I guess it’s to be expected when you tell people you’re moving to South America for a bit that they will often react with a lot of, “Oh my God! That is so cool! I’m so jealous! How exciting!”

I suppose all those things people say might even be true. In fact, having been in their position (telling someone else doing something awesome that I was jealous of his or her cool, exciting plans), I know it’s true.

But when you’re the person who’s actually going — and you’re going alone without knowing a lick of Spanish (having licked a Spaniard doesn’t count) — other words besides “cool” and “exciting” come to mind. Try “anxious” and “terrified.”

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It’s true. I don’t think I’m routinely dreaming about being stuck on a leaky cruise ship with Jimmy Fallon doing a neverending stand-up routine for fun. So, while I’m 90 percent pumped to get to Chile and see what I can do there, 10 percent of me is downright nervous. To put it bluntly, I’m scared. Jimmy is horrible

But look, I’m no stranger to going to strange places. I’ve lived in Russia, where I was often mistaken for a Latvian prostitute; I’ve met the mafia in Georgia (the country not the state); I’ve been accused of trying to smuggle a “street knife” onto an airplane in Vietnam (now there’s a topic worth blogging about); I’ve stayed in a yurt heated with petrified poop in Kyrgyzstan; and the list goes on and ridiculously on. In fact, I’ve even been to South America before — a trip that proved relatively banal in comparison to the shambles listed above. So really, there’s no good reason for me to fear anything but maybe a little sunburn (it will be summer when I’m there, after all :)).

But there’s something different about this latest venture. For one, like I mentioned, I’ll be completely on my own. Save for a solo trip to Amsterdam (which, ahem, really was a trip, if you know what I mean…), I’ve never gone anywhere without a friend or two. But I think the real reason I feel a bit of unease is because this isn’t just another two-week vacation.

I don’t know when I’m coming back.

I don’t know if I’m coming back.

But I also don’t know if I’ll be staying in Chile, at least past the month of October for which I’ve already paid for 80 hours of Spanish language classes. I mean, with only a dirty hippie backpack to my name, I suppose I could go anywhere. (Care to sail to Antarctica in December, anyone? Except for you, Jimmy Fallon…)

And, wow, that is exciting. Come Oct. 1, I’m going to have complete freedom! And like I said, 90 percent of me thinks that that’s the bee’s knees, or as Google just informed me, “las rodillas de abeja.” At the same time, though, to go somewhere without a legitimate plan, without a guaranteed means to make money, without knowing where “home” is anymore is a weird feeling. And maybe it’s my age, but it’s hard not to worry about the future; it’s hard not to let that 10 percent of my brain dilute the other 90 percent (although it’s important to remember I probably only use about .07 percent of my total brain at any given time anyway). It asks:

“What if I hate Chile? What if I can’t make money writing? What if I fail? What if I break my ankle on the way to buy beans at the supermarket because I couldn’t learn enough Spanish to understand Gael Garcia Bernal, who will clearly be in Chile the same time I am, when he tries to warn me that a truck is barreling toward me as I cross the street?! And what if that truck is actually a bean truck and I’m then ironically killed?!?! Worse yet, what if Gael Garcia Bernal is really Jimmy Fallon and that’s the last person I see before I die an ironic bean death?!”

I think you can see where this is going. My anticipatory anxiety mechanism is like the Energizer bunny. If, indeed, that Energizer bunny did copious amounts of poppers on a regular basis. And then decided to post videos of itself on YouTube under the moniker PatheticId43. Or something. (Sidebar: If you’re not a fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, don’t bother trying to find humor in that last paragraph.) In other words, it keeps shambling and shambling and shambling….

Luckily, I’m not always high on poppers so I’m able to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that it’s normal to feel nervous and have anxiety dreams during periods of change, even if it’s “good,” self-imposed change. In fact, I think these nervous rumblings and nightmares (seriously, I wake up in a cold sweat) are unavoidable, at least if you’re human — a concept I’m still trying to get comfortable with. Yet while these feelings (sorry, I hate the “f” word too…) may be unavoidable, they are definitely manageable, as long as you keep telling yourself it’s OK to prepare for the worst but not OK to expect it. (Although, I guarantee I’ll look both ways before crossing any Chilean streets even if I have the right-away. I’m not ready to let Jimmy Fallon let me die in a freak bean incident.)

When it comes down to it, there’s no use worrying about sh*t that hasn’t happened yet. And even if sh*t does happen (save for being killed by that ironic bean truck), it’s not the end of the world. If there’s anything I’ve learned from living in DC, it’s that every dead end is just another opportunity to explore a new direction.

And for me, Chile is a new direction that I plan to explore by going all in with no fear or reservations. I’m sure it’ll be scary as hell to show up in Santiago that first day, but I have the feeling it’ll be like ripping off a Band-Aid. Or jumping into a cold swimming pool. Or dealing with Omar when he comes to steal your stash. It might be uncomfortable — probably even scary, maybe even Jimmy-Fallon-stand-up-routine-scary — but it won’t last forever.

OK, that last one was a bad example. If Chile is to Omar as I would be to dealing with Omar coming to steal my stash (assuming I had a stash…of poppers), I. Am. F*cked…

Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

By the way, one of my biggest fears is not being able to finish all five seasons of The Wire before I go. I’m not even done with Season 3 and I only have a week left! Oh no! I know!

***

On a lighter, more illogical and definitely more moronic note, I’ll see you at Chief Ike’s (1725 Columbia Rd. in Adams Morgan) tonight around eight o’clock, yes? It’ll mark the official end of The Anti DC (may its archives continue to offend) and also the last opportunity you have to punch me in the throat. See you later!

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