It was a 95°F afternoon in Lima, Peru. We were in Larcomar, an open-air shopping plaza alongside the Pacific Ocean overlooking the city’s Costa Verde (Green Coast). There were paragliders soaring through the clouds next to us and three sets of friendly eyes eagerly waiting for our reaction after eating their anticuchos (tiny pieces of tasty skewered cow hearts).
How exactly did I get there? Funny enough, exactly two years before, I was sending writing samples to an online travel startup platform called Arrivedo. Little did I know this “part-time gig” would open the doors (literally) to five-star hotels and once in a lifetime travel experiences.
Take the Leap & Change Your Routine
Long story short, after working a 9AM to 7PM job in corporate Mexico City, I wanted to explore the freelancer life. You get the idea, working from home, a coffee shop, a bar, or a relative’s house and skipping the two-hour commute to an office. The idea of not having to beg for a three-day vacation to visit my spread-across-the-continent nuclear family as much as I could was definitely attractive. So, after quitting my job in 2016, I signed up for dozens (46 was the actual number) of freelance platforms. I uploaded my resume in 46 different formats and started applying for translation projects, proofreading positions, online Spanish teaching jobs, and the list goes on.
After months of searching and pitching, I met with Nicole, who was working on an innovative hotel platform with a unique pitch of connecting hotels with guests via personalized Neighborhood Guides. To say the least, Nicole and I hit it off. The interview became a contract and training sessions evolved into interviews with hotels. I started writing guides for hotels in my hometown and in cities I’ve visited. And after a few weeks, I would leave my comfort zone and write for hotels in far-away countries and in cities that I’ve never been to. They share recommendations with me that I needed to be spelled out because what I heard could have easily been Mordor, Diagon Alley or something of the like. However, as I did my research, I learned about dozens of cultures and lifestyles that are not only appealing but also have many aspects that we can learn from to help us enjoy life to the fullest.
The Opportunity of a Lifetime
One fine day, Arrivedo’s HR Manager and Writer’s Community Lead, Mariale Castro, contacted me about a five-star hotel chain in Lima that wanted Neighborhood Guides created for them in exchange for free accommodation. Being a huge fan of ceviche, I said yes. How could I resist? Within weeks of creating Neighborhood Guides and getting in touch with more hotel chains, a four-night stay in two different Peruvian cities evolved into an 11-day and 10-night luxury journey I would have never dreamed of (or honestly could even afford).
Collaborating, editing, revising and pitching for an entire year and a half with three amazing ladies and a supportive team allowed me to do the unthinkable. I had the opportunity to stay next door to a rock star, sunbathe with Peru’s crème de la crème, enjoy the city, beaches, colonial gems, Incan ruins, summit the nearly 5,000-meter Rainbow Mountain and so much more all in one amazing country.
Summary of my Top 5 Trip Highlights
1. A luxurious welcome to Peru from The Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center. The pool and gym made waking up at 6AM worth it, along with a Sunday brunch buffet that I am still dreaming about.
2. Admiring the duality of the white yet colorful colonial city of Arequipa. Along with the white architecture, I also managed to get the best Instagram photographs of the colorful Santa Catalina Monastery and the Libertador hacienda-like hotel.
3. Cusco, a city where dozens of languages are spoken every day and where millions of people from all over the world meet before heading to the magical (pictures don’t do it justice) Machu Picchu. Staying at the Casa Andina Premium Cusco was the perfect place to relax and unwind before waking up early to explore Rainbow Mountain (Montaña de Siete Colores). Yes, it’s true, I even counted more than seven colors. To say the least, hiking to the top was physically demanding but being able to turn around from the colors of the mountain to find the snowy peak of Ausangate is motivating enough to keep hiking.
Side note: Cusco on its own is completely worth visiting for its on-site museums and gastronomy offers.
4. Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort pampered us from the minute we walked in. Top-notch amenities, two different pools, a catamaran trip, bikes for two and ceviche prepared with the catch of the day, added up to a perfect weekend. Paracas may not be the most famous spot for international travelers (competing with Lima and Cusco is not easy), but it does offer a boat tour that gets two inches away from sea lions and allow you to admire the “Candelabra” sand formation. The best meal of the trip was 20 minutes away in Pisco, where I actually considered offering the chef to live in my house in Mexico so I could enjoy the heavenly meals more often (the chef refused my offer). The highlight of the region was a visit to the Huacachina oasis, where the water and palm trees cool you down after sand boarding and riding a boogie in the dunes (the desert looks like something straight out of Star Wars and the sunburn was a small price to pay for the adrenaline pumping ride).
