The museum in Narihualac was closed. All I could do was walk through the dusty streets of the small village, watch one of the many religious processions which take place in Peru every day, and visit some bars to soak up shade, water and chicha.
The brew had too much alcohol for me, but the children of the village were tough enough to empty the whole pitcher in seconds.
Narihualac’s main industry is actually not alcohol, but the production of straw hats which are better known under the name of faraway Panama. So I went into one of the hat stores, where my attention was drawn to an exhibition piece measuring at least one meter in diameter. I wondered about any connection to the alcohol.
The daughter of the hat maker, hanging around in the shop, was more fascinated by my very own hat, which had traveled 11,500 km from Transylvania to Peru. She insisted on trying it on and needed a lot of convincig pleas to hand it back to me.
From then on, Margarita, as the 10-year old girl introduced herself, didn’t leave my side, although two boys of similar age told me that I should rather hire them as local guides because the girl was bad at school. Speaking about it, “why aren’t you at school?” I asked. It was Monday. “Today is our day off,” she replied and because there were children running around everywhere, I had no choice but to believe it.
The inquisitive girl asked me about Europe, if I had ever been on a plane, what languages I speak, how much my hat cost, where I would travel next, if she could try on the hat once more, whether I have pets, why I am so tall, if we have tablet computers in Europe and if I had games on my cell phone.
Finally, Margarita wanted to know what my profession is. When I talk to adults, I sometimes explain the concept of freelancing or of a digital nomad. Even when I want to keep it simple, I have several options: lawyer, translator, blogger, journalist, spy. In other languages I find it less boastful to use the word writer, so I replied that I am an escritor.
Upon hearing that, the girl jumps two steps ahead of me, puts herself in my way and looks at me with excitement, her eyes and mouth wide open in delight: “You write stories?” She couldn’t be more enchanted if there was an astronaut standing in front of her.
“And novels?” she asks hopefully.
“Not yet,” I am beginning to explain.
“But you are going to write a novel?” And before I can respond: “Do you also write fairy tales?”
In this moment, in a dusty village in the Sechura Desert, on an unbearably hot day, while a young girl in sandals is going through all genres of literature like other children her age could rattle down only TV shows or soccer players, and making the impression as if writing is the greatest profession on earth, I decide that I won’t return to my lawyer job after this journey, but that I will exclusively devote myself to writing.
I don’t care that most adults react differently. I don’t care that they respond with “huh?” instead of “wow”. I don’t care that they ask about the financial viability, about health insurance or retirement plans. I don’t care about their lack of curiosity and excitement. I don’t care that almost nobody reads stories anymore and that most people prefer to mindlessly scroll through their phones. I don’t care that even friends suggest that I should make videos of my travels because they are too lazy to read.
None of that matters. I want to write! I want to tell stories. I want to explain the way I see the world. And if there are only a handful of people like the young literature lover from Peru, then it’s worth the effort.
- More stories about writing, about children, about books and about Peru.
- Thanks to Edward Allen for the photos.
- This story also appeared in Medium.
- Hier geht es zur deutschen Fassung der Geschichte.
I simply love the way you travel…I like to do so…but the million dollar question…. how I will sustain myself, paying visa fees, airlines, and other liabilities e.g. family…. ????
The easiest point first: family. Just leave them to themselves. ;-)
Seriously, the most important thing in my mind is to remember that travel doesn’t need to be expensive. That day I took a minibus to the village (maybe one dollar) and I bought a mug of chicha (half a dollar). And I had an interesting and memorable experience for that.
Admittedly, it cost more to get to Peru, but I think we can experience similar things close to home when we take the time, an open mind and heart and just go to a new place or talk to strangers.
I would be curious to know where you live, so I might be more specific.
Visa fees are usually not a problem for me, because thankfully I have a useful German passport. In that way, I am really lucky.
I have written before about setting priorities and being a bit minimalist in order to afford travels, and in greater detail about how I finance my trips and how I keep them cheap. You definitely don’t need a million dollars! I hardly ever have more than even a thousand dollars in my bank account. I also have an FAQ page about my way of traveling and I always welcome more questions, also very specific ones.
What a wonderful reaction. Keep doing what you love. There will always be people in this world, like the adorable girl in Peru, who will read your stories, especially when you tell them so well. Enjoy.
I think Im just as excited to read your blog and your possible novels in the future as the Peruvian girl is excited about this particular part of your profession. Thank you for sharing your views and experience with us.
Thank you very much for these motivating words!
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As usual, people use to ask about money for maintenance or surviving at any place and why you keep travelling being nomad, well i think there is nothing more important that good health. my point is ” how you can feel and keeping yourself absolutely lucid and healt when you have visited all that customs with diferent life style, endless species of fruits, vegetables, meats, beverages, etc…and obviously imagining you have tried everything??”
I meant there are food that can get you sick, you must have an insurance able to cover every emergence…..or at least a very good adviser to instruct you…whatever…being this the most dangerous part of your adventure “”””how you manage this topic in every country?”””””
I envy you living those experiences with that amazing people whom teach you about their cultures even though they living in remote places have an enormous sense of humanity.
Let’s keep enjoying of your beautiful stories, thanks for sharing every place….
Thank you very much!
I actually have no health insurance (I cannot afford it), nor any adviser.
I am very open to try all fruits and vegetables that I see in the market. With fruits, I always think that one cannot make any deadly mistake (unless you collect stuff from the forest yourself). The same with anything like bread or cake, generally sweets are safe.
The dangerous food is meat, fish, seafood because lack of cooling or other forms of mishandling can make it go bad very quickly. On my travels, I often eat more vegetarian than I would eat at home. Not only for health reasons, but also because some meat dishes just look too weird.
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I believe we are a few (if not many) of your readers here, that would really love to read your travel stories in a book! So.. .go for it!!! B-)
We’ll see how many there are left when they have to go out on a cold November morning, walk to the next town to find a bookstore and pay 80 lei for a book.
80 lei? You’re really expensive…
Until you publish it we won’t have bookstores anymore, only online ones.
Then I will have to drive around the countryside, selling the book from the back of a cart. Ok, maybe 45 lei.
Wow, that’s fantastic!
Also, I personally like to see you in videos because of your charming accent and to be able to see your facial expressions. Not because I’m too lazy to read! 😆 these kinds of stories of your travels are magnificent, fun to read and make me smile. So maybe only one or two videos and the rest, pictures and writings. GREAT photos here too!
I agree that some things are better explained in a video. But I generally don’t like to walk around with a camera, particularly if there are other people around. I feel like the camera puts up a distance between them and myself. When I have a notebook and a pen, most people don’t even notice (or they no longer know what these utensils are for).
you could also start a teaching career, if you managed to catch the kids’ attention so well….you didn’t try the exhibition hat :-)
I was afraid that it was a magic hat and that I would never appear again, once I was devoured by the hat. – Avoiding having to work as a teacher is even more of a motivation to write books. ;-)
sure it was a magic hat, but it wouldn’t have made you disappear, it would have given you the address of the ‘chocolate and cigars for free’ country.
You sound like communist propaganda. :P
:-))))) sorry, I must have watched too much Castro news these days.
Until u are finally really knowing peruvians… including kids, very nice story 😊and great pictures… and u never lose ur “particular tone” in writing (dusty streets, too much alcohol in the chicha…? jajaaaa 😁)
That chicha was really strong. It knocked me off. But the children gulped it down like crazy.
Un escritor nunca muere! Permanece siempre vivo en sus escritos.
Muy bueno la chicha..:-P.
What a nice story!
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I wonder how Margarita would tell this story, I mean maybe it was a special event for her too. I remember another photo, with you laughing from your heart and surrounded by kids.
One day, when I will be a famous writer, I will send a book and this story to the hat store in that village.
But that was in Bolivia, which is really the country with the cutest children. https://andreasmoser.blog/2016/06/30/children-tipnis/
Ah, yes and it was a video, I must have imagined the photo, cause you don’t even appear in it :-D So you will send the book next year ;-)
Next year would be too early. I like to surprise people after 5 or 7 years.
Thank you, Ma’am!