I’ve been known to change my mind. I don’t think I’m flighty, but sometimes I make decisions before I have enough information and when I get that information it leads to a course correction.
Take this trip, for example.
I started thinking about a fall trip in July. I weighed two options: travel alone to a new country (Peru), or return to Costa Rica and Nicaragua where I would possibly meet up with my best friend.
In the moment, I felt like I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I started looking at flights and found a smoking deal to Lima.
Five months later, I arrived in Lima exhausted, but excited. I originally planned to travel alone, but in a last minute turn of events an old friend who I hadn’t seen in ten months decided to join me.
We had an incredible time strolling through the streets of Lima and Cusco looking for the best ceviche and sweaters made with “Pura Alpaca” wool (Easier said than done). We weathered sleepless nights at a loud hostel and lost luggage. He went for water and looked for accommodations post-trek (which was my job) as I barfed my brains out after a bad experience with local cheese, and I tried to make sure we always had snacks.
There was a balance, a rhythm, and it was nice.
We trekked to Salkantay Mountain, Lake Humantay and Machu Picchu. We took a collectivo to Pisac and explored the artisan market and ruins. We surfed little Waikiki in Lima. We fell asleep every night exhausted, yet energized from the day we had and the days that lay ahead of us.
To say we had an epic time would be an understatement.
Then he left.
I have travelled alone many times over the past 15 years, so I know I can do it, but it wasn’t until he left that I realized that I didn’t want to.
I’m not the badass solo traveller I once was.
I liked having someone to ask me if I was ok after throwing up in a nasty hostel toilet or getting a slight headache from the altitude. It was nice to have someone to experience sunsets and ruins and amazing meals with. When I saw something beautiful it warmed my heart to hear someone say aloud exactly what I was thinking.
Walking through the streets of Lima the next day, all I could hear was his voice. When I saw pom poms in the tree, I heard him making a comment about Christmas decorations. When I walked by the statues near the mall I remembered his observation about them looking like vaginas (they did). I watched the surfers at little Waikiki and remembered the pure stoke on his face after a surf sesh the night before.
Everywhere I went in Lima reminded me of him, so naturally I had to leave. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to remember our time together but rather Cusco and Lima were places we experienced together and being there without him didn’t feel right.
I decided on a night bus to Huanchaco. At the time it made sense – sleep on the bus and not miss any daylight. Arriving at the bus stop at 9:30 pm made me feel a little less sure of my decision.
The bus was packed and while the seats reclined, I would be lying if I said I had a decent sleep. I’m not even sure it could be called sleep.
Ten hours later and another restless night under my belt, I awoke somewhere outside of Truijillo to the sound of a poorly dubbed cop movie playing on the big screen. When I could no longer hold my bladder, I reluctantly peed in the bus toilet, which was basically peeing in a toilet bowl full of other people’s pee.
I prayed we didn’t hit a bump.
I arrived in Trujillo exhausted and after learning I had to walk a ways to find the collectivo to Huanchaco I bartered with a cab driver and buckled up.
Well, I tried to buckle up. There were no seat belts.
Ten minutes later, I rolled up to my hostel. It had a great rating, but as I walked up the stairs and through the common area I could tell the reviews were given by mega budget backpackers looking to party.
The cushions in the common area were torn and stained with god knows what. The hammock looked as though it had a few STDs to give and three German girls sat chain smoking at the bar. After dropping off my bags, I went back to the common area – an outdoor patio facing the ocean – and watched the waves.
The sky was grey. It matched my mood.
A couple joined the German girls and I overheard them talking about all the shots they took the night before and what time they got home at which was basically an hour or so before I arrived. I didn’t judge them. I understood where they were coming from, but I just wasn’t there anymore.
After a quick check in with my best friend about my new living situation and my mental state, I got the fuck out of there and booked myself into a hotel down the street with a pool for two nights to adjust to my new setting.
After being back in hostel situations, I’ve realized how much I have grown out of that environment. I love a good night out once in a while, but I also love sleep and not being hungover. I like to read on the couch without worrying about what I’m sitting on. I don’t want to share a bedroom with strangers anymore never mind a bathroom.
After 15 years of travel and countless hostels (several dodgy ones), I’m over it.
I don’t want to travel like a broke backpacker anymore. I mean, I’m not a broke backpacker for one and two I like to be comfortable. I’m not on the road for three months and pinching pennies. I have three weeks to explore this epic country and I don’t want to be sleeping with my passport for the rest of my trip because I’m afraid someone in my room is going to steal my shit.
I hate stepping into a shower that has someone else’s hair in the drain.
I don’t want to be woken up by someone snoring unless I adore them because at least I can roll them over if I adore them. Or kick them.
I thought staying at a hostel would be a great way to meet people and get tips, but the truth is I don’t really care if I meet new people and I can ask Google for tips. Or friends who have been here before.
If I meet someone cool along the way, YAY! I am not so closed off that I would cold shoulder an opportunity to have a good conversation, but I don’t want to talk about how many shots you did last night. If I can’t be with someone I legitimately love traveling with, sometimes I think it’s better that I just travel alone.
Which brings me to my current situation.
I had big plans to surf Northern Peru and then head up to Ecuador, but after my friend left I started looking into it more and realized how many buses it would take. At least two 10 hour rides.
I could fly from Lima to Quito and back, but the cost of that flight is worth the same as my flight from Canada to Lima.
If Huanchaco was the sleepy fishing village the books and websites said it would be, I would stay here, but the streets smell like diesel and fried food and dog shit. The buses roll through every few minutes drowning out the sound of the sea. If this town is sleepy, it’s the kind of restless night bus sleepy and that’s not the vibe I was going for.
As a surfer and beach bum, I’m surprised at how drawn I had become to the idea of flying to southern Peru to explore the mountains, canyons and volcanoes in the Arequipa area. The thought crossed my mind before I started north, but now that I’m here…
After all the stories of the Andean people and experiencing the Andes for myself I couldn’t help but think that I could have an epic girly surf trip in the new year. I will find waves close to home in the very near future. I may never come back to Peru.
And so, I booked a flight out of here.
I changed my mind.
This isn’t the first time that I have altered my course. It’s not an easy decision to make. Sometimes I feel like I failed for not sticking to a plan, but what would I be accomplishing by forcing myself to stick to a plan I am no longer inspired by?
Sometimes we need to slow down. Sometimes we need to move forward. And sometimes we need to do a complete 180.
Sometimes we try something – a town, a hostel, a travel buddy – and it doesn’t work out. Is it more noble to roll with it our to course correct? In my experience, the decision to make a move is sometimes difficult in the moment but is always worth it.
Sometimes the right thing and the hard thing are the same.
When you travel you are constantly faced with options. There is always somewhere to go and always something to see. The time constraint make things both easier and harder because our time is finite. If we sit around for too many days feeling uncertain or refusing to make a decision for whatever reason (cost, fear) our trip will be over before we know it and what would we have to show for it?
Regret is a heavier burden than the back packs and day packs we carry with us.
This is true in life as well, but time seems infinite when we’re in our day to day routine because nothing really changes.
When you travel, the only constant is change.
So, with a week left and heavy heart I say good bye to the sea and hello to a day of air planes and airports in anticipation of great adventure.