As a person who gets lost a lot, traveling can be a thrill. When my daily running habit gets thrown in the mix, that thrill transforms into a thriller.
During my semester in Santiago, Chile, I was determined to go running, but my host mother was determined to not let me run. “You’re going to get lost!” she would say, fervently shaking her head “no.” Despite my navigation weaknesses, I felt confident that I could successfully make it down the one really long road in town, and then return back along that same one really long road. After finally getting permission to run, my host mother insisted on walking me along the route until she was completely sure that I was completely sure that I knew exactly which road was suitable for my running purposes.
For the first fifteen weeks of my sixteen week program, I ran back and forth and forth and back along that one really long road. It was a comfortable, reliable road – shopkeepers would nod warmly as I jogged past; occasionally stray dogs would join me for a stretch; young men would enthusiastically commend my unbelievable speed as I whizzed by.
I grew fond of that road, becoming intimate with it like one does with a favorite song. But after listening to a song on repeat for fifteen consecutive weeks, one begins to loathe the song that one once loved. Similarly, in the final week of my program, I could not stand that hideous, repulsive road. So to get a much needed change of scenery, one day I ran down a parallel road instead.
It began as an exciting change in routine. There were new houses to admire, new crosswalks to cross, and new passerbyers to smile at. Forty minutes later, I saw a sign that read: “la Reina.” La Reina was a distant place that I took the subway to – it was very much not where I thought I was. A vision of my host mother’s stern and concerned eyes flashed before me.
I asked the next person I saw for directions. After indulging in a brief chuckle, my informant kindly advised me to take the bus. I told her that I didn’t have any money and didn’t know which bus I needed to take. She suggested that I sneak on the back and then ask someone for help. I predicted that would likely leave me even further from my destination. And so, I gave up: I hailed a taxi. “Excuse me sir, but I went running and I got lost and I don’t have any money but I PROMISE I’ll pay you as soon as I get home so can you please PLEASE bring me to Nuñoa?” I implored. The taxi driver shrugged in consent.
While at the time I was too embarrassed to mention the ordeal to my host mother, I admit that she was right – I strayed from that one road, and I got really lost. But maybe that means that I was running along the same safe, predictable road for fifteen weeks longer then I should have.