Peru taught me hope  

Hello everyone. It has DEFINITELY been a while this time, but I randomly felt inspired and decided to come and at least try to write something. I’ve been gone for quite some time and it feels difficult to write again because I genuinely feel very rusty and out of practice, but let’s hope that this all works out in the end and that it turns into something decent. I’ve tried to keep my distance from social media and a lot of the internet since January because everything started to seem and feel so toxic and negative. The fear I felt of the pandemic, the way people started treating each other and the unrealistic expectations that people had of each other. All of those things really started to repel me and I found peace in disconnecting from all of it.

Unfortunately, all of this indirectly killed my motivation to blog or be creative online. I disconnected from almost everything aside from the occasional Instagram and Youtube binge, so if you’ve reached out to me on any form of social media (even text) and I haven’t responded, that’s why. I’m not ignoring anyone, I’ve just been very disconnected. Anyway, now that that has been explained, let’s jump into today’s post.

Peru taught me hope? What could that possibly mean? Is this about to get really really cliché? Well, yes and no, but allow me to explain!

Being amongst mountains always made me feel good and showed me how vast and expansive earth truly is. Peru has a lot of them

The Black Hole 

My hometown is a great place. It’s also very safe and I recognize the privilege that goes along with living in a safe, secure place. I could find everything I needed there and that was the problem. My city had everything I ever needed, so I never really felt the need to move away. My city is very well connected to other cities, so I could and still can get around very easily if need be. The problem is that because my city always had everything I ever needed, I never really felt the need to move away or to try life somewhere else. Yes, I DID dream about travelling the world and seeing how other people live their lives and how other cities function, but I think that when I was honest with myself, I must have always believed that I would always end up returning home. This caused me to always judge myself, the things I wanted, my passions and possessions and even my concept of success based on the people around me no matter how hard I tried not to. 

Everyone has different passions, wants, needs and desires. Being different is a beautiful thing and I doubt EVERYONE in my city felt the same pressures to conform that I did, but I still felt pretty profoundly affected and this made me feel trapped. 

I thought that travelling would help with all of this, but deep down, I always knew that I’d end up back in my hometown, so the pressures followed me everywhere I went. This all changed in the summer of 2019.

The Breaking Point

2018 and 2019 were very difficult years for me. Probably the hardest years of my life if I’m being honest. I was either depressed or extremely anxious most the time. Most people who weren’t extremely close to me wouldn’t have noticed or known this because I never liked pity or special treatment and people always try to fix things and make things better when they find out that you’re going through a difficult time. I’ve always found that the harder people try to make me feel better, the worse I always end up feeling. The fact that somebody is trying to help constantly broadcasts to my mind that there is a problem and that makes it harder for me. That being said, despite the fact that I appreciated and was eternally grateful that people cared enough to try, I still decided to mostly stay quiet. It was easier for me and I also didn’t want to be a burden.

I’m a pretty introspective person, so I spent a lot of time asking myself the hard questions that I didn’t want to ask to try and understand where these negative feelings were coming from. Was it my job? Was it my relationship at the time? My city? Money? Something else? If you see yourself as an introspective person, then you’ll understand how uncomfortable these questions can be. Your instinct will try to stop you from visiting these parts of your mind in an effort to stop yourself from getting hurt despite the fact that the greatest growth and development that a human can experience in life come from walking through the darkness and coming out on the other side. An analogy that my fellow horror movie fans may understand is the place called “The Further” in the Insidious movie series. The main character has to fight through darkness and demons in The Further in order to save his son. If he never dared to venture into The Further, he never would have gotten his son back. Although I don’t believe there to be anything spiritual or supernatural about it, I view introspection in a similar way… well metaphorically speaking; You have to walk through darkness to see the light, no matter how uncomfortable that darkness may be.

That’s my opinion at least and as usual, you’re free to see things differently. 

Anyway, I digress.

I felt extremely trapped and it didn’t seem like things would get better because I believed that my city would always be my home. Why would things suddenly change if they had never changed up until that point? Some time during the summer of 2019, I decided to quietly accept that this is what life would be like. A constant state of feeling unfulfilled, different and unsuccessful while not knowing why I had these feelings or where they came from. I wondered if other people felt the same a lot during this time, but I didn’t even know how to formulate a question that would encapsulate exactly what I wanted to ask, so I continued to live in my state of quiet, cynical acceptance. 

