Back to the Present is a series of posts chronicling my trip up until now. After all, I've been on the road for over a month!
I left the US for my international saga with only a modest backpack… not quite the tiny napsack I had hoped for, but still pretty diminutive. In the planning phase of my trip I had aimed for "fast and light." I dreamed of being a nomadic ninja with just a few wispy filaments between me and Mesoamerica. After all, the smaller the bag, the larger the adventure. Hold on, I'm going to go tweet that right quick…
Quickly, my quest for paucity took on questionable dimensions: I broke my toothbrush in half. I fetishezed wool clothes for their superior odor control. I hemmed and hawed over the necessity of deodorant. Who needs it when you have the power of Merino!? And yet, despite forsaking everything good and holy my bag never made it to the rucksack status I craved. I could ditch Malaria meds but I couldn't part with my iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air, OM-D Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera, Amazon Kindle, and GoPro Adventure Camera. And my collection of gear required it's own collection of gear: tripods, battery packs, battery pack chargers, AC adapters, AC Adapter Adapters, adapter cases, case protectors, and so on. You can see where I netted out on the left. I did actually need a lot of this stuff for the wanderplay project and for my work designing games & mobile apps.
Now, I'd been saving my foreign currency through years of international business jaunts: Euros, Yen, Yuan, Pounds, Kronor, Baht, and whatever people spend in Korea. Pre-partum, I traded it all in at SFO, pocketing nearly $100US on the transaction. It felt glorious. Getting 100 buckaroos from that motley pile of crumpled bills and dirty coins made me feel… prepared. I had executed on my sock-drawer plan and turned strange tender into substantive beer funds. I was, quite clearly, the master of my domain. Everything was going to be fiiiiiine.
In retrospect, this was a rookie move. I ended up exchanging the dollars again for pesos, so got hit twice on the exchange rate. But in even greater retrospect it was fine. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have accepted my creasy funny money in Mexico anywho.
En route I snapped these photos of the geoscapes below. I was hungry for food on the flight, but I decided to be frugal. After all, I was entering a new world of budget consciousness. I had to be careful now. No more Taxi cabs or hipster haute for me. No more wool socks or third wave coffee. No more local organic seasonal craft brews served in oversized bottles with names like Prairie Artisan Ales Prairie Ale, Blue Mountain Local Species, Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre, Hoptimus Prime, and Heretic Shallow Grave. No more cans of Italian tomatoes. No more full-priced Amazon Kindle eBooks.
Yes, things were going to be different now. From now on I'd really consider what iOS apps I truly needed. I'd need to cancel Rdio and slum it with the vulgar Spotifites. I'd force myself to actually read the Kindle books I already bought before buying any new ones-- that should be a serious cash-saving measure. After that I'd plow through my collection of Kindle samples. Oh, and I'd finally listen to those Audible books I bought with my membership in 2009. Maybe I'd even listen to the audio lectures I nabbed online in 1998. Where were those, Amazon s3?
Oh yeah, I felt real good. This plane was delivering me into a new life. A better life. A life where I'd really suck every last bit of marrow from the shit I bought online.
But, would I find what I was looking for? Would I find unique play culture around the world? And if I did, would I be able to say anything interesting about it? Would the game industry care? What was I really searching for? Would I be decapitated by a drug lord immediately upon entry into Mexico? These questions swirled in my mind as we squeeled onto the Yucatanian tarmac.
I really could have used a sign.
The funny thing was, as soon as I got off the plane and in front of the baggage claim, I found one-- literally:
That's the Mayan Ball game! It's ancient religio-sport known for human sacrifice. Seeing it on a baggage claim billboard took away any Indiana Jones fantasies, but it still seemed like a warm welcome. Little did I know how difficult a subject it would prove to be…
I blinked my eyes at the omen a few more times, then saw my backpack coming down the carousel. I slung it over my shoulder and headed out, to customs and to the unknown.
Ya know what? I felt pretty damn light, deodorant and all.
In the next installment of Back to the Present: beaches, babes, and work for hire game design!
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