Passport in my shaking hand, I wave goodbye to my dad and sister as they disappear down the terminal. “See you next year. I love you.” The weight of the words strikes hard. My eyes well up with tears. I can’t cry now, not when the security officer’s about to check my ticket and passport. I’ll wait. Yeah, I’ll just bottle up these tears until I can safely collapse in my Lima hotel room later tonight. Yeah, that’ll work.
Through security now and petrified at my gate. What am I doing? “The nerves have officially hit,” I text to my Mom. She reminds me that I’m living my dream, living my life and not just going through it. This is going to be an adventure! She’s proud. Her words help but I’m still trembling, wide-eyed and waiting on the edge of my seat for my boarding group to be called.
The week leading up to this moment was a strange one. Time felt warped like I was mentally, with all of my might, trying to slow everything down, digging my heels into the soil of each passing second. But I can’t, of course, slow down time. So, it was an ethereal week of floating towards January 31st when I board the plane to Lima, Peru. The emotion of it all buried somewhere deep inside of me, occasionally poking its weighty head out to have me feel for a brief, honest second.
Being on a plane headed for Fort Lauderdale, the first leg of my two-part trip to Lima, helped to calm the nerves a bit. A little more America is quite alright with me. As the plane lifts off, the man next to me leans over to peer out the window at the blanket of snow, now far below us. “Not sorry to leave that behind,” he says, “Bring on the Florida beaches and sunshine.” For a second, I pretend I too am just going to Florida.
Landing in Fort Lauderdale, things really began to get real. I know where my gate is before I even have a chance to read the monitor. Weaving my way through the rows of seats, I hear the familiar sounds of Spanish and feel the familiar feeling of being in a world not my own. I’m in Fort Lauderdale but it sure feels like a Little Peru in this tiny corner of the airport.
The time has come. I board the plane after a final phone call with my Mom, always the voice I most want to hear in situations like this…even at 25 years old. I walk her through my itinerary once I land in Lima, my voice shaking almost as much as my hands are. Land at 10:30. Look for a sign with my name on it by the taxi stand. Arrive at my Airbnb close to the airport. Wake up the next morning for my flight to Cusco. “Talk to you next from Cusco.” Oh god.
Nerves have a funny way of coming out regardless of how good you think you are at burying them. While I want to chat with the friendly American who’s just sat down in my row, my head and my stomach have other plans. For the next 6 hours, I fight nausea and a pounding headache between waves of sleep and The Martian on endless repeat coming through my headphones en espanol.
Lima. Nice to see you again. The maze of hallways is so fresh in my memory. It feels like I was here yesterday, not last May. I feel calm. I feel ready. And so it begins. 🙂