Exploring Lima, Peru

street-art-lima-peru

While in Lima, we stayed in the Miraflores district.  It’s a listed as a touristy place to stay that is well maintained with lots of security guards and police around.  This part of town is also one of the cleaner areas you’ll visit in South America.  The interesting part is that I felt this city was more authentic than other places in Peru that we’ve traveled.  We were often the only tourists around [that we saw], but the signs and menus in English suggested otherwise.  In other areas of Peru there are busloads of tourists swarming a tiny area, but not here.  In Lima it was great to see the local population as they enjoyed the parks, surfing, and general living.

Tourists are often advised to skip Lima on their way to Cusco and Machu Picchu, but I wish we would have stayed more than a week in Lima.  Heck, even the taxi driver taking us to our hotel in Lima told us in his limited English that 6 days was too long.

We did manage to do some fun things and not work all the time:

  • Tried a new restaurant every lunch/dinner
  • Bike Tour
  • Bus Tour
  • Enjoyed both the Kennedy Park and Coastal Parks
  • Walked around and explored

Kennedy Park is a cute little park by our hotel in Miraflores where a lot of locals come to hang out.  It’s kind of a central entry point into the trendy district where someone can sit down and relax.  The weird part about the park: cats.  Cats everywhere.  They are wild cats and live in the park.  People pet them and hold them.  They seem to be in OK shape for wild cats, which isn’t always the case.  There are a lot of stray animals in Peru, and some of them look pretty beaten up.  These cats look they are doing just fine.

The other weird thing is the cat shrine: there’s a church near Kennedy park that has a small shrine to the Virgin Mary that is fence-enclosed.  When the cats have had enough human interaction, they escape into this tiny kitten zoo.  At any time, there are 10+ cats hanging out with Mary.  Bike/Running tours are great things to do on vacation as they take you around the city where you get to learn a lot of the history.  They trump a bus tour because you get personal time with a local, and it’s here where you learn the best stuff.  For example…  These iron blue poles are everywhere in Chorillos, another district of Lima.  Our guide tells us that they were placed there by a previous mayor of Barrano in an effort to brighten up the city.  He also tells us there’s more iron in these poles than in the Eiffel Tower, and it’s not hard to believe that if you see how many of these darn things there are in the neighborhood.  There’s one problem: the mayor who had these put in also owned the company which sold the materials.  It’s disappointing to hear about that kind of corruption, because Chorillos is a mostly cute neighborhood which could have used actual help instead of this visual white noise.  Here’s why I say it’s a “mostly” cute neighborhood: this is our guide for the bike tour, and he’s holding a can of mace.  Finger on the trigger and everything.  Later when I ask him about it, he remarks that it’s mostly for dogs and that he’s never had to use it on people.  But that the area has a lot of poverty and crime recently as the mayor, currently on his 5th term, caters to impoverished people to stay in office.  As our guide put it: it’s easier to please someone who has almost nothing, rather than try to compete with Miraflores, but now you have a lot of people in one area who are all fighting just to survive.

propane tanks on a bike

What’s more dangerous than a motorcycle?  A motorcycle with three propane tanks strapped onto it.  Gas doesn’t flow to each persons’ home via underground pipe: instead they buy a standard tank and hook it up to their home.  Run out?  Guys like these deliver them right to your front door.

Inca Cola is a popular soft drink in Peru that I see absolutely no one drinking, ever.  Fun fact that you probably already know: it wasn’t the official drink of the Inca.  That went to chicha, a semi-sweet drink made from purple corn (morada) that could be alcoholic or not.  Anyway, I had to get one just to try it.  Inca Cola tastes like melting candy on a sidewalk strong cream soda.  I couldn’t finish it.

street-art-lima
Street art is common in Lima. Some of it is more professional than others, but there are many areas brightened by murals on the sides of walls and buildings.

I typically say “Hello” to Peruvians when I first interact with them.  I’m not trying to be a douche that’s too good for their language, but my Spanish is beyond awful despite 5 years of study.  Even though I wanted to learn another language, my classmates in high school and college were terrible.  Every class I took we basically started from scratch even though it was “Spanish 4”.  No teacher wants to fail the entire class, so they re-taught Spanish 1 every single year.  Anyway, it turns out that the quickest way to tell a Spanish speaker that I don’t know the language is to actually try and speak Spanish.  It’s quite a blow to the old ego.  As noted before, Lima earns the nickname “the grey” by having constant cloud cover.  Being from Minnesota and a nerd to boot, I showed them just how fragile I am: I got sunburned through the clouds.

lima_character
Outside of Miraflores, the sidestreets of Lima have their own special character to them. Most of the streets have seen better days, but there’s a quiet dignity and beauty to them that we enjoyed.

