I don’t remember when it started or why, but for years now I’ve been obsessed with Peru and Machu Picchu. It’s probably a combination of things – a general interest in history, a fascination with ancient civilizations whether it’s the Greeks or the Mayans or the Incas, and, according to one friend, an attraction to a place of strong energy fields and connections. Whatever the reasons, I’m thrilled to be finally turning this dream into a real-life experience after officially booking Machu Picchu.
With Machu Picchu booked, that concludes the planning element of my trip. In theory. It’s so hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all and plan every part of the journey. I read a blog post by Amanda Slavinsky where she talks about FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out – and that’s definitely part of it. The last thing you want is to come home from a trip only to hear about some once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ve just missed and will probably never get to enjoy, as who knows when, if ever, you’ll go back to that same place.
When I went to Central America last February, my friend and I had just two weeks to zoom across four countries, from our arrival in Guatemala City through to our return from San José in Costa Rica. I had been relaxed about the whole trip until the departure date grew closer and I suddenly realised that it might be helpful to map out the long distances we’d have to cover. The result was a table that spanned two pages full of different options of buses and stopovers and deadlines in order to see as much as possible and still make our return flight. My friend was grateful but understandably also frustrated after the first week of hostel hopping, 4am starts and 10-hour buses. The second week was a bit more relaxed – sometimes we had two whole nights in the same place. In any case, after two weeks we had gone from Lake Atitlán up to the Mayan ruins in the rainforests of Guatemala; travelled by lancha down the river from Río Dulce to the Garífuna port of Livingston; visited colonial Granada and cycled across Isla Ometepe in Nicaragua; gone horse-riding and lava hunting in La Fortuna; and seen quite a few other things besides. And I (barely) remember how tiring it all was.
This time round, I have three months and I’m determined to be more spontaneous. So I’ve booked my arrival in Quito, Ecuador, and my departure from Buenos Aires, Argentina; a week’s sailing in the Galápagos; and, now, Machu Picchu. And that’s it. I’m putting away my Lonely Planet, closing Word and Excel, and focusing my attention on other things. Like… planning all the gear I need to buy for my backpack! Ahem.