It was the summer of 2009, and I just graduated from middle school. After a stressful year, I was yearning for relaxation. Living in Florida, the always pleasant beaches would be great, but not enough. Fortunately, my parents had informed me that we were traveling. Not one of those “let’s drive over to Miami” trips – instead, it was out of the country.
“We’re going to Peru for a week,” mother said.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
I was exhilarated. I had never left the United States before, and I was finally going to experience my country of heritage. Everything I knew about Peru was told to me in stories by my parents. Pictures of Lima on the internet were my only clues as to how cities looked in Peru. I was born and raised in Florida, and my first language was English – as a toddler, I rejected Spanish. When I realized we had relatives back in Peru, and that I would have to converse with them, I panicked. I remember thinking that I could get by with my parents’ translations, but even so I felt uneasy.
After a long plane ride across the ocean, we arrived in Peru. We were warmly greeted by my uncle Jose, my aunt Maria, and my cousin, Hugo. Everyone gave me a kiss on the cheek, which surprised me, because I had just met them. What surprised me even further was that Hugo was speaking English. “I want to become fluent,” he said. “So I would appreciate it if you spoke in English with me.” He had no idea how much of a joy it was for me.
Hugo drove us to our home in El Agustino, Lima. Our house had several bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a garage, and a spare living space in the back. I was introduced to a few more relatives; as expected I struggled to speak with them. Night fell, and we slept like babies from exhaustion. When morning came, I was prepared to get out and explore.
As there was a park right outside our home, we decided to start there. Immediately I noticed the amount of people walking. If they weren’t walking, they’d be traveling by bike, taxi, or moto-taxi. Nearly everybody wore earthly tones, and held a very reserved atmosphere. There were street vendors, selling multitudes of home-grown fruits and vegetables. Some of them specialized in sweets, like besos de moza, picarones, and Doña Pepa.
The first place we wanted to go to was the capital of Peru: Lima. We paid for a taxi and quickly we arrived in the core of Lima, the Plaza de Armas. Here many historically significant buildings stand: the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, and more. All of them are breathtaking, made beautiful with stunning architecture and careful detailing.
The rest of the week, we visited the restaurants, stores, and shops of Lima. In the souvenir shops, we purchased sweaters, dolls, and the obligatory llama figure. We enjoyed cooked duck served with green rice, chicharrones, and other classic Peruvian dishes. We visited old friends and I learned more about my own family. I was humbled by Peruvian hospitality.
On the plane ride back home, I thought about everything that happened. I ate different foods, I walked different streets, and I breathed different air. I was in Peru, and it definitely left its mark on me. Since I left, I’ve been speaking Spanish. Since I left, I’ve become closer to my family. I’ve grown an appreciation for Peru, and the will to improve myself. Without a doubt, my vacation to Peru has been the best yet.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.