[For clarity, the crutches part is a story from 8 years ago. I'm not on crutches now, I'm fine.]
I was given a choice: I could stay on crutches for three weeks, or I could use crutches for a week and then use a cane for a few weeks afterwards. So I immediately headed over to fashionablecanes.com and picked out a pimpin cane.
It would have been easier on my knee to be on crutches. Less work, less painful, faster. But crutches always come with their own difficulties: stairs, doorways, carrying bags, etc. With the cane I was not far off from how mobile I'd be fully healed.
I've found that other crutches in my life are similar. While they're easier at the time, the experience you get with them has its own set of difficulties. And thus I find myself, after 24 hours in Ensenada "on my own," being more comfortable here than any other time I've been in Mexico.
Since moving to San Diego, I've made my fair share of trips into Mexico. San Felipe, Tijuana, Tecate, Ensenada, Rosarito - I've seen most of the Baja cities within the tourist (no-visa-required) zone. But I realized today as I was walking around, that essentially every single visit down here has been with at least one fluent Spanish speaker in my group. And I'm just now realizing how much of a limitation that was on me... how much I depended on them to do things for me that, honestly, I could have done myself.
Sure, walking with a cane involved a little hobbling and was slower moving than on crutches (I could fly on those crutches by the end of a week), but my knee got stronger and stronger with every step.
Sure, trying to speak Spanish on my own is slower and involves a few stumbles, and I may not get exactly what I want (and I always got exactly the order I wanted when I told my friend to order for me), but my Spanish has gotten better just today from the walk around town on my own.
And the freedom I feel already... I can't even quite explain where it's coming from, as nothing much has changed. I really don't know that much more Spanish than I did 24 hours ago, but I think just realizing that I can get along on my own is a big part of it. That my limited Spanish is probably enough for almost everything I'd want to do when just wandering around. I arrived yesterday, and stayed in because I wasn't sure what I'd do if I went out. Now, I have 15 things I want to go explore on my own, and I'm bummed I have to go back to San Diego to take care of things this coming weekend.
My excitement level has grown immensely just in these past 24 hours. I've gone from apprehensive, and a feeling of not knowing what to expect, to having some idea what to expect and being thrilled about almost every part of it.
So, crutches down, here I go on the trip. 9 more days of classes will get me even more prepared, and 6 months of being in Spanish-speaking countries on my own ought to have me strong enough to get around on my own, just like six months of strenuous physical therapy had me completely self-sufficient and playing ultimate frisbee again six years ago.
And really, that in itself was a huge reason for this trip. I've never traveled alone outside the United States, and I've never been the one organizing a trip out of the country - while I can handle domestic travel pretty darn well on my own after the 100 days trip, I needed a kick into gear to be able to do it on my own elsewhere.
And for the first time in my life, that doesn't seem like an insurmountable task.