Exactly two months ago, I flew in to Lima for a little break.. What I thought yould be a quick and easy getaway turned out to be quite the adventure, from missing my connecting flight to Lima and being rerouted nine ways to Sunday (ended up in Panama!), to arriving a day later than scheduled, to doing things I would have never in a million years thought I was capable of..
I met a lot of interesting people on this trip, and they were the reasons why this particular trip was very special to me. I learned so much about myself and the world around me by just spending some time with these amazing and unique individuals. There were a couple of personal issues, or conundrum if you will, that I was wrestling with internally around the time I left. By the time I came back, I was able to look at things with exceptional clarity, and I knew then exactly what I needed to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
Here are the people I met in Peru..
My Swedish roommate whom I spent the whole night talking with about various geo-political and social issues, and who dragged me to the park across the street at 3am so we could run around by ourselves and play with the cats. This was on my first day/night in Peru, two hours after I arrived. Incidentally, when my travel arrangements got screwed in Cuzco a week later, and I was on the verge of a nervous and emotional breakdown, he walked in the hostel gate like a miracle on Christmas Eve, right as I was about to start crying, and without a word and without knowing what was going on, went up to me and gave me the biggest and most reassuring hug ever, and told me everything was gonna be ok.
The American girl who reminded me that not all girls are catty and bitchy, some of them are actually pretty cool and laid back, and make for pretty amazing friends.
My ridiculously gorgeous Portuguese roommate who convinced me to stay up all night, despite having an early flight to Cuzco the next day, by engaging me in one of the most intellectually stimulating conversations I had in a while, and by plying me with cocktails and weed the whole night.
The Mexican teenager who lived in the hostel in Lima who was wise beyond his years and made me wish I had his wisdom and maturity when I was that age.
The jack ass Swede, who tested the limits of my patience and diplomacy. Thanks for proving that I am a patient person contrary to popular opinion. And thank you for calling me stupid in Spanish without even bothering to check if I understand the language, because you made yourself look very stupid, and I learned to hold my cards closer to my chest.
The ginger-haired Australian bartender at the hostel in Lima, also known as the funnest guy I’ve ever met! He even humored me when I mistook him for my blond Swedish roommate and started talking to him about getting Popeye’s Chicken for dinner. He had no clue what I was talking about, but indulged me nonetheless.
The spaced out, permanently drugged Dane who was gorgeous beyond belief and great conversation when he was lucid, but passed out every half hour or so. Our conversations revolved around Nietzsche and Jung, the theory of relativity, as well as where the best surf breaks are in Lima.
The sweet Peruvian bartender in Cuzco who took such good care of me when I was dying of altitude sickness that first day. She fed me enough chicken soup and bread to satisfy a small army!!
The fun-loving and carefree Norwegian girl that became the inspiration for my novel. Not everybody gets to be nicknamed and known all over South America as “chug-chug Benny” for their drinking skills. Your notoriety and spontaneity and “devil may care” attitude inspires me everyday to not give a fuck about what people say or think about me.
The Swiss guy working at the hostel in Cuzco who graciously showed me where the best anticuchos are despite the fact it was after midnight and raining. He even offered to eat the giant potato at the end of the skewer.
The girls from Canada, Norway, USA, Turkey, Iran, Peru, Netherlands, France, Chile, and Argentina who did the Cheerobix routine of Timber with me in that bar in Cuzco. Amazing how after only a stanza and half, they already caught on to the steps and were cheering like seasoned professionals.
My Ecuadorian brother from another mother who kept telling me I’m like a “mom” and tried to pass it off as a compliment!! Nice try buddy!! Kidding aside, I did enjoy spending time with you, and hope to see you in the fall when I come to Ecuador.
The Argentinean hippie in harem pants who unwittingly convinced me whilst sitting and lording over Machu Picchu that life is too short to be suffering at a thankless job and that I should just quit and live my life however I want to. My own Yoda atop Huayna Picchu.
The crazy French guy who shamed me on how long it took me to climb up Huayna Picchu and pushed me to go higher and to never give up, albeit in a charming manner as only the French can pull off. Also called me out as an American when he heard me yell “Jesus Fucking Christ” as I tripped and fell on my face on the side of the mountain.
The Mexican lady who was sweet as pie, danced like a maniac, and had the craziest laughter I’ve ever heard. Bless her heart for she gave me the biggest mama bear hug when she realized I was lonely and homesick.
The Indian couple who bargained everything down to the last penny. (I had to intervene on this, on behalf of the poor woman we were buying supplies from)
The South African lawyer who spent most of our 10-hour bus ride to Puno trying to convince me to try ayahuasca in between telling me his adventures and romantic dalliances over the last 30 years. A real life Indiana Jones and Lothario this one, and I wanna be just like him when I grow up! He patted me on the head like an attention starved puppy when I said this.
My Chilean babies who stole my heart, and my chocolate granola bars. I adored them so much I didn’t even mind having 40 extra pounds attached to my hip as I climbed Pachamama in Isla Amantani. It also took me twice as long as everybody to reach the top. I now voluntarily reconsider my “no child” policy thanks to them.
And lastly, my American roommate, who gamely tried out cuy with me, and didn’t mind when I got us lost in downtown Lima twice, and more importantly, put a lot of things in perspective for me. Spending time with him also reminded me of why I travel as much as I do, and how much I’ve actually grown since the first time I’ve ventured on my own. There’s nothing like seeing your younger, more innocent self reflected in the mirror a complete stranger provides you.
The winds are shifting, and it will be blowing in another direction thanks to these people.