Trail of Crumbs

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Over the years, I’ve amassed an impressive collection of self-portraits from our travels (and roped my poor, innocent husband into a few shots as well). I take them with one arm extended as far in front of me as my short-limbed genes will allow, and I click a half-dozen times. With any luck, in at least one of those photos, I will appear to have fewer chins than John Goodman (I mean no disrespect to the man who brought characters as timeless as Dan Conner and King Ralph to life. He is a national treasure.)

Though really, more often than not, Rand or I will glance at our shocking un-photogenic mugs and say to the other, “You are the only person on the planet who will ever find me attractive.” (Which is perfectly okay, kids. You only need one near-sighted fool to think you’re pretty.)

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I AM THE PUPPET MASTER!

I am always amazed when people ask me for travel advice. I will often turn around to see precisely who they are talking to. Even if it’s in an email addressed to me, I’ll do a quick check over my shoulder just to make sure there isn’t someone better equipped to answer the question waiting there (as though Rick Steves is hiding in my office. Which would be equally horrifying and awesome).

I dispense my advice with some trepidation, reminding myself that these poor, misguided readers are under the impression that I know what I’m doing. And that they literally asked for it. The fools.

In this edition of Ask the Everywhereist, I once again present some of the questions I’ve received in my inbox lately, along with my feeble attempt at answers. Serves them right for thinking I was a reliable source of anything besides spite.

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Historically, the times that I’ve actually known what I was talking about have been few and far between. This is particularly true when it comes to travel, or geography, or really, facts of any kind.

Once, when we were in downtown Seattle, a middle-aged couple stopped Rand and me and asked where they could find a liquor store (at 2pm on a Saturday. I suppose they were putting the magic back in their relationship). I gave them very specific directions that, had the couple followed them to the letter, would have led them not only the wrong way down a one-way street, but nowhere near a liquor store. Rand looked on, in awe – he would later tell me that I spoke to the couple with such confidence that, against his better judgement, he didn’t question it.

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Flying out of Cuzco, back to Lima.

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With the exception of my thighs and derriere, I am not what you would call a hearty girl (though those two parts of me could survive drought, famine, pestilence, and probably a nuclear war. Everything, really, save for another season of skinny jeans). But excluding my well-developed lower region, I’m kind of wimpy. My arms aren’t particularly strong, I have a small waist, I’m prone to migraines and colds, and I’m constantly suffering from motion sickness (just the sheer number of other illness-related posts I was able to link to in that last sentence should convince you of my alleged frailty).

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The city of Lima: plenty of cabs, plenty of chances to haggle.

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Haggling is an art form, and my mother is Picasso. Analyze her technique too closely, and it will fall apart, but stand back far enough, and a masterpiece emerges. I’ve seen her haggle in retail stores. RETAIL STORES. With success. She will take an item up to the cashier and note that a thread is coming loose – would they mind giving her a discount? Or she’ll point out a popped button, a fraying hem (all things which she can fix in a matter of moments) and ask for a ludicrous percentage off.

AND SHE WILL GET IT.

I thought about her a lot when I was in Peru. Not only is haggling a way of life down there, it’s institutionalized – nothing seems to have a fixed price. Not even the cabs. That’s right: you haggle for cab fares in Peru. None of the vehicles have meters. You simply talk to a driver and negotiate the price before getting in.

For me, this was incredibly nerve-wracking. I didn’t inherit my mother’s knack for seeking out a bargain. I tried once to get a deal on a sweater that was – I kid you not – coming apart at the seams. The cashier offered me 10% off. I stared at her blankly before putting it back on the rack. My mother would have been paid to take it off the store’s hands.

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Hey folks – my apologies for the blog being so thin lately. I’ve been on the road – a lot – and I can’t seem to justify spending my days sitting in a hotel room blogging. We’ll return to daily posts next week, I promise. In the meantime, read on about Peruvian foods you must try. And for your own safety, do not consume this post on an empty stomach. 

As some of you may have noticed, I don’t really do much research on my travel destinations, except when it comes to cuisine. I left for Peru with a vague understanding of who created Machu Picchu, but I was able to rattle off the local desserts like an expert. This concerns me slightly. I have this fear that, should aliens ever abduct me (and let’s face it: this is a highly probable likelihood) they will ask me all sorts of questions about other parts of my planet. And most of the time, I WILL HAVE NO CLUE WHAT TO SAY right up until the topic of food comes up, at which point I will be some sort of savant. Governmental structure of Peru? No clue. But they have these fantastic dulce de leche sandwich cookies called alfajores (I’ve eaten enough in one sitting to risk diabetic shock). Iceland? I can’t remember anything about my trip there except for that yogurt dessert they kept feeding us. And my usually reply to when anyone mentions the U.K. is to drool and mumble “sticky toffee pudding” with a glazed look in my eye.

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Can't we all just be adults here?

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When I left for Peru, I took a small pack of tissues with me. I’d read that in more rural areas, we might not find toilet paper in public bathrooms. This didn’t really phase me: one time in Italy I’d peed in little more than a hole in the ground. A place not offering toilet paper isn’t that big an offense.

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Hi – I’m back! Forgive the lag in blogging. I blame Peru. That place is magical.

I’ve loads to tell you about that trip – and heck, I’m not even done telling you about Kansas or my trip to Lake Placid, Florida (please try to contain your excitement). But all of that will have to wait, because presently, I want to take a piece of sandpaper or, failing that, a cheese grater, to my ankle. It’s covered in bug bites attained at Macchu Pichu, and it’s positively killing me. While I’m blessed to not suffer from allergies (unless, say, I shove my face directly into a cat and breathe in deeply, which I’m sure we’ve all done once or thrice), there is one thing I am severely allergic to: mosquito bites. They usually swell up to the size of a quarter, and have literally woken me from a restful sleep with the sting.

I took a photo of my bug-bitten ankle thinking it would be impressive, but instead it looks disappointingly normal, so I now seem like a huge wuss. Behold:

The cropping on this photo is excellent. You can see neither my hairy legs nor my wonky toe. Huzzah!

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