seen, and see again the things that you have already seen ... You have to begin the trip again. Always. The traveler returns to the path.”
In this new version of my homepage, and in the travel pages that I hope to continue updating when time permits, I’d like to share some of the paths that this traveler has followed, and some of the stories that have been born along the trail.
I imagine that Saramago’s traveler stopped to contemplate his previous voyages and to plan his future expeditions at a beach something like the one shown in the picture above (taken in December 2001 at Playa El Sunzal, La Libertad, El Salvador).
For a number of years now, I’ve been using Virtual Tourist to share pictures and stories of my travels with friends and family back home, and also to scout out information about the places I plan (or sometimes just hope) to visit. As much of a fan as I am, I wish the site was named “Virtual Traveler” rather than “Virtual Tourist,” because I generally like to think of myself as a traveler, not as a tourist. What’s the difference? To me, tourism seems to be, more than anything else, an act of consumption. The tourist sees all the sights and buys all the appropriate souvenirs, but he rarely makes any meaningful, lasting connections with the people he meets along the way. The traveler, on the other hand, ventures out into the world with the explicit goal of weaving the fabric of his life with those of the people whose paths his crosses. Yes, all travelers are tourists sometimes, but the traveler returns to the places he has already been not only to see the things that he has already seen, but also, and more importantly, to reconnect with the people who helped make his previous journeys memorable.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a couple of opportunities – first during a nine-month work/study abroad trip to Ecuador, and then during nearly five years spent first as a Peace Corps volunteer and later as just another fellow around town in El Salvador – to truly immerse myself into settings that are quite different than the rural Wisconsin I grew up in. Luckier still, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit the friends I made along the way during subsequent return trips (two trips to Ecuador and three to El Salvador) and to see how the communities that I called home have changed over the years.
Case in point, Hipatia, the young lady pictured here: Back in 1998/99, when I spent six months working as an English teacher in Mascarilla, a small village located in Ecuador’s Chota Valley, three hours north of Quito, Hipatia was one of my favorite fourth-graders. One afternoon, as her mother was in the midst of styling Hipatia’s hair, I was able to convince her to let me take over as her stylist. The picture-in-the-picture – which Hipatia’s mother still had on display in her house seven years later when I last returned to Ecuador – shows the result of my efforts.
These are the stories that separate the traveler from the tourist.
Back in 1998, before I was sent to Mascarilla, I lived in Quito for two months. There, my host parents, Patricio and Mamá Alicia, and my host brothers, Pato and Mauricio, went above and beyond the call of duty to introduce me to their country’s history and its culture, to help me navigate an unfamiliar and occasionally chaotic city, to help me improve my Spanish, and to make me a fan of Xica da Silva, the Brazilian soap opera (dubbed into Spanish) that they all gathered into the bedroom to watch every evening. Each time I’ve returned to Ecuador, my first stop has been their home in Quito.
Of course, even with all their help, a gringo on his own in Latin America for the first time is bound to make a few mistakes along the way. One of the more amusing of my various Quito faux pas took place just a few days after my arrival in the country. On my way home after a day of classes, I decided to stop into a small store and buy a Coke to quench my thirst. After I’d made my purchase – if I remember correctly, the going rate for a bottle of Coke was 3,000 sucres – I left the store and continued on my way home. I’d made it about a half a block when the storekeeper appeared on the sidewalk behind me, yelling frantically in my direction. I had no idea what the man was saying – in my defense, I couldn’t really hear him very clearly due to the passing traffic – but I could tell that he was directing his tirade at me, so I headed back to the store, thinking that maybe he had given me too much or too little change. No. Once I made it back within earshot, the storekeeper explained to me that I was not allowed to take the Coke with me. Why’s that? Because the glass Coke bottles are returned, washed, and reused. So, I could stand in the store drinking my Coke, or I could pour its contents into a little plastic bag and enjoy my Coke to go that way. I can’t remember which option I chose that day, but I’ll always remember how dumb I felt while being lectured at for (in the storekeeper’s eyes) trying to steal a glass bottle.
Some of my most rewarding travel experiences are those that are related to the work that I was able to accomplish while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. If you’re interested in reading more about my Peace Corps experience, check out my Peace Corps El Salvador Travelogue (attached to my El Salvador page) and, for even greater detail, the general tips attached to my La Laguna page. Of the various projects that I worked on, the one that probably had the greatest impact was a project that introduced potable water to roughly 2,000 people in seven small, isolated communities. The largest of those communities was Los Prados; that village’s church is pictured here.
Of course, Peace Corps was not all work and no play. A sports fanatic since childhood, I finally got the opportunity to fulfill every soccer player’s fantasy of playing in an international match on April 7, 2002, when the team representing my site – the town of La Laguna, Chalatenango, El Salvador – traveled across the Sumpul River to the village of San Juan Olosingo, Honduras, where we played the locals to a 0-0 draw. In this picture, which was taken before a home match some time during that same year, I’m standing in the back row, the fourth person from the right. The fellow immediately to the left of me, Osmín, is now my brother-in-law.
Traveling across the river to play in Olosingo is just one of many soccer-related stories from the time I spent in El Salvador. I played in a number of games and in a couple of tournaments; once the team I was on even did well enough (third place) to win some prize money (which, technically, makes me a professional athlete, I guess). I scored a few goals and assisted on a few others, but my wife only ever talks about the one own-goal I managed to score in one of the last games I played (a goal my wife didn’t even witness and only became aware of due to some of her neighbors’ taunting comments about my autogolazo). I also refereed some games, helped organize a youth soccer tournament, participated as a trainer in a soccer and leadership camp for young women, and raised some money to buy new uniforms for two local teams.
