Being labeled a tourist is something I have always tried to avoid. Maybe it’s the millennial in me that wants to be considered a trendsetter, who wants to be the cool, authentic traveler that gives everyone #patstraveltips. Or perhaps I really am just a tourist in denial. Regardless, I consider myself the type of person that is naturally drawn to the unnoticed beauty of a place that’s not my own, causing me to reconsider my everyday surroundings.
Well, I was not “that guy” recently when I visited the wonderful country of Peru. I tried to steer clear of being obnoxious, but I did give in to the classic niknak shopping, architecture gazing, overpaying tourist that lives inside all of us. I was a classic tourist and I loved every minute of it.
Peru is a beautiful country that quenches the deep thirst for extreme landscapes both in mountain and beach front. It also makes you thankful for four lane highways and public transportation often found in more developed countries because a great deal of time in Lima and Cusco is spent in traffic, creeping through dated cobble stone streets, overwhelmed by commuters and tourists. But even then, there is something endearing about being stuck in the new and unfamiliar because it usually leads to unexpected experiences. Such as going horseback riding to explore several ruins at sunset. I’m certainly no cowboy, but I enjoyed it way more than sitting in the back of a taxi!
Machu Picchu is in every tourist guidebook and so it’s obviously an exciting destination worth fighting through the fanny packs and orthopedic travelers. I marched right along with the crowd to see the ruins, but I found myself surprised at how personal it felt. At times, I wandered far enough from others to take in the breathtaking views of cloud covered ruins and capture them behind the lens.
Climbing Huayna Picchu felt daunting, but the hike was well worth it. As we trudged further up the mountain and Machu Picchu becomes smaller across the valley, it only puts on more majesty. I imagined the first explorers who discovered this amazing city and couldn’t shake the thought that I was walking on the same path.
Our active days combined with the high elevation meant we were always on the lookout for food and the food in Peru is incredible. Whether we ate at the corner store or a highly rated cafe, I didn’t have one dish I regretted. I appreciated how distinct and proud everything Peruvian tastes. The bold consistency of spice and citrus created the perfect, mouth watering environment to overeat! Lima has a much larger food scene than Cusco and is your best bet if you’re looking for great food and drink.
It might be my millennial shining through, but I didn’t plan very far ahead. In many ways, my amazing experience was a credit to the beauty and flexibility of Peruvian culture. I google searched “best ___” and went for it, not caring if everyone else was doing the same thing. The whole experience caused me to pause and ask if the guy I see myself as – the one who is drawn to the everyday, unnoticed beauty – has something to learn from the unashamed tourist, who is just not afraid to see that beauty next to a crowd doing the same thing.