I have so many thoughts about my month of adventures in Peru. Enough thoughts that it made sense to put this post together to help the next person navigate their travels if they decide to visit the country.
Earlier this year, March 2022 to be exact, I spent a month in Peru. While I didn’t have much control over the details of my stay because I was participating in a digital nomad program, I learned a lot about myself and Peru. Consider this blog a digest of things I wish I’d known before traveling to Peru and a reflection on what I learned about myself.
After spending the most magical month in Colombia, the next stop on my digital nomad adventure was Lima, Peru. We arrived in the city late at night so we couldn’t really get a feel for the city until the following day. The first day in Lima, I woke up, looked out the window, and what did I see?
A Starbucks. And right next to that? Chili’s.
This was vastly different from the very local vibes of most of the places I visited while in Colombia. Sure, there were American chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and even Starbucks but they weren’t as prominent.
Within a 5-minute walk of our Lima apartment building, there was also McDonald’s, Burger King, Popeye’s, China Wok – oh yea, and Taco Bell right next door, too.
Personally, it wasn’t what I expected and not quite what I’d hoped for.
Miraflores, the area in which we stayed, was very tourist-centric, to say the least. Aside from the 24/7 noise and constant traffic, it was clear we were in one of the pricier parts of town, too. All of which I’m not a fan of when traveling internationally.
To me, the best parts of traveling to another country is getting to connect with locals and experience cultural foods and drinks. Being able to stretch your dollar in destinations with a lower cost of living is really icing on the cake.
What I Wish I Knew: Miraflores is for tourists who want a tourist experience. If you’re interested in traveling to Peru, there are so many other cities in the country that I’d recommend. My favorite is a small village called Ollantaytambo which is a decent commute from Lima but so worth it. Ollantaytambo is perfect if you want to get away from everything and just be in the mountains. I’ll talk more about my time in this breathtaking village later in this post, but it was hands down the best long weekend I had during my 3-months of travel between Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. If you want a more city vibe, I’d recommend staying in Barranco which is the next neighborhood or area over from Miraflores. Barranco feels more authentic, is a lot less busy, and more of what you might expect for a Peruvian city stay.
Lima might be the city through which many tourists travel to the country but it’s far from the best place to experience all that Peru has to offer, in my humble opinion.
Granted this was my first time to the country, and after a hectic month in Colombia, I decided to take it slower in Peru. However, Machu Picchu was a must and a much-needed change of pace from the anxiety-inducing, nonstop sounds of Miraflores.
Since Machu Picchu was an optional adventure, we were left to our own devices to book flights and arrangements to get there. While the nomad program consisted of ten people, I was grateful to have connected with two people in the group, Marie and Matt, who would serve as my refuge when the overwhelm of doing things as a group was too much to handle. The three of us, or ‘tres amigos’ as I liked to call us, decided to band together to book arrangements to make the journey from busy Lima with the ultimate destination of experiencing Peru’s World Wonder.
Many thanks to my French boo Marie for being the consummate traveling pro she is for helping myself and Matt navigate the various bookings needed to make the weekend away a smooth trip. Traveling to Machu Picchu requires a bit of research, especially if you have preferences on how you want to get there.
For the sake of taking a breather from the group dynamic, we flew into Cusco a day early to have some time to ourselves before everyone else arrived. Upon landing in Cusco, we found a local cab driver who would take us part of the way before transferring us to another local driver. An hour and a half later we arrived in what felt like the middle of nowhere on a one-lane, unpaved road to our bed and breakfast.
I had no idea what to expect but I knew I was happy to be away from Lima. It was fairly late so there wasn’t much activity given it was after 11pm before we settled into our rooms and could exhale a sigh of relief that the first half of our journey to Machu Picchu was over. The first reason I fell in love with Ollantaytambo before I had a chance to get around the village is the beauty of the landscape, even at night. See below.
I meannnnn… is this not one of the most magical things you’ve ever seen in your life?
The peace and quiet alone made this an unforgettable experience. My nerves were frazzled after several weeks in Lima, so the contrast of the B&B was beyond welcomed. The next morning, we woke up to this view.
Our B&B, Casa Inka, is family-owned, includes breakfast, and cost us around $30-35 USD per night. I absolutely recommend staying here if you’re looking for a peaceful, magical time in Peru. Fair warning though, the Wi-Fi can be iffy at times. If you’re looking for super-fast connectivity, this might not be the best option but I’d trade strong Wi-Fi any day for another 24 hours at Casa Inka.
What I Wish I Knew: The best parts of Peru aren’t necessarily the biggest cities. I’ve been told by other full-time digital nomads there are several other amazing towns and villages besides Cusco and Ollantaytambo.
