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.