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.

Nope.

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?

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to OAT



Created by Webfish.

Need Advice on Living Abroad?

Thinking of teaching English in Japan? Volunteering in Thailand? Backpacking around New Zealand? If you're looking for some insider tips on the places to go and the people to meet, check out my consulting services. If you just have a few questions, no worries: email me.