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Posted by Jessica on Feb 27, 2007
On Anniversaries

First of all, welcome to the many Haverford College students and alumni who have been visiting our website for the past week or so. It's been great hearing from many of you regarding your own plans for future travels. Keep the emails coming!

(A few months ago I was asked to write an online piece for my alma mater's monthly newsletter. It was just published last week in their February edition, and if you're interested in reading it, you can find it right here.)

Second, we're hoping to find some time in the next month or two to spruce HedgehogsWithoutBorders up a bit. We've been busy volunteering for a few non-profits since we've been home (among them, of course, Elephant Nature Foundation), but we're going to start making more time for Hedgehogs too. A few pages are out of date, not to mention the Photo Gallery still only has photos from Argentina in it. So keep your eyes out for the improvements, friends.

Now, on to the post...

This Saturday marks the second anniversary of my and Tim leaving on our trip. Two years ago on March 3, 2005 we stepped on a plane headed to Argentina and we never looked back. We had no idea what the next 1.5 years would bring (indeed, we didn't even know we'd be gone for 1.5 years!).

I still remember getting off the plane in Buenos Aires. The next hour or so would be the test of what little Spanish I remembered from high school. And I had no idea my first few sentences spoken in Spanish would lead to me falling in love with a language.

Shortly after leaving the airport, we made our first Argentinean friend: a man named Alejandro who noticed our lost faces and directed us on our way (but not before giving a requested Spanish lesson to me, and my giving a requested English lesson to him). The bus ride on bus #86 into the heart of Buenos Aires was exciting. We were the only non-locals on the bus and we only had a vague idea where we were going. We had no reservations and no set plans.

Our first task of the day was to find lodging. After getting off in the general vicinity of a well-reviewed hostal, we started walking with our packs on. About ten minutes into the walk, we realized something: it was past noon and we were starving. After our 13 hour flight, it was time to eat. And so our first task quickly changed from finding lodging to finding food.

We ended up in an odd little local place with Freddy Mercury posters on the wall. Knowing absolutely nothing on the menu, with our backpacks at our feet, we pointed to the menu and ordered. It was our first meal in another country together, and it was good.

While sitting at the table, Tim set an alarm on my watch to go off daily at noon. We knew that with all our future travel days and sightseeing days, that we'd need something to remind us to eat (or, at the least, to remind us to start looking for food). It's hard enough being in a familiar place when you're hungry and looking for food, it's ten times more difficult when you're in an unfamiliar place and can't read the language. To this day, the noon alarm is still set. And to this day when we hear it we both say, "It's noon, time to eat."

After eating, we checked out the hostal that we were interested in only to find that it was booked. But with some help from the staff, we quickly found out there was an available room at another hostal across town. Walking in the new direction, we had no idea we were walking towards our new home: the St. Nicholas hostel. It would be our home three different times, each of the three times we visited Buenos Aires. The first time for 8 nights, the second time for 7 nights, and the third time for 31 nights. I am not kidding when I say we became part of the tour during our last stay there ("and these are our oldest guests").

The other day I asked Tim if he thought our old room (room #5 was our favorite, although we stayed in a few of them) was the same as it was two years ago. He replied that he assumed it was, and how heartbroken we'd both be if it wasn't. Room #5 served us well: after hours of sightseeing, during hours of my studying for Spanish class, after many nights of drinking, and a few nights of feeling overwhelmed with everything. I love that I know when Tim and I visit Buenos Aires again, we'll go straight to St. Nicholas. It's home to us more than virtually any other place in the entire world. It is where we lived when we fell in love with Buenos Aires, where we lived when we learned the early tricks of travel, and it is where we met our dear friends Paul and Caroline (who taught us several of those travel tricks).

Buenos Aires remains our favorite city in the world. It is, in my humble opinion, the epitome of everything that is beautiful about cities: beautiful architecture, gorgeous streets, museums and parks, fantastic food, and faces of every color and class imaginable. You can not help but fall in love with a place where there are festivals held in the street so people may dance the tango together under the light of the moon.

The day we landed in Buenos Aires, March 4th (or as our friend Marisa pointed out in a comment: March Forth), marked the beginning of everything. I'm sure there are people in the world (perhaps even reading this right now) who think we were a bit crazy to do what we did. Selling everything we owned, quitting our jobs, and saying goodbye to life as we knew it to chase a dream. Throw in the fact that we never booked rooms ahead of time and that we were traveling with a bright pink toy pig, and yea, we might have seemed a bit crazy. But I wouldn't change any of our decisions for the world.

