The 3 weeks I spent in Peru were a really amazing 3 weeks because of all the places I went, things I did and people I met. I went into it wanting to conquer the Inca Trail, but I also wanted to use the trip as a sort of gauge for how ready I really am for a long-term SOLO trip. With this in mind, I came away from Peru (& Bolivia) with some very valuable insights into myself, my travel preferences, and comfort level with taking “The Plunge”:
1. Long term travel only seems outrageous to Americans. Our culture is overly obsessed with working and making money and measures personal success using job titles. People in Europe, Canada, Australia, and other countries wealthy enough to have the possibility, value seeing the world and understanding other cultures much more than we do. Their jobs tend to give them many more weeks of paid vacation per year and a gap year of travel (usually between college and work) is a common occurrence. I thought that I was doing big things by traveling for 3 weeks in a row, but my thoughts were adjusted when everyone else I met was travelling for at least 6 weeks, some as long as 6 months (NONE of whom were American). I don’t care if American culture doesn’t appreciate the value of seeing the world, I am determined to do it anyway.
2. I would be right ‘at home’ traveling for a long period of time. While I have traveled for 2 weeks at a time in the past, this trip was my longest yet at 3 weeks. I thought that if after 3 weeks I had enough living out of a bag and not speaking the language and being away from home, then perhaps 6 months of continuous travel wasn’t for me. I had certainly grown annoyed with packing, then unpacking, then repacking my backpack every other day, but those 3 weeks flew by like I couldn’t have imagined. At the end, not only was I not ready to come home, I was ready to start plotting 2 more weeks in Bolivia, then 3 in Argentina and so on. Not that I truly thought it would be an issue, but I am now sure I can handle being away for a long while.
3. I need to be as close to fluent in Spanish as possible. Currently, my Spanish skills exist at survival level. I can communicate in restaurants and hotels and make basic conversation. But, to really enjoy travel, I need to be able to communicate at a much more advanced level. When you speak the language everything is less difficult, less scary and frankly less dangerous. I have already begun working on this with an online Spanish course.
4. Central and South America will be main destinations on my SoleJourn. I already knew I wanted to spend some time in the Americas, but after this trip, I think I want to spend a lot longer in the Spanish-speaking universe. I haven’t yet targeted exact countries or destinations, so for now they are all on the list. After seeing how easy it is to move around via bus, and what kinds of food and accommodations you can get on a budget, I am confident that I can make Central and South America work on my own. Plus I am just plain old interested in further exploring the places and cultures in this part of the world. Being able to utilize and to continue working on my Spanish is an added bonus.
5. I met some really awesome solo traveling women and I want to be one too! Solo travelers in general, but especially the women I’ve met, are smart, strong, brave and interesting people. Traveling alone can be a challenge, and I need to feel challenged to feel good about my life. There are so many interesting places to go and life changing experiences to have, and I want to be able to do it on my own terms. I want to push the boundaries of what I think I’m capable of and move toward being more fearless! Eventually, I want to meet other women who are considering hitting the road alone, and be the one that proves to them they can do it too.
Feeling more confident and better able to visualize what a solo trip will be like, I am more sure than ever that this is something I have to do for myself. I am moving full speed ahead toward making it happen and have made some progress toward my savings goal. Until I get there, here are some other great pictures from my time in Peru: