Travel

The River

So a couple years back I got a little over-confident in the off-roading capabilities of my aging Honda minivan.

See, I’d just moved to Colorado from New York and, needing a car again, borrowed the old family Odyssey for a bit. Excited to be back out west, I’d ventured off into the mountains by myself for a roughly-planned road trip and photo excursion. Seeing what looked like an interesting detour on my map, and not being in any hurry, I decided to give it a shot. Now, I knew from the turnoff that this was an unpaved road, but even a minivan should be able to handle a little gravel...

A Weekend Away

After nearly 2 months in Peru, I finally managed to leave Lima for the first time. This past weekend, I took a quick side trip with my friends David and Andrea 5 hours south to Ica, Huacachina, and the Islas Ballestas. With less than a week left of my practicum in Lima, this trip was a bit of a warm-up for the 5 weeks of travel I have planned starting next weekend.

My practicum, speaking of which, has been an absolutely amazing experience that I’ll have to elaborate on soon. I’ve learned more than I imagined possible in such a short time about TB, epidemiology, and public health; made friends with wonderful researchers from Peru and around the world; and hopefully contributed a bit to the research as well. But more on that another time. This post is about travel.

Intra-Tourism

I’d been in Lima for nearly 4 weeks and I hadn’t seen the historic city center.

Every tourist in Lima goes to the city center; it’s like seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Opera House if you’re in Sydney. Francisco Pizarro founded the city of Lima there almost 500 years ago and some of the buildings remain to this day. It’s definitely worth a visit, if not for the historical draw, then at least for architectural, cultural, culinary, or check-it-off-the-list reasons.

Yet nearly a month into my South American adventure, and I hadn’t made it 7 stops north on the bus line to check it out. So when my good friend Jonathan stopped by Lima this weekend for the first day of his whirlwind, 81-day, trip around the world, we made it one of our first stops.

Mood Swing Amplitude Trends

15 days ago exactly, my plane touched down in Lima. It feels like such a long time ago, but at the same time I can’t believe I’ve already been here for 2 weeks. One of those paradoxes that everyone knows so well and deserves a name of its own. But I digress.

A fourth of my brief time in Lima already behind me, I couldn’t help but reflect on these first few weeks south of the equator on my commute home from work today. So, how am I enjoying Lima? For the first week, my answer would have been remarkably unpredictable.

Two Limas

As the taxi “merges” (read: changes lanes with zero consideration of the other vehicles in its path) onto the highway of sorts, I realize that everything I know about Lima and Peru after my first 10 days in the country will have to be amended. I’m jammed into the back seat with a fellow TB researcher and a nurse, another nurse in the front by the driver, ducking my head slightly to avoid a painful collision with the low ceiling at every bump in the very bumpy road. We’re on our way to the district of San Juan de Lurigancho, home to over a million residents in Lima, and the location of our TB study population. I’ve already been working for about a week on the project, but until now have mostly remained in my home district of Miraflores and at the University at which I’m working, an easy (hour-long) bus ride away. I have some vague idea of the rest of Lima, the sprawling slums and poor urban regions that comprise much of the 9-million person metropolis, but am not quite prepared for the poverty that faces me. I haven’t seen anything like this since a trip to Nicaragua 3 years ago, and not in the vastness that is Lima.

Semi-Organized Chaos

Yesterday I almost got hit by a bus.

I was walking back to my new home around 10 at night, crossing at a small street after purchasing a botella de agua con gas, and a micro (privately owned small bus) came out of nowhere and passed within about a foot of me before speeding on to its next stop.

Most cities this large have a decent public transportation system, perhaps a subway of sorts, or at least an organized system of public buses. Lima is a free-market-purist’s dream come true. The public transportation system largely consists of unregulated and unofficial taxis and private microbuses that are decades old, resulting in pretty bad air pollution and traffic. Regulation is largely absent and the system is largely chaotic, though indeed cheap. Since each taxi and microbus is essentially a private business, it’s in the driver’s best interest to drive extremely quickly down the street, trying to pick up as many people as possible. Rules, if any, go unenforced from what I can tell, resulting in pretty crazy traffic. For instance, taxis frequently turn left from a right turn only lane, across 2 lanes of traffic that are clearly going straight.

86 Days in a Carry-On

Well, a carry-on plus a laptop bag really.

I’m in the Panama City Airport right now, waiting for a couple more hours for my plane to take off to Lima, Peru. I’ll be spending the next 10 weeks or so in Peru followed by 2 in Colombia before returning back to the furnace that is Austin in August.

Here’s everything I’m bringing for the next 3 months. I tried to pack as lightly as possible since I’ll be moving around a bit after the first 8 weeks.

Notes from Eastern Europe

I meant to keep a blog of my travels while overseas, but I was too busy enjoying Europe to sit down and write anything. Now that I’m back in school and should be studying, recounting some fun memories from the trip sounds like a great use of my time. 

Anyway, my 15 days in Southeast Europe were amazing. Best trip of my life amazing. I saw some beautiful places, met incredible people, and definitely learned more about myself. I was able to be spontaneous and change plans at the last minute. I learned how to say cheers in 4 new languages. I saw a guy with a beard that went down to his feet! Ok, I probably could have seen that in Austin, but still…

All My Belongings for the Next Two Weeks

8 hours until I leave for Europe! I’m really excited, a little nervous as I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, but ready to be in Hungary nonetheless. For the next 15 days, I’m only going to be able to have what I can carry with me (and hopefully carry on the plane). I’ve listed out my packing list below, but keep in mind this trip requires many more warm clothes than usual.

Okay, so here’s everything I’m bringing with me for the next two weeks.

The Road Less Traveled

Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday season has been going as well as mine so far! I can’t believe that in 4 days I’ll be on my way to Europe. This trip has really snuck up on me and I’m nowhere near ready yet. Anyway, I’m a bit nervous to be traveling by myself on a trip of this size for the first time, but I’m definitely excited. I’ve changed around my plans a little, but most of the trip is the same.

Luckily, I’m traveling solo and have a lot of flexibility due to it being the off season in Europe as it’s way too cold right now. Here’s a rough itinerary:

Ljubljana? Is that in Russia?

Ever since I returned from Spain this summer, I’ve had a bad case of wanderlust.  I want to travel everywhere.  The other day I spent an hour just looking at a world map.  I know, I’m weird.  About a week ago, when I realized I had accrued a decent sum (43K) of frequent flyer miles over the years, I found a ticket to Europe and back for only 40K miles.  So for $58.12 in taxes and fees I can hop into a pressurized metal tube and end up half way around the world 3 in-flight movies, 2 ginger ales (for some reason the only time I ever drink it is on planes), and 4 screaming babies later.  Sounds good to me.

Now I’m not usually one for impulse buys or any kind of spontaneity (remember, I was raised by accountants), but I decided to throw caution to the wind and go ahead with a trip that is going to be memorable beyond belief.  I bought a round trip ticket to Budapest from December 31st through January 15th a few days ago and I have no idea what I’m going to do once I get there.  This is a pretty big divergence from the carefully planned out life of Brian that I’ve been designing since I first learned what SMART goals were.  Then again, any plans I’ve ever made (like my major in college) usually change 3 or 4 times anyway.

So yeah, I’m going to Budapest for 2 weeks.