Time passed and things eventually started to seem a little more positive and I started to feel a little bit better. I started to feel more like I was doing what I thought society wanted me to want and so on. Around this time, a friend of mine moved to British Columbia and found a job in a town that seemed very interesting and offered to put me in contact with management if I also wanted to work there. I was too scared to take such a risk, so I returned to my state of quiet, but now slightly less cynical acceptance, so I told her “I’d get back to her”… Famous words that I always uttered when I knew I wouldn’t do something, but didn’t want to just say no. 

Things went on as usual until everything quickly and abruptly changed. Shit happened and I hit my breaking point. I may go into what exactly happened in a future blog post, but the important thing is that I hit my breaking point. I remember having a really bad panic attack as things crescendoed and I felt defeated. It was in that moment that I realized that things would never change and that it would always be like this. This constant feeling of feeling trapped would be the rest of my life.

I hardly spoke for the following week. I’m normally a very talkative, outgoing person, so people noticed instantly and everyone tried to figure out what was wrong and how they could help, but I hardly uttered a word.

***I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who was there at this time. I know I wasn’t very vocal about what was going on and this post doesn’t even scratch the surface of what was going on, but thank you all for caring and reaching out. Although it may not have seemed like it, it honestly meant a lot***

The Shift

During these days of almost complete silence, I realized that I needed to make a change and a drastic one at that. This is when I decided to take my friend up on her offer and to move to British Columbia, to a random city for a new job and a new start. I’m blessed to have an amazing family and great friends who all supported me and accepted my decision. I realize how privileged I am to have both of those because I know a lot of people who don’t. 

The fear of another panic attack and reaching my breaking point FAR outweighed my fear of planes and the fear of moving to British Columbia, so the most logical choice was to just go. It was scarier to NOT go.

One of my best friends and I did one last walk around the downtown area of the city because we both honestly believed that it may be years before I returned. The last walk was refreshing. We walked to a lot of the places that we used to walked to as teenagers and took a few photos. As we walked, I started to second guess my decision. Did I really want to leave my family and friends behind? As we walked around, I saw 5-10 different people going in and out of bars and they seemed familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on where I knew these people from and their names escaped me. I quickly realized that I didn’t actually know these people, they were just the people that I’d seen every weekend that I’d been downtown… going to the exact same bars. What’s wrong with having a favourite bar? Nothing, but I’ve talked to many adults that express deep regret for not doing more “when they were my age” (as they put it) and I always really took those words of wisdom to heart. I’ve even read that this feeling can lead to subtle, subconscious resentment towards one’s kids because some parents view their kids as the reason they can’t live the lives they dreamed of.

Call me overdramatic if you want, but those thoughts. TERRIFIED me. It made my stomach knot. I realized that if I didn’t leave, that would be me and I didn’t like the feeling of knowing that my life would already be decided and that I’d have little power to change course if I stayed. 

***Let me take a quick second to say that I’m not trying to sound judgmental here. That is NEVER my goal on this blog. These people obviously seemed to enjoy going to the same bars every weekend. That’s great and I’m happy that they found something that they enjoy and that makes them happy. It’s not my place to judge other people’s lifestyles. If I’ve learned anything these past couple years, it’s that no lifestyle is better than any other lifestyle and that people should just do what makes them happy. That being said, these people seemed to be happy, so more power to them! That lifestyle just wasn’t for me, at least not at that point of my life. Who knows, though! People change***

Anyway, long story short, I moved, worked long hours at the job along with my other coworkers, learned a lot, grew a lot, was stressed a lot, questioned my decisions a lot. You know, the usual things that go along with big changes in life.

I’ve written a lot about my time in British Columbia, so I won’t bore you with the details here, but I do have a few other posts about my time there and what I learned.  

Views like this are why BC will always have a special place in my heart and journey

Eventually the work season came to an end and everyone started to move away for the winter season and I needed to figure out where to go and fast. I somehow decided on Peru and booked my ticket. 

