"Why do you travel? What do you personally get out of it?"
For me, there is an endless, ever-growing list of answers to this question. One of them is, "To see what's out there. To learn what I want out of my life." If I'm fortunate enough, I may find along my travels a place that feels like "a place for me." This may not mean that it is a place in which I imagine living for the rest of my life. It may not even be a place that I will ever see again. But it is a place where, upon arriving, or after spending a bit of time there, I feel comfortable. I feel happy with life, I feel I am where I should be at that moment in time, and I feel that my trust in the universe has once again fortified itself.
I have only been in Huaraz, Peru for about 4 hours, but I feel that I have arrived at such a place as I have just described. Huaraz is a moderate-sized town of a little less than 50,000 and a healthy lot of outdoor enthusiast extranjeros, located at 3090 meters (about 10,200 ft) of elevation in the Peruvian Andes. The streets feel safe and friendly, and people smile openly when I wish them buenos dias. While there is a fair amount of adventure-seeking tourism, the town does not feel jaded and over-run by it. Maybe this is simply in contrast to the overwhelmingly touristed city of Cuzco, jump-off point for Machu Picchu visitors, where I just came from. However, I truly feel that Huaraz still has a genuine, gentle charm.
In any case, in my half-day thus far, I have found a number of little things that make this place great:
a very nice family-run hostel for a very nice price (equivalent of about $5), complete with a delightful breakfast
an excellent cappuccino, roasted en casa
a very comfortable, funky, well-managed cafe that is probably my favorite I have found in all of South America
legitimately spicy aji (hot sauce) packed with flavor (not just in one location, but as a general characteristic of Huaraz)
delicious food at delicious prices ($1-3 for lunch)
friendly strangers to have a good chat with
and... I hear there are a couple good artisan beers in the area!
And I haven't even made it out to the numerous mountain hikes yet!
So let's see... good prices, good food, good coffee, good accommodation, good people, and good naturaleza. Perfecto!
Brekky included with my $5 accommodation in Huaraz