Someone who is spontaneous, by definition, has an open, natural, or “uninhabited” manner. Admittedly, before living in Peru for two months, none of these things described me. Everything in my life before Peru was planned out and I always did things by the book. For me to go on a trip before properly planning was just asking for chaos. However, my excursions in Peru were very spontaneous and anything but chaotic. Here’s what happened…
Before I came to Peru, I signed up for the included excursions through ISA. However, these trips ended up being canceled because not enough people wanted to attend them. I was very sad to hear this until I found out that my roommates and some other students from ISA were planning some independent trips. One of the trips was a “Peru hop” (visiting a bunch of different cities) which would last about a week, and the other was for a weekend to the amazon jungle in Iquitos.
Now I hadn’t told any of my friends this, but before leaving for these trips I was terrified. I had never done anything like this before. Nevertheless, my soon to be trip buddies assured me that everything was going to be okay. We started out our first trip in a city called Paracas on the west coast of Peru. It was BEAUTIFUL. We went dune buggying, ate authentic Peruvian food, and stayed in an amazing hotel. Little did I know the rest of our trip would not be so glamorous.
After Paracas, two other girls and I went backpacking for the remaining week. We saw the Nazca Lines, took a day trip to Arequipa, and saw Machu Picchu with a couple of 10-hour bus rides in-between. Not everything was always comfortable. Sometimes I would have a lot of anxiety because I didn’t know what the girls and I were going to do next or how we would get back to the bus stations. In Iquitos, I felt the same way when the girls and I decided to spontaneously take pictures with an anaconda! The mindset I had to have when trying all of these new things was one I never had to have before. I had to be adaptable and go with the flow.
At the end of the day, what I learned through my independent trips was that not everything is perfect when your traveling and being spontaneous, and that is okay. You have to leave a margin of error in your expectations. For things to go “wrong” is all a part of the process. In reflecting on my trips with the lovely ladies who brought me along, all I can think about are the good laughs that we had.
For all of you thinking of traveling independently and being spontaneous in your host countries, I strongly encourage it. Just remember to be smart, stay safe, and let the trip be imperfect.
Maria Dozier is a student at University of Florida and was an ISA Featured Blogger. She served abroad with ISA Service-Learning in Lima, Peru.