Arriving in a new and a completely foreign place can be nerve racking, exhilarating and a huge culture shock all at the same time. Embarking at a new destination doesn’t have to be stressful or make you feel on edge. Be like a sponge and soak up all there is in every place you visit and take in very situation while traveling. Don’t be apprehensive to customs, foods and culture, instead take the time and digest what it is you are experiencing. Absorb what you can from the world around you and don’t let fear lead you in the direction of what you will undertake and what you won’t. Opportunities to learn are abundant, but the opportunities to experience new cultures and perceptions are endless.
I remembered when I arrived at Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport; located in Perú’s fifth largest city, Iquitos. I was traveling with my dad and we had been jumping from plane to plane for over fifteen hours. Needless to say we were exhausted when we finally arrived at our destination in Iquitos at eleven at night. Because of the late arrival our hostel sent a taxi to the airport to pick us up and take us to the hostel for the night.
Maybe it was because we were tired and drained, but I remember driving down the pitch dark streets of Iquitos and feeling anxious and uneasy. Eleven o’clock at night and Spanish music from multiple bars filled the streets, darken street only lit with lights from open doors from bars, dogs roamed aimlessly and people meandering down streets in different directions. For some reason (maybe being exhausted and then thrown into a different environment) the whole scenario caught me off guard and made me tense, overly sensitive and judgmental to my surrounds.
I remember riding in the taxi to our hostel and hoping we wouldn’t stop on certain streets that I dubbed as sketchy. After about a twenty minute taxi ride my dad and I stopped on a quiet street just on the outskirts of a plaza. We checked into our hostel, climbed the stairs to our room and fell right asleep.
The following morning the atmosphere of Iquitos that I once experienced was completely different. There was by no means a sense of fear or anxiety in anyway. My perception I acquired the other night was completely inaccurate and change within seconds of stepping out of our hostel. Loud Spanish music still filled the air on certain streets and tut tuts littered the roads. Lines on the road were non-existent, most of the time roads were just dirt paths. The people were approachable and nice and I never felt like I was in any danger.
This experience taught me to not put labels on places without absorbing with a clear mind all that is present. The night before my state of mind was exhausted and strained after traveling for hours on end. But with a clear mind I realized that my first impressions were false and I began to enjoy the town of Iquitos and its vibrant locals. The rest of our time there I was like a sponge and soaked up all I could about the cultures and way of life there. To this day Iquitos, Perú is my number one destination I want to go back to and revisit. I loved the people, the jungle and the simplicity that dwelled there. Thanks to this incident every place that I visit I keep in mind to not quickly jump to conclusions and keep an open mind.