There are hearts and souls that traverse this Earth in search of transcendent and transformative experiences. It's a calling.
They are my tribe.
I have a connection with these daring souls that runs deep, perhaps over a multitude of lifetimes. There is an idea that this tribe is composed of dreamy, fairy-like people that throw caution to the wind and let fate carry them on gossamer wings, come what may.
In my travels, I have not met many of these types. The hard-core -- if you will -- world travelers that I've met take precautions. They constantly chop down the odds of negative events at every turn. World travel is not about a constant worry concerning possible dangers therein, but rather, a blissful attitude that is counterbalanced by good, common-sense measures.
Well before I moved to Cusco, Peru, I researched the safest location for a hostel. I was aware that Cusco is a very safe city, but nonetheless I like to frequent bars. I have always loved this 'church' of convivial congregation and storytelling. If you're walking around in an unfamiliar city late at night, with a few beers in you, it is wise to start things off by residing in a safe location. So, I made the trade. I chose to start of my journey in Peru by living in a room with 10 people for 15 U.S. dollars per night. That's very expensive for Peru. It may not be as convenient as having your own place, but it can be a wise trade if you don't know the law of the land. I used my highly-rated hostel as a home base while I searched for lodging close to the center of town. It can also be a great way to meet people -- some floating hearts -- that love to share their discoveries.
For example, it was in this hostel that I learned to be cautious in selecting a cab in La Paz, Bolivia. It is not like Cusco. What you end up learning about La Paz is that taking small buses is not only 20 times cheaper, it is safer. Statistically, nobody is kidnapping a busload of Bolivians. Not that kidnapping is a primary concern in Bolivia, but, again, it is not like Peru.
Rule #1: Understand, as best you can, the transport situation before you enter a new country.
Let's talk about Rule #2 which actually should be Rule #1: Try to form a network beforehand.
We all know that money is valuable. It can get you out of tight and unexpected situations. But you know what's more powerful than money?
People who care about you.
I received a message 3 days ago from my friend in Costa Rica. She wrote, "My very close friend is in Cusco right now, and something has happened that is troubling her. She could use a friend right now. Would you be willing to meet with her?"
Say yes to connections.
All the time.
You never know where they might lead. In my case, I am rarely thinking that I might get something out of it. But I always do.
I met my friend's friend in the center of Cusco, and we took a walk to let Charlie out and play. Charlie is dog I know and love in Cusco. While we were watching Charlie romp around the park, she told me her story and I realized that she was a person I could connect with. I liked her straight away. It came out during the conversation that she was moving to Bali in a month which filled me with surprise and glee. I'm thinking strongly about making a temporary move to Bali in August and she knew a lot about living there. Moreover, I enjoyed her company immensely and I could see us spending time together in Bali.
To further underline my point: uncover information about new countries from people who know what they are talking about. It is important to supplement guide books with information from people who have actually lived there, and not just for a week. There is a night and day difference between people who travel in a place for a week and people who take up residence in a foreign country. While this woman and I talked, she warned me not to rent a scooter in Bali without a license, as many travelers do. If you get pulled over by a policeman, and you're unlucky, you could find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Some of the policeman in Bali take this offense very seriously. But if you have the information beforehand, it's an easy altercation to avoid.
The very next day I received a text from my good friend Aarron in Australia. I did ayahuasca -- (the mysterious and often hallucinogenic jungle brew that originated in the Amazon jungle) -- with Aarron in Peru, and we bonded irrevocably through this experience. Aarron wrote me: "My dear loved one fell ill in Cusco and is in the hospital. It would mean a lot to me if you stopped by and said hello...see how she's doing."
Again, hell yes!
I love Aarron so much -- a fellow floating heart -- that I would have taken a bus across Peru to see his loved one if he'd asked me to. Such bonds can form very quickly among travelers. They can form in a fraction of the time that I formed friendships living in the United States.
I took a taxi to the hospital to see Aarron's relative. As I entered, I was surprised at the modern sophistication of the facility. Cusco has some very nice hospitals! A friend of mine had life-threatening surgery here for $1,000.00 U.S. dollars and solved a problem with her spine that had plagued her for 10 years. A top-notch surgeon saved her life. There are things about the U.S. that I hold in very high regard. It has some of the best medical care anywhere in the world. But you'd better have a lot of money or excellent health insurance or that will mean absolutely nothing to your predicament. Every single person I've ever met that has vehemently opposed ObamaCare has NEVER wondered if they'd be covered in the event of a medical emergency. Think about how unusual that is for most of the world. I'm not saying ObamaCare isn't flawed in some ways, just something to think about. And somebody with balls and brains had to get that train started. If you've never been sick and had to make a choice between your life savings or getting the medical attention you need, you may not be in the best position to judge such matters.
Anyway, I digress...
I entered this woman's hospital room -- a woman I had never met -- and had such a lovely conversation with her. She was recovering nicely, but had been gravely ill with pneumonia. While we talked, she asked me about my next destination and I told her it was Bali. She lit up like a Christmas tree at the thought of it. She'd been to Bali multiple times and had befriended a gregarious taxi driver who helped her navigate the foreign land. The driver became her good friend and gave her some great tips.
She proceeded to connect me with this person on Facebook. And just like that, not only did I meet a person whose company I enjoyed, but I suddenly obtained trustworthy transport in Bali. Again, transport is extremely important in foreign countries. Sometimes, you feel vulnerable in taxis. There doesn't seem to be cause for concern regarding taxis in Bali, but it's very comforting to have an ally in this arena whenever possible.
So now I had 2 extra people, within 3 days, that I could connect with in Bali. This is in addition to the two adventurous woman I had met in Machu Picchu, three years ago, that I will see when I get there. Things were starting to roll along quite nicely.
Rule #1: Get the lowdown on the transport. Once you are in a stranger's car in a strange land, you are in a vulnerable position.
Rule #2: Try to form a network beforehand.
Rule #3: Have a way to access your money besides your debit and credit cards.
I like PayPal as a backup. If you get into a pickle with your bank cards you can always PayPal someone in exchange for them withdrawing money for you. Also, you can sometimes find work as a writer and be paid that way. Another backup is having a Charles Schwab account. I really regret not doing this before I moved to Peru. You can save a ton of money in ATM fees having this card. I highly recommend it for long-term travel. I have spent hundreds of dollars taking my money out in Peru. It's so wasteful.
In conclusion, the people that I've met in Peru, have been the most wonderful, awe-inspiring surprise about the magic here. It always comes down to the people. No Machu Picchu, Eiffel Tower, or soft sand beach can ever match the people that compose this tribe. The floating hearts will restore your faith in humanity, should it ever be temporarily lost. If you ever get into the mindset that everyone is out for themselves, travel will dispel this notion quickly.
The digital nomads, the wanderlusters, the floating hearts...they are my tribe. They are my family.
And I am filled with gratitude to be one of them.