Lessons learned, half-way through my time in Peru

I’ve now passed the half-way point of the time I plan on spending in Peru (note that plans are always subject to change, however), and feel certain that I’ve seen places and met people that have left vivid, permanent impressions. I also know that this experience has taught me more about myself and what I value than I ever imagined it would; four months have literally condensed years worth of lessons in rapid fire delivery. And, I think a lot of it has to do with Peru and how the landscape and way of life seem to strip away all the non-essentials, leaving only stark, raw beauty.
Maybe it’s that surrounding beauty, or year-round mild temperatures, or a tradition of self-reliance – but life here feels much simpler. And that simplicity takes away a lot of the unnecessary pressure it was so easy to put on myself before I made the decision to quit a job that was lucrative but unfulfilling, and sell a house that was beautiful- but required a monthly mortgage payment that kept me from traveling to the wild and amazing places I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid.
I don’t have a car; but I’m in the majority there. If I need to get anywhere I can hail one of the multitudes of cheap taxis or local buses pretty much anywhere, anytime (although your luck can diminish rapidly if there’s a sudden downpour on a weekend night or when everyone’s leaving work on a weekday). It’s also easy to walk everywhere; with plenty of beautiful architecture and people watching to keep me entertained along the way. If I head up the hill in to the San Blas neighborhood I also get a bonus glute work out in my day.
It would be rare/expensive to find an apartment with laundry facilities- and I’ve actually started looking forward to washing my laundry by hand. When I first got here I paid the average price of 3 soles per kilo at one of the laundry services that line the streets, but sacrificed that luxury when I went on a money saving mission. Now doing the laundry has been transformed from another chore on a long list of tasks to a kind of moving meditation. I like feeling the intense sun on my back while I’m washing, rinsing, and wringing and that I get to watch storms break up and reform over the mountains while I hang the clothes to dry on the line strung across my rooftop patio. When I’m done, I even like the slight muscle soreness in my arms and back. I guess I just like the ritual.
I also like the ritual of going to the market nearly every day for my food – not having a refrigerator has made this a necessity as much as a hobby. Beyond the colors and mouth-watering food selection there’s the interaction with the vendors who now know me (including the woman at the dried fruit and nuts stall who insists I find myself a Cusquenan boyfriend; and it just so happens her son is single), and I always leave feeling grateful to be a place where abundance is so readily available.
Maybe the lesson I will always value most from my time in Peru, and will probably have to work hardest to remember, is how important it is to remove working for financial gain as the center around which all else in my life revolves. There have been times when I’ve had to get really creative to make ends meet here; but I’ve also had the time to explore the amazing mountain biking and hiking close by, to write creatively instead of condensed marketing material, and to cover my walls with sketches that will always remind me of the amazing places I’ve been – so far.
There’s a lot left on my list of things to do/places to explore before I leave Peru: I want to get out on one of the big, fast rivers for a multi-day rafting trip; I want to travel to Huaraz and attempt some high altitude mountaineering in the Cordillera Blanca; I want to ride my bike from the mountain passes of the Andes deep into the cloud forest and jungle of Manu National Park
But, mostly I’m content to wake up and take it as it comes; because Peru is yet to disappoint me with a lack of surprises or lessons. And I honestly believe that traveling anywhere is a great way to gain perspective on the things that matter most to you, or at least release some old ideas that aren’t serving you any more.
So, the short version of this post would be: I love it here, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

One thought on “Lessons learned, half-way through my time in Peru

  1. Amaury Larancuent says:

    Hey Shannon, it’s Amaury, (Jackie’s boyfriend).

    We just made a two week + trip to Vietnam and I cannot help but agree with almost all of your emotional and spiritual conclusions. More importantly, however, are how your financial conclusions mirror my own after my comparatively short stint in Vietnam and how, living as I have been in a capitalist country my entire life, the financial epiphanies are so strongly tied to the emotional and spiritual ones.

    I am often saddened about how tangled my spiritual well being is with my financial status at any given time. One is often reminded through television, politics, chats with friends how intermingled the two really are. The pursuit of personal wealth has become our society’s greatest call, surpassing, even replacing, the deeper, intangible calls of our souls. Who amongst us truly finds peace, as we stumble through life constantly comparing our bank accounts, clothing labels, car models and job titles? Is financial gain truly the only universal motivator, or can human beings be moved to greatness via other, less quantitative, means?

    I do not have the answer to these questions, but I know that after travelling to Vietnam, seeing the people work so hard for merely survival, and striving not for a yearly salary, but only for another day, week, or month of existence in their wonderful land lead me to believe that perhaps these questions should be given further thought. I found a level of peace in Vietnam that I have never felt and I hope, I beg, that this feeling never leaves.

    I hope you find yourself happier than you have ever been having less than you have ever had. More than that, I hope you never leave that place in your soul that you have found, wherever your body happens to be.

    Keep writing so I can keep reading,

    Amaury

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