Shaman’s Daughter – Northern Amazon River Basin
Longing for simpler times and places is at best naïve and at worst complete delusion. But sometimes the temptation to stay naïve and deluded (to keep one’s mental health intact) overpowers the daily need for realism and pragmatism. Joel and I have benefited greatly from our seven-year world trek. Admittedly, we often view new surroundings and travel destinations through rose-colored glasses because we’re ignorant of the realities that underpin those surroundings and destinations—but one old cliché tells us that ignorance is bliss. And in many ways it is—rightly or wrongly.
Wild Orchid – Northern Amazon River Basin
Turning a blind eye will not solve any of the world’s problems but as a survival tool it might save a person’s sanity. Is saving your sanity a legitimate goal in itself (or just a selfish indulgence)? Frankly, I can’t answer that question anymore. There was a time, not all that long ago, I would have answered with a resounding no. I grew up with George Reeves and his 1950s television Superman: a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way. I was a product of my times and believed in Superman’s noble sentiment. I no longer know, for certain, what truth, justice and the American way is.
Amazon Sunset – Northern Amazon River Basin
There is no perfect place in the world. Fact. Where you find people (especially in large numbers) you find: lies, injustice and intolerance. In other words conflict. In September 2014, while drinking fresh brewed coffee in the small mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas, Mexico), Joel and I invented our perfect tropical paradise—the island country of Coño Sueño. It is the perfect country because it springs from our imagination and we made it perfect. The literal translation of coño tends to be vulgar (we learned it in Cuba) but we prefer: damn, holy crap or bloody hell. Sueño however is dream.
Galapagos Islands – Galapagos, Ecuador
So basically Coño Sueño is just a damn dream—but it’s our dream, so it’s real (at least to us). We also like the way the name rolls off the tongue like Spanish usually does (Spanish can make the mundane sound beautiful). Coño Sueño cómo te amamos. Coño Sueño is a tropical island with white sand beaches, swaying coconut palms and surrounded by blue-green crystal-clear water. The weather is always perfect with bright sunny skies and a constant temperature of 30°C/85°F (air, water and rain) with gently blowing southerly Tradewinds. I am the King of Coño Sueño and Joel is the assistant King.
Monterrico Sunset – Monterrico, Guatemala
The women of Coño Sueño are all small, brown and beautiful—and they can’t speak (yeah I know but it’s our dream). There are no politicians in Coño Sueño because I’m the King and I won’t allow it (but I’m a nice King). There is no conflict in Coño Sueño and the beer is always ice-cold. Like Ponce de Leon’s mythical Fountain of Youth or John Hilton’s Shangri-La, Coño Sueño lays just beyond the Lost Horizon of our joint imaginations. But it belongs to us and we just might find it—if not in this world then maybe the next. Oh—Coño Sueño—you damn dream. How we long for your reality.
River Transportation – Rio San Juan, Southeastern Nicaragua
Western Europe is a dream bucket-list travel destination for many people (I totally get that). It is beautiful, interesting and chockfull of living history I will admit but I am starting to yearn for the simpler life we found in Latin America: Mexico, Cuba, Central America and South America. Western Europe suffers from many of the same maladies we have in the USA: political polarisation, economic uncertainty, bigotry (if not outright racism) and intolerance. With the linguistic and cultural differences experienced in Latin America we didn’t see all of the realities there—with ignorance we were happier.
Rio San Juan – Southeastern Nicaragua
I’ve been criticised (sometimes harshly by those I love the most) for giving up. For not continuing to fight the good fight. This might be a valid criticism despite its judgemental overtones. For there is truth in Edmund Burke’s famous quote: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. But maybe I’m allowed to give up—or at least to scale back my involvement. Over the course of my life I’ve done more than many to combat injustice—though not as much as others. Is there a point where enough is enough? If I see overt injustice within my sphere of influence I still take direct action if possible.
Martillo Island – Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Maybe that’s more important than throwing a shit-fit or posting a meme on Facebook or other social media. Maybe not. I’m no longer a great judge of what is right or wrong. Just basic fact-finding in this day of fake news is a full-time activity. Trusted institutions can no longer be trusted and my faith in my fellow-man has been severely tested. I don’t have that many years left of this precious life I’ve been given, so selfishly I’m going to live them the best way I know how. I’m going to ease up on judging myself too harshly (and the guilt that automatically comes with that) and leave that to others (there are plenty).
Old Woman – Quito, Ecuador
Until I breathe my last breath and enter my final sleep I will spend my remaining days, weeks, months and years looking for simpler times and places. I know that Coño Sueño can be found—it’s just beyond that next cloud and over the Lost Horizon. It’s an amazing place with clear blue skies, white sand beaches, crystal-clear water, perfect weather and beautiful little women who don’t speak. And ice-cold beer. I am the King of Coño Sueño and my kingdom is calling to me. If you want further context read Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King (pretty good movie too with Sean Connery and Michael Caine).
Field Notes: Please don’t misinterpret this post. We are happy to be trekking Western Europe—it is beautiful and interesting. We consider ourselves lucky too (though we worked hard to bring this luck about). I have not given up all hope of a better world future—but I am scaling back my personal contribution to that effort. My life, my choice—judge me if you will. In the words of Robert Frost: The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep. SFD (The King of Coño Sueño)
The King of Coño Sueño Reclining on His Throne