The last time I sat down and wrote a post was September. It’s now 1st December (*final edited 22nd January 2017) and my Facebook page is being filled up with posts about opening the first door of their advent calendar. Where and how has the months flown by?
In that time, I´ve had two new and good friends return home, and two groups of friends from back home visit me.
I am now back on the road again solo. The first few days after my friends, Becca, Heran and Lydia, left, was tough. We had just explored Macchu Picchu where I had, unfortunately, experienced food poisoning and I was still feeling under the weather. I felt vulnerable, confused, and incredibly home sick. The days following my friends´ departure, I researched where I should go next – I had no further visits from back home and so for the first time in my trip I had no destinations and deadlines to hit. Perhaps, this is what frightened me the most. Having the true sense of freedom.
One morning, after partying too hard in Cusco, enduring no sleep and the embarrassment of the hostel´s cleaner “clean” around me, that I decided I need to make a plan and book a bus to a destination asap. Any destination, just as a long as I was doing what I came to South America to do – travelling to the max.
I decided that now was the chance to get my fitness levels back – and hopefully sense of adventure – by heading to Huaraz, the North of the Peru, for a five-day trek. I spent two days on the bus – 20 hours from Cusco to Lima, and an additional 10 hours to Huaraz. During my journey I sat and spoke to local Peruvians who questioned where I was from, my age, how long I was travelling for, my marital status and recognise both their confusion and disapproval when they realised that I was a 28, single, London girl travelling solo. They weren’t the only one. I more recently had the pleasure of meeting a Canadian fresh out of university who congratulated me for travelling solo. “You’re so brave; cos you know…rape and shit”.
I was so stunned by the last comment, Travelling solo does not suck. Yes, it can be daunting, but it can also be powerful.
Building confidence. I know, I know. I don´t exactly lack confidence (well, only when it comes to guys apparently). I was recently ready to tackle a new one-day hike solo, when I spotted a local Ecuadorian guy at the entrance and started to speak at him, inviting myself to accompany him. I think he rather enjoyed my company over the next six hours too. He even shouted me coca tea for the pleasure of doing so. Of course there are those times, when you sit yourself down in a group and get completely ignored so you decide it’s better if you graciously move away, but that’s totally their loss.
Meeting new people. With the previous point in my mind, I arrived in Banos, Ecuador one afternoon and was thinking that I would probably just chill, when I overheard a guy at my hostel asking reception how to get to Casa de Arbol (the swing at the end of the world). Rather than sit on my tod doing nothing, I dashed over to him and asked if I could join him. He responded with a yes – not that I gave him much of a choice. Going up to the swing, we chatted non stop about complete nonsense and he was kind enough to take 180 photos of me on the swing. Over the next few days, we hanged out constantly… to the point that I think everyone thought we were together as we were even syncing our bed time curfew.
Easier planning. I don´t have to accommodate others own preferences and ítinerary … or even their lack of adventure. I can get off the gringo track, I can stay in one place that extra day…and not have to ask my travel buddy if that´s okay. It even makes staying in hostels easier…lately I’ve just been turning up at places and most times they’ve managed to accommodate me even when they are full.
Travel at my own speed. I did the most random route in South America. After flying from Bogota, Colombia to Lima, Peru to meet some friends from back home, I was keen to backtrack and visit the North of Peru and Ecuador. It also left me fearing what I was going to do for Christmas and who I would spend it with. Christmas is really one of my favourite times of the year and so I was keen to make a good plan. I promised my friend I would meet him in Bolivia which meant I had to travel down quickly. Flights were not an option at 300 dollars and so I decided to bus it…for five days. I was definitely left feeling traumatised. I faced trying to get across borders when buses were full (luckily I befriended three other gringos who had unfortunately missed their connecting buses and so I managed to convince them to take multiple taxis across the border which actually worked out cheaper between all of us, although in total it did take over four hours of waiting owing to huge queues). I got bed bugs from the buses and my body ached after a Colombian who I met along the way convinced me to travel as cheap as possible in cramped seats. When I eventually arrived in La Paz my friend disliked Bolivia so much that he decided he was leaving the next day. I wanted to give Bolivia a chance and was not ready to move along too and so I was left alone with my Christmas plans completely falling through. After that, I promised myself that I would never alter my plans or rush things just so I can accommodate someone else’s itinerary.
Reflection time. I am not a quiet person, nor did I need that much downtime. But I do love sitting down with a delicious coffee, people watch and gather my thoughts over the past few weeks and even my plans for the next few months. The endless possibilities. Feeling in control of my own destiny, or rather destinations, gives me such a rush of excitement… especially as although, as I said I am in control, I never know who I am going to meet…or run into again.