Lima is amazing. Immediately, the city reminded me of Los Angeles, but in a comfortable, rather than stifling, way. Driving down from the airport and looking out the window, the coastline and cliffs made me think of Malibu, Santa Monica and the 1. Barranco, the neighborhood adjacent to where we lived is so vibey and hipster, it reminded me of Venice Beach. Similar to Los Angeles as well, Lima is lined by both the Pacific and an expansive desert landscape. Elements from home in a new temporary home of the month was welcoming to me nine months into our year-long journey.
Leaving LA and going onto my Remote Year journey, one thing I thought I had my fill of was music. Over the course of my four and change years in LA, I had probably gone to over a thousand shows in various venues, from concert halls to tiny clubs. In some weird way, I felt like it was my duty to stay faithful to LA - that going to a show outside of LA would be cheating. So even though I love live music, I kept my concert going habits to a minimum while abroad up until this month. But when I did end up going to a small electronic gig in Barranco with some friends, my heart became so full once more with the love of live music and dancing that I was so happy to find some LA in South America. It was a tiny, packed venue that enveloped everyone in the afro-peruvian group’s futuristic sound and spread good vibes all around. I was so so happy to be in my element once more, dancing my butt off, vibing with the people and their energies, resulting in black feet at the end of it.
My favorite part of Peru was the friendliness of the people. All in all, they seem helpful and welcoming, especially if you go to the more rural places, like Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Even in a big city like Lima, it’s not lost. There are guards who stand in front of schools, apartment buildings, etc. and I would pass by one every morning on the way to the workplace. He would recognize me, visibly eyes lighting up and tell me, “Buenos Dias” with an energetic wave. This small act of kindness became a daily ritual I looked forward to and made me leave me smiling on the remainder of my walk into the workspace.
One cannot rave about Peru without mentioning the amazing food. Ceviche. Hell yes. Literally the freshest, most delectable, tangy creation ever made perfected in Lima. Almost all meals were good in Peru, but if you want to really treat yourself, there are amazing Michelin star restaurants in Lima as well. Read my review for Central (featured on Chef’s Table), here. Even their Coca Cola is better than ours - other than being an off putting yellow-green color, Inca Cola is a hit. I promise, try it, you’ll love it.
Aside from all the amazingness that Peru has to offer, there are also some weirder quirks that can take some getting used to as someone from the states. For example, you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilet anywhere, even within your own apartment. Additionally, the water isn’t drinkable - even to the point that you need to put a special filter in it if you want to wash fresh veggies. Everyone in our group got sick at some point throughout the month because even some ice in your drink or a fresh salad could upset your stomach. Taxis honk and stop for you, sometimes following you down a block or so, even when you’re just walking down the street and minding your own business. A local I met actually mentioned that some of these are looking for people to kidnap/rob, so 100% do not get into a cab alone at night. Uber exists in Lima, so that’s definitely a safer way to go.
Socially, this month and Lima overall was explosive. Something that’s pretty atypical for Remote Year, but an amazingly unique experience for us, was that we shared Lima this month with another RY group who were actually on their final month. They were full of good energy and amazing stories - two of them once bought all the chicken nuggets from a McDonalds drive through in Bulgaria. Literally 897 nuggets. It was really fun to interact and engage with this new group, but I started noticing something that alarmed me.
Some of our group members looked at the other group with envy. A bit of the “grass is greener on the other side” mentality. Oh, they’re more free spirited than we are; oh, their girls are so much prettier; they have so many wild stories; no drama goes on in their group, etc. But under closer examination, all of the feelings and self doubts we have in our own group, existed in their group as well. Novelty and fun can confound what really matters - mutual respect, connection and a strong community.
This was a big theme for me personally that seemed to slap me in my face this month as well. Being January and the month of so called resolutions, I did a lot of introspection on goals and intention setting for the new year. I realized that the job I had was not what I was passionate about. What I want is to be able to directly positively impact the environment and people’s health and wellbeing. I would love to ultimately combine experiences with conservation efforts, as our planet won’t be this way forever - especially at the rate our population is growing.