First stop, First Impressions: Lima, Peru

miraflores

We finally arrived at our first destination: Lima, Peru!  This city has the nickname “la gris”, or “the grey” because of the constant fog conditions over the city.  It never really rains here, despite being overcast.  While the skyline can look pretty sad and depressing since it’s like this all the time, the cityscape is much more vibrant.

It gets prettier, I promise!  Upon arrival, we saw paragliders in the distance.  Paragliders are like hang gliders, except with a little seat that sits underneath the parachute.  There are no motors pushing it, they rely on the wind and warm air currents coming up off of the cliff.

paraglider-grey

This is mildly upsetting to me to see these basically flying over the city buildings, and here’s why: Below is a DJI Phantom 2.  It’s a “quadcopter” equipped with a GoPro.  Basically it’s a remote-controlled toy.  This device can fly a mile in any direction and take great aerial shots.  It can travel 50 mph and is completely amazing.  What I’m trying to say is that I would have literally murdered someone for this thing as a child.

dji-phantom-2-with-gopro

Here is my specially purchased bag for carrying my Phantom 2:

empty-drone-backpack
Sigh…

Yep, my copter got confiscated by Peru customs.  I researched beforehand on countries that would allow them, and Peru was promised to be one of the most progressive countries in this regard.  There are videos of copters flying over Macchu Picchu and everything, so I was sure I was safe. Going through customs there were three guys barely paying attention to the X-ray screen for luggage.  They were mostly joking around in Spanish when I heard a word I know and hate: “DRONE!”.  Turns out that there was a law passed banning “drones” (I hate this term as people associate this RC toy with a military device that fires missiles) back in August.  Obviously the government’s website wasn’t updated and so I walked right into this.  They say that I’ll get it back when I leave the country, but I’m thinking of just sending it home if and when I do get it back.  If the so-called “drone friendly” country confiscates it immediately, where else could I even take it?  To add insult to injury, there was even an article on the plane ride into Lima on “dronies” becoming common – selfies taken with drones.

miraflores
Looking down from the cliffs onto the beach, this cement soccer court has the city name on it.

 

We stayed in Miraflores.  This is the tourist district of Lima, and it’s very noticeably so.  There are cops literally on every street corner to encourage safety, and it’s not surprising that this is where most tourists choose to stay.  It’s an upscale district with a lot of trendy shops and food options.  And trendy pricing to go along with it.  But as we discovered, walking a few blocks outside of the trendy spots we were able to encounter more local flair.  And no English, which seems to be a recurring theme outside of the United States.  So we rely on the universal language of pointing at stuff we want, like any toddler.  It’s easy to see how the locals might think all tourists are dumb.

Everything is just harder when you’re on the road.  We have to wander around for nearly everything.  Lunch has gone from a 15 minute break to a several hour ordeal where we stumble around and try to find somewhere that sells simple sandwiches.  Sure we could visit the Subway or McDonalds that we saw, but where’s the fun in that?  Instead we at least visited the “Bembos”, which is a fast food chain local to Peru.  Though when I ate McDonald’s in Tahiti, it was completely different: deli style cold sandwiches and no french fries anywhere.

work-time-in-hotel

Here is Alicia holding a conference call from our hotel room slash new office.  Working on the road is now a big part of our life, typically taking up all Sunday through Tuesday – 14+ hours working those days.  Right now I’m typing this from the best American WiFi export product that sometimes sells coffee, Starbucks.

Leaving the country for a year!

leaving-msp-airport

The day finally came!  We got on that plane, and are currently writing from our first stop: Lima, Peru.  We will be traveling for an entire year and writing about the experience.  The goal is to show fun and unique experiences from around the world.

Leaving MSP airport

Here we are in Lima, Peru!  Obviously a trip can’t occur without a few hiccups, like getting stranded in Dallas and Miami due to a storm taking down the power to 140K in the Dallas area.

The terrifying thought that came to me while we were stranded: we’re basically homeless.  As we’re waiting in line after line trying to re-route our flights, it was apparent that we didn’t really have anywhere to “be”.  Welcome to life with your home on your back!

breakfast-menu
The airport is now our home, and the breakfast menu looks great!

It took a surprising amount of work to get here.  We had to sell or donate a lot of items including our car, rent our home, and pack the rest into a pod.

