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The Darien What ?!?

We Don't Know What We Don't Know Until We Know

There is so much about life that we don’t know and there is nothing like planning an adventure to make you realize how much there is to learn. Here we are, maps out and atlas ajar, ready to plan possible routes for the road trip of a lifetime. Our plan is to drive from Canada right down to Patagonia and see as much of North, Central and South America as we can over a 12-month period.

A little googling quickly got us onto the Pan-American Highway System. “Fantastic!”, we thought. Our fingers traced the line southwards on the map down Canada and the U.S. western coasts and all was well until we noticed that the highway system stopped between Columbia and Panama. A little more googling led us to read about this spot between the continents which is not traversable: the Darien Gap.

Wait... The Darien What!?!

We read on and discovered this piece of the globe which is made up of watersheds and mountains that you cannot go through because of the density and the danger of this tropical forest.

Then the questions started flooding in and rocking our confidence… How had we never heard of the Darien Gap? What other geographical barriers do we need to be aware of for this trip? What about the logistical challenges? The cultural sensitivities? The political intricacies? Christ on a cracker, how many other things do we not know?

The truth is, we have led pretty sheltered and privileged lives. Being a white middle class family in Canada allowed us to grow in the luxury of North America where we have been fed, entertained and catered-to by a system that rewards people who look and act like us. Throw into the mix the fact that our travel has focused on the U.S. and some all-inclusive southern destinations, and you have a family who has not been exposed to much that would cause us to question our foundations or seek to explore how others are living.

As a result, we admittedly tend to think that we are the center of the world. Doing the research for this road trip has us exploring the map of countries and continents that we are not familiar with. We are thinking through what boon-docking in South America would be like because although camping sites abound in North America, they are much more infrequent in Central and South America.

We are giving thought to how we will buy our food in foreign countries where supermarkets do not get erected on every block. We are considering learning Spanish in order to be able to interact for our basic needs in South American countries. We are walking through, in our minds, how we will react if a police officer asks us for a bribe in lieu of paying a fine. We are wondering what else we will face that we are not aware of and how ready we will be to address them.

There are so many questions at this point in the planning process. And questions can be scary. They act like venomous little snake bites that slowly paralyse us into an immobile state of fear. We get tempted to close the atlas, fold up the maps and turn on the tv to self-soothe with a Netlfix series or two.

But then we remember the purpose for this trip: to live our best lives, to show ourselves how to live life fully, and to take a leap of faith into the happiness of genuine adventure. We will prepare and learn along the way and we will trust ourselves to be able to handle what comes across our paths, Darien Gap and all. Maybe over time, we will even learn to celebrate the questions and use them as a source of excitement to discover something new. We will use them as fodder for our curiosity and let them guide us onto the unknown paths of a road trip meant to change our lives.

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