Sprite, sex, and my favorite scarf. 

What do those three things have in common? Oh boy, am I about to tell you… (Hint: it’s not as kinky as you’re thinking, you perverts!)

Flashback to the Wednesday night right after Johanna and I finished backpacking to Machu Picchu. I’m physically exhausted; we’d traveled over a good 60 miles of mountain road in five days, visited the world famous lost city, and returned to Cusco as two sniffling, pathetic lumps of sickness. As a sensible, boring human being, I chose to spend a quiet night in bed while Johanna and her free-flowing mucus hit up the bars in town.

So I’m alone in an eight person dorm, it’s midnight, I just finished rereading Perks of Being a Wallflower. Around 10 a bartender had burst into the room and poured shots down my throat as I weakly protested, “noooooo I’m siiiiccckkksjfjdoqpxjfjrwk” *cough cough cough*, but other than that, I’m feeling quite satisfied with my chill night and fall asleep.

Now, keep in mind that I’m sleeping in an eight person dorm. There are seven other people in this room with me… Or are there? Around 3 AM, I’m woken up to the sounds of-you guessed it-very vigorous sex. It’s pitch black but it’s obviously happening in the top bunk directly across from me. What’s worse, the girl is also sick (a bug went around the traveler community during this time), so her sensual moans are interrupted by violent hacking noises. It’s not pleasant by any means.

All of a sudden, I hear a gentle whoooosh followed by fizzing sounds and screams. What the hell?? The girl starts crying and asking for a light, so as I turn on the flashlight on my phone, she climbs out of the top bunk butt naked and tries to leave the room without a shred of clothing on her body. Of course, girl code requires you to help any drunk girls who need it, so I stopped her and gave her my favorite scarf to cover up and she left.

This orange beauty was a birthday gift from Johanna and Bianca, and I looked all over South America to replace it… with no success. 😦

I never saw that scarf again. However, I did hear the full story: apparently the two boys on the top bunks were best friends traveling together from England. Boy #1 was talking to this girl all night, but Boy #2 ended up sleeping with her. When Boy #1 was awakened by the sounds of their sex, he realized what was happening and got so angry that he shook up a can of Sprite, popped it open, and threw it into their bunk.

Boys are so dumb. Later that night, Boy #1 climbed down from his bunk, still drunk, and tried to make his way to the bathroom but mistakenly peed on the guy in the bunk directly below his. I was awake for that too.

So, yeah, I told Johanna all she had missed in our wild dorm room as she was partying that night, and vowed never to try and have a quiet night in South America again.

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“Michelle runs away.”

Obviously, I just used the name of my blog as the name of a blog post. This is that moment when you hear a song’s name during the third verse, like a neon sign brazenly shouting “oh! oh! Pay attention, this is important!”

SO. Pay attention folks, this is important.

When I first started brainstorming the name of my travel blog, a variety of traditionally boring and disgustingly pretentious ideas flowed through my mind. gapyearmitch… wanderingmichelle…  gypsygirlxoxo1996. Finally, I settled on michellerunsaway because that’s precisely what it felt like I was doing—running away from my responsibilities and society’s expectations. I was taking a break from my ordinary world, running away from home and towards an uncertain future and bright new life.

Fast forward eight months. I’m with Johanna (of course), and our new friend Dave, enjoying a candlelit seafood dinner on a beach in northern Peru. The wine starts flowing and Dave, a handsome young fellow who grew up as the only Middle Eastern kid in a small German town, asks The Question: “So, why are you here?”

I laugh and give a conventional, uninspiring answer: “Oh, you know. Just taking a break from my life, running away from the real world.”

Most other travelers would’ve been satisfied with this safe answer. But Dave, glorious, eccentric Dave, refuses to accept this with a nod and move on to the next dinner topic—oh, no. Dave rears back his magnificent head like an angry lioness, not realizing that his next words will change my entire perspective of this existence.

Dave said, “Why is now the break and not real life? What makes right now any less tangible than whatever the hell you were doing at this time last year? If you’re happy in this instant-really, truly, happy-maybe consider the possibility that California is the break. Maybe your rat race back home, getting into the perfect school to land the perfect job to retire gracefully into a storybook death, maybe all of that is the fake part. Because what you’re doing right now, this is living. It doesn’t get any more real than this.”

And all that hit me like a ton of bricks.* Because, you know what? The old fool was right. Traveling is not a vacation by any means, and I shouldn’t make it out to be less significant by saying it was a break. It was my life. It is my life. So now I don’t think this blog’s name is exactly accurate, but it’ll stay as is because michellerunsaway is much less of a mouthful than michellerunstowardsherreallife.