I also have a lot of good stories about watching soccer in El Salvador. Many Sunday afternoons were spent in the Estadio José Gregorio Martínez, routing for C.D. Chalatenango, the local professional team. One day, I was interviewed by a local radio station outside the stadium before a game. Another time I traveled all the way from La Laguna to La Unión, by way of San Salvador (five hours each way), in the back of a pick-up truck – by the time I got home, I looked like a lobster thanks to that twelve-hour dose of tropical sun – only to watch (from behind a chain-link fence) as Chalatenango lost to Balboa 4-0. Recently married, my wife and I traveled to Santa Ana to watch her favorite team, FAS, play in the midst of a deluge of Biblical proportions; our clothes were still wet three days later. Four years later, we traveled to San Salvador to watch FAS take on Mexican club Toluca in a CONCACAF Champions League match. The result: 0-0, and about an inch of rain. It could have been much, much worse, though; at a World Cup qualifier between El Salvador and Panama, my friend Liam and I were not only rained on, but we were also subjected to repeated showers of cold beer (during the first half) and then warm urine (during the second half, as the beer-drinkers’ bladders reached their limit).
Even watching games on TV was an experience. The 2002 World Cup gave me a chance to benefit from the endless hospitality that Salvadoran offer. The day before the opening match, my friend Alex invited me to come over to watch the game with him. Mind you, given the time difference between Korea/Japan and El Salvador, the kickoff of that opening game was around 2:00am local time. No matter. When I timidly knocked on Alex’s door, he and his brother Ivan were already watching the pre-game ceremonies and their sister Angelica was brewing a pot of coffee. During that World Cup I ended up arriving at a number of people’s houses in the wee hours of the morning to watch games, both before and after one of my friends in La Laguna let me borrow his spare TV.
Since I returned to the US in 2006, my travels have been less extensive and far less frequent, and they have mostly involved short trips to visit family and friends. Most enjoyable have been a pair of trips to visit a brother-in-law who lives in Los Angeles. We timed our last trip to LA to enable us to attend the Rose Bowl Parade. Truly impressive.
My current life as a graduate student doesn’t generally come with a whole lot of perks (aside from a lot of work for very little pay), but in 2009 I was able to parlay a small research grant into a ‘most-expenses paid’ trip to England. After participating in a conference at Oxford, I stayed an extra day to explore London.
My most recent trip – taken earlier this month – was my first pure vacation trip in years. Thanks to the generosity of my timeshare-owning friend Tom, my wife and I got to escape the Minnesota winter for five days of sun, sand, and seafood in the US Virgin Islands. Very beautiful, and not nearly as crowded as I expected it to be.
Top Travel Pages
Explore the World
Share your travels with the world!Join Now!
Badges & Stats
- 195 Reviews
- 418 Photos
- 7 Countries
- 4 Cities
- See All Stats
- See All Badges (8)
- Posted in Travel Antigua Guatemala Forum "Re: Climate/weather December"
- Commented on 8thWonderFijiTrip's profile page
- thelukey and giampiero6 are now friends.
- updated a El Salvador Travel Page "4 Years, 9 Months, and 24 Days in El Salvador"
- Uploaded a Photo to "Basketball Tournament"
updated their Profile Page "The trip never comes to an end"
- Wrote a Review Comida Rápida in San Salvador Restaurants
Top 10 Pages
- La Laguna Intro, 62 reviews, 66 photos, 1 travelogue
- Top 5 Page for this destination El Salvador Intro, 48 reviews, 61 photos, 1 travelogue
- Top 5 Page for this destination Antigua Guatemala Intro, 23 reviews, 85 photos, 3 travelogues
- Nicaragua Intro, 26 reviews, 44 photos, 2 travelogues
- Guatemala City Intro, 6 reviews, 41 photos, 2 travelogues
- San Salvador Intro, 7 reviews, 28 photos, 3 travelogues
- Honduras Intro, 9 reviews, 20 photos, 1 travelogue
- Ecuador Intro, 8 reviews, 11 photos
- France Intro, 3 reviews, 6 photos
- Colombia Intro, 2 reviews, 4 photos
- Paris Hotels
- 22467 Reviews - 54994 Photos
- Dubai Hotels
- 2702 Reviews - 7926 Photos
- Berlin Hotels
- 6983 Reviews - 15645 Photos
- London Hotels
- 23319 Reviews - 48909 Photos
- New York City Hotels
- 15643 Reviews - 31276 Photos
- Manila Hotels
- 2027 Reviews - 4971 Photos
- Baguio Hotels
- 328 Reviews - 894 Photos
- Cancún Hotels
- 1933 Reviews - 3724 Photos
- Punta Cana Hotels
- 422 Reviews - 1020 Photos
- Orlando Hotels
- 3092 Reviews - 5858 Photos
- Playa del Carmen Hotels
- 780 Reviews - 1749 Photos
- Goa Hotels
- 2058 Reviews - 3874 Photos
- Rome Hotels
- 12024 Reviews - 26762 Photos
- Bangkok Hotels
- 10315 Reviews - 22905 Photos
- Istanbul Hotels
- 7829 Reviews - 20234 Photos