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Day 70 – Trekking Is for Fools (By, A Fool)

December 19, 2010

Location: Porto Natales, Chile

Date: Sunday, December 19, 2010

I do not hike. I do not trek. I do not walk 20 miles eating only dried fruits and nuts. I do not wear the same shirt for five days straight or saw the handles off my toothbrush to save carrying weight. I do not cart around my night’s accommodations on my back. If I do bother to camp, I do so within stumbling distance of my car and a five minute drive of the nearest Wal-Mart. I mean, what about walking for hours a day, sleeping in a makeshift shelter on cold ground, subsisting on dried food, and carrying all your belongings on your back through natural selection’s wheelhouse says “vacation”?

In fact, my Asian parents immigrated to the U.S. in large part so I would not have to suffer so. If they had wanted me to live like a poor person, they would have stayed in Asia and raised me in the barrio, the village, or the farm. They would not have left their families and friends and moved across the ocean to America’s clean, infrastructure rich shores.

Being a half generation removed from poverty is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t think I’m alone. Why Asian immigrants, in general, do not trek for fun. That’s because when Asian immigrants vacation, they do so in big cities, at resorts with good room service, and at natural wonders that are within walking distance of a waiting tour bus. (Besides, the tour bus makes it easier to carry all the camera equipment.)

You’re supposed to relax on your holiday. To put your feet up and forget about labor. Trekking doesn’t enter the Asian-American cultural consciousness because it sounds like work. It sounds like what you do if you can’t afford running water or a fixed address. To us, a holiday should be about indulgence and comfort, not survival.

And survival is what trekking is all about. You trudge from spot to spot, dragging around a burden of a bag and–depending on where you’re “enjoying yourself”–being eaten by diseased mosquitoes, getting hypothermia, or working your way to skin cancer under a burning sun. Actually, I’m pretty sure my Filipino and American brethren did all three on the Bataan Death march–from what I hear, that wasn’t much of a holiday.

I admit; when I vacation I am looking for something different. Something that is unlike the drudgery of my day job. Something that doesn’t remind me of fluorescent lights, piles of paper, demanding clients, or exploded copy toner under my fingernails.

“Something different,” however, does not include vacationing under conditions that I could easily recreate in my backyard during a blackout with a tent and an out of control garden hose. My kind of different is a beach with pillow soft sand, mounds of fresh tropical fruits, and the occasional, fit-bodied señorita– I’ve never found anything like that anywhere near my old office’s seventh floor conference room.

Which all begs the question why the hell I’m going on a six-day trek through Torres del Paine. Why am I wrapping five days of food, a tent, and one spare set of clothes into a garbage bag (for waterproofing) and carrying it myself. Why I’ve suggested that we add an extra five-and-a-half hour hike to the typical “W” path. Why, in God’s name, I am doing my first non-car-camping camping trip in Patagonia, a place described in the Erratic Rock briefing as the kind of place where it might be snowing one hour and searing sunshine the next (really). Why I’m trying to carry as little food as possible (to save weight) and spending the night huddled in a tent when the things I hate most in life are feeling cold or hungry.

One answer: I like to try new things. I’ve tried my hand at sandboarding even though I’m more at home in the water, deep water soloed even though I’m no rock climber, and eaten cuy even though my family once had a pet hamster that tasted absolutely vile. I like to try new things, even if there’s a chance it will make me puke or try to kill me.

Of course, there’s another, just as plausible, two-fold reason: (1) I’m an idiot (and have the scars to prove it) and (2) I’m cheap–because the reality is I could just drop the cash and stay in refugios that dot the “W” trail and sleep in a warm bed and have Chileans serve me warm meals and beverages.

Ah, good ole cheapness. I guess, even going on this trek, I haven’t completely forsaken my Asian roots.

GALLERY: No bonus pics today.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2011 7:56 am

    I hear you brother — we snow-camped ONE time. It was an accident, 25 feet from our car, and it cured me! I hate being cold and wet, and planning a vacation so that we may end up cold and wet looks a lot like stupidity to me!

    Of course, I’m also cheap — so were I in southern Chile, I’d likely be right there with you, hauling that tent and the starvation rations on my back!

    Can’t wait to find out how the trek went!

    • February 4, 2011 8:40 am

      Snow camping sounds insane. If I wanted that, I’d just empty out the freezer at home and crawl in.

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