One of the things we've had the most trouble with on this trip is our pace: we've budgeted a year for this trip, and we also have set up several intermediate deadlines for ourselves, such as volunteering in the Galapagos and meeting friends in Tanzania and India. Because of these set plans, it's necessary to keep up a certain pace, but sometimes it's hard to move so fast, partly because it's easy to get worn out, and partly because we lament all the great-sounding places we have to skip over.
The product of having both the desire to keep moving and the desire to slow down and see more is a tension that we have felt almost daily. In Colombia, we moved fairly fast because we had to reach Quito, Ecuador by a certain date to start our Galapagos volunteer program, but we managed to see a diverse selection of parts of the country in around two weeks, and in retrospect feel pretty good about our decisions. In Ecuador (the smallest country on our South America itinerary), we really slowed things down, spending 19 days in the Galapagos, and nine in Baños while Claudia took Spanish lessons. We loved Ecuador, and don't regret any of the time we spent there, but on leaving we looked at the time we had left on the continent, and everything we still wanted to see, and began to feel pressure to move faster. As a result we went through Peru at a very fast clip, stopping for more than a couple days only in Huaraz and Cusco, and spending 9 of our 17 days at least partially on buses.
Now, finding ourselves in Bolivia, a relatively small country, but one with fairly slow transportation and, as always, many interesting things to see, we're faced with the decision of slowing things down and seeing more, or only hitting a few highlights and rushing between them (with an eye towards leaving ourselves enough time to see all we want to in Argentina, Chile, and Southern Africa before meeting our friends in Tanzania in mid-December). To give a concrete example, when we arrived in La Paz midday Friday, we were only planning on spending Friday and Saturday here, then on Sunday taking the famous downhill bikeride (on "The Death Road"!) to Coroico, a town a few hours to the North. We learned, however, that the first annual "Pedestrian Day" had been declared for Sunday disallowing anyone from driving cars in all the cities in Bolivia. We've liked La Paz quite a bit, and our biggest complaint has been the traffic and resulting air pollution, so we were excited by the idea of walking around without the noise and smog, and experiencing the markets and celebrations that would inevitably result. On the other hand, we've got this nagging feeling that every extra day we spend now, we're making it harder or impossible to go to some of the places, such as Patagonia, that we've been the most excited about even before our trip started.
In the end, we decided to stay the extra day and push the bike ride to Monday. I think we've finally found the right attitude about this conundrum: that if we spend all our time rushing to the next place, we'll never enjoy the place we're in. To take this attitude, we've also had to come to terms with the fact that we're not going to get to all the places we want to. But the only way to enjoy a trip like this is to take each day as it comes, and make the most of the time that we have. As we were told many times before we left, it's not the destination that matters, but the journey!