How to Travel the Galápagos Without a Cruise

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We just spent four wonderful nights in the Galápagos Islands without leaving the main hub of Puerto Ayora. 🌴 It took us a while to plan a trip here because we mistakenly thought you needed to take a cruise or guided tour to enjoy the islands. But that’s not the case—we had a blast exploring everything Santa Cruz Island had to offer.

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Into the Dark

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I always find it hard to fall asleep. As an insomniac, I know all about the bumps in the night. Sometimes they frighten me. But at the same time, the night has always inspired and energized me. I love the sounds of the night creatures. As a teenager, I loved the feel of the cold morning dew on my bare feet when I snuck back into the house after a summer night out exploring the world while everyone else slept. The night was my time. I wasn’t trying to be bad by sneaking out, I just didn’t operate on the world’s schedule.

Even now, I am envious of those who sleep easily. I listen to their snores and wish I could simply close my eyes and drift off, too. But there is something about the night–only when everyone else is sleeping–that is so magical.

Tonight, especially, I feel that magic. I am at a lodge in the Amazon jungle. Although this lodge is very posh, it is also very open. There isn’t much privacy between neighboring rooms and one wall of our room opens completely into the jungle. It’s amazing! It’s also a bit difficult to adjust. I had to think of it as glamping at its finest.

The openness made it quite loud while everyone else was awake, but now as they all sleep, I am mesmerized by the calming sounds of the jungle. There are the usual cricket sounds and some unusual chimes and chirps–there are also occasional heavy foot falls and the sounds of rummaging mammals making their way through the trees. It’s all fascinating and also serene.

At the same time, it is frighteningly out of the ordinary. The electricity at the lodge turns off at 10 p.m., and I’m so freaked out by the total darkness. In my insomniac state, I lay here opening and closing my eyes repeatedly without seeing any difference. Totally cool! Totally scary! It reminds me of how overloaded our senses are on a 24/7 basis and how important it is sometimes to just shut everything down.

Although insomnia has its serious drawbacks, this jungle experience had reminded me of what I always loved about the wee hours of the morning when I was a wide-awake teenager and everyone else was sleeping–my senses were alive, there was magic in the air and the world was mine.

Tonight in the crazy and noisy amazon darkness, I feel that magic. I feel like the world is mine.

25-Aug-17
Refugio Amazonas
Peru

~ LiAnn

Machu Picchu was just as I imagined: Beautiful. Ancient. Inspiring.

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I was first introduced to Machu Picchu when I read the Celestine Prophecy nearly 20 years ago. From that point on, I wanted to visit Peru. It seemed inaccessible at the time, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming.

I imagined hiking the Inca Trail and watching the sunrise over the historic site. I imagined feeling the energy of an ancient culture long since passed. I dreamed of adventure. But I never went.

Later in life, when I had the means to travel, I chose other destinations before Peru. I traveled through Europe, Asia and Australia. North Africa. Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Central America, but never Peru.

I’m not sure why. Perhaps part of the reason was that I always wanted Peru to be the far off exotic place it was in my mind two decades ago. But over the years, more and more tourists visited Machu Picchu each year and now they are limiting access to the site. So I decided it was finally time to go.

Machu Picchu was just as I imagined. Beautiful. Ancient. Inspiring.

We didn’t hike the Inca Trail, and I’m glad for that! Instead, we stayed in the Sacred Valley for a night and took the train to Aguas Calientes–the small town at the base of the site. We hired a private guide to meet us at the bus queue at 4:45 a.m. Our guide saved us a spot in line and we hopped on to one of the first buses up the mountain with very little wait.

We entered the site as soon as it opened and our skilled guide took us around the less traveled path. He told us about the history of the site and showed us pictures taken throughout the last century. Of course we took plenty of our own pictures, too.

We wandered and wondered–absolutely mesmerized by each view.

A journey I’ve wanted to take for 20 years lasted two hours and was worth every minute of dreaming, planning and seeing.

The best part is that there’s much more of Peru still to see.

~ LiAnn

An Experience in Colombia

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“If we get kidnapped, we’re going to feel really stupid,” Theo says to me as we get ready to go to a local Colombian’s apartment for drinks.

Two nights prior, we met our new friend, Carlos, at a bar across the street from our hotel.

We were struggling with our Spanish as we ordered drinks and spoke with the bartender.

Carlos was sitting at the bar and asked us where we were from.

He told us he’d just moved back to Colombia after many years in the states.

We had a wonderful conversation about life and travel, Colombia and America.

He lived a block from our hotel and invited us to come over for drinks the next day. We gladly accepted the invitation.

As the time approached for us to go, I asked Theo, “Is it wise to go to some guy’s house after meeting him at a bar? Especially in a country known for kidnapping?”

We realized a few things. The first is that Colombia has a bad reputation that isn’t reality anymore. And this isn’t the way suspicious activities usually go down.

Second, although you must be cautious everywhere you go, you cannot let fear isolate you from the world.

Just as we were getting ready to go, Theo jokingly says, “I just got a text from Carlos, he says his 5 p.m. kidnapping is running a little late.”

We laughed and realized how silly we were being and got on our way to what was a wonderful night with a great new friend.

Oh, want to know the best part? His sweet and lovely mother answered the door.

May 20, 2016 Bogotá, Colombia

~ LiAnn