DAY 1Dec 03 2017
A six hour layover in Amsterdam on the way to Lima was enough time for a whirlwind city visit. Most of the group hadn’t been before and one of our staff members used live in Holland as a tour guide, so I tagged along for the mini tour. The cold December fog felt amazing after months of summer, and, pommes frites and hot chocolate in hand, I got just enough of a chilly Christmas taste before another 13 hours of flying to another four months of summer.
DAY 3Dec 05 2017
Mixed reviews on Lima a few days in. The weather has been grey and foggy and the chill gets into your bones. My apartment (a three bedroom, ground floor apartment shared with Jess and Ligia) was cute at first sight when I landed late and tired, but upon a closer look and smell the next morning I discovered it had bug and mold infestations. It seems to be better after some fumigation, except now it smells of fumigation. The patio is lovely, though, and we have full sized kitchens which will be perfect for Christmas dinner cooking.
The workspace this month is fantastic. Comunal is on the main road of Miraflores and occupies four floors. The few days I’ve spent there have been pretty productive and it’s great to be back on east coast hours.
Lima itself is quite poor (update a few weeks later: apparently Lima is the ritzy part of Peru). Crime is high, and even though we live in the nicest part of the city, I feel more on edge here than even in most of Asia, which is weird considering I speak the language. The coastline, though, is beautiful. A park spans the whole stretch and locals work out here in yoga groups and with personal trainers rather than joining gyms.
On the surface Lima seems dull. It’s grey and tan and plain and bland. But then you turn a corner and see a vibrant flower. And then you meet an exuberant person. And then you taste an incredible dish. It’s clear there’s more under the surface here.
DAY 4Dec 06 2017
In December 2016 I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway solo and decided, while looking out at the moody coastline with the wind in my hair, alone, content, and far from home, to give up my job and my apartment and to travel the world. Sitting here, December 2017, looking out at the same moody Pacific coast, the same wind in my hair, it is hard to believe how much has changed and how much has stayed exactly the same. A little further from home, a little less alone, and continually content.
DAY 8Dec 10 2017
The Peruvian Incident.
I will preface this post by saying I am totally fine.
The first week in Lima I was feeling a bit low and lonely. Most of the krew was Capetown, my apartment wasn’t livable yet, and the weather had been crappy. Katrina, who was in town and had been listening to me vent for a few days, suggested we go out for drinks.
We went to a bar walking distance from our workspace that had been recommended by our city team. We sat at our own table and had two deliciously strong Pisco Sours served to us by a friendly waiter. We caught up and laughed and called an Uber home even though it was barely 10pm and we were only a ten minute walk from home.
I don’t remember that car ride. Katrina assures me I got home safe, as did she, and I know that’s true because I apparently made a phone call to a friend once I was in bed around 10:05pm.
I woke up around 4pm the following day, groggy and unable to move, dizzy from hallucinations and unable to stand without blacking out. I tried to make it to the bathroom six feet away and physically couldn’t get there. Laying down I felt conscious and okay, but I couldn’t sit up or leave.
Daniel came over immediately when I called and nursed me back to health for the next 72 hours, helping me flush out whatever I had been drugged with. Also luckily, my family was flying in for a pre-planned visit, so they provided some much needed distraction and moral support upon their arrival two days later.
We’re on our way to Cusco now, and I’m back to walking and thinking normally, but I’m still fatigued.
Reflecting on that evening, I’m so thankful for the buddy system, which we’ve joked about since grade school but probably saved my life. I’m thankful for playing it safe by cabbing home when we easily could have walked. A few years ago before Uber we would have wandered the street looking for a taxi but today we’re able to be in control of our own ride home. I’m thankful for my doctor friends, who answered all my nitty gritty questions and offered reassurance while my dad was in the air on his way to me. I’m thankful for Daniel who didn’t hesitate to drop everything to come help on a second’s notice. I feel like I’ve we’ve known each other nine years, not nine months. I’m thankful that I’m okay, and that everyone that I’m traveling with is okay. Apart from a few instances of petty theft and non-threatening injuries we’ve all been fine.
This experience has taught me that no amount of street smarts can prevent 100% of incidents. The world is a scary and dangerous place. I’m counting my lucky stars and holding my family a little bit closer. To whoever is reading: do the same. Love you all.
DAY 9Dec 11 2017
The short flight into Cusco was INSANE.
