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Each decision you make creates a ripple in time, affecting everything around it. Some decisions are more important than others, but there are some decisions that change you forever. For me, it was deciding to live in Arequipa.
I’ve always wanted to live abroad for an extended period of time and I’ve always loved the idea of travelling slowly. Delving into every flavour and aspect of a countries character. Only leaving when I had a good sense and feel for the place.
I wanted to get to know a place deeply, connect with the people, learn the language, culture and customs.
I wanted to do more than a highlight real and see more than the famous landmarks. I wanted to look beyond the veil to see and understand a place for what it truly was. Both the ugly and beautiful parts. And living abroad seemed like the only way to do that.
But why did I choose to live in Arequipa, Peru?
The Peruvian culture (specifically in Arequipa) is a strong one. It’s intertwined into the people’s way of being and their outlook on life. If I had to describe it in a few words I would say that the people are friendly, expressive, passionate and sweet.
It’s easy to make friends and get to know the locals. I’ve made friends with cafe owners, the lady who sells fresh bread on the corner and the various vendors who occupy the bustling city.
I will often buy a hot drink on the street and end up chatting with the vendor lady for over an hour. She’ll ask me about my life and I’ll ask her about hers, all while getting to practice my Spanish.
There are lots of festivals and celebrations. There have been so many times where I have walked out my front door and been surprised to see a parade of people, dancers and intricately decorated cars driving past.
I remember one time, I was walking through the crowds to try and see more of the parade, as one of the dancers grabbed my hand. Suddenly, I was twirling around in a circle with all the Peruvian dancers right in the middle of the celebrations.
So, if you want to live in Arequipa you are going to have to learn Spanish. Almost everyone speaks Spanish here and very few people know any English at all (except gringos). You could get by if you were just visiting for a few days, but, if you are even considering staying here for an extended period of time I would say, “learn Spanish amigo”.
Spanish is known as one of the most romantic languages. It’s also very widely spoken, and with over 437 million native speakers worldwide, it’s ranked as second on the list of most native speakers.
That means, learning Spanish will be a useful skill not only for living here but for life in general.
Spanish varies from place to place and in Arequipa it is particularly unique…
Personally, it’s my favourite accent from the Spanish speaking world. It has a flow and a song-like quality to it, like a sweet lullaby. Which reflects in their culture as people are generally very sweet too.
A few words that you will only hear in Arequipa;
- Patacala (not wearing anything on your feet)
- Alalau (feeling cold)
- Acacau (feeling pain)
- Queso Helado (a caramel icecream that only exists in Arequipa)
To live in Arequipa means you always have access to the surrounding hills, mountains and rivers that occupy it.
It’s a city encapsulated and encompassed by a series of volcanoes (Chachani, El Misti and Pichu Pichu). Each one with its own unique personality and together they tower over Arequipa, and its people, as if they are ancient guardians of the city.
I’ve climbed all of these volcanoes (after many failed attempts). All of them that is, except Chachani. You can read that story here.
But I must warn you, it is not for the faint of heart. All of these volcanoes are well over 5000 meters high and Chachani is over 6000 meters. So, it’s no stroll in the park, be sure that you really want to do it and take all of the precautions. Hire a local guide. Educate yourself about altitude sickness. Go with a trusted friend.
Surrounding Arequipa, you have access to the rest of the insanely diverse and beautiful country known as Peru.
In a few hours or a day, you could be (just to name a few);
- Hiking through the Andes Mountains (2nd biggest mountain range on Earth)
- Canoeing down the Amazon River
- Taking photos at the famous Machu Pichu
- Flying over the Nazca Lines
- Sandboarding down the dunes of Huacachina
- Cycling down Pichu Pichu volcano, Arequipa
- Seeing glaciers in Huaraz
- Exploring Sacred Valley in Cusco
Living here for over 1 year now, my love for Arequipa and its people has only grown. I’ve come to see this place as a home away from home. The culture has become part of my personality, its language embedded into my way of thinking and the people my lifelong friends and family.
It’s strange to think about how much a place can change you and enrich you, as you delve into its little hidden corners and secrets that only those who live in Arequipa, will ever know.
Arequipa is a city full of magic and character that reflects the vibrance of the culture and the kindness of the people who reside within it. And I’m proud to be a part of it.
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places…Camille Pissarro