Lima, Peru: Personal Transformation through Travel

While the craze for football has eternally popularized the Latin American countries of Brazil and Argentina among us Indians, its other illustrious neighbours have not attracted us as much till now. Peru – the emerging destination (international) at the Lonely Planet Magazine India Travel Awards 2016 – happens to be one of those neighbours biding its time for our attention.

India and Peru has historically had healthy trade relations; and is currently in negotiations over a free trade agreement. It might be time for us to consider exploring this country with a history that dates back to approximately 9,000 B.C. Here’s the experience of a Nigerian friend who spent sometime in the country, to get you started…

Travel changes you. Essentially, anything you do that makes you slightly uncomfortable changes you. Admittedly, not everywhere you travel to will be life-changing. I found my change in Peru and it was the place that ignited my passion for travel.

Through an immersion into Peru’s culture, an open mind and so much more, I experienced a personal transformation through travel.

Let’s talk about Peru

I always talk about Peru with such fond memories. It was the place where I fell in love with travel. Peru represented experiencing cultures, a new language, spreading love, being my authentic self, finding common grounds and appreciating differences. It gave me the total travel experience.

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Miraflores, Peru
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Miraflores, Peru
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Huacachina, Peru (Oasis in a desert)
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Huacachina. An Oasis in one of the most barren places on earth. Simply magical!
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Huacachina, Peru

Did You Know: Peruvians love Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan. Here’s how they celebrate the King Khan’s Birthday

Valuing Experiences 

An undiluted cultural experience is one of the most trans-formative things ever. After you get past the initial culture shock, if any, everything else feels like pure magic. You start to appreciate the world and it’s differences even more and you come to value experiences, people and culture over material possessions.

Peru gave me an unreal cultural experience. An exposure to the people, the language, and the food and the food (yes, I said it twice). It was great to see just how different, yet similar it was to my home country, Nigeria.

Travel Tips for foodies: Try Inca Kola, Ceviche, Cuy (Guinea pig), Arroz Con Leche. When you eat, make sure you compliment the food by saying, “Que Rico” meaning “It is delicious”

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A typical Peruvian dish with the famous Inca Kola, Peru’s own Coca-Cola
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At Lima, the capital the capital and the largest city of Peru
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With new local friends in Lima, Peru

Learning and relearning from stereotypes

It’s amazing to discover the stereotypes people have of the people that look like you. Some are outright terrible, some manageable but whatever the case, it will change you. The humbling feeling of being unknown and largely misunderstood. “Oh, you don’t know Nigeria? It’s the largest country in Africa”; and “Oh we actually live in bricks and mortars as opposed to huts”, were answers to the questions I was asked in Peru.  It is an opportunity to teach someone something new and learn something in return but it makes you realize just how big the world is and the fact that not everyone is aware of where you come from. If anything, this will teach you humility.

On the flip side, this is your one true chance to see things for yourself by having a first-hand experience in the country. Before I went to Peru, all I had heard about the place was “Peruvian Hair”. While Peruanas have such great hair, there was so much more about the country that I discovered.

Tips for outdoor plans: The best months for hiking are April, May, September and October (when the rainy season is not delayed or early!), and a good time for the Amazon too, especially earlier in the dry season.

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Sunset in the sand dunes – City of Ica, Peru
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Sand dunes and surfboards
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Catching my breath

Respecting cultures and being your authentic self

As you travel, it’s easier to be yourself because you are aware that you are away from familiar customs and eyes filled with expectations about how to lead your life. That mini skirt that’s largely a taboo in your country isn’t even a thing where you’re going. It is what it is. A skirt. That freedom and relearning is empowering. And if you’re lucky, you will take it back home with you. Now, you might go home and still not wear a mini skirt because you have to respect the customs of your country but the freedom will breathe life into other aspects of your life and you will begin to live more freely, more happily and more whole.

At the same time, you have to respect the traditions and customs of the country you are heading to. It’s their country after all and if you chose to visit, you should be more than willing to be respectful to their opinions and way of life.

Remember: In Peru, you shouldn’t call someone over to you with a first finger curled upward. Although this gesture can be used to get someone to come closer to you in America, in Peru it is considered an insult.

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Entering the famous Inka Market in Lima
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Soaking in the ambiance at Inka Market
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Shopping for local fabric. Remember to bargain.
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Gorgeous Alpaca sweaters

Finding the common ground

No matter where your adventure leads you, you can be sure that you will find something largely similar to your home country. Of course, this can be because you are seeing things through your own eyes that have been shaped by your experiences but again, this can be because, well, there really is a similarity. If you don’t find anything though, you will surely find that everywhere you go, the common goal is to be happy. How we all choose to pursue it is all that is different.

Travel Tips for vegetarians: Peru offers 2,000 varieties of potato and pretty well any tropical fruit or vegetable you could look. Peruvians particularly love chili pepper (aji) and garlic (ajo). There are a wide range of specialities, with each region boasting its own distinct cuisine.

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Volunteering at a local school
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Spending time with children at school is a great way give back
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Children as lovely and friendly as anywhere else in the world
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Back to school
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Some post-school street food
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Government Palace, Lima: The official residence and office of Peru’s President

Moving around the cities: In most towns and cities, it’s easy to walk everywhere or take a taxi. Remember to agree on the fare in advance as there are no meters. Using local buses, micros and combis can be tricky, but is very inexpensive.

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Yellow taxis, commonly referred to as “Collectivos”, a convenient way to travel
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Another means of local transport, similar to the Indian e-rickshaws

Peru: My heart’s lighthouse

Peru is my heart’s lighthouse. I think for everyone, there is that one place that holds a special place in your memory and Peru is it for me. Thanks to Peru, I embrace travel and I am able to ditch my comfort zone and be more accepting of other cultures, of myself and of the world. If it doesn’t challenge you, it wouldn’t change you.

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..So that’s what our friend Jessica experienced in Peru. Follow her at http://theufuoma.com to read more about her travels. We look forward to hearing your story as well.

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