Because Lima is at sea level and Cusco is 12,000ft high, as soon as we leveled off we were basically still barely over land, except the “land”was the mountain tops. Some of the peaks we passed were as high as we were. Super weird to pass things eye level in the sky when you’re cruising. The descent was like a roller coaster. There’s a narrow opening in the valley where the city of Cusco sits, so to get down without clipping the mountains you have to be sharply banking WHILE descending. Definitely the craziest flight I’ve ever been on. We had the whole forward cabin to ourselves (thanks Mom and Dad!) so it was fun jumping between the left and right side checking out the views.
Cusco itself is really cute and is a lot more what I pictured Peru to be. It is littered with ruins and old Spanish architecture, along with tan, adobe-style Peruvian homes and stores with pops of color from handmade Alpaca quilts and tapestries. Our hotel was gorgeous too, built up from the footprint of a 14th century fortress, complete with artwork and pottery in collections throughout the hallway.
DAY 10Dec 12 2017
After a few days acclimating to altitude in Cusco we headed down to the Sacred Valley where we had this beautiful, cozy cottage with a fireplace overlooking the river. Unfortunately I got deathly ill from food poisoning the night before and got to enjoy exactly zero of it. If you’re wondering which country gives you the worst GI issues of the 49 countries and six continents I’ve been to? India, maybe? China? Botswana??? Psh. No. Peru. The answer is Peru. Consider yourself warned.
DAY 11Dec 13 2017
The next morning we got up early and took the glass-ceiling Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). I was still basically dying of the Peruvian stomach plague but the views along the valley were stunning.
Turns out that the hotel we were staying in is the only one that is literally IN Machu Picchu (Dad seriously did not miss a beat with the arrangements this vacation), so after a brief rest and a lot of vomiting we went to explore the ruins!
Holy. Shit. I’ve seen about 84636278263527 of all of your tourist pics of Machu Picchu so I knew it was popular and would probably be pretty cool, and that I would look around for a bit, take my pic for the Insta, and head back to the bathroom. I was NOT expecting to be completely blown away by the Citadel. But I was. The ruins themselves are beautiful and impressive, but what is less apparent from your jumping Instagram pic is the vastness of the valley on either end. The pano sums it up closest, I think (but not really).
We ended up staying until they kicked us out at sunset. I had a 3pm conference call which I took in the ruins because I just couldn’t bring myself to leave or look away. #digitaldouchebag
And finally, my grandma ROCKED it up there in the tough altitude and climbing. So, so proud of you Dadima!
DAY 12Dec 14 2017
The next day I caught up on days of missed work, Mom and Sahil hiked up Machu Picchu mountain, Dadima recovered from the climbing, and Dad fell victim to the Peruvian stomach plague (it’s real).
...Until that evening when we boarded the Hiram-Bingham luxury Orient Express train back to Cusco. Man. Dad for the win again.
This train was incredible. Butler service, open bar, seated dinner, and entertainment in the form of a three-piece Peruvian band playing 50s, 60s, and Despacito. And a booty shaking contest. I’m still not really drinking after The Peruvian Incident, but there were a lot of tipsy Baby Boomers coming off that train.
The family left the next day but it was a vacation for the books. 😘
DAY 14Dec 16 2017
I booked the Rainbow Mountain trek as a consolation for not being able to physically do the 4-day Inca Trail hike because my shoulder isn’t 100% (or 70% even). Rainbow Mountain is very physically challenging, maybe even more so, but mostly because of the altitude, less because it’s a hard walk, so it seemed like a doable compromise.
But everything stood in the way of that trek. Shoulder, wrist, broken thumb, plague. The Peruvian Incident, which still has me on edge. Then Sheila, my dear travel companion, had to cancel for family reasons, and the tour I was booked with had nobody else on it. So I was going to be alone, which was the last thing I wanted the day after my family left, especially on a challenging trek.
But I knew I would kick myself for missing it, so I said fuck it, and I went, even though I barely slept the night before due to nerves.
I left at 2am, drove a few hours to the base of the mountain, had breakfast and took off. The vistas were breathtaking. All I had ever seen was that money shot at the top, but the alpaca-ridden valleys with the snow capped Andes in the background melted the uneasiness and exhaustion. I took a horse some of the way, walked some of the way, and panted the entire way.
I reached the base of the summit around 8am, and was thankful for the early start because there wasn’t another soul on the peak and the clouds were just breaking. It took about 40 more minutes (and breathing breaks after every 7 steps with my watch continuing to warn me that my heart rate was sustained at 120 bpm) to climb the last 1600 feet.
And boy was I rewarded. I’ve heard mixed things about whether the colors on rainbow mountain are photoshopped or not. And they’re not Skittles colored, that’s for sure, but it was still beautiful (I’ve upped the brightness in the pics below, but that’s it). But the valley surrounding it was maybe even more worth the climb. Rolling greens and snowy peaks and so many colors. It was cold and brisk and beautiful, and I felt truly alone in the best way possible. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of a conquered fear.
