Writing from my home in Panama. Author of Walking around — 200,000 Years Ago. This is a work of fiction. But everything in this story could have happened . . . and when I write Part II, it’ll be exactly what happened. Weird, huh? Ring Composition.

Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash

Never Mind How I Know What It Was Like Walking on Earth 200,000 Years Ago: That’s a Trivial Point — Already Known by Sociologists.

I’d rather talk about what I’ve discovered.

I’ve been on an amazing odyssey.

I needed to get from the US to Panama. I couldn’t afford the ticket, but having always been a walker, I decided to walk. I actually thought I’d be ambushed in Mexico by cartels or Mormons, but decided to take the chance.

My fears were misplaced. In fact, my reputation soon preceded me, and I found people were actually expecting me. This was something unexpected — how could one person get famous in a world with 7.8 billion residents? But then again, Greta did.

Let me start at the beginning. I was visiting my son in Gainesville, Florida, and I came down with a novel virus. That’s what my pharmacist called it. He said it was coming from China. Well, I had actually hung out with the Chinese — in the Asian market where I bought groceries. I didn’t understand why they were wearing facemasks, though now I do. It nearly killed me — this new bug, but now I’m restored, better by far than I was in the before picture! I seem to be the only person on Earth making that claim. I’ve become a better person!

So that sets the stage for my epic journey.

I had about $600 and a newly-minted passport — I was all set . . .
Well, as set as I was gonna get! Luckily I’ve lived my life with a backpack, and a budget of 25 lbs (or 11 kilos) allotted for clothing, a blanket, books, and laptop. I don’t carry food or water: they’re everywhere, or used to be.

I debated hitchhiking. That mode of transport, and sleeping near a road have of course been made illegal by most advanced countries. So I just started walking — the original instinct for all of us humans. Most of the time, walking is still legal.

Aside from interrogations by dumb cops, this mode of covering huge numbers of miles really worked, as it always has. After all, one way we got our meat, which is crucial for survival, was by following an animal relentlessly until it stopped from exhaustion or starvation. I know: everybody already knows this technique. I’m just reminding them.

Right from the outset, I got rides. Sometimes multi-day rides. People seemed fascinated by my “unusual” odyssey. I started feeling like a rock star, though rock stars use jets to cover the same sorts of distances. But anyway, rock bands make a good comparison. Because what do rock stars sing about? They sing about what it is like being a rock star. Which really is about their environment and their adventures. Listen to some lyrics: you’ll see what I mean.

Anyway, along with the rides and my storytelling, we of course stopped for meals — even lodging. Well, it’s no difference to me whether I sleep on the hard ground or a motel-room floor, though I’m much safer in the motel. Those are the sorts of calculus a walker-talker (or rock band) uses. Different pay scales, but it’s still all about environment.

So did I get in trouble on this odyssey? Oh, yes. Any hitchhiker could tell similar stories. But I didn’t get robbed or killed. I got hurt a few times, mostly my own fault. When that happens, I find an out-of-the-way spot and sleep until I can walk again. Do I get scared? Of course. Lonely? I’ve never felt lonely. I love the peace of solitude. I get creative. I read and I think, I observe and then write. At night I can look at the universe.

It took only 3 days to reach Texas. Halfway through Texas I veered south into Mexico.

I’d anticipated trouble. The cartels, Mormons, even al Qaeda — or so they said. I suppose my fluent Spanish paved the way — the biggest threats in Mexico are the police. But I enjoyed talking to them, and they were quite polite.

Okay, the water can be a health threat, but I get accustomed to the impure water pretty quickly . . .
In fact the Latin American hospitality was quite reassuring. I’ve loved Latin communities since I was a kid in Santa Barbara (California). I’ve never understood racismo; never felt it. Well, some — against me, but I don’t mind that. The damn gringos deserve a taste of their own medicine. I am a Latino-Blanco, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve met a few others . . .

Permissions: © OpenStreetMap contributors, open source. They gave me permission.

Mexico sure is a tall country!

I entered through Monterrey (remember — this part is made up, sort of). Mexico is one place I was grateful to still have cash. They have buses that are really cheap — a good thing because an 8-hour ride seems to not get very far. But it does!

Still, I lost track of days. I even took a break and rented a hotel room for a couple of days in amazing Cuernavaca. I could live there, that’s for sure. You could never feel more alive than you do in Cuernavaca. Oh boy!

What a wonderful, beautiful country, is Mexico. I was particularly charmed by Mexico City. There it is, perched between two active volcanoes. In this city, when you speak of dangers, the inhabitants look sideways at you and say, “Life is dangerous. Mexico is dangerous.” So no, there’s no rampant denial there. It’s actually sweet and charming to my ears, being a scientist who is trying to explain existential risk to a dumbed-down audience (Norteamericanos):

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If only they’d put down the stupidphones and start walking, looking for meat to eat as their inner instincts are telling them to do.

Oh well, can’t save the world — especially if they’re too dumb to know they need saving. I’ll be happy enough to save Mexicans, Panamanians, and perhaps Costa Ricans too.

I’m sure there are other worthy populations; hopefully they’ll follow our examples.

Okay, it’s time to wind up Part I. Remember, Part II is where we return to where we started: Panama. Which is where I am right now — and expect never to leave. It’s all about life, the oral tradition, and ring composition. A way of going somewhere and getting nowhere. Like in the Iliad, right?

Thank you.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Fred Ermlich

Fred Ermlich


Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages. Gargoylplex@protonmail.com