Friday, December 30, 2011

Post eight: IncaLand - The path of the joyful heart


A night in Copacabana, Bolivia - The sound of the drums from the streets wafted in and mixed with the music of Incan tribal calls that played on the stereo. As I contemplated these sounds it struck me just how beautiful this candlelight moment was. I was FB chatting with my friend (Shannon Meehan - in Geneva, Switzerland) about the life lessons from which we have both been learning over the years. The server then came with the most delectable garlic trout, caught fresh from Lake Titicaca. I savored every bite as I continued the meaningful chat that I was having with my old friend.  

What I can't get over about eating in South America is how everyone is pushing these coca leaves and coca tea. As I was walking along the pathes of Isla del Sol (Bolivia) I noticed that the men who were building a portion of the path were all eating coca leaves, as if they couldn't build the path without the leaf. Even here in Cusco (Peru) my hostel-keep has tried to push free coca tea on me about 10 times. I think that this is rather crazy, myself, but to each there own.


I took a boat ($3) for 2 hours out to Isla del Sol and spent the day there. After hiking the island all day, I took the overnight bus for 12 hours to Cusco. The bus ticket cost about $20.


How much can I really say about money? Bolivia is pretty cheap, nough said?


Isla del Sol, Bolivia is an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. It is known to be the primary region where the ancient Incas lived. I hiked, alone, from the very north end to the south end of the island. It took me 4 hours to hike the island. It was essentially un-developed and was quite mountainous. I remember that I could barely stop smiling the entire time I was on the island. There was something so peaceful about this place, it brought pure joy straight to my heart. I had tremendous gratitude that I could see and feel the things that I was seeing and feeling as I hiked. I don't think I have felt such an intense sense of inner contentment since I did on my day of prayer in Luang Prabang, Laos. That was almost 2 years ago. On this Island of Sun, I believe that I may have experienced a spiritual release of sorts.


Two interesting things about the Isla Del Sol (besides the coca eaters) - (1) Inca descendants are commonly about 3' tall (2) The geology of this island is absolutely fascinating. I found myself rock hounding all over the place, just to decifer the geologic history of the land. It has been 12 years since I took Geology or Geomorphology, but I would like to hypothesize on how this island formed. There was some pyro-clastic material, which indicates that the first phase of the development was a very explosive volcano which erupted lots of silicate magma. This magma then cooled, probably underwater, and the accumulation laid there for quite some time. Then as sediment gathered along the lake floor, gravity helped sedimentary rocks to form over top of the volcanic silicates. Then, as a later phase of development, it appears that there was tectonic activity which forced the sub-plates to buckle and push up. This resulted in the islands emergence from under Lake Titicaca. It also explains why the lines of striation are all at very odd, but uniform angles. I may be COMPLETELY wrong, but this is my best guess based on my limited knowledge and observation.


When I travel I miss home, but somehow the closer I get to my return the more I would like to just travel forever. The road is a home to me in ways that no actual home has ever been. I guess it is like they say, home is where the heart is.


I had lunch today in a Cusco cafe called "The Meeting Place". This place was quite random, because it was owned and operated 100% by evangelic Christian Americans. It was pretty cool, but having to hear all the evangelic theories non-stop for a half an hour got a little old. Anyways,what the heck are they doing in the Hippy HQ - Western Hemi?


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post seven: happiness is La Paz in the rearview mirror

I am back using NaturallySpeaking Dragon again, so please excuse my strange grammar. I am in the village of Copacabana along the shores of Lake Titicaca.  I’m much happier here than I was in La Paz.  It is a town of artisans and bohemians.  There are splendid Alacade handicrafts, musicians, drummers, and lovely side-street cafes.  This cafĂ© in particular is playing Brazilian jazz and has WIFI (that’s major here).  I am really wishing that I could go on an Amazonian adventure now… maybe I will just forget Cuzco altogether, who knows?  Maybe I should go to the Amazon….

I opted out of hostel life for a while. I have gotten myself a seven dollar per night room, all for me. The only thing it does not have is Wi-Fi, but no hotel in Copacabana has Wi-Fi anyway. Tomorrow I will go to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna.  Today I’m pretty much just chilling, keeping to myself and working on things. The demographics of the population of Bolivia are quite different than that of Peru.  Bolivia is mostly populated by descendants of Native Americans. Peru, on the other hand, has a population that is largely descendent of both the Chinese and European nations.  It was quite interesting to me to see quite a few people of Chinese descent living in South America. My taxi driver said it was because the Chinese were brought over as slaves in the 1800s.  Apparently, they studied and worked until they began to own businesses and take positions of prestige within the society. That makes sense, the Chinese are industrious.