These are the three guys who I kind of traveled up with. My caballero (silent horse man who took me on and off the horse at my request), my guide, who I didn’t speak with at all because he was trailing behind, but did take my photograph on request at the summit, and some cute local kid who felt like a climb today so just tagged along and chatted our ears off in Spanish. Also, the pic of the caballero is untouched iPhoneX in portrait mode. Isn’t it a beauty?
DAY 15Dec 17 2017
After 8 hours of flight delays, lost bags, bitchy gate agents, and a stranded, naive 20-year-old backpacker I took under my wing and introduced to the wonderful world of airport lounge life (I counted 8 empanadas he stuffed in his Osprey bag on the way out) I’m finally back to Lima and ready to give this city another fair shot.
Fun fact: At various points on this trip in various cities I saw 13 fellow Kaizens! Jace was staying at my hotel in Cusco, Aimee coming off the Inca trail and ayahuasca journey with her friend from LA, my original Inca Trail krew on the eve of their departure, and Rachel, Dan, and Tiffany at the airport! (their flight was not delayed). Such a cool feeling to be in any random part of the world and say... “Hey! I know them!” Thanks Remote Year 😉
DAY 21Dec 23 2017
Do you ever have one of those days where you know, as it’s happening, that you’re going to remember it for the rest of your life? Enter Huacachina.
In an 18 hour period we:
- Drove to Pisco
- Took a boat to some remote islands to see sea lions, penguins, boobies (the avian variety), and big-ass crabs
- Got drenched on said boat
- Started a dance party in the waves of said boat
- Had a seaside, ceviche lunch
- Drove to Ica
- Had a tour of South America’s oldest vineyard
- Did Pisco and wine tasting
- Got eaten alive by sand flies
- Had our Lonely Island car dance party forcefully interrupted by a funeral passing in front of us
- Drove to Huacachina
- Had the most exhilarating hour of dune buggying
- Sandboarded down the dunes
- Danced atop our vehicles to the backdrop of the sunset in the Peruvian desert
- Sold a street vendor fresh out of his barbecue
One day! Maybe I’m just sappy because it’s Christmas, but Remote Year is incredible.
DAY 23Dec 25 2017
In a year full of “missed” holidays, one might think Christmas would be the toughest. And perhaps, with any other krew, it might have been. But instead, we pooled our family traditions together and threw and epic Christmas Eve potluck, complete with a photo booth, goal setting, white elephant exchange, Jell-O shots, green bean casserole, an inflatable alpaca, and a mass icing. You know, normal Christmas stuff.
Followed by Christmas day at a beach house on the water, complete with sunsets, aperol, barbecue, and sappiness. And, sorry if this is weird to anyone at home, but I didn’t feel like I was missing family. I know these people just as well, and care for them just as deeply. They annoy me, and make me mad, and make me proud. They take care of me, and push me, and inspire me, and I love them just as fiercely as I love the Kapoor’s. So very grateful.
DAY 27Dec 29 2017
Dang, what an emotional month. Here’s hoping for some less sappy months to come, but it’s nearing the end so that might be wishful thinking. Sorry!:
Average breakfast: Coffee and a croissant from a pastry cart downstairs
Lunch: Caprese sandwiches 😍 the pesto and mozzarella is outrageous
Dinner: Crema de papa
Drink of choice: Pisco sours. Kept them at arms length for a few weeks in the middle but got to enjoying them again towards the end. They’re killer strong though. Two and done.
Most money spent on: Huacachina excursion. So worth it.
Apartment highlights: Central to everything with lots of kitchen knickknacks and a dryer, but totally overshadowed by all the bugs and mold.
Workspace highlights: Very productive space but not much character.
On the locals: Nice enough, but didn’t interact with them much.
Three words: “Feliz Navidad!” Two words 🤷🏻♀️.
Packing adjustments: Ditched my yoga mat, my gold festival shoes, and a lot of clothes. Acquired a New Years dress, a new phone, a mini projector, and two rounds of replacement headphones.
General feeling: Quite the emotional blob!
Top five meals:
5. Spaghetti - Hiram Bringham (seriously, just a plain pasta of their was amazing enough to be a top meal of the month)
4. Spicy plantain tarts we learned to make - Some RY event
3. Caprese sandwich - Homemade
2. Potato cream soup - Palacio del Inka (Cusco)
1. Szechuan scallops - Astrid y Gaston