“If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them.” ~ Alex Garland, The Beach
It was one in the morning. I was in my mum’s house ready to leave for the airport. All my earlier excitement had turned to dread. I wanted my mum to say, “No! You’re not going to Peru on your own and that’s that.”
I could’ve run back up the stairs into my old comfortable bed, missed my flight and that would have been that. The story would have ended there.
But of course that would have been completely wrong. I had spent the previous two months explaining to everyone why this trip was so important to me and why it was something I had to do at this point in my life.
I really didn’t know why it was important or why it had to be Peru. There were loads of places around the world I wanted to visit, maybe even more so than Peru. But something that I couldn’t explain had always pointed me there.
All I knew was that on the 22nd of June, I would be alone in Peru looking onto the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu with my very own eyes. However the words “Peru” and “alone” scared the life out of my loved ones.
Eventually though, after two months of talking about it and settling their minds, they had slightly warmed to the idea.
But then, when my own braveness fell down with a clatter on the night I had to leave, the tables had turned. I wanted to be told not to go, but since no one did that for me, I put on my backpack and headed out the door in the middle of the night. This of course made the ordeal worse; things always seem scarier in the dark.
To intensify matters again, my dad’s car wouldn’t start. It made a strange scratching sound as he turned the key. I sat in passenger seat in disbelief. That was that. I wasn’t going. It was a sign—the universe didn’t want me to go!
Fortunately my dad also has an old van, so he took me to the airport in that instead.
My mum and brother were supposed to come wave me off at the airport, but as my dad’s car wouldn’t start, there was only enough room for two passengers. My mum held me tight on the driveway, gave me a cuddle and kissed my cheek. “Be careful, please. I love you.”
My brother and I climbed into the front of the van. My dad turned the key, the engine roared and off we went.
The journey to airport was a nightmare. I genuinely started to worry and question my sanity for booking this solo trip in the first place. Why was I flying to Peru at 4 am in the morning, by myself? I had no real plan, I barely knew where I would stay, I didn’t have much money and I couldn’t communicate with Peruvians. (I was supposed to learn Spanish, but didn’t get around to it. I knew the basics, but nowhere near enough.)
The motorway was quiet. The odd night lorry sped by. I wondered where they were going.
I kept looking through the front windscreen up to the night sky. The moon was magnificent, a large silver disk in the middle of darkness. It seemed larger than ever that night. I stupidly felt the moon knew I was going to Peru alone and he was shining down onto me extra bright.
My brother and I have always had a deep closeness and he, out of all my family members, was taking my trip the hardest. He had always been protective over me, as big brothers tend to be with little sisters. Back when we were in primary school together, he would come down every day at lunchtime to the “small playground” where the younger kids played to make sure I was okay.
Finally, we arrived at Edinburgh Airport. My brother slid my backpack out of the side of the van and lifted it onto my back.
I looked up. The large white writing above the entrance to the airport stated: “Where Scotland meets the world.” Where Scotland meets the world? Those words seem simple, but they had a massive effect on me.
This was why I was going to South America; this was why I said “to hell with it” and booked my flights at two in the morning with the last of my savings. This was why I handed a letter to my work telling them I was going away for a while. This was why I’d been completely skint for the previous few months.
Because I wanted to meet the world.
I was sick of only staring at the map on my wall and dreaming of places I wanted to go, and I knew that if waited around for someone to come with me, I could wait forever.
I had forgotten all of this as the crunch time came and it was the day of my departure. My anxieties took over. When people get anxious, they tend to think they shouldn’t do it—that perhaps its the wrong thing to do. It’s a natural human response.
Fear holds us back: fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of not being ready.
Not being ready is a fear I’ve personally faced many times. But the truth is, there’s never a perfect time. I will never be 100 percent ready. I was reminded of the words of the author Daniel Handler: “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
I knew once I walked through those glass doors that the next place my feet would touch soil would be Peru. I looked again at the white writing above me. I took a deep breath and walked through the doors.
Author: Suzan Crawford
Editor: Evan Yerburgh