There are both benefits and challenges to living an unscripted life. While the challenges are too numerous to name, one of the benefits is the occasional rare surprise, that moment when you find yourself in a situation you’d never dreamed of. Two days before flying to Colombia, I didn’t even know I’d be going there, and now I was in Bogota, trying to decide what to do about a return, since I’d given up my flight to Miami a few days ago. Colombia is an inexpensive country. If I stayed in a dorm, I could get by on ten dollars a day, in a private, maybe fifteen to twenty.
I looked into it and found it wasn’t much to fly directly to Los Angeles. I figured I’d give myself another month and then fly back for Christmas. What I really hoped was to die before then, but couldn’t count on it, so needed to buy a ticket while they were still affordable. It was then that fate kicked in, as I happened to come across an article about Putumayo, a region of the Upper Amazon, between Colombia and Ecuador, where ayahuasca is found, along with many of the top taitas, or medicine folk, who oversee the ceremonies.
It had already been my plan to visit San Agustin, which is just a few hours from Putumayo. If I made it that far I’d be right on the border of Ecuador, so I looked into flights to Los Angeles from Quito, and found that they were the same price as those from Bogota. Boom. Just like that, I had an itinerary. Bogota, Cali, Popoyan, San Agustin, and then Mocoa, the capital of Putumayo. There was an ayahuasca retreat I’d seen advertised on the outskirts of Bogota, but my plan now was just to show up at the source and see what happened. If I was being called, then the right doors would open. If not, then I’d have to let it go.
I’d already gone through my entire library of travel pictures once, and had come up with over four hundred images I wanted to use for my song and poem galleries. While in Bogota, I planned on looking for new images, as there were some pieces of writing I’d been unable to find a match for. At some point I’d probably need to go through the entire library once more, but needed some time away from it. Considering it was my entire life’s work, it didn’t seem like I’d produced much of value.
I’d also sent out another bunch of job inquiries, but had only heard back from two recruiters. One wrote just to inform me that I was too old for a teaching position in Brunei. Another one from China wanted to line up an interview, and asked if I’d be able to use the Voov platform, which I was unfamiliar with. I went ahead and downloaded it, and then let her know I was available to do a test run. She had a principal in Beijing she wanted to introduce me to, but wanted to make sure there weren’t any problems before scheduling an interview.
By now it had been four years since I’d last worked. After a year and a half at an Air Force base in Saudi Arabia, I’d earned enough to travel for that long. Right when I’d really needed to work again, I’d gotten an offer in Vietnam, but COVID had forced me back to the States, and nearly caused a mental breakdown. I’d stayed in a pop-up camper in my mother’s backyard for the duration of the pandemic, but had been stripped of my identity in the process. Now I was out on a desperate run, needing to find something fast, yet at the same time feeling that I’d already reached the end of the road. It was a terrible place to be.
The hostel had a bar where all the other travelers sat drinking and sharing stories every night. I was unable to join them, needing all of my resources just to survive. One night they got a karaoke machine out and sang until three in the morning. That used to be my specialty, sitting in bars, singing all night long. Now I lay in bed with a pillow wrapped around my head, trying not to hate them. The last thing I was going to do was go down to the bar and complain. That would be the final nail in my coffin. I punched the mattress and cursed the walls, but didn’t go down to the bar.