Lima

Lima is a place I never knew existed, but always wanted to be. A city where every evening, the sky turns from pale blue to pastel purple and everyone heads to the Malecón, a cliff that overlooks the ocean, to witness the most breathtaking sunsets. It’s a city filled with love. Couples kiss while walking side by side unable to break apart for even a moment; children play in the grass, no electronics in sight; runners, skaters, bikers and rollerbladers move swiftly and freely without interruption; surfers head down to the ocean every day to surf the softest and friendliest waves; yogis and slackliners gather to become one with nature, and each other, under the warm sun, their skin lightly brisked by the ocean breeze. The people are calm, the dogs are among the happiest I’ve seen, there’s room and respect for everyone, we’ve certainly stumbled upon a gem in South America. Lima is still a well-kept secret. Far from a tourist destination, neither over-crowded or over-priced, the beach isn’t lined with vendors selling cheap souvenirs, the waves aren’t overrun by turf-protecting surfers, everyone is welcome and everyone coexists in harmony. For me, this city and this month was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Our apartments were located in gorgeous Miraflores. Walking around the Spanish-style houses overrun with ivy and colorful flowers, I can’t think of a nicer place to live. Every corner has a park accompanied by a corner store no bigger than my bedroom. People walk looking up, not down at their phones, enjoying the beauty that surrounds them. I was fortunate to get a stylish and new apartment on the 15 floor with a phenomenal view of the city, the ocean peeking through in the background. Every morning I wake up to pink skies and the faint blue ocean and fall asleep staring at the lit up cross on the mountain and orange glowing street lights. How did I get so lucky? As you can probably tell, this month has been an incredible upswing from the lower month I had in March. Perfect weather, running every day, surfing as much as I can, yoga in the park, this city was made for people like me, I couldn’t be happier. Here are some highlights:

Surfing

For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to surfing. Ever since I was young, I was always mesmerized by watching surfers patiently wait, then aggressively catch a wave, and ride it in with ease. Waking up with the tide, grabbing a board, and heading to the beach, it was a lifestyle that I always secretly wanted. Although I’m not a big fan of the ocean, or water in general, surfing has been something that I’ve only attempted a few times, but usually enjoy. Last year I took a big leap of faith and traveled to Bali by myself to do a weeklong surf and yoga retreat. We surfed every day and while I learned lots, I didn’t quite fall in love with it like I was expecting to. I was not a natural. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, it can be scary, it’s tiring and mentally draining. Fighting the waves to paddle out, only to get up for a moment then to faceplant into the water, getting pulled in every direction like a rag doll under the tide, by day five I was done with it. Little did I know, I retained some of what I learned. I was a bit nervous to try surfing again, as I recalled the turbulent and unforgiving waves of Bali, but the second day in Lima surfing found me, and I headed straight to the Malecón for a yoga and surf class with two other girls. Right off the bat, I popped up on the first wave and rode it in. The water was chilled, the sun was shining, my instructor was helpful, it was the best way to spend our first full day in the city. Since then I’ve gone out a few more times, with different groups of friends, many of them first timers. I love seeing their faces when they stand up and catch a wave fort the first time, it’s the best feeling. Afterwards we all huddle under the tent, our noses sun-kissed, gleaming with pride and endorphins, being in the ocean is a spiritual experience. I’ve learned to surrender and go with the waves instead of fighting them. Once you get the hang of that, surfing comes natural, the wave literally lifts you up and carries you to shore. All you have to do is balance, stay low, and enjoy the ride.

Machu Picchu

Everyone knows that if you’re in Peru, you must go to Machu Picchu, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world. With limited vacation days, I decided that I would not be able to do one of the hikes, and decided to take the train up, which was a delight. My sister was planning on visiting in Lima, for the beach of course, and I convinced her to take the journey to Cusco with me. This was her first time out of the country on an overseas flight and I am so happy she made the effort to come out. Once we got to Cusco, we settled in to our Airbnb and explored the quaint and vibrant city, obsessively taking photos. All the bright colors, friendly locals, baby alpacas, and cobblestone streets lined with blue rooftops, we both fell in love with the adorable city. The next morning, we got up at 2am to be picked up. Finally, by mid-morning, we were standing in awe at one of the most incredible sites in history. Built by the Incas in the 15th century, the ingenuity of the citadel withstands earthquakes, the people embraced equality and fairness, and the layout displays an enormous amount of forward thinking. We were truly impressed, asking our guide a million questions. It’s worth the long trek to get there, the encompassing mountains take your breath away. After a few hours, the famous rains started to pour and just like that, we were on our way back down. Not only am I glad I got to have this enriching experience, but I am thrilled I got to share it with my sister. Before going on Remote Year, I was fearful of being away from home for a year, traveling every month, and the general unknown, but now I see that this year isn’t just about me, it’s about sharing travel with others. Without this trip, neither my sister, nor myself, probably would have never seen Lima or Machu Picchu, and because I was brave enough to get on that first plane, I am able to help others do the same. It’s important that I share this journey with those who are close to me, because they are the ones that encouraged me to start this journey.

The Amazon

There’s so much to do and see in Peru, one cannot fit it all into one month. An opportunity came up for me from work to go to the Amazon and spend 3 nights aboard the Aria, a luxury boat that cruises the Amazon. Without hesitation, I agreed to fly out to Iquitos four days after Machu Picchu. I was eager to do a solo trip, and eager to see the Amazon, yet another place I wouldn’t have thought I would ever see in my lifetime. When I arrived, the luxury travel world that Ker & Downey is known for swept me off my feet. Five-star service, gourmet meals, a suite overlooking the river, and private-guided excursions, I quickly feel in love with being on the river. Ten-year-old Amy, who wore an over-sized t-shirt down to her knees with a huge ocelot on the front pleading to “Save Our Rainforest”, finally got her chance to experience the rainforest first-hand. Mesmerized by how the animals, the weather, the land, and the locals all need each other and work together to survive in one of the most unforgiving environments. I was humbly honored to witness this special place that is quickly becoming endangered.

There was never a moment I didn’t want to be exactly where I was.

Everything in the Amazon is fleeting. The splash of a pink dolphin, the swift flight of a kingfisher coasting above the water, the bright red dragonflies that take off before they even land, the squirrel monkeys leaping from branch to branch through the clearing of the trees, and the elusive poison dart frog that wouldn’t even show its tiny face. You desperately try and savor every wildlife interaction, if you’re lucky, you can get a photo, but mostly, you witness the sightings for a moment, and then it’s gone. After a while, you learn to put the camera down and be present. Embrace the thick air around you, listen to the sounds of chirping high above, feel the breeze from the skiff brushing through your hair, there was never a moment I didn’t want to be exactly where I was. Learning about the fascinating symbiotic relationships between animals and nature, I realized how important it is for us as human, to work together to live in harmony and the desperate need to save our planet. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a nature lover, but I’ve never taken action. I’ve never put my heart and intention into actually doing something to make better choices. On my quest for being of service this year, my goal is to narrow down a passion or a cause and find a way to contribute. If each one of us took a few of these mindful moments and dedicated our time, we can make a difference and keep places like the Amazon thriving for generations to appreciate.

Although I didn’t get to spend as much time as I hoped in Lima, I got to experience so much more of Peru and for that, I am truly grateful. The time I did spend in Lima, I loved every minute. I couldn’t ask for more. Next, we head to Cordoba, a college town in Argentina. I know it will be quite different from the beachside setting I became accustomed to this month, but as always, I’m positive and eager for what’s coming next. Until next time.

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