It took me 24 hours, two plane rides, a lot of turbulence and a little bit of vomit to get myself to Lima, Peru. But I did it. And I did it all by myself.
Despite only a few hours sleep and my rather unexpected travel sickness, I was buzzing like a bee when I got off my plane. Adrenaline was coursing through my body & my hands shaking with excitement; so much so that I didn’t even care that my cab drivers boot didn’t close, or that one of the windows was jammed half way. Instead I asked him to turn up the volume to the South American music that was crackling out of his car radio and take me to Pirawana Hostel.
As the cabbie honked his way through the traffic whilst singing along to the Spanish lyrics, I watched the people of Lima pass me by and pondered over who I would be meeting within this very hour. New travel buddies? I wondered what my roomies would be like? Perhaps friends for life? Perhaps we’d meet and instantly have that traveler bond – that’s what happens when you solo backpack, right?
But what if you don’t meet people, and what if you don’t even have roomies??
After eagerly checking into Pirawana Hostel, a staff member showed me to my all female dorm, only to find out it was all to myself. I had to admit, this was quite disappointing. As someone that can be quite shy & socially awkward when it comes to meeting people (sober, that is) I was relying on making friends in my dorm to help ease me into the whole solo travel thing, but it looked like that wouldn’t be happening.
After some wandering and exploring of Lima, I headed up to the rooftop bar at 5pm to find it was fairly empty apart from a few small groups who looked very cliquey. Feeling rather disheartened I took myself out for a burger to feed my poor, tired, jet-lagged self. Over dinner I began to overthink everything. Why did I think I could do this? What if I can’t talk to anyone? What if I don’t make any friends this entire trip? As soon as I had demolished my burger, I practically ran back to the hostel, my heart holding onto a glimmer of hope that someone may have checked into my dorm.
Alas, no such luck. At 6.30pm, a mere 6 hours after landing in Lima on a high, I sat on the edge of my bed and allowed myself to have a little cry. Pathetic yes, but I couldn’t believe how lonely I was feeling just six hours into my trip. Was this normal?
I only allowed myself 10 minutes of feeling sorry for myself, before pulling myself together, whacking on a bit of lipstick and giving myself the ‘your in South America you lucky sod’ speech. I took myself back up to the bar, ordered a cold beer, picked a spot and enjoyed the fact that I could sit outside on a late October evening, jacket free, without freezing to death.
No one approached me to break the ice or start a conversation, I was going to have to make the first move. There was a guy sitting to my left who was also drinking a beer and was as equally as silent as me. I shuffled a little closer and opened the conversation up with a random question about Ping Pong. I quickly learnt that Nick was also a solo backpacker, who was also 30, also from England, and that he too was fresh off the boat from London. It was so easy to talk to him, and just by asking and answering those few simple questions, I felt my anxiety and worry drift away. I can do this, I can totally do this.
We then spent the next hour gabbing about our trips and future plans, plus our lives back home in the UK. Soon a couple came over and asked if they could join us, followed by a New Zealand dude, and later a British guy. I watched as these people simply approached us and asked if they could sit with us. It was that simple – why didn’t I think of that?
Soon enough we were all laughing, drinking and shotting our way into the early hours, before eventually this over-tired and jetlagged blogger had to drag herself to bed. Upon returning to my empty room, where I realised I could throw my bra off, pee with the door open and fart really loudly if I wanted to, I was suddenly extremely grateful to have an entire dorm to myself* – especially when I woke up feeling a little delicate and was so glad I didn’t have five other girls stamping around the dorm or fighting for the bathroom.
I spent the next day splitting time with my new group of hostel friends and time with just me, myself and I. I began the day by having breakfast with a few of the boys I had met the night before, followed by a trip to the local market with Sebastian, an Australian student I was in awe of for being just 19 and out in the world on his own. But for a fancy lunch at seafood restaurant El Pez on, followed by afternoon strolling, I was completely alone and I actually really enjoyed it. I realised that this trip is probably going to be 50/50 when it comes to being alone or with friends, or possibly even 60/40, with 60% of my time possibly being spent alone. And I was fine with that, happy actually. That day I got to tick a few things off my South American bucket list, things people may not have been interested in had I joined up with a group for the day, such as eating Lech de Tigre, and visiting the stray cats of Kennedy Parque.
From my time in Lima I learned not to panic, but to enjoy the time I have alone as it means no compromising. I’ll always be meeting new people and be in many social situations, so I shouldn’t worry the second I feel like I don’t know anyone or have to go to a new hostel.
Despite its slow and somewhat lonely start, Lima ended up being a fantastic little two night trip, with great food, great people and great sights, and ended with me and the guys from the hostel all watching a sunset in the Parque Del Amour, aka the Park of Love. Beautiful.
(Followed by several drinks and a pub quiz!)
*something I now cross my fingers for every time! I’m so over dorms already.
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