And if hiking is your thing, Peru is definitely a place you should consider. I didn’t get a chance to do any hiking, outside of the trek through Machu Picchu which doesn’t exactly count. A quick Google or social media search will uncover some of the most beautiful crystal blue lakes and snow-capped mountains you’ve ever seen. The best parts of Peru require some research and a few methods of transportation to get there. To experience the best of Peru, I’d strongly recommend tapping into your adventurous side, getting your hiking gear, and preparing for a very Peruvian experience.
The Sacred Valley, where Ollantaytambo is located, is indescribable. I keep coming back to the word magical because it truly is. And while most people pass through the town – either by bus or train – in route to Machu Picchu, I’m so glad we stayed here instead of Cusco.
On the first full day in the village, I tagged along with my hiking honey, Marie, to explore some ruins on a mountainside once used for food storage in centuries past. The hike itself won’t cost you anything more than the courage to climb.
Life Lesson: The journey may be rugged, but you’ll get there in time if you take your time.
Marie, being of the master hiker between the two of us, went ahead as I took my time with each step, carefully deciding how to best navigate the terrain. While they had a manmade “rail” on some parts of the trail, the higher we climbed, the more I realized just how crazy I had to be to say yes to this. I use the word rail loosely because on a few occasions I attempted to use it for balance, only to discover that it wasn’t as secure as one might hope.
On several occasions I silently said to myself, or possibly out loud, “Girl, have you lost your mind? Black people don’t do sh*t like this? What in the world was I thinking?”
Spoiler alert: Yes, black people hike. Because I did. And I know there are many others out there as daring and willing, too. It took some time, but I finally made it to the ruins, and O. M. G. What a view worth seeing in person.
After meditating in an overwhelming amount of gratitude, it took me twice as long to get down as it did to climb up. Something about the reality of being up so high had set in, so I gleefully butt-scooted my way down in fear of taking the wrong step and not making it home in one piece. Talk about irrational but very real fears.
BONUS: On the way up, as I was passing a couple on their way down, the woman held her hand up and said, “we just got engaged!”
Me: Congratulations! How sweet!
Seriously, how cool is it to be one of the first people, if not thee first, to learn of someone’s life-changing news. I’m a lover of love and have a special spot in my heart for men who go out of their way to display the love they have for their lady. So, to experience her boyfriend/fiancée planning such a magical proposal was a reminder that chivalry isn’t dead and there are still beautiful love stories unfolding every day.
Once I safely made it back to the bottom, I thanked God and my ancestors for guiding my steps and returning me to solid ground intact. But most of all, I was proud of myself for being a tad afraid and doing it any way. If I can climb this mountain, surely, I can do anything else I set my mind to.
As I mentioned in my post about Colombia, this adventure of nomading was a result of landing the opportunity to help a remote work and travel startup with their marketing and influencer strategies. One of the many ways I encourage people interested in trying out the digital nomad lifestyle but unsure of where to turn for work is to consider the transferrable skills they have that can help them land a remote work gig or a job in the travel or hospitality industry. In my case, a decade’s worth of brand strategy, web design, and graphic design landed me the opportunity of a lifetime in traveling with the startup company.
For several reasons, without getting too deep into the details, I decided it was time for me to end my journey with this company halfway through my stay in Peru. Startup culture, in many cases, can take a toll on those who are in the trenches of building a new company, and for me this was the case.
My monthly therapy session coincided with our flyaway weekend to Ollantaytambo. For the first time in several weeks, I had the chance to spend time with myself and process everything that was happening and that I was feeling. Ultimately, I concluded that what was being asked of me didn’t align with what was being offered, and it left me feeling frustrated and occasionally annoyed with the expectations being put on me.
Thanks to my therapist, I realized it wasn’t personal. As much as it felt that way.
Sometimes all it takes it a licensed professional to tell you what you already know. In this case, my therapist informed me that it sounded like I already knew what I wanted to do. That perhaps, I already had the answer to my problem but was too afraid of what it might mean for what would be next in my journey.
That conversation with my therapist was a lesson to trust myself, always. Spiritually speaking, I knew that my days in this experience were numbered, but I was so emotionally wound-up wishing things were different – that this founder would behave differently – instead of processing what was happening right in front of me and making a rational, non-impulsive decision based on that.
Sometimes, we have a tendency of knowing what to do but feel the need to consult with those we love and trust to affirm our decisions. This was a glaring example of me second-guessing my inner knowing. I knew it was time to bring this journey to an end, and I didn’t need to vent to my therapist to know that.
But in the moment, I thought I did. Now, I know that if things don’t feel good, I get to get off the rollercoaster, figuratively speaking, at any given moment.
No questioning. No second-guessing. We’re walking in the other direction with grace and our head held high.
Good, bad, or ugly… when you know, you know. Trust that.
All in all, Peru was a month I’ll never forget. While the month was steeped with lesson after lesson, I’m grateful for it all. I left the country with two major takeaways: