Road Trip

Jeannine Contreras - Ecuador


February 28, 2018

Its three am, my little brother is puking in the front seat and I can’t stop looking at the stars. 
We’re somewhere high in the mountains between Guayaquil and Ibarra – three hours into a nine-hour road trip. In front my host Dad is driving, my littlest brother has his head out the window in case he pukes again, my other brother is holding him so he won’t fall out and my little sister is asleep beside me in the back of the van. I should be sleeping too but after I was unceremoniously woken up by a precariously stacked box landing right on my gut I was too distracted by the stars and the wanderlust that had abruptly consumed me. 
There is very little light pollution when you’re surrounded by nothing but green mountains so high up in the air that it seems like the sky is only an arm’s length away. For a dizzying moment, I think that this was the price we paid for bringing light to the earth. We lit up the earth but darkened the sky and there is something infinitely tragic about that.
 
I am reminded of a younger me, a different me, someone foreign to this person I’ve become. She didn’t expect to end up here, in this van with this family looking at stars so bright and beautiful it almost hurts to look. She didn’t expect me. 
When I was younger I expected  life to function like a straight line, Point A to Point B. Not because life had ever actually functioned like that – chaos was a old and disliked friend – but because I thought I would be able to force it to become something orderly, something I could neatly put into a box and tuck away like a forgotten memory. 
Life doesn’t work like that, it’s messy and terrifying and full of wonder. It’s being 19 years old – the oldest I’ve ever been and the youngest I’ve ever felt – looking up at the stars, in a van filled with people I love more than I thought I could, being someone 16 year old me wouldn’t recognize and thinking:
This is not what I expected but it is so much better than I ever hoped. 

Jeannine Contreras