My Most Intense Travel Experiences #3

February 12, 2018

Bedridden in Arequipa for weeks

For the most part, I’ve been very fortunate in my travels and my life in regards to health. I have no conditions that require medication, and other than being run over by a car in Austin and shattering my wrist in Japan, I’ve avoided serious incapacitating injuries. Peru ended that streak.

I went to South America more or less on a whim. The month prior I had walked away from a recruiting job for a volunteer organization because they asked me to interrupt university classes and belt out the same speech… whenever possible, I steer clear of repetitive work, but this took it to a whole new level. There have been few times in my life when I felt completely adrift, but being dropped off at the Charlotte airport without a flight, a place to stay, or a plan certainly put things in perspective.

Fortunately, I had made contact with a private language school in Arequipa months before as a backup option. I wasn’t really looking to work in ESL again, but the city looked nice, the school legitimate, and the boss good at answering any questions I had. I booked a flight to Lima and planned to stay there two nights using my SPG points on the Sheraton before catching a local airline to Arequipa.

After 24 hours in Peru, I felt deathly ill. Montezuma’s Revenge was coming in full force even though I hadn’t eaten any street food or drunk the tap water. The fancy hotel room was the only saving grace – whereas I might have explored the city if I had been healthy, now I was benefiting from the king size bed and TV. Still, this was nothing unusual; I had certainly had my share of bad days in Thailand, one involving ditching some underwear after a particularly disastrous run in Nakhon si Thammarat… but that’s a disgusting story for another time.

Jamming Immodium down my throat before my local flight to Arequipa was the only reason I survived. I assumed I could just settle into Peru, take a few days off, and start work refreshed and unencumbered with running to the bathroom every five minutes.


A few factors worked against me. For one, the high altitude made it very difficult to run more than two miles at a time, though at least I couldn’t feel it when I walked… others had. Secondly, I never fully recovered from those first days. I tried to get into the classroom, but it was physically impossible – I barely had the strength or the bowel control to even make it next door for chicken and rice. One week tolerable, the next week bedridden. That’s how I binge watched all five seasons of Breaking Bad.

In the end, after two months in the country and no end in sight, I just gave up. There were other factors motivating me to leave – low salary, no friends – but none more so than my health. I hadn’t had a decent workout the entirety of my stay in Peru, and had eaten so little it was noticeable in my frame. I didn’t realize how significant the weight and muscle loss was until I was back in my parents’ bathroom and saw I was 20 pounds lighter.

Still, I’ll have to go back to see Macchu Picchu at some point and pick up a new baby alpaca sweater. Maybe when I’m in the mood for a very unpleasant diet?

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