Traveling in Peru and my 7 challenges
1. Getting pneumonia
2. Straying in the hospital a night
3. Flight itineraries from hell
4. Major loss of productivity in work
5. No working out and sub-par nutrition
6. Expecting warm weather and getting cold
7. Walking an hour to the Cusco airport
Let’s break these down one by one and discuss what I learned and what I could do different next time:
1. Getting pneumonia. Well, I left thinking I had a flu. The big question is, would I still have gone to Peru if I knew at the time it was pneumonia? Bizarrely, I think I would still have gone. Thanks to Obamacare, my health insurance in the US recently got cancelled. I didn’t think someone my age and in my health could get something like pneumonia! Anyway, the whole thing cost me about $220 in Peru whereas in California, I would probably looking at a bill in the thousands. This little incident has driven me to seek out health insurance, finally, even though I hate to do it. So it could possibly be a “blessing in disguise.” How would I have handled it differently? I don’t think I would have. Saturday night was when I decided I needed a doctor, but I waited a day because…it was Sunday the next day, and I doubt the guy I got referred to was working. So while pneumonia sucked badly, there were/are some positive takeaways that will help me improve my life.
2. Staying overnight in a 3rd world hospital. It sounds like a nightmare. My view was of a shoddy construction site of a building that was half build, big metal spires sticking out of the tops of each column. Definitely not a beautiful view. But if I felt like I had and was at home, I would have done the same thing- watched movies and slept (only I would have had internet!) Being in the hospital gave me a story, and forced me offline for 24 hours, a record! What did I learn? Patience. I knew I had to go through that, and I didn’t fight it or feel sorry for myself. I just agreed with myself that I had to do some time that night and that I would do whatever it took to get out the next day!
3. Flight itineraries from hell. I’m starting this article on an 8 hour layover in Lima. That in itself isn’t terrible. What was maddening was getting off the airplane from Cusco, and expecting to go through the airport to the international terminal. I’ve done this hundreds of times in other cities. But not in Lima! I had to exit the airport entirely, then show my passport to get back in! Then, I went to look for United, who I’m flying with next. Not there! What? Did I get the wrong airport? I asked at a couple of the other airlines and no one seemed to know, one guy told me “8 o’clock”. I figured it out. My flight is at 11:55pm and United doesn’t even show up until 8! That’s 4 hours from the time I got in. Wow. So I grabbed food at a restaurant and went to Starbucks, however, the wifi is horrendous. What did I learn here? All airports are not created equal! The system here in Lima is as silly as I’ve seen. If I ever have the potential of an 8-hour layover again, I will make sure the airport where I’m stuck has wifi and is all connected.
4. Major loss of productivity with work. The hard traveling and the pneumonia really killed the productivity that I was hoping to at least somewhat continue from when I left. Traveling itself will always slow things down a bit and even trip me up sometimes. But this time meant days of not even getting back to emails. What did I learn? Acceptance, and next time I go to a 3rd world country, not expecting good wifi or smooth flowing work efforts.
5. No working out and subpar nutrition. I think I brought 13 energy bars with me and ate the bulk of them when I was too sick to eat anything else. But this trip more than most, I got into many situations where I either had to choose to eat something unhealthy, or to starve. I consistently chose unhealthy eating! But it wasn’t every meal. Peruvian food is overall not unhealthy. I had some good meals. One glaring thing about countries outside of the US is that snack foods are pretty awful health-wise! No where else seems to have anything quick to eat that’s not potato chips, candy bars, anything processed with lots of sugar. This is a tough one, because when I travel, I often get into situations where I’m hungry, but I don’t want to stop and have a full meal. In the future, I plan to pack even more nuts and bars than I think I’ll need.
6. Weather. Wow, I can’t believe how badly weather.com dropped the ball! I had been tracking the weather in Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu before leaving. Lima was in the 70’s during the day, low 60’s at night. Cusco said 80’s/70’s, and Machu Picchu was high 70’s/high 60’s. I thought once I got out of lima, it would be shorts all the way, a nice warm trip. How wrong I was! Lima was warm. After that, Cusco was quite chilly and MP was average, a little wet. The problem was that weather.com says there are 3 cities in Peru named Cusco. I guess it was giving me one of the other ones. Oops. Next time, I will ask lots of people that have been! The other thing that was apparent is that Peru doesn’t have indoor heat. None of the places I stayed had it. One of them was so cold I felt like I was camping, but they did give me about 6 blankets, so I wasn’t all that cold until I got up in the morning!
7. 1-hour walk to the airport. I got back to my hotel the night before I was leaving for the US. “CITY STRIKE” with tomorrow’s date, said the sign at the front desk. In a tired daze, I tried to ignore what this meant to me until the morning. I heard someone at breakfast talking about how he was staying in the hotel all day and had to cancel his plans because of the strike. Turns out everything was shut down. No busses, no taxi’s, not even any cars on the road. I asked the front desk what I could do and they said “You can walk!” It’s an hour walk. Ahhhh adventure time! I didn’t even flinch or complain about it. My only bummer was still recovering from pneumonia, I wasn’t sure I had the energy. But, that day was the best I had yet, and with a few cups of coca tea, I could conquer it! The thing I learned here was a reinforcement to again always roll with the punches when traveling abroad. The walk was quite fun! I saw some neighborhoods I never would have seen, and I was the only white guy around on my entire walk.
Despite all the challenges this time around, I’d do this trip again in a heartbeat. Just hopefully a non-pneumonic heartbeat next time.