Thursday, September 26, 2013

San Juan Blogathon - The First Night

Well, guys. I'm back from my trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I hope you enjoyed my Blogathon updates on Facebook, Twitter, etc. but now it's time to get into the stuff that doesn't fit so neatly in 140 characters or a square-cropped Instagram photo.

Here's a story from my first night in San Juan.

"That's how I found myself filming an impromptu music video on the pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 3 a.m., with people I had met maybe six hours earlier."

It was my first night in Puerto Rico. I had arrived around midday, settled into my hostel, and had already done a good bit of exploring and eating. Thanks to jet lag and an afternoon nap in my windowless but well air-conditioned hostel room, I found myself wide awake even as night came. Unable to sleep inside the confines of what I'm pretty sure was originally a laundry room or utility closet, I decided to slip on my flip-flops, grab a book, and head out to one of the hostel's common areas.

There I found a small gaggle of fellow travelers. They were loud and boisterous, discussing topics like the importance of love and negligible value of marriage.

Indian accents mingled with European accents with an unclear origin (Serbian, I would later learn). In fact, there were no Americans to be seen or heard until a group of three stopped by, left, and returned with fresh rations of rum.

I was still thumbing through my copy of Vagabonding, an insightful book by Rolf Potts on the subject of long-term travel, when I came across a section on adventure.
The key in all of this is to trust chance, and to steer it in such a way that you’re always learning from it. Dare yourself to do simple things you normally wouldn’t consider—whether this means exploring a random canyon, taking up an invitation to dine with a stranger, or just stopping all activity to experience a moment more fully. These are the kinds of humble choices—each of them as bold as bungee jumping—that lead not only to new discoveries but to an uncommon feeling of hard-won joy.
For me, daring myself to something simple meant interacting with people I didn't know. I can hide it well but I'm incredibly shy around new people. I'm not as bad as I once was, and encounters like this have certainly helped me build more confidence.

So when the Americans asked if I wanted to join them for drinks and cards, I readily accepted.

The night unfolded with quick introductions. I met Frances and Jessica, who went to college together in California, and Matt, originally from California, currently living in Austin. Matt was also traveling solo in Puerto Rico and it was reassuring to know I wasn't the only one crazy enough to venture out on my own.

We played brisca, an Italian card game, popular in the Northern Mediterranean and, for whatever reason, Puerto Rico. It took us hours to get through a single game, in large part because of the hilarious antics of Frances and Jessica, a comedic duo who were the best kind of crazy.

It was their last night in Puerto Rico and they wanted to go out with a bang. Unfortunately, nothing is open at 2 a.m. in the middle of the week in Old San Juan. Undeterred, we chose to go out exploring anyway. I left to my room to swap my flip-flops for walking shoes and when I came back, I was a little shocked at what I found.

All three of them were performing a rendition of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. It was as hilarious as it sounds. And I would call it ridiculous if it weren't at least a little poignant.
When's it my turn?
Wouldn't I love, love to explore that world up above?
After they concluded their performance on the balcony, we ventured out on the streets. We passed by a dozen or so slumbering homeless men, ran into some bar employees just as they were closing up shop, and made it out to the pier where the ritzy cruise ships would come to dock.

While we stared out over the dark waters, Frances and Jessica revealed their little musical secret--they were part of a singing duo and needed some footage for a little music video they wanted to put together.

Before I knew it, we had cameras out, framing shots as they lip-synced one of their original songs.

That's how I found myself filming an impromptu music video on the pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 3 a.m., with people I had met maybe six hours earlier.

And by the time I got back to my little windowless utility closet and turned out the lights, I found myself filing away the memories with a goofy grin on my face, knowing I had already made my trip to Puerto Rico all worthwhile.

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