Adventure Girl sets off solo
Today I head to Peru, first stop: Lima. This is where it gets hard. I’m on my own for the first few days before I join my tour. I don’t know the language and I can’t always rely on finding someone who speaks English or who can navigate my clumsy charades. My Latin American phrase book has been better than nothing, but not much.
It’s odd. I’m not worried about keeping my own company for these few days. I’m more worried about how I will feel when I’m bunked in with a bunch of strangers. Over the last few days it’s been great to have a companion, someone to find my feet with, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have done half those things if I’d been on my own, but I did crave time out.
In a social situation I can’t properly relax. I can feel my energy being sapped just from having to stay alert, remaining aware of the other person, or people. I can’t get lost in my own thoughts.
For the months, weeks, days, leading up to this trip, I’ve been running from being alone, filling the gaps with social networking and online communications, telephone calls and socialising, all the while craving stillness, quiet, calm. But whenever calm came, instead of relief, panic set in, and I rushed to fill up the gaps, as though I feared the same void I’d just craved.
Part of the excitement of this trip is the opportunity to rediscover the calm, the quiet, the feeling of being so lost inside myself that I never want to come out. It’s in this space that I recuperate, that the depression finally lifts, rather than being temporarily diverted. Because that’s what the constant interaction has been – a distraction, a diversion, never a cure. And if I can find space again, perhaps I will rekindle my creativity, and in the quiet, bring my inner worlds back to life.
The hardest part of being on my own isn’t being alone; it’s worrying about safety. People keep saying ‘be careful in Lima, be careful in Peru,’ but they never tell you how. I have to somehow be prepared to be a victim of opportunistic crime, but not expect it; (‘that’s asking for trouble’). I’ve got some contingencies for keeping my belongings safe, and according to the Lonely Planet, the best way to keep safe in Lima is to take a taxi door to door, whereas in Boganburbia it was keeping my phone by my side. I ummed and ahhed about activating Global Roaming on my iPhone. In the end I opted against. I didn’t trust myself not to maintain my reliance on social network interactions. I knew I needed to force myself to go cold turkey, even though it means I’m also disconnected in an emergency.
Strangely enough I haven’t missed it. I’ve missed the convenience, but not the weight of feeling as though I need to be constantly plugged in. I even felt a sense of disappointed obligation tracking down Wi-Fi, just because I knew I had to let people know I was okay. Sure enough, after my first bout of correspondence and an appearance on Facebook, I began to feel the itch, the discomfort when my access was cut off again, and craved hopping back online. That’s when I knew I’d made the right choice limiting myself.
I’ve only regretted my choice once, and that was this morning at the airport. It was my first real moment alone, and having queued for almost two hours to check-in, I had an hour or so to kill before boarding. Clutching a handful of pesos, I sought out a payphone, but couldn’t get through. I panicked, feeling like I had to find Wi-Fi, I had to get online, had to connect. All I really wanted was to hear your voice.
Now I’m on a plane, listening to my iPod, reading a novel when I’m not writing this post, and marking out the places I want to visit in my Lonely Planet guide. This is my chance to make the trip mine.
Skipping the pages on shopping and night-spots, I’ve marked out the Monasterio de San Francisco, famous for its creepy corpse-filled catacombs and the Museo de la Inquisicion, where according to the Lonely Planet, ‘visitors can explore the basement where prisoners were tortured’ plus a no-doubt tacky ‘waxwork exhibit of life-size unfortunates on the rack or having their feet roasted.’ If I get time I also want to check out the Museo Larco which has an impressive pile of pots (growing up with a potter has left its mark) showing pre-Columbian erotica, and spot some Peruvian pyramids. My kind of stuff.
I also know it’s only a snatch of my kind of time before I meet up with a bunch of strangers to begin a whole new set of adventures.