We spent months dealing with the “wonderful” people from Craigslist:

  • A lady fell into the water while trying to board our boat for a test drive.  No, they didn’t buy the boat.  Yes, we took an awkward test drive while she was soaking wet.
  • “Forgetting” to bring the full amount of money doesn’t work, people.  There’s an ATM right up the street.
  • No I will not drive to a terrible neighborhood at night to deliver something.  I got this request no less than a dozen times.
  • People wanting to rent our house who A) don’t have a boat, B) work 40+ minutes away, C) don’t like the location, and D) don’t like the outdoors.   Sometimes I wanted to ask: “Why are you even looking at this house”?

In short, we will not miss Craigslist.  We left our home on the lake and comfortable lives so we could find tired happiness in a tiny hotel room thousands of miles from home.  We want to show what life on the road is like as well as life in new and strange places.  We hope you’ll join us!

Obligatory selfie of us looking tired after 30 hours of travel
Obligatory selfie of us looking tired after 30 hours of travel

Packing List

alicia-packing-before

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What would you take with you when planning a year-long trip?  Here is our packing list.  We looked at other travelers to get ideas of what to take beforehand, and we had one very clear goal: to not check any baggage on airlines.  This would keep the amount we had to carry very low.  That becomes important as other countries don’t have the space or facilities to lug around huge suitcases.  Hotel rooms are typically tiny, and hauling a big roller bag through big cities is exhausting.

alicia-packing-before

The above picture is what Alicia was considering on taking.  Everything must fit in that little red backpack!

The backpacks have to measure 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or smaller (under 45 linear inches) and hold less than 40 pounds.  If you travel a lot, you’ll notice that’s significantly under the 62 linear inches and 50 pound limit that most US airlines require.  International airlines have a smaller size bag that we need to allow for.  Plus, the bag can’t be over-full since it will break those requirements.  After a few long nights and a lot of hard decisions, here’s the finished product!  Our lives are now stored in backpacks.  What’s in these packs?  Here’s everything in our packing list in regards to clothes.  Each of us has packed roughly this in our pack.  We mostly plan on warm weather environments.

  1. 3 pairs of pants – 2 jeans, 1 lightweight hiking
  2. 6 shirts – 1 dress shirt, 4 T-shirts, 1 hoodie
  3. 6 pairs of underwear
  4. 2 pair shorts – workout and swim
  5. 6 pairs socks
  6. running shoes
  7. sandals
  8. pull-over
  9. windbreaker

Specialty items include:

  1. toiletries
  2. laptops
  3. Kindle paperwhite
  4. UV water purifier
  5. duct tape
  6. Ibuprofen
  7. sunscreen
  8. GoPro
  9. power adapters/chargers
  10. sunglasses
  11. A separate, specialty backpack to hold John’s DJI Phantom 2 with recording equipment

That’s it!  We were able to get all of our lives into carry-on backpacks![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

About Alicia and John

Alicia & John - Great Barrier Reef - GoPro underwater Selfie

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]John and Alicia met the summer of 2006 in Minnesota and got married November 2009 in Aruba.  We discovered early on that we’re good travel companions and enjoy trying new things together. Trips to Las Vegas soon became trips to the Caribbean, which lead into crossing both oceans, and in Oct 2014 a year-long trip around the world! Following our RTW trip we sold our home and have continued traveling.

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[rev_slider AboutUs]

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Places we’ve visited:  Thailand, Bora Bora, Coasta Rica, Mexico, Jamaica, Aruba, Spain, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), New Zealand, Australia, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey, France, Croatia, Germany, Austria, and multiple destinations within the US.

A few of our favorite activities:  trying new recipes, running, hiking, boating, canoe/kayaking, bonfires, taking cooking classes, scuba diving, snorkeling, wine tastings, beer tastings, reading, exploring new cities, reading, learning[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][td_block_text_with_title custom_title=”John”]John Kayaking in Bora

John was born and raised in Minnesota.  I continue to break my mothers’ heart by not having grandchildren.  My father died while I was young, and I was what you call an “oops” baby.  Since my father didn’t get to grow old and my mother had me in college, I guess I’m trying to have the pre-child fun my parents missed out on.

The traveling bug came about by accident.  I never had thought much about travel or decided it was something I enjoyed.  When I was playing poker professionally, Alicia and I would travel down to Las Vegas from time to time.  She’d go shopping or to the spa and I’d pay for the trip by sitting at the poker tables for a few hours a day.  Every time we came back, we’d stay at a new hotel and do new things while there.  Later I’d run a marathon in Disney world that we turned into a trip together.  Everything grew from there.

