Travel Blog 3.1: Camp Titicaca, a pause for breath

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Nearly two months in and I feel the need to process everything. I was hoping that a little time away would somehow imbue a magical sense of clarity into my confused mental wondering. It hasn’t . If anything I feel more lost than ever and yet I can’t help but feel this is a vital part in the arch of self-discovery (again I apologise for the cliché but is there really a better way to describe it?).

I think I’ll start with a quick summary of the events of the last week. Lake Titicaca is magnificent. From its cool waters one gains a sense of tranquility that the sea could never bestow. The camp is much the same as in Colca: a scantily furnished hostel with limited comforts. Good for the soul. We have a much lighter work schedule than previously given the (supposedly) rainy afternoons and sunny mornings. The reality has been quite the opposite yet still we work one only in the mornings. I feel we’re becoming quite adept at building greenhouses of all shapes and sizes; the manual labour having a soothing effect on the mind.

With the long afternoons given to free time, you would think that the theme of relaxation would extend to all aspect of my time at Titicaca. Not so. I find my overly anxious mind more overwrought than ever. There must be something wrong with the intense British examination system that renders its victims, once free from its talons, unable to truly relax. At least in my case anyway. I am constantly worrying about the future especially since I have yet to hear back from UCL and Durham, my top two university choices. Then I wonder if I truly want to go to either of these venerable institutions, even if they were to give me a place. I worry that this inability to settle of mine will follow me wherever I go and I live in constant fear of regretting my decisions.

What send me into a bit of a tailspin are the thoughts that creep up on me late at night. The ‘what ifs’. For example, what if I just decided to take gap year no.2. Apply to American universities perhaps. See more of the world. I seem unable to shake of the yearning for the prestige that Oxford would have provided. I suppose Harvard will always have a nice ring to it…

But do I really want to turn my life upside-down, to go through university applications a third time? Surely I should just get over myself and just go to Uni, get a degree…and then what? I suppose I just want to fulfil my potential, its all anyone wants to do really.

Really at this point I think the best thing for me to do is to break the habit of a lifetime and listen to my family. Mother dearest says I should stop worrying unnecessarily and enjoy the peace of being off the beaten track whilst sister no.2 argues that I love my friends and family too much to pack off and head to the States for four years. Unfortunately they’re both right. I remind myself that I’m still only 18 and all these decisions certainly do not need to be made right now. But how does one go about relaxing? It seems I still have much to learn from my time abroad.

Personal crisis aside, I have been having a pretty good time. Without a doubt the highlight of the trip so far has been swimming in Lake Titicaca. On one particularly warm afternoon, a group of us summoned the courage to paddle in the forbidding looking waters. It was not nearly so cold as we had imagined and the fresh, clear water reinvigorated and re-energised. I had forgotten how much I love swimming. However, when we emerged I felt a numbing cold slowly begin to paralyse my limbs. Before I knew it, my toes were basically unusable. Even after I had tucked myself into my sleeping bag, no amount of slapping or coaxing could induce them to feel as though they remotely belonged to me. It took almost 3 hours and a hot meal to resuscitate them. All in all, thoroughly worth it!

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