Thanks to Pete’s ability to communicate in Spanish and his willingness to approach and chat up anyone (cab drivers, restaurant servers, the cleaning lady, women with children on the street), we have local phone numbers, data plans (un peso por día!), bus cards, and school for all of us.
When I pointed out the obvious—that we would not be able to advance beyond tourists without his fearlessness—Pete said he’d wasted enough opportunities in Spanish-speaking countries, leaving a place saying “I can’t wait to go back” and meaning “Next time I’ll try harder.”
“Next time” sums up how I felt after a year in France in my early 20s. My French could’ve been a lot better, but I was too afraid to make mistakes, either social or linguistic. With more travel and life experience behind me, and less obsession with perfection (thank you, middle age), I aim to become the kind of Spanish speaker Pete is.