I’m proud of myself and the things I’ve learned about myself thus far - that it’s possible to change (quite quickly even), as long as there’s the will to do so. Being able to label without shame that I was unhappy at work helped me begin to identify that a change was needed. The first major change which I took by coming onto Remote Year, a work-life balance shift, helped, but it didn’t solve the root cause of the problem. I genuinely didn’t feel fulfilled with the kind of work I was doing. And that’s a scary realization, but I’m proud of myself for being able to be truthful with myself about it because it put my life into motion for better things.
Finally, I was having a bit of a sulk about being single, and reflected a lot on my string of 2-5 month relationships the past couple of years, and why they may have not worked out. I realized that I probably put too much energy into them than the guys did, partly because I as convinced on some connection or chemistry when the guy didn’t even want anything serious. Three years ago, as I was painfully removing myself from one of these situations, the guy told me, “Olga what you want is a boyfriend, and I don’t want a girlfriend.” I tried to convince him that wasn’t true - that I was totally fine with casually hooking up with him. But I was lying to myself. I definitely wanted to be with him, and that same scenario has played out numerous times since then. Why? I was finding these guys at bars, hooking up with them, and convincing myself there was a serious connection there. I was deluding myself.
It hasn’t worked the past three years, so why would it work now? It’s about the rule, not the exception. So I realized that this needed a shift too. The same input is only going to produce more of the same. But I know that this kind of travel doesn’t provide a great backdrop for a sustainable relationship. What it does do, however, is give me more confidence once this particular chapter in my life is done and I’m back in the “real world.”
That’s what Remote Year is all about. Learning more about yourself as you’re constantly outside of your comfort zone. When in the growth zone, what is new and attractive to you? What was once in the comfort zone that is now uncomfortable and something you want to drop from your life?
I’ve never gone ziplining before and I’ve always imagined it to be something I’d like to do in the exotic landscapes in South or Central America. So when someone in the other group decided to put together a small outing for ziplining, I jumped in on it with a couple of friends. The actual event of ziplining was a bit lackluster - we drove two hours to a pretty desolate town for a track that was over barren ground. I’m glad that it was my first time ever doing ziplining as it was a fun activity to do and the bar wasn’t raised too high, because the setting was definitely below par. Either way, what made this day was our lunch. We ended up ordering too many pisco sours, taking them to go, and finishing them on the ride back to Lima full of hilarity.
Fountain Night & Dengue Dengue Dengue
Who knew that Lima had a park with over 14 different amazing fountain attractions? Yes, I could truly call these fountains attractions. I ended up going to the park one Friday evening with two guys from the other group and laughed until my sides hurt. We ran through a fountain tunnel, saw a timed music/light show on massive 25ft fountains and imitated various fountain statues before making our way over to the show I mentioned earlier in the blog to see Dengue Dengue Dengue. Star night all around.
One of my closest friends in the group, Rich, had his birthday while we were in Lima and in true Rich fashion, we had not one, but two parties for him. One part of his celebration was going to Central as mentioned above, and the second part was getting absolutely after it with bottle service galore at a club. The club piece was technically shared with two other birthday boys, but we all know Rich was behind it all. Nothing is quite better than dancing with all your friends, watching everyone get collectively buzzed in honor of someone’s birthday, and this was no different.
Remote Year organizes different “track” events in each city which are locally curated experiences for each group that are a step up from a typical tourist excursion. One of the events this month was enjoying and learning how to do some afro-peruvian moves. This was something on a Tuesday night that would otherwise be spent unproductively watching Netflix and ended up being a real treat. One of the traditional dances involved a flirtatious back and forth where each man/woman pairing tried to catch the other’s butt on fire - a native cultural experience that was so unexpected and fun!
The Time I Didn’t Go Paragliding
Across the cliffs of Lima, you can paraglide if the wind situations are ideal (which they often are). A lof of our group ended up paragliding, but I was on the fence not knowing if I should or should not - I don’t know why, but it’s always something that’s terrified me a bit. While walking around the cliffs one Saturday, my friend told me that we should go ahead and just go for it. I told her I could do it with some convincing. We ended up going to a nearby pizza place with the most delicious homemade hot sauce ever (seriously), grabbing a few pisco sours, and having gathered our courage, made our way back to the cliffs. By that time, unfortunately the wind had died down, and they weren’t putting anyone on the paraglides anymore for the day. I missed my chance that day, but it gave me a newfound determination to not pass up opportunities that are in front of my nose.