My trip wasn’t great. Can a travel blogger actually write that?

Things didn’t go well for me in Peru.

I feel weird writing that.  I feel like as a travel blogger, I’m supposed to be so in love with traveling that no matter what happens, I consider every trip to be a success.

So let’s start with the positive things about my three weeks in Peru.

First, perhaps more than any other backpacking trip, I met a lot of great travelers who I know I will stay in touch with for years to come.

peru street

Second, Peru was a pretty easy destination.  I was able to communicate using my “backpacker Spanish”, I didn’t get too lost, transportation connections were easy, etc.  After I left Lima it was also pretty easy to find good vegetarian food.

Finally, the places I visited were actually quite beautiful.  I was surprised by the prevalence of Brutalist architecture (which I love) in Lima, the wildlife of the Ballestas Islands was amazing, Huacachina and its dunes were like something out of a science-fiction movie… I could go on.

Unfortunately, all of the quinoa soup and desert oases in the world can’t make up for the fact that Peru absolutely kicked my ass.  I was in good health when I arrived, but could barely function by the time I left the country three days ago.  Despite all of my preparation and positive attitude, there was nothing I could do to avoid becoming sick in Peru.

It wasn’t just one thing.  When it’s one thing it’s easy to go to the doctor and to start getting better.  However, in my case, every few days presented a new medical issue.

colca canyon 1

My problems started during a two-day Colca Canyon trek.  As a young teenager I once had something similar to asthma, but it hadn’t reappeared in more than fifteen years.  Unfortunately, climbing 1,100 metres up the Colca Canyon one morning, before breakfast, was more than my lungs could handle (even after being given two days to acclimatize to the altitude!).  I developed a cough that is still kicking around today (I’m going to the doctor on Monday).


The next stop on my trip was Puno, which was at an even higher altitude.  Here, the Colca Cough made it harder than usual to breathe, and I developed additional symptoms of both altitude sickness and the common cold.

A week or so later I found myself in Cusco, where a dinner of a (delicious) salad resulted in digestive issues that left me unable to eat solid food for the remainder of my trip, and continued stomach upset even today (yes, I’ll go to the doctor on Monday!).  TMI Alert: I literally packed an extra pair of leggings to Machu Picchu because I figured there was a 50-50 chance I would poop my pants.  (I didn’t!)

For two out of three weeks, I was feeling bad.  Not just “not good”, but bad.  I wasn’t just sick in Peru, I was really sick in Peru; I was constantly sick in Peru.  When I got home a few days ago I slept for sixteen hours, and have done very little other than drink tea and binge-watch The Honourable Woman since returning.  I was looking forward to recovering and putting the trip behind me…

… and then my phone range this morning.

It was my bank’s Fraud Detection Department.  They just wanted to touch base about some unusual activity on my account in Peru.  I was happy to confirm that I’d been in Peru and had used a number of ATMs, all located at major banks.  I was not happy to learn that since I’d left the country, ten unauthorized withdrawals had been made from my account, to the tune of more than $2000.  I checked my bank accounts online yesterday and they looked fine; all of the transactions were posted overnight (I think scammers might withdraw cash on weekends on purpose, so that the transactions aren’t posted until Monday morning?).

Fortunately my bank is great and they have already concluded that the transactions were fraudulent.  I’m hoping that by the time the money is refunded to my account I will also be feeling better, and I will be able to put the entire trip behind me.

machu picchu

I hope that I don’t come off as pessimistic or unappreciative.  I know how fortunate I am to have time and money to travel, to have access to medical care, to have a trustworthy bank, etc.  I also know that travel doesn’t always go smoothly.  However, this trip took an exhausting physical and mental toll, and I think that failing to acknowledge that would not be fair to myself.

Mealtime Monday: Eastern European Airline Food

turkish airlines vegetarian istanbul chisinau

When a Mealtime Monday falls before a Travel Tuesday, the only way to celebrate is with a shot of some airline food.  Here’s the Turkish Airlines vegetarian meal that I was served between Istanbul and Chisinau.  A few cooked vegetables were served with a dollop of hummus, a whole-wheat roll, crackers, fruit salad and a sealed container of water.  Yeah, it’s obviously nothing special, but I appreciate the availability of a vegetarian choice.  It amazes me to think that Turkish Airlines can put together a vegetarian snack between Istanbul and Chisinau, but the American Airlines flights I will be taking tomorrow from Canada to Peru (via Dallas – Fort Worth) do not offer a vegetarian option.  Hear that?  Yeah, that’s the sound of me “harrumphing”, mid-air.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts in Kosovo

contrasts in pristina kosovo

I didn’t know what to expect when I visited Kosovo, though I’d kind of expected there to be some sign that the community truly valued peace.  I was surprised, then, to see these toys being sold by a street vendor.  While the first thing that caught my attention were the contrasts between the “girl toys” and the “boy toys”, I found myself wondering whether selling such realistic toy guns would help “newborn” Kosovo achieve its long-term dreams…

Inspiring Travel Books: Factory Girls

factory girlsI am embarrassed to admit that I own a pair of pink Nike running shoes with a breast cancer ribbon on them.  This is embarrassing for a few reasons: I’m lazy, the running shoes are pink, and I have shoes with a breast cancer ribbon on them.  But even more than that there is the feeling of gross hypocrisy that comes with the realization you just bought a pair of shoes that are designed to “raise awareness” of an issue everyone is aware of, yet that were inevitably manufactured in a facility that is harmful to the physical and mental health of the people who work there.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the very conditions in the factory where my shoes were manufactured led to increased rates of breast cancer amongst the women working there.