The One-Way Ticket 

My ticket was a one-way ticket with an overnight layover in Toronto. I knew that would give me just enough time to land, catch a GO bus to my hometown and be back in Toronto to catch my flight the following day. So what did I do? I went home for a night and surprised my family. They were surprised because I told them that my layover would be in Texas. The surprise went great and I was on the way to Peru the following evening…. not knowing if I’d ever go back for more than a short visit. I had no plan and had LITERALLY no idea what the next day would bring or where I’d be the next week and that surprisingly made me feel so alive. For the first time in my life, I had seemingly taken control of my destiny. As I said, I’m nor religious nor do I believe in the supernatural, but this feeling was almost spiritual. It felt like I was being reborn into who I believed I should be.

Peru

Despite everything I just said, I DID still question if my decision to go to Peru was a good or bad idea, but I decided to just roll with the punches. I fed off the delicious uncertainty. I never knew what the following day had in store for me and that was extremely liberating.

I had entered Peru on a one way ticket. This meant that until my money ran out, I could theoretically stay in South America for ever and nooo, I wasn’t even close to rich by any means, but I did have enough to keep me going for a little while. This was the first time that I’d left Canada without the obligation to return within a specific amount of time. The work season had ended, I was single, my family and friends supported my decision, so there was really nothing holding me back. I had no immediate obligations in Canada. I was also planning on heading to Australia right afterwords to do a working holiday visa. 

Canada had become a distant afterthought. 

Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Things Started to Change

One of the many things that worked out in my favour was the location of Peru. A lot of travellers really need to go out of their way to get there and because of that, it seemed to be mainly “seasoned” and “committed” travellers that I met while down there. People who were planning to be away from home for months, years or even permanently. People on short vacations were definitely in the minority.

As a solo traveller, I knew that I’d either have to socialize and push my comfort zone or end up alone and this is how the magic happened. As I met more people and pushed my comfort zone, I started to feel at home. I was among people who had similar aspirations and dreams and it felt good and most importantly, it felt RIGHT

First meal in Cuzco with some fellow travellers

I looked back on my early twenties and remembered all of the times that I met people like this and the envy I felt because I knew that, as much as I wanted to travel long term like them, my financial situation would always force me to go back home. It was magical to be amongst like minded individuals and know that I was finally living the same lifestyle after YEARS of dreaming. I’ll never forget how I felt when the first person asked me “When I’d be going back to Canada” and I was able to respond by saying “I don’t know”. It felt like an out of body experience. I never thought those words would come out of MY mouth. I still get goosebumps when I think about that.

These experiences led me to a realization that has stuck with me to this very day.

My Surroundings Were A Big Part Of The Problem

It was my surroundings! I had FINALLY figured it all out! It was my surroundings! Up until this point, I had always known that I’d have to return to my hometown eventually. This is why I decided to try and force myself to become what I felt like my local society wanted me to become. Things hadn’t changed for my whole life up until that point, so there was no reason to believe that they’d change in the future. I’d most likely continue to struggle financially, feel depressed and anxious while watching myself slowly age. I’d end up going to the same bars, walking the same streets and my life would turn into a giant, repetitive routine. I know this will sound overdramatic again, but I remember having a nightmare where I woke up in my dream only to realize that 10 or more years had gone by and I had never left. I got up (Still in the dream) and made my way to the bathroom. I saw a crib in one of the rooms while on the way. Apparently I had also become a father. I woke up panting and in a cold sweat. It wasn’t fatherhood that scared me, but how fast time had flown by and how much I had taken it for granted.

I never thought things could be different because I never fully understood/believed that it would be possible for me to live any other way and South America changed that. 

I know that this is going to sound extremely cliché and cheesy, but I’m a firm believer that you can learn something from absolutely EVERYONE. I mean this when I say it; Everyone I met in South America contributed to my overall experience and I’m not exaggerating when I say that. Meeting like minded people, being able to temporarily finance my dream, hiking, exploring, living at hostels, and most importantly, learning that many of the things that made me feel trapped were isolated to my hometown. Escaping that and seeing that life can work another way taught me hope and it is a hope that has stuck with me since the end of 2019.

As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my earlier posts, I ended up running out of money and needed to go back to Canada in the end. It was a perfect coincidence because the Covid pandemic would start a few months after I’d gotten back home.

Wait so after all that build up and suspense, you still ended up right back where you started?! Come on, Man!

No, not quite. Yes, I was back in my hometown and yes, it burned when I looked up and saw “Panama City to Toronto” when I boarded the final flight back and knew I had no choice, but something was different this time. I was a changed man. I’d seen what was possible when I pushed myself and as of yet, there has been no going back. The hope seemed to incessantly burn inside of me and there seemed to be no way to put the fire out. 