The office life isn’t for me.  I left a comfortable career in exchange for terrifying freedom.  While being self-employed is filled with challenges, it’s also very rewarding in the opportunities it provides.  I’ve made it a life goal never to go back to office jobs.  So far, so good![/td_block_text_with_title][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][td_block_text_with_title custom_title=”Alicia”]Completos from Sibaritico in Vina Del MarI spent my childhood in Southern California, moved to Minnesota as a teenager, and then much to everyone’s surprise went to college on the east coast. It was assumed I’d go somewhere warm as the cold Minnesota winters never really grew on me. Each year John and I tried to take a warm beach vacation during the winter. Then we followed summer on our round the world trip. No snow or shoveling for a year!

The leap to being a digital nomad was “easy” in that I have over 7 years of digital marketing experience (search engine marketing, social media, display and affiliate marketing). Instead of doing online marketing for other companies, why not do it for myself? My family is very entrepreneurial, and I’m upholding the family tradition by going off to travel and working freelance.

I’m most excited to experience food and wine around the world, to learn about the places we’re visiting and more about myself. Learning how to live with only 3 pairs of shoes and one nail polish color (pink, of course) will be challenging.[/td_block_text_with_title][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Travel Gear

dji-phantom-2-with-gopro

Here’s the stuff we’ve used to make our travels go smoothly.  Because we travel as light as possible, the things we do carry have to be exceptional.  These are those things.

Icebreaker clothing: These are made of Merino wool.  Why is this important?  Because they need to be washed less often and don’t smell!  John’s underwear and T-shirts are all Icebreaker, and it’s been fantastic.  Usually his shirts would smell after one day, and this would be a problem in most countries where water is a scarce resource (and dryers are non-existent).

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpacks: The rest of the world isn’t very accommodating towards huge suitcases.  Pull-behind suitcases are incredibly impractical in other countries.  Planes are downsizing their carry-on requirements (international requirements are smaller than US domestic), and international hotels don’t have any space.  Having a bag that allows you to carry-on rather than check (saving money!) as well as being easy to pack is important.  We tried out these Osprey bags and haven’t looked back.  They have several pouches to separate things like laptops and toiletries, and conform to international standards of carry-on luggage. Alicia is traveling with the small/medium in charcoal and John the medium/large in mud red.

GoPro Hero 3 Silver: Most of the pictures you see on this blog are taken by the GoPro Hero 3 Silver edition camera.  Fantastic for taking scenery shots with the wide angle lens.  Extraordinary for taking action video while underwater(!) or sliding down sand dunes on boogie boards.  Extremely resilient, versatile, and small, it can serve as your primary camera.  Poor in very low light conditions, but this is a relatively small example.  For example, in caves it won’t even register a photo while our iPhone 5S’s could capture some clear shots.

Mia 2 Clarisonic Face Cleanser: Traveling with creams and soaps is hard with the liquid restrictions.  Alicia swears by this device to keep her face clean and clear for all the travel selfies.

Travel Power Adapters: I don’t know why every country has to have its’ own plug-ins, but they do.  This has worked in all the countries we’ve come across, for less than $10!

Kindle Paperwhite: We’ve grown attached to our little “paperweight”, as we call it, for the very simple reason that it keeps its’ battery life forever and it’s easy to reach on the beach.  Phones and Kindle Fires are very hard to read in bright sun and often suffer from low battery.  It’s truly a “first world problem”: we spend so much time in the sun that we need a special e-reader!

DJI Phantom 2: This quadcopter is known as  “drone”.  It’s tremendous fun to fly and will go a mile in any direction while it sends live video back to you on its’ location.  The problem is that some countries don’t really appreciate them.  I got my quad confiscated in Peru, and while they did give it back to me I shipped it home before taking it to another country.  I highly recommend the DJI Phantom 2 for its’ ability, but you shouldn’t travel with one.

Books

People often ask us: “What do you do?”.  Here are some the books that helped us break free from the 9-5 and tour the world while working only 1-2 days per week.  YES it’s possible, because we did it.  And so can you.

4-Hour Work Week: Tim Ferris explains how we conform to society even though we could have so much more.  Filled with practical advice about how to achieve your dreams and travel the world while making money.  I cannot, cannot, cannot recommend this book enough.  A month after Alicia quit her job, she was earning more while working far less.

4-Hour Body: Tim Ferris is a leader in “lifestyle design”, which is how to create the life you want.  We stay fit on our trip and even lose weight thanks to the advice in this book.

Choose Yourself: Similar to the 4 Hour Work Week, James Altucher preaches building the life you want rather than live the life you think you have to live.  While James does stray into odd territory at times, he’s very convincing to get you moving towards your own goals.