And that’s what Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China by Leslie T. Chang is all about.  Suddenly, the thousands of women working in Chinese factories are no longer nameless.  They have ideas, they have words, they have interests, they have passions, they have frustrations.  As travelers we are often looking for the cheapest options: cheap airfares, cheap sleeping bags, cheap food, cheap hostels, cheap flip-flops, cheap mobile phones, cheap bottled water.  Sometimes, we even justify our purchases of these cheap products with the idea that our travel is doing good (“I’m volunteering at an orphanage!”  “I’m going to spend a day picking up trash on the beach!”  “I’m going to teach English so that locals can find better jobs!”).  We rarely consider the impact of our choices on anyone beyond ourselves, and but Factory Girls clearly shows us that we need to be much more responsible not just with our attitudes, but also our behaviors.

Mealtime Monday: Dessert for Breakfast

fruit salad

In many parts of the world breakfast is nothing more than a cup of coffee and slice of toast.  When you’re traveling, it can sometimes be hard to find a cafe or restaurant serving anything substantial for what some cultures consider to be the most important meal of the day!  In Kotor, Montenegro, I learned that sometimes you can find a great breakfast… on the dessert menu!  That’s where I found this mix of kiwi, apple, banana, pineapple, grapes and walnuts.  As the waiter placed it down in front of me he (at 10:00 am!) he even said, “Enjoy your dessert!”  Fruit salad for breakfast can actually be a healthy choice, especially if you’re able to top it with a bit of yogurt, nuts or seeds.  Enjoy your dessert, too!

Unboxing: Topbox June 2014

topbox june 2014

My June 2014 Topbox arrived yesterday!  The shipping was predictably strange again this month.  I received an emailed shipping notification on June 13th, which indicated that a shipping label had been prepared on the 11th.  It wasn’t until the 17th that Canada Post showed any indication they’d received the package, and then it arrived chez moi the next day.  The box was heavy this month, and a quick look above should suggest why!

The first thing I pulled out was a tiny Barefoot Venus lip balm in Knock Out Mint.  This is a fairly natural product, which is good, but I’m not a big fan of sticking my fingertips into lip balm containers… it seems a bit unhygienic to me.  This is worth $7.50.

Next was the main source of the tube’s weight this month- a full-size sample of Derma-E Age Defying Hand Cream.  I received a full-size tube of hand cream as my $10 beauty surprise a few months ago.  I haven’t even opened that one yet, but I might open this one first as the packaging hints that it might be less strongly-scented than the last one I received.  I received a different Derma-E product in an Ipsy box last month and haven’t tried it yet.  It seems like this company is really doing the beauty box rounds!  The full-size of this product sells for $9.50.

Up next is an interesting product- KMS California’s Hairstay Style Boost.  The instructions say to dispense the product into your hand and let it “crackle and expand”.  I assumed it would be like a normal mousse, but I was wrong.  This is like mousse on crack(le).  It comes out like a mousse but then crackles- loudly- right there in the palm of your hand.  This is like a primer for your hair, helping other products and your style last even longer, and this 71 ml sample is worth about $8.

The last product in my box this month was a Teeez nail polish in Jealously Jade.  Topbox recently sent me a dark, greenish-blue polish from another line that was a discontinued shade, so I was kind of disappointed to receive another blue-green shade this month.  On the plus side the Teeez polish this month is a bit more on-trend for summer.   Originating in the Netherlands, this polish retails for about $15.

Once again I preferred my June Ipsy bag to my Topbox June 2014.  With Ipsy I have the chance to submit feedback on three elements of each product I receive: the type of product, the brand, and the specific color or formula.  Ipsy takes my feedback into consideration and each month the bag gets closer and closer to “perfect”.  On the other hand Topbox sends out somewhat random surveys (often they won’t have any questions about any of the products from the selection I actually received) and doesn’t seem to use the collected data to better match customers with products.  Still, Topbox is only $10 and getting mail is fun.

Unboxing : Ipsy June 2014


My June 2014 Ipsy bag arrived yesterday!  This time of year is absolute, total insanity in my life; on top of working full-time and studying full-time I seem to have at least two extra evening commitments every single day.  That’s why I didn’t get this post up yesterday and that’s why it was especially nice to receive a nice little treat in my mailbox.   Check out the beautiful Rebecca Minkoff-designed bag this month; the print is eye-catching and summery, and the fabric feels nice as well.