5. Yes, saying goodbye to a country you fall in love with is hard, but this goodbye was even harder. Our final stop of the trip was Lima, where we walked 13 miles (yes, half a marathon) through the neighborhoods of San Isidro, Larcomar and Barranco. Surfing, paragliding, pisco sour tasting (again) and enjoying a great sunny day was the best way to wrap up the trip. On the last day, I had the opportunity to visit the Arrivedo headquarters (which actually has a slide onsite, because stairs are no fun) and meeting the entire team was like reuniting with friends who I’ve known for years. After two years of Skype and phone calls, I had an idea of what Mariale, Jacqueline, Deborah, Alonso, and the entire team looked like, but no amount of technology gets close to sharing a hug and finally meeting the Arrivedo team. Or to share a better sense of who they are, the Arrivedo family. I couldn’t hide the excitement in my voice, and what was supposed to be a quick lunch with Jacqueline, Mariale and Deborah turned out to be hours of laughing, recommendations, life stories and an afternoon I will always remember.
Tip: if you are ever having lunch with these three ladies, make sure you go hungry. We must have tried 15 different typical Peruvian dishes (each of them better than the last but none of them as good as our conversation).
Summing up an entire trip to Peru in one blog post will not be enough. I’ve got tons of entries to write so hopefully, one day, I can do the entire trip justice. Saying thanks to the team for their trust, patience and friendliness, will never be enough.
Practical Tips of How to Improve Your Writing
If you just started working with Arrivedo, are a blog writer, or an entrepreneur and need a little motivation to pitch and/or write, here are a few tips that sum up the best practices I’ve learned over last couple of years:
- Do your research. And by research, I mean go beyond Google and a phone interview. Talk to as many locals as you can, UBER drivers, hotel staff, airport security, restaurant owners, your own friends or family that have visited the places you are writing about and read other blogs, articles or books. Having more information will definitely make writing “short blogs” hard but it will give you more perspectives to select from. You’ll also be motived to find a style that resonates with your writing and personality.
- Connect with people. Look for common ground between yourself, the place and the people you are writing about. Then, make them proud with your writing. Imagine you are writing about your family business or hometown and project the essence of it in a way that readers will want to share it with everyone.
- Say “yes” to every invitation. Sometimes, offers won’t pay cash, but sometimes a favor for a favor can be surprisingly better than a fixed fee. Some corners of the world may seem far away, but the best adventures are often beyond our comfort zone.
- Be flexible and willing to adapt. Be open to change your itinerary, working hours and even sacrifice some personal time to pitch to new clients.
- Pitch yourself. The best pitch is and always will be one-on-one but opportunities to do so will not always repeat themselves. Don’t feel bad about your work life getting immersed with your personal contacts. As you explain to friends and family what you do, many of them might know people that manage, market or work with your target clients (in this case, hotels).
- Work hard, play hard. You’ll probably skip a party, the movies or a morning workout. You will wake up at 3AM to have transcontinental phone calls and interviews or will work on Sundays to meet deadlines, but it will all be worth it.
Never Give Up & Stay Focused
Yes, writing sounds great but people don’t mention all the editing, applying revisions, or even figuring out tech updates and glitches. It can burn you out, even more so if you’re like me (trying to juggle a full-time job with a freelance project). As mentioned before, you will miss out on Game of Thrones marathons and wine nights as you try not to miss project deadlines or replying to emails from clients in other cities.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change anything about what I currently do or all that I’ve worked for. And hopefully, I will get to do it for a long, long time. However, even when you do what you love, it still gets tiring, but in the end, it’s all worth it. Yes, I missed a few movie nights and getting together with my friends, but guess what? While researching Arequipa, I learned about an entire village that literally “ghosted” a volcano for erupting and killing their friends and family, how is that for a plot, Shonda Rhimes?
Trust your gut, listen and learn from others, ask for help, always thank them and keep on going. Think of the reward when things get rough and seize the slow days for there will be busier ones. Keep your goals in mind. In my case, those include catching colorful sunsets, eating Michelin-starred meals for less than ten dollars, spending time with friends and getting to those hundreds of corners in the world left to discover.