The second hand is ticking towards 11 PM over the Jesus clockface. We’re 2 hours in to what will end up being 19 hours of bus travel, and we’re already cranky. The 9:30 PM night bus to Loja, Ecuador was apparently a 9 PM night bus, and we missed it. Willie gives me a weird look, so I say to him, “What are you thinking? You’re giving me a weird look, what’s up?” He replies, “Nothing.” And at my confusion, goes on to explain, “Let me give you some insight in to the male psyche. When you ask us what we’re thinking and we say ‘nothing’, we truly mean ‘nothing’. I was thinking about that doorknob.” I really don’t understand guys’ brains sometimes. 17 hours later, we finally arrive in Vilcabamba, Ecuador and go to three different hostels before finding a cheap bed. I am nearly in tears. I am so tired and stressed, and I decide that I can’t talk to Willie for the rest of the day. A bottle of wine, a good night’s sleep, and a full breakfast later, we mutually devise a plan which involves shorter and less frequent travel days. We entitle our plan: “how to not kill each other and arrive in Cusco by Jan. 1st to meet our parents”.
People often ask us: “Don’t you guys fight all the time? My brother and I would drive each other crazy. I could never travel with my brother. Didn’t you fight when you were little?” Yes, when Willie was three he went through a phase of head-butting me. Then, we grew up a little. When Willie was five he would cry, and when I would try to comfort him, he would try to beat me up. Eventually, we moved out of that phase, and from there on out it was all cookie-baking and broadway musical-singing our childhood away!
Willie and I haven’t lived together ever since I moved to college and spent summers at camp, besides spending minimal time together at holidays. Which means this trip is us diving head-first back into living with each other and re-getting to know each other (24/7, mind you). I feel grateful to have this time to spend with Willie and bond on a deep level. As we often joke, we crossed “the line” a very long time ago and haven’t looked back. We didn’t even realize we had crossed “the line” until it was way too late. We talk about anything and everything, we’re pretty up-to-date on each other’s secrets and concerns and embarrassing stories. Most moments aren’t this profound though, we generally spend our time speaking nonsensically in silly voices.
On the other hand, traveling together isn’t all sunshine and slumber parties and secret-swapping. Some days we get cranky. Our tempers get short. We snap at each other. This is usually because we haven’t slept enough, Willie (19 year old boy) hasn’t eaten recently enough, or I’m being anxious about something. These days are usually when we have multiple long bus rides and are navigating new cities. However, we have known from the beginning of our travels some essential rules for preventing crankiness: 1. Always start the day with coffee. No exceptions. None. 2. Allow for ice cream treats whenever they are desired. Clearly, we have had some unpleasant travel days, but we generally get along well because of these rules.
At hostels and farms, people are always surprised when they meet us: the brother/sister duo traveling South America together. First, they’re surprised that Willie is younger. Yes, I have a baby face, and he has a beard. (Watch us for 2 minutes and you’ll realize I’m older by what a bossy know-it-all I am.) Secondly, they’re surprised that a brother and sister are traveling together. “I could never travel with my brother!”, they remark. Willie and I are lucky that we get along so well. Even after our worst travel days, we always find something to laugh about and hug it out (ok, sometimes it’s two days later). In the end, we’re siblings and we have to love each other. And we do. We do love each other.
(Udpate: We have made our way south from Ecuador into Peru. We have passed through Piura and Trujillo, stayed a few days in Huanchaco beach, and will be in Lima until we fly to Cusco on Friday.)