I’m trying to get by on $100 for the entire five days I’m staying in Copacabana; therefore I don’t see myself eating anything very fancy.  Yesterday I had a hamburger with cheese and egg on top. I must admit, that was pretty good. My seven dollar per night hotel room is pretty nice. It even has English-speaking stations on the TV. There is no heater here, but I just sleep with two sweaters on and under two blankets. It is not so bad and it is really awesome not to have any hostel mates for a while.  Loki really wore me down.


The bus from La Paz to Copacabana cost me 20 Bolivianos, or about three dollars. There is no need for a taxi in this small village. I did have to pay an extra 1.5 Bolivianos to take a ferry across Lake Titicaca. They shipped the bus on a different boat and then we continued our ride.


I have a hard time paying 16 Bolivianos for some cookies when I only paid 20 Bolivianos for the bus ride over here. Although two and three dollars is not much, when I compare the relative value it makes me want to spend less. I am down to eating one meal per day.


On the way over here I was sitting next to three traveling Argentines. I did not know I had any Bolivianos remaining. These Argentinian guys kind of smelt like that haven’t been staying in hotels, but they were so generous. They offered me food on several occasions, as I was starving. When we had to cross Lake Titicaca I did not have the Bolivianos. They paid my way for me, until I could pay them back. I was really impressed by those generous gestures.


On the bus ride over here I noticed individuals and families camping out along the shores of Lake Titicaca.  They were people of Indian decent and they have constructed tents from blue tarps and rocks.  I noticed old Indian women who were looking out over the lake while tending the sheep. It is a beautiful view. These families and people looked content. It reminded me of how little we really need in order to enjoy life.


I was thinking about how people often confuse the means for the end.  We need food, water, shelter, and warmth.  We need these things so we can survive and live our lives in relative comfort. We don’t have life just so that we can acquire more of these things. In the recent past I have been surrounded by people who appeared to be living mostly to acquire more material status. For the most part these people appeared lonely and unfulfilled, even though they had millions of dollars in the bank. In the American culture it’s very easy to confuse a means for an end. I do it myself but it doesn’t make me happy. I’d like to try to keep focused on the great things that I can do with the life I have been given, rather than obsessing over the accumulation of things I really don’t even need.


I am a little curious about this hotel that I just booked for the New Year’s. It’s in Cuzco. It is new and very cheap.  There were no reviews but I did notice that there was Wi-Fi.  Cuzco is pretty booked up at this time. I guess I will sort it out when I get there.

Sunday, December 25, 2011



I have been based out of La Paz, Bolivia for the last 3 nights, and I only have one more left.  I am staying at Loki Hostel, which appeared to be very cool at first sight but has really worn on me.  Being surrounded by a bunch of sloshy drunk Europeans and Australians is not my idea of a “Merry Christmas”, but here I am.  I am counting down the minutes until I can leave for the more quaint town of Copacabana.


Two days ago I took a morning flight out to Uyuni Salt Flats.  The plane was a propeller plane that seated about 15.  I was more scared on that flight than I was on the similar one that I took out to Mt. Everest.  The pilot somehow managed to land us all on the ground in one piece.  I took the local bus for 12 hours back to La Paz that night, and woke up in panic that I was going to suffocate from lack of oxygen in the overcrowded and non-ventilated vehicle.  Transport has been interesting, to say the least.


Bolivia is very poor.  Money really goes a long way around here. 


I came to Bolivia expressly to visit the Salt Flats.  I will leave here knowing that I have one less item on my “bucket list”.  The salt flats are incredibly beautiful.  If it could be managed to get on a 3 day tour with only other backpackers, I would recommend that.  There were some details of my tour that diminished the quality of the experience, but everyday cannot be absolutely exquisite, now can it?


I was a little disappointed in the short Latin Americans on my Uyuni tour.  They insisted on sitting in the front back seat, forcing me and another tall Caucasian to be jammed in the back back seat.  They had over twice the leg room as us, and about half the leg length.  It was ok while I was still very excited to be going to the flats, but many hours later, I found myself getting a little resentful.  I was glad not to be stuck in that position for 3 days though.  That is something for which I am grateful.


