17 Hours to Peru: A Miniature Travelogue

January 12, 2016

8:20 AM

My ride to the train station arrives in 10 minutes. And so, the journey begins. I am nervous. I am scared, frankly. I feel like I’m going to throw up, or cry, or both.

(Cry-vomit? Is that a thing?)

It always starts like this, every journey somewhere new, different, uncertain. I hear 1,000 stories, scenarios and potentials in my head. I have for days. And now they’re all shouting at once as I stand here, in my quiet, safe-feeling apartment. I just want to stay.

I just want to hide.

But again I say, no.

The voice that is the loudest is not the strongest. I know what worry sounds like and what my heart says. It is stronger. I always choose my heart.

9:10 AM

Train from Providence to Boston is 5 minutes late. I order an egg sandwich and decaf coffee. It’s Peruvian. A good omen, I say. A familiar face behind the counter. She recognizes me, and I her. A few long seconds pass before I finally place her: she works elsewhere in town. “A barista? No. Oh, at the mystic shop. She sold me some black tourmaline crystals and a candle for a friend. She’s weird like me.”

I’m glad she’s making my sandwich.

10:05 AM

The first thing I hear on the platform of South Station in Boston is seagulls. They’re always the first thing I hear in Boston. I push my feet down the familiar platform and feel a rush of memories from living here years ago: who I was, how young I seemed, how much longing I did while I was here.

10:30 AM

The T. Grey line. Not long before the airport. Already in the flow.

First hurdles, hurdled. My edges are melting away.

I’m floating, and nothing can touch me.

1:43 PM

Takeoff. We soar over Castle Island, where I used to walk, run, and escape from concrete city to splashes of green and open bay.

I’m fully here now, traveling. You have to be present to journey well. My hear rate is slow and steady. My breaths are deep and full. I am at ease. Cry-vomit be damned.

Plane turns; a glimmer of sun bursts into my eyes. I shut them, feeling the warmth, and smile.

4:30 PM

Atlanta. I like this airport. I’ve passed through here quite a few times recently.

No matter how short or long my layover, I always hoof it in haste to my connecting gate. Some airlines start boarding an hour or more early. Sometimes there’s an important announcement, a delay that’s worth knowing, or an unannounced gate change.

5:45 PM

Second flight. Aisle seat. Free in-flight entertainment. Booya.

My seat neighbor is named Alicia. She speaks no English. I speak no Spanish. We rely on Google Translate to converse, very slowly, before takeoff. She is kind, offers her phone number and home for a meal while I am in Lima. I won’t be able to visit since my stay is so short, but I’m happy to receive the invite regardless.

1:03 AM

Touch down, Lima! But the journey isn’t finished yet. First, it’s customs.

(I always feel like I’ve done something wrong when passing through foreign customs. Catholic guilt takes a lot of years to undo, I suppose.)

A few minutes pass, my passport is stamped anew.

I’m officially here, now — officially in Peru.

What’s next? Getting to my new home. I pass through the security check point — the point of no return, as it were — and in a rush unfamiliar faces all stand and stare. Not nearly how overwhelming it felt my first time in India — though the time of day was similar. And, there is no smog here.

I find one of the official taxi lines in Lima and a driver whose eyes are kind. He leads me to his car. We pass from the sterile white light of the airport and into the dim warmth of Lima, palms abound.

I’ve never seen the sky from here but I recognize it all the same; it is dark, but still I see full trees and swatches of green earth.

It smells like Florida in evening: dewy, sweet.

We ride away and I hear myself say, “I cannot believe I am here.”

1:20 AM

My Airbnb host, Ale, has stayed up all this time to welcome me. She greets me at her gate with a hug and a kiss. She is a fashion designer, photographer and painter (I like her already), and a mother of two who now live in Europe. She has made me a fresh fruit salad with sugar and molasses. She stays up to chat with me.

“We are family now,” she says.

1:54 AM

I close my bedroom door behind me and lay down. A short 17 hours ago I was at home and nervous.

This is my home, now.

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PS – Ready to find your own home away from home? Travel with Airbnb — privately hosted homes, apartments and bed-and-breakfasts. I love Airbnb and recommend you try them. There are thousands of incredibly kind hosts around the world — real human beings who want to meet you, host you, and help explore the world, one destination at a time.

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