It has taken me way too long to put this blog post together mainly because it is about Peru and Peru has my heart.
I was newly nineteen and almost done with my first year in college when I panicked. Literally, panicked. I did not want to go back home to my suburbs only to spend my entire summer fighting with my parents and thrifting.
Freshman year had challenged me more than I could handle and I felt like I needed to do something radical to feel like myself again.
So, I googled South America and chose to go to Mexico. And then I had a dream that my father came to find me in Tijuana while I was canoodling with a curly-haired Mexicano and so I changed my mind.
Peru was far and random enough to help me keep up the lie I was going to tell my parents for 35 days: I was on a school trip and doing homestays.
It wasn’t so much a lie than it was an omission of certain details: I had escaped from the realities of university education and I was doing homestays–on couches.
Anyway, I borrowed $400 from my brother for my upkeep and emptied my savings to buy a round-trip ticket from Peru to NYC (I would later beg my father for a ticket back home to Detroit). I had no knowledge of Spanish and knew not a single soul in Peru but I found Couch Surfing, Hostel World and Peru Hop.
This blog post will be longer than I need it to be if I go into the nitty-gritty detail of travelling Peru alone as a black woman and so I will chat more on that later.
But, in this blog I want my readers to understand why Peru has my heart.
In Peru, I met the most loving people.
Gisele, a Chilean travelling solo as well, became my right-hand. From Arequipa to Lima, we budgeted our way around the city until she left the country. We danced and laughed and traded details of our lives we might never discuss again.
In Cusco, I missed my bus to Puno because I took too many shots and beers with a man named Sergio while listening to El Necio by Sylvio Rodriguez.
In Puno, I tried and failed at rowing a boat across Lake Titicaca, tried and failed at eating alpaca meat, and was tempted to cross the border to Bolivia with $30 to my name.
In Arequipa, I called my father and begged for $50 so I could pay for the hostel I was staying in and have dinner that night.
In Lima, I fell in deep like with the funniest man in the world who was always sleepy and loved to be held. We became co-workers (because I was broke but needed a place to stay and food to eat) and later ‘roommates’. I found myself in a squad of older Peruvian men who carried cocaine in their pockets, loved red wine and the versatility of my morena hair, and knew how to trick club bouncers into letting us in for free to dance until 6 am.
In Lima, I fell in love with coastal cities and the sea breeze that carried all the sadness away with it.
In Lima, I held full conversations in Spanish and almost cheated on my lover with his best friend.
Spending 35 days in Peru was me coming to terms with the kind of person I was, could be, and wanted to be.
In my next blog post, I will detail how I survived.