When I feel like this I know that I must not be in His will.  I am looking forward to getting back on track as soon as possible, so that I can again enjoy the awe that I always feel when I am where I was meant to be.  I’m pretty sure that I was not made for Loki Hostal – La Paz, or any other Loki Hostal for that matter.


Is it inappropriate to spend Christmas working on resumes and business plans?  If you think so, I already thanked Jesus for coming to Earth to save me from sin… and I am sure He would not mind if I keep to myself for a bit.  I would definitely like to be with my family right now instead.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Post five: What can I say?

I’m currently hiding out on the back of an Autobus Ormeno destined for La Paz, praying and hoping that no “gentes peligirosos” will hop on board.  The bus ride from Lima to La Paz is dangerous in legendary proportions, but we know if this blog gets posted then the laptop must have made it to Bolivia along with me. 

Lima has been a whirlwind of fabulousity and excitement.  Starting from around 4 am on Monday, when a 4.3 magnitude earthquake roused me from my slumber and saw me jetting in my unders to the closest door frame.  After seemingly 25 seconds of steady shaking, I explained to the European women that were lying around me, that “girls, this is an earthquake… do you think we should go stand in the street?”.  After tossing around the idea of a standing in the streets of Peru at night while wearing nothing but our undergarments, we made an overwhelming and joint decision to take our chances and just go back to sleep.  Another group decision well led, how’s that for “Leadership Skills”?

Fast forward 10 hours, I managed to navigate my way over to la Clinica Arroyo Goldstein in San Isidro, in order to meet with Dr. Giuliana Arroyo-Goldstein (“Julianna”).  After waiting for quite some time in the poshist of waiting rooms, I was ushered to the back and lead into her office.  ~~First impression, smashing beauty.  ~~Upon further conversation, witty charm and fascinating intellect.  I was beginning to think this Julianna and I might be quite fast friends, when she asked me if I would like to join her at a black tie event for the grand opening of her sister’s third med spa (Kalieska Arroyo Med Spa).  Apparently these girls come from a long line of prestigious Peruvian doctors.  We agree that it is a brilliant idea for me to join along and then she proceeds to work her magic on me, by way of a little mesotherapy (nothing major). 

Now this Julianna is generous, very generous.  Of course I had no clothes for a black tie event that night, but that would not be a problem because she decided she would like to take me to her mansion in Oro Reino and dress me up in her finest attire.  The Mira Flores and San Isidro district of Peru are very similar to southern California mixed with a bit of Ipanema, however the neighborhood of Doc Julianna is a gated-community very similar to a Peruvian Coto De Caza.  Her house is exquisite, over-looking all of Lima from the mountain-top and fully equipped with maid staff and chauffeurs.  I spent a number of hours relaxing there and enjoying the chance to chat with her and her daughter, both of whom speak perfect English.  It comes to find out that Julianna and I are kindred spirits, particularly in our knack for traveling the world and getting caught up in whirlwinds of romance and intrigue.

The party starts at 8 pm and it’s very hard to look good in a picture when standing next to my new friend.  I do my best as she hastens me through the crowd.  EVERYONE who was anyone in Peru must have been there.  The women were gorgeous and the men were rich and powerful.  After speaking to the Egyptian ambassador for a while about the plight and status of the Egyptian government (essentially it doesn’t really exist at this time, but they’re working on it), I move on to the gent to his left.  This was a charming little man named “Jorge”, clearly of Indian decent.  He spoke little English, but had a translator and was a Peruvian Congressman, or so says the Egyptian ambassador with whom he fancied to converse.  I spoke with Jorge about the sad state of affairs with the mining corporations operating in Peru, and how it is tragic that they are not practicing proper waste management and, consequential, are poisoning the Peruvian people.  Apparently the government is trying to regulate this industry, but the mining companies have wielded international power, and the Peruvian president feels almost that his hands are tied in not being able to force them to pay for proper waste treatment.  The government of Peru cannot afford to pay, therefore there appears to be a huge impasse which must be surmounted.   

Standing near-by to the Jorge was a beautiful, elegant blond dressed in white, staring at me with blue eyes of devastating hue. Apparently she was Turkish-born, and married to the Turkish Ambassador there, but she looked very much like a Brit to me.  I met “Victor”, the most acclaimed artist of Peru at this present time.  I met “Cesar”, who is head of the government staff security division and is writing a book.  He was a tall and good-looking older gent, and apparently part of his upcoming book will be dedicated to me, picture and all.  His colleague “Gustavo” was also there, a more mild mannered guy, but very generous nonetheless.  He has offered to take me the building where the president works on a regular basis.  This will all happen when I return to Lima.  The event photographer was somehow enamored in such a way that he would like to offer me a free professional studio session upon my return.  I just need to try to work that gig out so that if I end up on ads in Peru, that I receive some compensation for my modeling services.  His gesture was very thoughtful. 

