Rather than trying to recapture all the details of my trip through South America (as I have been unsuccessfully attempting since I returned), I’ve decided to share my top memorable moments and favourite shots while backpacking through Peru and Ecuador this past September. Spending half my trip with my partner in crime and half of it backpacking solo for the first time was an experience of a lifetime.
Although I haven’t conquered it all even after traveling without a map, technology, a Spanish dictionary or a plan really, and I don’t have answers to the problems I attempted to flee from, surviving life drastically different and substantially more dangerous than my own gives me courage to confidently face my life, rather than run from it.
My biggest lesson from this travel; always challenge yourself in ways that terrify you, because that is when you allow travel to truly transform and evolve you to a better version of yourself.
Break out of your routine. Test your limits, LIVE. Who knows…. you may just survive.
Top Memorable Moments traveling through South America
1. Staying at a hostel in Cuzco with no heating, no warm water, no other guests and TV from the 1970’s that has 4 channels – local Peruvian language only.
2. Ordering a 3 course meal for 4 soles –> $3 Canadian.
3. Getting pick-pocketed in Peru. Man only steals map back to hostel, can’t find way home.
4. Homeless people rejecting food offerings. Woman says ‘gross’ when we hand her a cooked banana.
5. Renting a bike to explore Banos solo – provided with tools to fix the bike in case it breaks during my trek. No instructions on how to use these tools, only a phone number if I have trouble. I get lost and end up on a steep path with jagged rocks, thinking I will die the whole time. There are no pay phones and I have no cell phone.
6. Head to cafe Ali Cumbos in Banos for the afternoon. Get to the cafe and its closed. Columbian stranger Damien sees me standing outside and begins to tell me its the best place in town. He then claims its ‘destiny’ we’re here at the same time and asks me to go for a cup of chocolate. We talk over drinks and discover we both like writing, he says ‘it must be destiny’ and begins calling me ‘Princessa’.
7. Spanish speaking police harass me for my passport on my 8 hr bus ride back to Guyaquil. I lie in broken spanish “lo siento, pero no lo tengo. Mi passaporte con mi pedro a l’aeropuerto. Yo voy Montanita ahora”
8. Trek up a volcano in Banos with my Dutch and American roommates. Climb for hours in the splintering heat, no pathway, no other travelers, no food or water along the way. We make it to the top – a deserted restaurant with one broken wooden table on the rooftop. We pay some locals to drive us back down. Go back to the hostel, starving, too tired to find vegetarian food in meat city. While I get ready my amigos go on a hunt and bring me some delicious vegetarian food.
9. Walk all around the Columbia airport in a confused daze searching for my gate to catch my connecting flight back to Toronto. Ask plenty of people where to go, everyone directs me to somewhere different. Green eyed European stranger who speaks english sees me and escorts me all around the entire airport until I find my luggage, and gate, ensuring I don’t miss my flight home.
10. I make it back home in one piece. My spirit is strengthened, and I feel closer to the fearless woman I hope to be. Those strangers I met along my journey go with me wherever I go, sweetly reminding me of how enormous the heart of the world can be when you give it a chance.