Pictures courtesy of Vivian Trinh, Jan Ferrer, Susan Samol, Edmund Fong, and yours truly.
“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown. You travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” – Ella Maillart
You’re going to miss waking up to a bus ride that will take you back closer to home, knowing that the return trip would be a bittersweet reminder that all good things must come to an end.
You’re going to miss your second, third, or fourth night tour of Old Town, stopping to play tic-tac-toe with the local children on the street, downing a glass of what tasted like frozen hot chocolate, and imbibing oversized beer at a oversized microbrewery on the eve of the country’s biggest holiday.
You’re going to miss waking up at 6am to be groggily handed a survival kit consisting of a sandwich, water and a coke, walking a few kilometers half-asleep to reach the May Day parade, being pleasantly surprised at the complete lack of anti-capitalist sentiment anywhere, and braving the sweltering heat before being swept up in a sea of such positive energy now expected from a community you probably already have fallen in love with.
You’re going to miss the quick glimpse of someone kinda important waving at you from the distance.
You’re going to miss slowly recovering from the quick highs of just taking part in the country’s most festive event of the year, and the struggle of a hike through Old Town trying to be as polite as possible to your guide as he says stuff that — despite your best efforts — continues to go in one ear and out the other.
You’re going to miss wearing your nice clothes and meeting up at the main casa before our last official dinner together.
You’re going to miss the fancy dinner in one of the country’s most upscale restaurants, sitting where Jay-Z and Beyoncé had sat only a year before, admiring the photos of other celebrities that had been here, the brain teasers that would last the night, and taking the last group photo as if it was prom all over again.
You’re going to miss the final hurrah by the Malecón, finishing the same way that you started, drunken conversations, dancing, karaoke, bboy battles, and those eternal hugs on the streets as members of our group slowly peeled off with goodbyes one by one…
You’re going to miss being one of the final few left, who would afterwards return to the scene of the crime of the first night we met, flipping off the hole and metal trap doors that almost killed you only 6 days earlier.
You’re going to miss topping off the night by storming the embassy one last time, leaving them with a half raised flag, just because you can.
You’re going to miss giving piggy back rides to random friends, just because you can.
You’re going to miss trying to make the night last as long as possible, just so you don’t miss out on a place that you’ve become so reluctant to leave.
You’re going to miss your final trip to Old Town and back, the relaxed window shopping and subsequent taxi ride back home down the coastline.
You’re going to miss the final dinner and walk down the Malecón by sunset.
You’re going to miss taking in the final few hours of a week you’ll never forget, the bittersweet amusement when “The Final Countdown” begins to play on the taxi’s radio.
You’re going to miss the sudden realization that this hard goodbye was finally becoming all too real.
And most of all, you’re going to miss it long after when we say goodbye…that moment when you finally realize that nobody else for the rest of your life will be able to understand what 30 strangers went through together in 7 days.
And most of all, you’re going to miss each other…
“…Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac