Choosing my battles

A lot of travelling, and how happy you will be while doing it, is down to the choices you make.

Since this is my first trip, and I’m on my own, I’m trying to be kind to myself when I make mistakes or when I’m finding it difficult. It also means I don’t always want (or need!) to take the more challenging choice.

Balancing the more comfortable options with ‘authentic’ travel offers the chance to experience both.

For example;

I do not always have to try to haggle (or haggle with any skill).

I don’t have to practice conversational Spanish with every local I meet. Sometimes a smile is okay.

I don’t have to try every local cuisine, or eat rice and beans every day.

I don’t even have to talk to English-speaking people if what I really want to do is to read my book and go to bed early.

I can definitely go to bed early (favourite part of travel? 😛 )

I don’t have to do every adventurous activity that comes my way, even if it sounds really fun.

This all takes away quite a lot of pressure and, so far, has been making my days sunnier.

 

Whatever happened to my travel principles?

I have to admit, when I came away I had several ideas about how I wanted to travel, and what I could be doing to make it less conventionally easy. I didn’t want easy. After having lived with these principles for a few months, do I still believe in them all?

The short answer is mostly yes.

1. No phones or laptops – I’m still really, really glad that I didn’t bring a phone, let alone a smartphone. I’ve been surprised with how many people here have, but I still think it’s a stupid idea. The pressure of losing it/having it stolen, along with the fact that you’re in a wonderful new place and all you want to do is check Facebook? Not for me. I can appreciate more how useful a laptop would be for planning purposes, but I’m still pretty glad I don’t have one. There is internet to be had everywhere, but at least this way I can choose when and for how long I want to use it. It’s been refreshing.

2. No fancy clothes – Still upholding this, although my wardrobe has expanded to include two more t-shirts. I’m living the fashion dream. But seriously, it’s just more stuff to weigh you down and is completely unecessary.

3. Speak Spanish – Sounds obvious, but so many people don’t make any effort at all. This is one thing I’m maybe most proud of, that I can now be understood in Spanish.

4. It’s not a country-wide pub crawl – I didn’t plan to drink much while I was away (expensive, unecessary, not what I came here to do) and although I have been out to bars, and even clubs, I still think it’s a complete waste to lurch from place to place, constantly smashed.

5. You don’t need a guidebook – When I arrived in South America, I found myself in places on the basis of recommendations, pages stolen from other people’s guidebooks, or pure chance. It was fun! It was also a whole lot less touristy. Now I’ve travelled with one as well, I can say that it does make things easier and especially finding accomodation is probably better. So maybe I would stick with ‘you don’t need one’, but that it can be nice to do so anyway.

 

What I wish I knew before

The advice I got before I left for South America was very vague. ´Learn Spanish´ is already obvious, and unfortunately didn´t make it any easier to learn. And confirming the price of a taxi before you get in is something I do in England, let alone Peru.

I´ve been coming up with a list of things that would have been really, really useful to know before I started travelling.

1. Take a Visa credit card. MasterCard is accepted in a lot of places, but Visa is EVERYWHERE. This would have made managing money a lot easier.

2. Unless it´s Easter, you don´t need to book a room ahead. You just don´t.

3. When getting on a bus, always pack water, food, warm clothes, and all your valuables.

4. Watch your backpack being put on the bus, or put it on yourself.

5. Don´t forget about Couchsurfing events – a good way to meet local people.

6. If you get off the bus for a break, eat very quickly and never take your eyes off the bus. Look to other people for clues as to how long you will be stopping – although they might tell you a time, this is always, always, vastly overexaggerated.

7. Change all your local currency at the border. Yes you will get less than a perfect exchange rate, but it´s more than worth it not to drag a load of different currencies all around the place.