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Traveling solo

I knew something was wrong when walking up 10 stairs winded me and left me sweating and needing a break.  The  young Peruvian woman carrying a a full load of goods to sell up high, who passed me, asked if I was ok, assuming it was the altitude.  No, no, I responded.  Only a week or two ago, I was at 6,000m.  She looked at me dubiously, but passed on.

I pushed thoughts of sickness out of my head – not now, please not now.  I am visiting the sacred valley for just two days and then a trek, I thought to myself.  I racked my brain for what I could have eaten in the past few days that would make me sick.  I tried to think of others around me who were sick. Nothing came to my, no reason why I should be feeling this way.  I hadn’t even been eating street food (well, not that much!).

As I reached the top of the hill, I collapsed onto a rock (yeah, it was probably sacred, but I really needed a place to sit at that moment), coated in sweat  and shaking slightly.  What was wrong?  What was wrong?!   not now, please….

more pisac ruins

After taking a few pictures (to remind myself I had been there), I made my way down and caught a bus to Ollanta, the town where I planned to spend the night.

the ruins at pisac

After two bus rides and a conversation with a man on the bus (who told me that my spanish was good — whoa, he must not be used to gringas speaking spanish!) — I clumsily made my way to a hostal.  At that point, I was ready to collapse….

Fortunately, the first hostal had  a room at a good price (though I might have paid anything!).  Shivering, I crawled into bed with all my clothes on and prayed for sleep.  It was 3:30 in the afternoon.

17 hours later, following shivers, sick dreams and worries that I was really sick, I decided I had to get out of bed — at least to make it back to Cusco.  I tried a light breakfast, I did see the ruins in Ollanta and I did make it back to Cusco (though I skipped the ruins in Chincero in favor of more rest).

impressive ruins of Ollanta

But during those 17 hours, in between worries that I had the flu or worse, giardia,  I realized that no one knew where I was at that moment.  There I was, sweating it out in Ollanta, feeling like hell, and no one who loved and cared about me knew where I was at that moment.  No one was going to come in with chicken noodle soup (which I desperately wanted).

the view down into the impressive village of Ollanta (which has not changed much in 700 years!)

I have lived on my own for a number of years.  I have traveled, I have been independent (fiercely so at times), I have taken care of myself.  But, for the most part, people have known where I am.  People can get in touch with me.  I can get in touch with people.  I might live alone, but I am not alone.

Traveling solo, I have had a few moments like this — when I am acutely aware of how alone I am.    I love traveling solo.  I love the freedom of choosing where I want to go, when I want to go, how I want to go.  Traveling solo has given me the freedom to talk to strangers, to meet people and share dinner.  And also the time to spend with myself, to get a sense of what I want and where I am going (more on that in a week or so….).

But, there have also been these other moments, when I am sick or tired or scared….  when I feel utterly and totally alone.  When I cannot (due to lack of connectivity or sickness or distance) reach out to others around me.  Those are the tough moments.  Fortunately, there have only been a few of those.  But after I recover (which I seem to have now — fever and pain free!), I am always so happy to connect with friends and family — I have new appreciation for those connections.

old rocks, new flowers

I have not always made people my thing, opting for skiing or climbing, hiking or travel — by myself if need be, in order to get out and go!  But, one of the big lessons on this journey for me, has been to start making people my thing.  To start opening my world to those around me and, maybe not less to the things I want to do, but more sharing in the things I want to do.  Being in that room, 17 hours of utterly-alone-time, I know that I do not want that. 

So, here’s to Inca ruins and traveling solo and making people my thing!

and special thanks to C.P. for reminding me of that!

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Carol Kushner #

    This makes me cry. It’s so heartfelt and so true. Interestingly enough, I am reading a novel this reminds me of–Ann Patchett’s STATE OF WONDER. If you get the chance to read it, you’ll see what I mean.

    Did you ever find out why you were sick? I hope you’re feeling better now.

    March 31, 2012
  2. Kenn Kushner #

    Well I suppose it is the sign of a well loved child when then first 2 comments after your post is your parents wishing you back to health. Love you and glad you are feeling better. On with the adventure!

    March 31, 2012
  3. Mary Lou Reid #

    This post reminds me of how vulnerable we all feel when we’re sick, and having no support makes it even worse. Plus when we’re vulnerable, we get thrown off balance a bit. I say this because I think you ARE a people person – and you are also fiercely independent. Right off the bat, I can list 10 amazingly supportive acts I’ve seen you do. Mantener el equilibrio es un reto, verdad? Creo que eres una persona amable y pensativa. No este tan duro contigo mismo! Me alegro de que te sientes mejor.


    March 31, 2012
    • Mary Lou Reid #

      Oh, and I agree with your mom. You would find many connections in State of Wonder….

      March 31, 2012
    • gracias a ti! espero tomar cena contigo – a hablar en espanol!

      April 1, 2012
  4. Megan #

    Love you Aurora

    March 31, 2012
  5. Aurora, I’m glad it only lasted a short while and that you had the sense to rest. Glad you are better, and you are right, there is nothing more important than the love and support of those close to you, whether you are ill or well. Stay well!

    April 1, 2012
  6. Beautiful Aurora…. beautiful. Hope you stay well friend!

    April 1, 2012
  7. A great insight to receive while suffering- sometimes we are put on our back for a reason. I’ve so enjoyed following your transformation and your journey. It’s what I hope to get out of traveling as well (and I wonder if I’ll be able to get it on the same level, since I won’t be traveling solo…)

    April 2, 2012
    • thanks kim….. it has been pretty incredible and i am so NOT ready for it to end….

      April 7, 2012
  8. Suzanne #

    How very frightening to be out there and sick and alone. If anyone could get through it, it is you. Gives all of us homebodies great inspiration! Be well!

    April 9, 2012
    • thanks suzanne! I did not feel all that strong at the time! 🙂 looking forward to hearing about the upcoming college trip! 🙂 already!?

      April 9, 2012

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