Pausing in Peru

After escaping to our room to avoid the sweltering afternoon heat of downtown Lima, I returned to the bar for a bucket of ice. As the bartender retreated to a back room to get it for me, a sunburnt man on a bar stool interjected.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” he exclaimed, not specifying whether he meant ice or Peru or bartenders in general.

“Why, yes,” I replied, agreeing with whichever of those it might be.

“Have you been to Machu Picchu?” he implored feelingly.

“Not yet,” I responded.

“But you will?” he urged.

“Of course,” I said honestly, although whether it was this trip or many years from now, I had no idea.

He seemed concerned. “Will you go by bus or by train?” he trailed hesitantly.

“Bus, of course,” I stated emphatically.

“Bus, all the way?” he said with both eyebrows raised. “That’s a very long way to go by bus. And overnight?” he said with uncertainty.

“Oh, yes. Bus all the way,” I assured him. “That’s just the way I like it. Scenic and miserable.”

I took my bucket full of ice and strode toward the elevator. The doors opened, and I entered and turned back toward the bar. With the ice bucket in one arm and the other fist confidently on my hip, I nodded a firm farewell to them both across the room.

Thank goodness the elevator doors closed swiftly. It would’ve been rather awkward otherwise.

After 11 months of conversations with strangers about our travels, I’ve learned that people always want you to go where they’ve already been. They enjoy being the expert on a locale, and we often get great tips on what to see and do and, perhaps most importantly, where to eat.

So I always listen to what they say, no matter how tipsy or overly enthusiastic or burnt to a crisp they may be.

But we always have to remember that even though we had a year to do nothing but travel, we won’t be able to come close to seeing it all. And even if it was possible, it would be beyond overwhelming to try.

So we did not try to cram Machu Picchu into this trip, instead saving it for a travel list that’s as big as the planet.

But we did eat very well in Lima, and we enjoyed the architecture, parks, and art along the way. And we discovered the tiny, blissful beach town of Tumbes, Peru, where we relaxed for the first time in a very long time and simply caught our breath.