My desire of going to Uyuni, Bolivia came much earlier than I thought. I used to dream of stepping on this little paradise that many friends have talked about. So at my 30th’s summer I decided to treat myself to a beautiful trip to the largest salt flat in the world.
Many things stood in the way of my goal, I had to convince my parents that I wouldn't spend my birthday with them; my first trip alone to a foreign country, which my mom kept saying that it was dangerous. Actually, my mother thinks that all my ideas are dangerous, so it's very easy not to pay attention to her. But there was something that I had never considered, and it was my own fear. I have always considered myself a woman who doesn't leave chances behind and from each fall or achievement I have learned something. It took me 5 minutes to overcome my fears and move forward with my plan.
On the way, I realized that I had some of the thoughts of my mother stuck with me, mistrust of strangers and fears of theft or harassment from other people, especially men. I had to leave everything behind and start from scratch, but with caution. I began to talk to more people along the way, to try typical local food of the area, to sleep on the benches of the stations, as many others did. I started to adapt because like every human being, I wanted to survive. Latin Americans survive every day in informal vehicles, hostile people with a lack of education, the polluted air of the area and even the idiosyncrasy of life itself. Nobody teaches us how to enjoy life and for me, happiness comes in a small box with special moments such as asking locals how to get to a place. The beauty of sharing moments with locals is unique because you learn a lot about how to understand other traditions different from yours.
On my way to the Salar, I was praying for the day to be perfect so that I could see the mirror effect of the Salar along with the clouds. Out of nowhere, the sky opened and a radiant sun came out, and gave us some beautiful hours, I felt very grateful to nature. Then it started to rain and we got soaked wet. The guys from the tour and me ended up inside the truck that took us to the Salar, sharing information about cumbia groups from different countries, politics and tips for our future trips. Those are the special moments I was also seeking for.
I had planned every second of my trip, later I realized that there were very few things I really needed. For example, I had packed some short waterproof boots to the Salar, but I ended up with the stockings all soaked up because, in the Salar, there are some parts with a much higher level of water depth and it was sometimes difficult to calculate where to step. I had to take my stockings off and I started walking barefoot and it was a unique feeling. The final touch of a perfect trip was the present that the Salar gave me for my birthday. It felt so comfortable, nice and real.
I really think that life has special ways to show us what we really need or what we are looking for. I wasn’t looking to find myself, I was running away from what society tells you to do or to follow. I realized I was and I will always be a free soul, who never reluctantly accepts things and who has an infinite curiosity for life.
Pic by Colin Avery