The product that I reached for first was this NYX Butter Gloss in the shade Eclair.  I was really happy to receive this cool-toned pinky-beige, as it’s an absolutely gorgeous neutral that looks fantastic with a slightly-smoky eye.  I wore it yesterday evening and again today, even having to fish it out from my purse in order to photograph it for this post.   This retails for $5.


Up next was a Realtree perfume sample.  I have never heard of Realtree before (though I’ve seen some other girls’ posts about them selling “cute” camouflage clothes?) but I’m opening to giving it a try.  Supposedly the perfume opens with a few sharp fruit notes, passes through some florals and settles into a mahogany and amber scent.  I read some online reviews saying that it was hard to work the spray pump, so I tried the tiniest little spritz and fortunately had no problems.  From that tiny spray I definitely felt the sharp and tangy fruit opening and also got a few floral notes, but I might need to spray a bit more in order to really feel the base notes.  There’s no quantity listed on this one, but if I estimate it at a very generous 5 ml then this sample is worth $1.


Next I found a Carol’s Daughter Sacred Tiare styling cream.  I have never tried Carole’s Daughter before, and that’s kind of why I love Ipsy.  A few months ago I got to try Pacifica products for the first time, and now it’s Carol’s Daughter.  Both are reputable, widely-available brands with strong followings and actual retail presence.   This leave-in styling cream has a delicious tropical scent, and it’s the perfect size to pack in my bag when I head to Peru.  This small sample is worth about $1 as well.


The fourth item in my bag is an Ofra “universal” brow pencil.  I don’t know how universal it actually is (especially for pale blondes), but as a dark brunette it looks like it will be a good color for me.  I’m addicted to my Anastacia brow pencil but excited to try a new brand.  This is full-sized (I believe) and sells for $13.


Last but not least is something I’ll probably set aside for Halloween.  I got a Nicka K Shimmer Eyeliner in blue.  This is a liquid liner with a very metallic finish.  It applied quite fluidly when I swatched the back of my hand… and it lasted long enough for me to feel uncomfortable about the shimmery blue stripe on the back of my hand.  Nicka K is not a brand that I’ve seen before but apparently this retails for $5.

The total value of my Ipsy June 2014 bag is about $25, and I paid $15 USD including shipping to Canada.  Once again I think it was a pretty good value- I love the NYX lip gloss already and the Carol’s Daughter styling cream smells so good that I’m going to want to eat my hair (I will probably order the full size… and then eat it with a spoon…).  The rest of the stuff I could take or leave, but that’s exactly the point of Ipsy- to try out new products without having to invest in the full size.

Oh, and I almost forgot!  More freebies from Ipsy this month!  You can collect Ipsy points by reviewing the products that you receive and by recommending Ipsy to friends.  I redeemed 1000 Ipsy points this month in exchange for four Baksshi sheet masks (last month I got a free Bare Minerals Marvelous Moxie lipstick in a vibrant coral shade).



What Are Your Peru Itinerary Tips?

salt flats peru

This July I will be visiting Peru for three weeks.  So far I don’t have much on my Peru itinerary: I’ve booked my first night’s accommodation at a hostel in Lima, and then a few days later I have a two-night booking at the Hotel Paracas near Pisco.  After that my schedule is wide open until I fly out of Cuzco on the 23rd.

I’m open to pretty much anything, as long as it’s logical (I don’t want to fly across the country a bunch of times to do this or that).  Hiking the Inca Trail isn’t a huge attraction for me, but I was thinking of visiting Machu Picchu for a day (it seems criminal not to go, right?).  I’m also trying to decide if it’s worth going into the jungle for just a few days, or if I’d be better off returning in a year or two and visiting the Amazon and/or Pantanal properly.  I would also like to spend at least one day and night in a town or village that doesn’t see a lot of tourism, and of course, I’m always on the lookout for interesting local beauty treatments.

If you’ve been to Peru and have any suggestions about how I should design the ultimate Peru itinerary, please share below!  If you’ve blogged about your own trip, share that too!

Photo Credit

WPC: Wine with Ice is Extra, Extra


On a scorching hot day in Podgorica, Montenegro (Europe’s least-visited capital city!) I ordered a glass of white wine.  It came with a little something extra, extra!  When you get wine with ice cubes you’ve got to drink it fast so that it doesn’t get watered down!

Mealtime Monday: Volcano Salad

volcano salad

When I’m traveling I always love finding a great, meal-sized salad for lunch or dinner.  Far too often “salad” consists of a few colorless lettuce leaves beside a big slab of something greasy.  Not at Tierra Viva in Sayulita, Mexico.  Here, a “Volcano Salad” is made from fresh lettuce leaves topped with avocado slices, sprouts, cherry tomatoes and black sesame-crusted goat cheese, then drizzled with a soy-herb dressing.  It sounds a little weird, I know, but it was so good!