However, this blog is going to pivot in direction, since I’m going to be pivoting in what I do. In approximately one month, I’ll be moving in as a freshman to Stanford University, where I’ll be living for the next few years. I’ll still be posting travel stories when I can, but the truth is, I really enjoy blogging and will continue to do so about my new nerd adventures. I also have an unfortunate addiction to getting uncomfortably personal in a public space, but thankfully for both you and my dignity, those posts will be password protected. For the few faithful readers who’ve stayed with me during this novel length post, here’s your reward: the password will be “dave”.

And there you go! Possibly the world’s longest third verse, but it’s important to me.

*Q: What’s heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks? A: A ton of feathers, because you will also have to carry the guilt of what you did to those poor birds.

I make more excuses about not blogging. And, Yosemite.

HI SORRY I know the original plan was to finish blogging over the weekend during a nice retreat where I take time to spend alone with my thoughts. Instead a friend barged into my backyard at 7 am on Saturday (where I was asleep under the rapidly-lightening up night sky) and asked if I wanted to go to Yosemite. Um, hello??? Of course.

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How can you say no to views like this??

So off we went, and Murphy’s Law came into action, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Hail, no comida, no empty campsites, leaking gas tank…

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Check out our humble abode! Pitched (I know, I know, I’m an awful person) off a lesser-worn trail after realizing no walk-in campsites were available for 6 stupidly underprepared teens.

By late Sunday afternoon we were brought back into zones of slight cell phone reception only to receive the startling news that we had been pegged for missing and the police were after us. So we left.

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But not before enjoying the cold, clear waters of this lovely lake…

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…and lounging around in my brand new hammock!

All in all, the trip was an absolute last minute disaster but bucket loads of fun. And I got zero blogging done, as I slowly come to the conclusion that I’m struggling with the balance of living life and understanding it. My head’s been a complete mess lately and instead of properly sitting down and straightening myself out, I’ve just been running out of the house after the next distraction.I’ve also been distancing myself from people who are incredibly important in my life in fear that they’ll realize something is off (sorry, fab five, if you’ve been wondering what’s up). I don’t know. Everything is so different and I don’t know how to keep the fearless girl who walked the world here with me.

Beach hopping and the honeymoon suite. 

At the start of our backpacking trip, Johanna and I beach hopped down the coast of Ecuador/Peru. Pictures!

Montanita, Ecuador. A hippie-chill beach town infested with gringos. Paradise.

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All smiles 🙂 🙂

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Hands down the best ceviche in probably the entire world.

Mancora, Peru. Mancora is another hippie beach town, this time less gringo-y. It’s near and dear to our hearts because it marked the occasion of many firsts.

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And we swam with turtles!

Turtle selfie, yo.

Turtle selfie, yo.

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Trujillo, Peru. Yes, this is where the (in)famous Trujillo kidnapping took place. Needless to say, not the fondest memories of this shithole.

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Early “surfboards.”

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She swears it was the only lighter she could find… but hey, we loved our Slutty Lighter. RIP slutty lighter.

Huacachina, Peru. An oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert. We went sandboarding, which turns out to be a whole lot harder than snowboarding.

Freaks in a dune buggy.

Freaks in a dune buggy.

It's harder than it looks!!

It’s harder than it looks!!

Sunset from a hill. That green bit in the background is the actual oasis part.

Sunset from a hill. That green bit in the background is the actual oasis part.

We arrived so late that we got the honeymoon suite for the price of a dorm. It just went to reinforce the idea that we're dating.

We arrived so late that we got the honeymoon suite for the price of a dorm. It just went to reinforce the idea that we’re dating.

Yet another sunset.

Yet another sunset.

Now we’re veering away from beaches for quite a while and headed inland into the sacred valley, home of the famed Machu Picchu!

Happy things, sad things. 

I’m about to watch the sunrise. It’s been quite the weekend; say what you will about big cities, but the parties are great here. Earlier today Johanna and I ended up at the weirdest Peruvian house party… About 50 people were there, and among that, we were definitely the only two white girls. And I’m not even white. We hid and ate an entire plate of hors d’oeuvres.

Maybe I’m tired, maybe I’m a sentimental goofball, but for some reason this moment is ridiculously joyful. Happy happy happy. Michelle feels… happy. I’m happy because of

  • Spanish love songs
  • “Friendly traveler mentality”
  • Cute prom pictures that went up on FB
  • The future!!!! Immediate and far-off. The possibilities!
  • These cornrows that I made with me own hands:
  • Deep sleeps
  • Real peanut butter in samerica. Can’t afford to get it, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.
  • Quiet blogging sessions

Now in order to balance the gosh darn peppiness of that list (can’t be too cheerful!), here are some things that make me sad:

  • Sunrises. Goddamn you light, I need to sleep.

