The Beginning of our Life Detour


As I type the first words of what I hope to become many on this blog, my arms still ache from the multiple vaccinations I received yesterday. I got a poke for Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A in my left arm, and Typhoid in my right. Additionally, we also have Dukoral, an oral vaccination against traveler’s diarrhea, in addition to a cornucopia of prescriptions for anti-malaria pills (thankfully, not the ones that give you lucid dreams and induce suicidal tendencies), Diamox to help acclimatize us to the high altitude throughout Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, as well as various antibiotics and other meds I am likely forgetting.

We have now (more or less) taken care of the necessary medical issues, and on our 2nd try had our Brazilian visa applications accepted at the Consulate in Toronto. Our flight out to Quito, Ecuador is booked for May 13th. We have a GAP tour beginning in Lima, Peru on the 8th of June and ending in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 22. Aside from that, we have only a rough idea where we’d like to visit, how long we’d like to stay there, and when (or if) we’ll be coming back to Canada.

Besides the purchase of a decent backpack for yours truly, along with some durable and weather-appropriate clothing for the both of us, there are 2 major obstacles between now and our May 13th flight out to South America.

First, is my PhD defense on April 27th.

Second, is Marina’s PhD defense on May 7th.

You might say we are cutting it a bit close, particularly given the high probability that we will both have to deal with revisions to our respective theses post defense that will have to be submitted before our departure.

But there’s no turning back now – we’d waited too long for this time to come.

Ever since reading Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries, we were both drawn to South America. Despite traveling to random places throughout graduate school (Turkey, Malta, Russia, Israel, Cuba, Jordan, Mexico, etc.) we had saved South America until we had enough time to properly explore it.

Although it is difficult to consider our situation fortunate – no job prospects, a hefty student debt, and an age creeping ever so close to 30 – I do feel lucky that we have this chance to take an extended hiatus from the rather mundane lives we’ve been living. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race, chasing after the next ‘checkpoint’ in a drawn-out series of predictable steps. These are mine:

1. Finish high school with good enough grades to get into university
2. Finish undergrad with good enough GPA to get into a grad program (unless, of course, you undertook a useful undergrad degree which guaranteed employment upon graduation)
3. Work your butt off in grad school; get as many publications, presentations, lecturing experiences as is possible to build up your CV
4. Get your PhD and finally become a Dr., but not a real Dr., of course
5. Find employment in academia either as a post-doc or an assistant professor
6. Get married
7. Buy a home
8. Have children
9. Get tenure
10. Retire

I have just about checked off #4 on this list, and am VERY uncertain about #5. So it seems like a good time to step away from it all, take a much-deserved break and reflect on what I want to do with my remaining years.

This trip isn’t so much an escape, but rather, yet another research project. Fortunately, this research project doesn’t require obtaining grant funding, nor performing complicated statistical analyses. It does, however, require the collection and interpretation of data – not your typical research data, of course, but rather personal experiences. The objective of the project? After sacrificing many years to understanding the world around me, to finally take some time to understand myself. More specifically, to figure out what is truly important to me in this life.

I hope you come along for the ride and enjoy the journey!


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