Although two years ago we landed in Buenos Aires, one year ago we were in Bangkok, on our second tour through that intoxicating city. In the end, we would pass through Bangkok five times, spending nearly two months there alone. The differences between Buenos Aires and Bangkok are enough to fill three or four posts alone. We loved them both, although Bangkok has a way of ripping at your heart and tearing at your soul just enough that you think you'll break...only to give you something fascinating to keep you going for a few more days and keep you coming back for more. It is a city of paradoxes and it gets under your skin.

In our notebook that we kept while traveling, the March 3rd 2006 entry has "one year anniversary of travel" written down next to "filed taxes" and "received monk email!" (This time last year while in Bangkok, we were doing our US taxes. And we had just received an email from our friend the monk too.) A few days later, we would be joined again by Klaus before embarking upon our quick trip to Laos before heading back into Cambodia again (via, wait for it, Bangkok).

This year, there will be no crossing into Laos or watching people dance the tango in the street of Buenos Aires. (Although we may receive more monk email.) This year, there will probably be little traveling outside the country as Belly adjusts to life in America, we adjust to being doggy parents, and our bank accounts attempt to adjust to being used in America again.

When I look back at the pictures of our first few weeks traveling, I'm struck by a few things. First, how short my hair is. Second, how short Tim's hair is. Third, how pale we were. (By the time we got home, we were furry and tan.) But our faces overall just look...younger. We just looked...younger. I'm not saying we're old and wise now, just that I definitely feel a bit older now that the trip is over. I think I lived more life in our time abroad than I had in all my previous years combined.

There's not a day that passes when I think of our trip that it doesn't all feel surreal. And there's not a day that passes that I don't miss traveling with a passion. It hurts sometimes to be home. But then again, if we had never come home I may have never known how important it was to me to travel. I certainly had no idea of that when we stepped on the plane two years ago. And not a day passes that I am not forever thankful that I know it now.

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March 1, 2007 at 9:32pm
it is always such a wonderful treat to read your fantastic writing. Y que fantastico que aprendiste Español y an mas que estás completamente enamorada ( sorry Tim!)
cuidate mucho ( y a Tim y Belly-panzita ;)
Meliza ( MsSleaza)
March 2, 2007 at 1:10am
love! happy travel-versary.
March 2, 2007 at 9:14am
Moon Dog tell me your story…how did you get to the moon…
March 2, 2007 at 11:01am
Happy Anniversary! I loved both posts (this one and the one you wrote for your college). I know that you're still having a tough time adjusting to boring America, but you're always welcome to visit me and tell me stories of your travels if that'll cheer you up. You can even bring Belly and maybe we can all go to a walk by the woods or near the lake… Anyway, I miss you guys and I hope that all is well in your world. *HUGS* ---> Me
March 2, 2007 at 11:03am
Dang! If I posted this at noon I could of been a smart ass and said "ot's noon, time to eat."
Mama Wise
March 2, 2007 at 2:58pm
Happy upcoming Anniversary. You two did what many people can only dream about. You have memories that will last a lifetime and if you ever come back this way, bring all your pictures. Love, Mamma Wise
March 3, 2007 at 6:13am
I am thankful that you traveled. I was able see the world and not get wet or have to eat bugs! You have done something you can remember instead of dream. It's only time now to do something else. Imagine the possibilities.

Whatever happened to Senior pig?

March 4, 2007 at 11:56am
Happy anniversary hedgehogs! The bugs in Bangkok were yummy, by the way.

At the end of March, I will celebrate being back home for a year… and have achieved my goal of filling the bank account back to its level before I left. What are you up to? How about another trip? :D

March 13, 2007 at 9:39am
Jessica I loved both this post and the Haverford article. I hope you have inspired many of those following you at Haverford to follow their dreams.
Jessica the hedgehog
March 30, 2007 at 4:36pm
Two related things to note that have happened since I posted this entry:

1. Our watch that we set to go off at noon every day has started to kick the bucket. It's off the store for an emergency battery for us!

2. We did, indeed, receive another monk email. Our friend is at a temple in Phnom Penh now and we're hoping to hear from him more often. (And for those of you wondering about Sam – he's also doing quite well. He's still in school in Kratie and he just passed his most recent exams with flying colors.) :)

February 20, 2008 at 5:38pm
Very beautiful. Great posts!

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