I’m not really the biggest pet person out there, but I was sad to leave this dog behind in Panama City

I initially thought that this was only because I now knew how to live abroad and knew that if I ever felt trapped again, I could theoretically just leave and try and figure things out as I went along as I had done the first time.

My Faith Was Tested

My faith was put to the ultimate test when the lockdown began. I was in stubborn denial as I watched country after country close and realized that if I ever felt trapped again, I would literally and objectively be trapped. I eventually ended up depressed and anxious again… exactly like the year before…

I remembered a conversation I’d had with a man I’d met at work the year before. He seemed unusually happy and fulfilled. He just had an air to him that I hadn’t seen many times before, so I made small talk in the hopes of eventually bridging into deeper topics and finding out his story and what made him tick. I learned that he’d lived abroad for about 15 years and one of the places he’d lived in was Australia. I asked why he’d return to the city after being away for so long. His response sent shivers down my spine. “You can go anywhere you want in the world, but this city will always suck you Right. Back. In” . After throwing holy water at this man and rebuking the demon that had possessed him to utter those blasphemous words, I waited for the objects in the store to stop levitating, the lights to stop flickering and then casually finished our conversation as if nothing had happened. He was a really nice man and I really enjoyed the conversation. It was extremely eye opening and inspiring, but I silently made a promise to myself. I would prove this evil dem… I mean friendly man wrong. The city would NOT suck me back in. 

Back In Prison

I’d escaped and was right back to square one and I’m not talking about the shopping mall. The man’s words kept replaying in my mind “This city will always suck you Right. Back. In” 

 “Right. Back. In”

 “Right. Back. In”

 “Right. Back. In”

Right. Back. In”

Right. Back. In”

I had lost…I was wrong…

The metaphorical prison bars were slowly closing around me and I was resigned to my fate… when… I felt a warmth in my chest. Was it heart burn? I hadn’t eaten any spicy Cheetos in years(lactose intolerance sucks), so it couldn’t have been heart burn… I thought about it for a couple seconds. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling when it finally dawned on me… It was hope. I let the fire burn and it got warmer and warmer. I remember that a friend of mine had called me around this time to see how I was because I’d withdrawn from all forms of social media. I told him that yes, I did feel really depressed, anxious and down, but that I had this really strange feeling that things could and would get better, no matter how difficult the situation felt. 

*I hadn’t lost, I had won. *

I was back in my hometown and objectively trapped with no sign of escape in sight. The world was going to shit and being swallowed by a dreadful pandemic that was killing innocent people and ruining millions of lives. I think many of us can agree when I say that the global situation seemed bleak and almost objectively hopeless and uncertain. Despite all of that, I still felt that fire burning in my chest. Things were objectively bad and I felt bad. Everyone did, I’m not special, unique, or worthy of extra pity, but the fire continued to burn

I’d seen the grass on the other side. I didn’t even know there was more grass before. Deep down, I always thought I’d always be stuck with the same lawn.

Things were different and I was finally able to see that if things got hard, I could still have the power to choose what my next step might be

To be completely honest, it wasn’t necessarily Peru that blessed me like this. It was the experiences, people and memories. I ultimately could have still had the same experience if I had gone to Thailand or some other country, but Peru ended up being the perfect storm that I was lucky enough to get stuck in during my situation.

Years have past. It’s November 2021 (Maybe December by the time I post this) and the global situation still hasn’t gotten much better. During this time, I faced many trials and tribulations, as we all do. There were ups, downs, depression, anxiety, stress eating and many other things, but I still feel that fire burning. Two years have past and nothing has been able to permanently put it out and I hope to do everything in my power to keep it that way. 

If I met you during my time in Peru, thank you. I mean it when I say that everyone I met contributed to this life changing journey. 

You all contributed to my learning how to have lasting hope!

The moral of the story is that your situation may seem difficult at the moment, but things can often get better. Hope can be found in the most random of places!

So don’t give up or lose faith!

It doesn’t end there though. I would be tested again just over a year after returning from Peru and this time, I would be tested in a different way and learn a different lesson. The lesson would be Perseverance. As with learning how to hope, I couldn’t have learned this lesson alone… Enter the road to Minsk…. but next time!

This picture was taken at Humantay Lake, near Cuzco, Peru

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