Leaving Peru, Arriving In The U.S., A Sad Goodbye, And An Unexpected Hello!
Well, the time has finally come to move on. It’s hard to imagine I arrived in San Luis Potosi, Mexico exactly 9 months ago.
I had traveled quite a bit before starting The Happy Nomad Tour, but never in Latin America. And what an experience it has been.
Leaving Peru was like waking up from a dream. I wouldn’t say that traveling in Latin America had become a routine, but I had hit my stride and was comfortable for sure.
Meeting An IE Alumnus At The Last Minute
The day before I left Peru, a fellow IE Business School alumnus wrote me to ask if I was still in Peru. He had gotten in touch a while back and I completely forgot.
We met up in the center of Miraflores on my final day, hours before my flight, and had a great conversation.
He is a Peruvian-Chilean entrepreneur who has already started one company and is working on another. His day job is importing exotic fish from Chile to sell to the restaurants in Lima. You can see that company here. But his labor of love is a new social enterprise he’s starting up. He’ll create 100% natural cosmetics and will procure essential oils from a company in Cusco that funnels its profits into helping children get off the streets.
Last Combi Ride
Combis are a common form of transportation in Peru. They are shared bus taxis that have a particular route. There’s a whole culture associated with them, in reality.
There is a driver who does nothing but drive. In Peru, driving consumes 110% of your concentration since there is always chaos and bad driving going on. Then there is the guy who collects the money from the passengers. He also promotes the combi from the doorstep. Every time the combi stops, he gets out and yells where it’s going.
I found the yelling annoying and ridiculous, but later I realized why they do it. How else are you going to know where the combi goes? Sure, it’s printed on the side of the combi and on the front it says the starting and end points above the windshield, but the announcements really to help you figure out if that’s the combi you need.
Right before catching the combi I stopped at Starbucks. My mom collects Starbucks mugs from all over the world. I got one for her and couldn’t resist a frappuccino while I was inside. In Peru they have a special frappuccino with algarrobina, a special fruit grown in the north of the country with a distinctive taste.
The cost of my frappuccino would buy me about 13 rides in a combi. Yes, combis are very cheap and uncomfortable and everything in Starbucks is crazy expensive everywhere in the world. People who can afford something at Starbucks generally don’t use combis in Peru. I am happy to be an exception 🙂
Below, the video of my last combi ride.
Detour On The Way To The Airport
I had already bought 20 Peruvian chullos as gifts, but when I started thinking about all the people in my family and the ones I wanted to give out as gifts, 20 didn’t seem like all that many. So we made a small detour on the way to the airport to buy 10 more.
The taxi charged a bit more, but in the end, buying one chullo at the airport cost what it cost me to buy 10 chullos at the artisan market. Definitely a good move. And my family definitely appreciated the gesture once I got home!
Saying Goodbye To Caroline At Lima Airport
Saying goodbye to Caroline was obviously the hardest part of leaving. Not much else to say about that. Hopefully we’ll see each other again very soon.
In Peru, a common farewell is to say “chaufa.” In Spanish most people say “chau” but in Peruvian Chifas, the Peruvian-influenced Chinese restaurants, there is a dish called “chaufa.” It’s fried rice and you can get common dishes like chaufa con pollo – chicken fried rice.
Caroline and I often say chaufa to say goodbye to each other. It was only fitting that we eat chaufa in the airport for dinner as we really did have to say goodbye.
Landing In Cleveland
Getting to Cleveland was a bit stressful. The flight was late leaving Peru and I had a two-hour layover in Newark to catch my flight to Cleveland. The flight was supposed to be an hour late, but it was more like 1.5 to 2 hours late.
- We arrived in Newark and I had about 30 minutes to catch my flight to Cleveland.
- I was very lucky that there was no line at immigration. I got my bag relatively quickly in the customs area.
- The customs policeman was on the phone and waved me through.
- This was a miracle as the customs form asks where you’ve been since you were last in the U.S. I listed the countries, which a rap sheet of drug exporting/transporting countries.
- I had to go through security again, for no reason since I never left the secure area of the airport, and everyone I asked in line allowed me to pass as my flight was to depart in ten minutes. One guy asked whey I didn’t get to the airport a few minutes earlier. My reply “Because the pilot on my flight from Peru wouldn’t fly any faster” was sufficient.
- I got through security and at the gate I found out the flight was ten minutes late. So I made it with a few minutes to spare.
- If I had missed this flight, I would have missed three interviews in the afternoon for Wigs For Kids. I’m very thankful it all worked out!
Landing in Cleveland was bittersweet. I was back “at home” as it’s the city I grew up in, but my parents had moved to North Carolina the month prior. Still, there were a ton of events lined up to help promote Wigs For Kids.
Below is a video of my arrival at home.
The best thing about arriving in Cleveland was my uncle, unexpectedly, standing at the gate waiting for me! I didn’t expect this because only ticketed passengers are normally allowed in the passenger area, but he flies all the time and has achieved Gold status with a frequent flier program. It allows him access to the lounge even if he’s not flying, though he has to go through security, obviously.
I will spend six days in Cleveland, staying with an uncle and visiting as many friends and family as my crazy schedule will allow. I’ll also meet a representative from a business school in Cleveland. Hopefully I’ll get on their radar as a speaker.
And, I’m thrilled to be doing so many events for Wigs For Kids!
From Cleveland I’ll head to Raleigh, North Carolina to be with my parents and brother. Then I’ll head to Washington D.C. to visit my dad’s side of the family. From Washington D.C. I’ll head to Singapore since I found a free flight using my miles there. Then The Happy Nomad Tour resumes in Vietnam…
In map form, click play below to see it visually.
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