I could go on and on.  An Angelina Jolie exact look alike was there, and 2 blonds that looked like the cousins of Cameron Diaz.  That night I was told I look like Cameron Diaz, Kristen Duntz and Nicole Kidman.  Those are the ones I got when I was 22, so I felt honored that the 10 years that have passed have not aged me in such a way that I am no longer recognizable the same.  I, however, don’t feel that I look as good as any one of those ladies.  Lastly, an Irish looking Peruvian-born plastic surgeon named ~I forget, but I have his card~ would like to take me on a tour of Lima’s chicest, upon my return…. Yet, I question whether it gets any chicer than this.  By the time I got to sleep it was 4 am and I had to leave for the bus station at 8 am.  When I was done pressing snooze, it was 5” after 8 am and I had nothing packed.  The bus left at 9, but somehow I found the time to pay my hostel-keep and taxi to the station.  I believe that God may be on my side.


Haven’t eaten anything major to speak of, and my lodging experience in Peru will be forever remembered by that earthquake.  I have made it to Loki Hostal in Bolivia.  It is def hostal shwank, as hostals go.  I am looking forward to 6 days in Bolivia.


I’ve just spent 32 hours on a bus to Bolivia.  I haven’t showered for 3 days.  The taxi to my hostel from the bus station cost 15 Bolivianos (~$2)


7 Boliviano = 1 USD


The hot shower of which I am about to enjoy.


An earthquake followed by a celeb-like royal treatment in a foreign land was all quite unexpected.  Traveling is like living a circus-life.


Realized some things on the bus over here, but its all too much to mention.


Should I take a bus for 2 days to Uruguay, or head to Cuzco after this?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Post four: So, this is Lima


While I’m blogging on one end of the couch, Christian is snoring away on the other, and there is some random Brasilian dude to my right who checking his Facebook at 3 o'clock in the morning.  Christian owns this place.  It looks like I will be sharing a room with 2 other women, both of whom have been snoozing upstairs for hours.  This hostal feels a lot like a big home, or a local bed-and-breakfast sans the breakfast-in-bed.


I literally had to pick my driver out from a pack of 600 crowded people that were all smiling and shining at me from every direction.  There had to be about 150 name cards being held up, so finding mine wasn’t exactly a gimme.  


The currency here is the Soles, short for Nuevo Sol, or “New Sun”.  There are ~3 Soles per Dollar.  I have heard it will cost me about 300 Soles to take a bus for 36 hours across the desert, from here to La Paz, Bolivia.  My hostal is costing me $7 per night, but that’s because it’s the best in town.


Well one good thing about traveling for 17 hours straight is that you have lots of time to kill.  I got about 15 hours of work done today, between the reading of business books and the streamlining of business plans… the entire experience left me thrilled and excited for the new year to come.


The flight was interesting.  I don’t think I will take Spirit Air ever again.  I am not sure if it was the gentleman in front of me that kept passing extra stinky gas, or the screaming children behind me that were kicking my seat all night, but there was some definite room for improvement on the flight experience.


I would hate to miss out on something now because I was too busy trying to plan how to get where I want to be in the future, when I am already someplace that, in the past, I have always wanted to be.  The grass is forever greener when it is on the other side.  


Every thought is seeming  pretty random right now.  I've been up almost 24 hours and the dawn's probably pretty close to breaking.  I think I better call it a night.

Friday, December 16, 2011


A few days back I posed a question on Facebook "What is best way for me to protect my brand new laptop from being stolen while I am overseas?".  Crickets chirp louder than the response I got on that one.

Today however, in a very valiant and generous gesture, my friend Jon Curran sent me a quote for travel insurance through his company Cruise Adventure Travel, LLC.  The price was unbelievably low and now my baggage is covered, up to $2,000, if it is stolen.  What a gent...thanks Jon!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Most people look at me with blank stares when I tell them I'm going to the third world by myself, with no concrete plan whatsoever. There's something about the culture and religion of most countries in the developing world that somehow just sets my soul on fire. Now that I've had a taste of this, I don't think I could ever go back to the way I was before.  So this winter, I plan to take my time of solace and reflection. I plan to reflect on my life, the relationships within my life, my hopes for the future, and my sense of purpose for being here on Earth. I plan to take the moment, to seize the moment, and to make the very, very most of if these moments were the last moments of eternity. That's the make-believe game I like to play when I travel.


