by Tiffani “Endless Summer” Michele
My kids went to Alaska with their Dad on their summer vacation. While they were gone, I went on mine: Peru for two weeks. I met some new people. I drank some new drinks. I saw lots of new things. I guess it was OK.
And by that, what I mean to say is:
I went to PERU for two fucking weeks!!!!!!! 14 days of magic!!!!!! 14 days of pure bliss. 14 days of immersion in a language I don’t speak and a culture I don’t understand. It was like a dream come true, only better, because in a dream come true it always ends up being too real. But this, it was like a dream come true if you were dreaming of a dream come true. 14 days of listening, watching, learning, (sometimes) crying, laughing, dancing, eating, hooping, drinking, picture taking, and just being.
I realized a lot about myself, which is always the best part of any good voyage.
I realized that my heart beats in time to the sound of a city buzzing with activity. In order: Arequipa, Lima, and Cusco.
I realized that normal activity to one person could be a completely foreign and interesting activity to someone else. I loved watching Peruvians go about their daily lives, and I formed a deep respect for their hard working, baby wearing, brightly clothed, smiling ways. I didn’t meet a Peruvian I didn’t like. Not to say they aren’t out there, but I had the good fortune to run with some pretty awesome people and watch the quiet rhythms of daily routines.
I learned that not everyone has the same uptight high levels of safety that I’ve been brought up with. For instance, refrigeration? Apparently not as necessary as I thought (as long as you don’t mind going without milk and ice).
Most badass schoolbus ever? This truck in the Andes. It’s safe. It has a rollbar!
I learned that while there may be no more new frontier for mankind on this earth in general, there is plenty of new territory for me to explore. And sometimes in doing the exploring, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, humility, and awesome.
I give you Machu Picchu–the reason for my trip and the absolute highlight.
I realized that I could never ever actually capture the sense of place that I felt there in a picture, but it didn’t keep me from trying. I ate things I never thought I’d eat (alpaca) and had drinks that completed me (pisco sour). I fell to the depths of loneliness, as one does when one is traveling alone, and then popped back out the other side into the arms of the traveling community…in which you are truly alone only if you want to be.
I soaked in lots of affirmation and love, because one thing that latin american men are not shy of is expressing lots of strong feelings that I’m unaccustomed to hearing. Of course, I didn’t buy into it. Obviously not, seeing as I base my self worth on my own identity and not on what other people say about me *cough* I’m trying *cough* but the fervor and tone is hard to ignore. After watching me hoop around to music out of my headphones, an entire group of Brazilian men in the hostel I was staying at pledged their undying love. Which is ridiculous, you can’t love someone after watching them for 5 minutes. But they believed it. And they defended their love so vigorously I let go of my American skepticism and agreed that yes, they could carry on with all that undying and unrequited love business.
But my heart? It belonged to the llamas y alpacas. More than the fiery passion of latin american men, these creatures stirred in me an inner confidence. They are so completely themselves…awkwardness and silliness and all…I couldn’t stop watching them. They trip along rocks. Careen down paths. Wander willy nilly up and down. They chew funny. Make priceless expressions of awkwardness. Who among us is more silly and awkward than me? And who is more regretful of this than I am? No one but me. But watching these animals (that I’d never seen up close in person) owning their shit was really empowering. If I can love them for their strangeness, then perhaps someone can love me for mine. In fact, maybe that someone can be me. I’m thinking that if you love llama, you’d love me by extension.
I fell in love with Peru. I fell in love with new tastes, sounds, sensations. I fell in love with life.
And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.
How has your summer been? Did you travel anywhere? Do anything new? See anything with fresh eyes? Do tell!