Oh, and this doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the post, but yesterday a random Peruvian told me to be careful because (exact words here) “people will try to steal your nose ring”. It was both alarming and hilarious advice. If something related to nose ring theft occurs, I’ll be sure to let y’all know.

Three types of South American taxi drivers. 

1. The Creep

Being quite far away from town at Yana Cocha, my fellow volunteers and I would always call a specific taxi driver to come and pick us up. He enjoyed asking me questions about my Chinese heritage (Do babies in China know how to do karate? Do you want a Chinese boyfriend? How about an Ecaudorean one?) and once brought the boys to a brothel. I’m not kidding. A straight up brothel, with prostitutes and moldy beds stinking of STDs… not too different from the beds we slept on back at camp, actually. 

2. The Nice Grandpa

The first taxi driver Johanna and I met in Lima was a sweet old sixty year old grandpa who kept getting lost. In hindsight, he didn’t actually say a lot, but we were just very pumped to have a non threatening driver after running into the Trujillo Kidnapper. 

3. The Trujillo Kidnapper

Buckle up kids, this one comes with a story! After getting off our night bus into Trujillo at 8 am, Johanna and I stretched our sore buttcheeks and frogmarched into the closest official taxi. We gave the guy the name of our hostel, and off we went – to the gas station. Where the taxi driver (I’m going to call him Pancho) said we had to pay for his gas. He had plenty of gas, by the way. So we refused, and after a bit of debate, he got back into the car and drove to the next gas station. At this point Johanna and I are mega fed up and tell Pancho we’re just going to find another taxi. But nope, that won’t do for Pancho! He immediately locks the doors of the taxi and drives off, with us in it. Given the situation we didn’t freak out too much. Just yelled at Pancho a bit (a lot) and insisted that he stopped, but he just drove in circles demanding “plata!! Plata!” (money). I panic and decide we’re going to grab our bags and jump out through the window, but then that plan promptly failed because I couldn’t lift Johanna’s backpack. 

In the end, we gave Pancho his stupid plata and escaped his taxi trap. Just goes to show that sketchy situations can’t be avoided even if you take all possible precautions (daytime, traveling in pairs, official taxi) and ya just gotta roll with the punches. 

A teen mom stole my bean poncho!

My first theft in seven months of traveling proved to be a depressingly heart wrenching one – my bean poncho.

RIP poncho u was tasty

Yes, my esteemed “I’m a tribal-print touting tourist who is perhaps hiding drugs under this rug” poncho has been stolen.
It put a damper on quite the fantastic four days in Colombia, where I met up with my classmate Holly. We tromped through the beaaautiful Salento countryside. Salento is part of Colombia’s famous coffee triangle, where apparently the coffee is amazing, but as a non coffee addict I couldn’t tell the difference.

This was immediately after we (foolishly) followed a rather strange character on a backwoods-mountain hike. Didn’t get kidnapped. WOOHOO!

 

Holly is alarmed by this green bean.

 

She’s ridden horses for years. I managed to stay on, so not too shabby myself.

 

I love this picture because of the happiness, the flowers, and my likeliness to a thumb.

 

We visited a cafe with incredible brownies and left a little note on the wall.

Holly was really, really cool. Being with her in Colombia was a refreshing reminder that in a couple of months, I will be attending university with a group of endlessly interesting and inspiring individuals. At times, I forget what awaits in my distant future as I can barely focus on the immediate present (what with places to go and buses to catch!). And then, BAM. I remember that in September, I’ll be surrounded by aspiring astronomers and passionate spear fishers and professional ice skaters and all sorts of people who care about being alive!! People like Holly, who’s sailed across the Atlantic and all over the world. It’s thrilling. It’s motivating. And it’s a bit intimidating, of course. But as much as I love listening to these people tell their stories, I definitely have a few of my own to contribute as well…

…such as the loss of the bean poncho. Grrrr. For starters, I got it my first weekend in Ecuador while climbing Cotopaxi, and it’s been faithfully by my side ever since. On Thursday morning at 6 am I boarded a bus out of Salento. At the time I had no idea, but it would take another 40 hours of bus riding to reach Montanita, my destination. At around 2 am Friday morning I reached the border between Colombia and Ecaudor, where I promptly made some fun Colombian friends to avoid crossing the border alone (because you have to take taxis to both immigration offices, walk between the borders, taxi to the bus terminal, yada yada…. Not pleasant alone at night). We shared a taxi with a teen mom and her two children to cross the border, and the young daughter wouldn’t stop shivering so I gave her my poncho to wear. At immigration, my new friends (who had also offered up various blankets and jackets to keep the family warm) and I went through the paperwork, came back out of the building, and realized that mama bear and her cubs were… gone! They’d done the skedaddle! So, unfortunately, my poncho is lost to the world, but all that really matters is that it’s happy wherever it ends up. And you know what? I think it is.