What happens when you let a google search decide your next destination? We wanted to know, so we sat down with ‘Sisters Traveling Solo’ member Gen to find out how her journey to Peru went.
Tell us about your most recent solo travel adventure, where did you go?
I had decided that I would like to take some time off to see some of the world, so I opened Google one day and typed in “Best Places to live in the World”. I would be gone on what I call my ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ adventure. I didn’t know which parts of the world I would visit, or how long I would be gone but I knew it was the perfect time to go and I needed it. So up popped a list in Google fashion of all of the best places to live based on factors like weather, cost, safety and so forth. About 3 or so places down the list, Peru caught my eye.
Had you been to Peru before? Do you speak Spanish?
I had never been to Peru before and didn’t even speak Spanish so I knew it would be a challenge to go which made it more exciting for me. I wanted to see what it would be like to not just visit another country but be a part of the culture of another country.
How long did it take you to adapt to your surroundings? Did you find it difficult to get adjusted?
The first week was extremely challenging as there was barely anyone who spoke English other than the home owner of the apartment of the Airbnb I had chosen. I found it hard to make my way around in a cab because of the language barrier, so I had to study Spanish to learn how to get around better. I learned enough to find my way home, and get around.
Did you have any concerns during your trip about safety? If so, what did you do to overcome that feeling?
There was never a time that I didn’t feel safe. There were those occasional stares but most were inquisitive of the black girl from who knows where in their eyes who was shopping in the bodegas and walking the streets of Lima. Other than the occasional gaze from a man whose intentions seemed less than valor I was never frightened.
Did you make any friends on your journey?
I made tons of new friends. Especially with the owner of the apartment who was happy to go out to dinner with me, who took me to clubs with him, on bike rides, and helped me to communicate with those who only spoke Spanish. I became part of the family and part of the family of other people I met, like a female I met working at Sally’s. I needed hair products and she was the only one who spoke English. We became close friends and she even invited me to her family’s house where her mom made a Peruvian dish. No one else in her family spoke English yet we shared photos of adventures and did our best to communicate with each other. We had a great time and I still reach out to them to see how they are doing.
Was this trip for work, vacation, or just to get away?
Although I still performed my daily work requirements and made sure the company continued to run smoothly my trip was for me. I don’t even know if I would classify it as a vacation because it was more than that. It was a way for me to get beyond my comfort zone and become someone else. To live somewhere else and to learn things I never had known before. I always had a desire to see the world but until this moment I never had the opportunity because I was raising my son. Once he decided he wanted to move up north because he needed to try something different as well I had a small window of opportunity to do something that before I would not have been able to do.
How long were you in Peru?
I spent over 3 months in Peru jumping from Lima, Huachachina, Cusco, Aguas Calientes, and a few places in between. I, of course, went to see Machu Picchu which was magical in more ways than one. I even jumped over to Brazil because of Carnival and I wanted to be sure to see Christ the Redeemer. I ticked two wonders of the world off my bucket list in the same trip.
How were you able to take so much time off from work?
Because I work for myself and run my own business I can decide how much time I want to “take off”. Although I never stopped working just because I am traveling. My laptops go with me wherever I go and my cell phone bill sky rockets due to needing to be able to communicate with my clients. I created a life that allows me to do both: make a living and see the world. I don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Being an entrepreneur is the only way I can live because I want the flexibility to go where I want when I want! Being a Boss gives you freedom that you could never have working for someone else.
What were your biggest takeaways from this trip as a solo traveler?
1) That I could do it, that was huge! I needed to know I could do it. That it wasn’t scary after all. That there is world out there with people who may be different but all want the same thing.
2) I learned that there aren’t that many of us young black women traveling alone or black men for that matter. I would meet people from the US or other countries and the majority of them were white, only seeing a handful of black travelers during my 3 months in Peru. I want our culture to travel more.
3) I learned that there is so much about the world and myself that I have yet to learn. So many different plants and animals I had never heard of. So much culture yet to be explored and I had only scratched the surface. I want to see, and experience them all! My hope is one day I can say that I was there no matter where a person points on a map.
What would you say to those who want to travel solo in the future but are hesitant?
I am a firm believer that we only get this one life. If you want to see a part of this world: Go. There is so much beyond your own city to explore! We don’t know when we will take our last breath so we must do everything we ever dreamed of or die regretting a life not lived to the fullest. I live my life the way that makes me happiest and I think Alan Watts said it best when he said “it’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way”. Here’s a great video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khOaAHK7efc
Do you have any safety tips for any woman wanting to travel to Peru solo?
It’s important when traveling alone to take a back-up cell phone charger to keep in your purse so you always have cell service. Make sure you have data and service in whatever country you go to for emergencies, whether it is to call someone back in the US or reach out on Facebook to let people know what is going on. Google Maps also came in handy to show the cab driver where I needed to go despite the language barrier. You will want a purse that can be strapped around your chest so no one can steal it. Have fun, but don’t drink too much, you always want to be aware of what’s going on around you. Always keep an eye on your drinks when out and try to use your best judgment. Don’t let fear stop you from having fun. Just have fun with a level of cautiousness about you.
Where can we follow your journey (facebook, blog, IG)?