When you're going to a developing country there are certain things that you are going to want to make sure you bring with you. Bring sunscreen, it's not cheap there. You're probably going to want to go to Walmart and get an adapter set so that you can plug your appliances into the outlets.  I'de bring my travel appliances and a bag pack.  I'de also bring about six sets of undergarments and a bathing suit. Me personally, I'm going to bring one pair of jean shorts and two pairs of jeans, a few T-shirts, and a baseball hat. I will bring some sandals too. I will just buy anything else that I might need while I'm down there. 

I wouldn't really worry too much about medications, as most medications can be purchased for 10% of the price paid in the United States, at any corner pharmacy, in any developing country, in all of the world. (the costs of medicine here in the US really ticks me off)


You'll probably be surprised to find out that companies are making a lot of money off of people's naivety. Gone are the days that you have to pay for international calling. I just installed Viber onto my phone for free, and now anyone with Viber on their phone can call or text me from any country for absolutely no cost. I also like to communicate to my friends back home using Facebook, Gmail, Gmail chat, or even WhatsApp. Lastly, if you'd really like to go all out you can bring an unlocked cell phone with you and purchase a sim card upon arrival. This is a really cheap way to make calls within the country of destination, and even back home.
VIBER: 3214392055


One thing that I have done is scanned my passport and uploaded a copy of it to my cloud computing account. It's also a good idea to do the same with credit cards and your yellow fever card, if you have one. Another thing that I've done is gotten a passport case that looks like a passport on the outside. Then I made a photocopy of my actual passport and arranged it in such a way that it looks like my real passport is inside the case. I carry expired credit cards and cash in this case as well. Most of the time officials will accept a copy of my passport in lieu of me pulling out of the real thing. Not only that, if someone comes to rob me, then I can give them my fake passport case with my fake credit cards and a little bit of cash.... They will think they have gotten everything and they will leave me alone. I generally just use this case as my wallet when I'm traveling, and I keep my real passport and cash at an undisclosed location.  


All I can say here is that sleeping is overrated, and I will sleep when I die. Well, in my case I will sleep when I fly, but heeeyyy... Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge fan of overnight flights. That way you can kill two birds with one stone and really get a lot of travel bang for your buck.


Rule one – make sure to tell your bank you're going overseas so they don't freeze your cards when you go to use them. That happened to me in Rio and it wasn't cool. Rule two - no one uses travelers checks anymore. Don't waste your time. Bring your ATM card, that's how you will get cash. Carry your day cash in the fake passport pouch, and leave the rest in a safe location. For me, sometimes a safe location is my hotel room, and other times a safe location is underneath my clothes. Also, one more thing.... make sure there is no card reader device on the ATM when you go to get cash. You don't want your identity stolen while you're overseas, that would really complicate the issue.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Post one: Don't ask me how I work my magic

So, as I lay here in Winter Park, Florida I just started my first blog without even lifting a finger. Don't ask me how I work my magic.   I remember my cousin Mary Pam saying ",you could write a book"... Well here it goes, it's not a book, but it's close enough.

I leave for Lima Peru in four days. I have my hostel set up for the first three nights of the trip and the hostel's driver will be picking me up from the airport. Other than that, I have no arrangements for the remaining three weeks. I can go anywhere I want at any time. I love the thought of that. The open highway has always been my home, it seems. Hence, the theme of my blog is "to live is to fly". "To live is to fly" is also a great Townes Van Zandt song.

Status: nothing is packed, laundry is dirty, only slept three hours last night,. Period. But hey, there's a lot on my list of things to do, so you can't say I don't have my stuff together.

I think I will go to Bolivia as well, although I must mention that the thought of Uruguay has crossed my mind once or twice. I should be prepared for both, you never know. I'm going to have to think about how I want to structure this blog. I think there are a lot of people out there who would love to go traveling through the developing world, but don't quite know how to go about doing that. I kind of figured it out. I might be able to help someone get where they want to go. It's best if all I've learned doesn't go to waste, so I am hoping to find a way to share it.

Oh yeah, here's a link to that song: