Now that my summer trip abroad has come to an end, I thought I would compile a list of the top ten tips I would give to anyone living in/traveling to South America or Arequipa along with my top ten favorite places from Arequipa. Since I have had time now at home to think about my life in Peru, I thought I would add some of my reflections on how living in South America changed me for the better.
Pro Tip #1:
Drink water every second you can. Arequipa is about 7,000 ft. high and because of that it is so easy to get dehydrated. Drink water when you’re walking, sitting, sleeping, when you can’t drink anymore. Because being dehydrated here is no fun (take it from someone who was stupid and got dehydrated).
Favorite Place #1 – The Plaza de Armas
This might be a little cliché, but this historic city center is just magical. The towering cathedral and the surrounding buildings make the square feel like home. People are always sitting around and they are always wanting to talk to you about anything, which makes being alone not seem so lonely. There are so many travelers in the city center because many hostels are located near by. It is not out of the ordinary to hear Spanish, French, English, Dutch and other languages spoken all around you. There is a rooftop bar that overlooks the city and the cathedral and is the best place to catch the views of the sunset over the volcanos.
Pro Tip #2
If a bus is about to drive past you, do not breathe. This will result in inhaling only exhaust. Just practice holding your breath until the black smoke subsides.
Favorite Place #2 – Casa Hogar Torre Fuerte
Obviously, I am loving the work I am doing here in Peru. One of my favorite places in this whole city is the girls’ home. I love the feeling of being with the girls everyday and knowing them each personally.
The view from the girls’ home is pretty spectacular too. And this is my JOB! A million heart eyes. I highly recommend traveling with the sole purpose of cultural immersion (and volunteering can be a great way to do this). It really shows you a side to a city and culture that most people do not get to see. I think that my time here in Arequipa has been authentic, and part of that is because I get to spend everyday with the girls at Casa Hogar.
Pro Tip #3
Riding the combi (bus) is no easy feat. Always snag a window seat when you can. Bring headphones and fall asleep, it makes the time pass like a charm. Also… always bring/buy a snack for the ride home. Being hangry and riding a combi is the worst combo.
Favorite Place #3 – Chaqchao/Las Gringas
Chaqchao is your typical hipster/tourist coffee bar complete with lattes in mason jars, obscure beers, homemade chocolate and artisan pizza. Every piece of furniture is made from pallets and you can find people from all over the world. I like it because it’s a great place to go and drink coffee and work, but also not feel so lonely. The hot chocolate is to die for and the best thing to drink on a cold night.
Chaqchao turns into the trendy Las Gringas pizza place after 5 pm and its fun to hang out with friends, eat pizza, and have a drink. You’ll always meet people there too, it’s a hot tourist spot just a couple blocks from the Plaza de Armas.
Pro Tip #4
Before journeying to South America, make sure you can speak some basic Spanish. In Arequipa, almost no one speaks English so it is important to be able to communicate a little to get by! Rosetta Stone and Mango Languages are your friends!
Favorite Place #4 – El Super
You might be asking yourself, why is a super market one of Katie’s favorite places in Arequipa? I have two words… Soft. Serve. The ice cream in El Super is some of the best ice cream in Peru (and I would argue in the world). Its only 2 soles (which is about 60 US cents). It’s the perfect thing on a hot sunny day (don’t forget it is winter here, and yes, it is hot).
Pro Tip #5
Peru is not famous for its impeccable public restroom facilities. That being said, always pee when you have the chance. Because you may end up having to go so bad that you have to pee on the side of the road (I speak from experience). Also, toilet paper is a luxury here that many places do not provide so always have some handy (I like to take extra from any place that has it).
Favorite Place #5 – Real Plaza
I am nor proud of the fact that one of my favorite places here in Arequipa is a mall… it brands me as an American. But, this has been one of the places I have hung out with friends while here in Arequipa. They have H&M, Adidas, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and a food court. It has been fun to spend time there with friends on days when there isn’t much else to do.
Pro Tip #6
If you are white and blonde like me, you will stick out in Arequipa. Arequipa is not a huge tourist site, but rather more of a passing through city for travelers going from Lake Titicaca to Cusco. Most of the tourism is centered within a block or two of the city center. Because of this, anywhere you go that is not in that range will be mostly Peruvian people, and you will be a spectacle. Even though it sucks to be stared at (and catcalled by men your dad’s age…ew) just remember to keep on doing what you’re doing and don’t pay much attention to it.
Favorite Place #6 – One Fitness
I was really worried that when I came to Peru I would not have the opportunity to exercise like I do back in the States. Working out for me is really relaxing and helps me work through stress. Finding One Fitness was like a dream come true. I have been able to keep up with lifting weights and cardio because this gym is comparable to any American gym, but it’s way cheaper!
Pro Tip #7
If you are going anywhere for an extended period of time (not just South America), learn some basic recipes that don’t require much time or ingredients. This will be a life saver to you. I have practically been living on veggie stir fry, rice, eggs and tuna because that is all I know how to make (and raw meat grosses me out). But having some easy and delicious recipes in your back pocket will be a dream come true when you can’t eat out every day.
Favorite Place #7 – Honey House
This little hostel I’ve been living in for the past 7 weeks has started to feel like home to me. I love that all of the volunteers who are with Volunteers Peru stay here; it gives the hostel a fun and social aspect. Plus, the view from the roof is amazing. It’s a great little spot to sit and just enjoy the view of the volcanos.
Pro tip #8
Do everything you can. I know that this might seem tiring, to always be on the go. But your time when you travel is short and will go by quicker than you expect. Don’t get to the end of your trip and be remorseful that you didn’t get to do something you wanted to. Get to the end of your trip and be exhausted because you did everything you wanted and more.
Favorite Place #8 – Cassona Forum
One of my favorite parts of South America is the salsa dancing. I have always loved salsa dancing (even though I’m not that good). Cassona Forum, or just Forum, is a popular dance club that has a lot of salsa dancing. It is really fun because many of the people there are really good at salsa, which makes it a great place to learn and practice my salsa moves.
Pro Tip #9
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Traveling to Peru was definitely a step out of my comfort zone, but I could not be more thankful for the lessons I have learned because of my time here. Stepping out of your comfort zone is freeing, it helps you know that you can do anything you set your mind to. And will help you be more confident in yourself in the future. You might just surprise yourself.
Favorite Place #9 – Rooftop Bar
I have a thing for sunsets. Dusk has always been my favorite time of day and so the sunset is the best part of the day. In the Plaza de Armas, there is a cool rooftop bar that overlooks the plaza and most of the city of Arequipa. The first time I watched the sunset from this bar, I was awestruck. It instantly became one of my favorite places to go after a long day with friends for a glass of wine and a beautiful sunset.
Pro Tip #10
My last pro tip is to just enjoy every moment of your trip while you are still there. Don’t spend time in your room doing nothing when you could be out exploring, eating new foods, and meeting new people. All trips eventually come to an end, and you’ll want to make sure you did everything to make it the best experience of your life before you have to leave.
Favorite Place #10 – Mercado de San Camillo
My last favorite place, but certainly not least, is the Mercado de San Camillo. This is what would would think when you picture a South American market. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies, raw meats, and other things to buy. The best parts of the market are the fresh juice stands. A huge glass of fresh juice is only about $3, which is a steal if you ask me. My favorite juice was the chirimoya (a Peruvian fruit) with orange juice. It was the best thing to drink on a hot day to cool off and get some good fruit.
As I’m sure you can tell, Peru was a life changing experience. I knew that it would be, because traveling across the world by yourself isn’t easy. But I think I am grateful for this experience because I have grown up more, I understand myself more and I understand what is important in life and what is not. I appreciate the people in my life more, because 7 weeks is a long time to be away from friends and family. But most of all I feel really lucky to have been able to understand more about what it is I would like to do in life. Up until this point, I have been considering a career in law and now after this summer abroad I feel even more driven and more passionate about going to law school to pursue human rights and social justice. I have seen what a life is like when you have no one fighting for you and I want to be a person that fights for people, that gives people a voice, and that stands up for what is right.
So… thank you, Hanover, for helping me find this internship and helping me count it towards BSP. Thank you American Airlines for getting me there. Thank you Volunteers Peru for connecting me with some of the most amazing volunteers and girls I have ever met. And lastly, thank you to my family and friends for supporting me and believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.