Before I traveled to Peru, I got warned by all kinds of people that, because I’m a girl – and especially because I’m a blonde girl, I would be hassled, bothered, and potentially even kidnapped.
My mother was so worried that at one point, she suggested I purchase a dark, black wig – particularly for my travels in Peru, because “she had heard things” about blondes traveling there.
A dark wig, mother?? Really?
Even if you’re a confident traveler, these (well-meaning) messages of fear can start to play in the back of your mind. Late one night before my trip, with worried thoughts stirring, I sat up in bed and typed into Google: “What’s it like to travel in Peru as a blonde girl?”
I mean, I’m sure Google gets all kinds of random queries at two in the morning.
Unfortunately, my search didn’t produce much. I came across Trip Advisor forums that weren’t too helpful, mostly scared foreigners looking for future travel tips. I found one blog though, from a fellow female traveler, that began to set my mind at ease. She wrote of her South American travel experiences in a no-nonsense kind of way, filled with practical advice. Compared to the random warnings from strangers, friends, and of course, my well-meaning mother: this was a godsend.
Hearing just one other woman’s account of her journey in South America made me feel more confident about my own travels there. I began to feel that super exciting and familiar feeling: “If she can do it – so can I.”
I’d never read a blog before in my life until I went to Peru. And then I became fascinated reading the stories, tips, adventures, and musings of other travelers. They started to feel like kindred spirits. The more I read, the more I felt: “If they can do it, so can I.”
And that kind of positivity starts to build momentum. And momentum begins to set you on a course. Visualizing yourself in new situations gives you the confidence you need to handle those situations. And the best way to begin that visualization process, often, is by emulating people who have gone before you, and been successful.Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
You start to feel how you felt as a child, reading Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” Instead of the world seeming small and scary, it begins to feel infinite and big again, even benevolent. It begins to feel like a place where rainbow mountains may even exist, in some far-off and exotic land.
The more you travel, the more you want other people to look at your journey and say: “If she can do it, so can I.”
Which is why I felt compelled to document my travels to Peru, via the Journey to Machu Picchu. I wanted to show the experience of two female travelers on the road to this beautiful and wild place, one of the Wonders of the World.
Why document this journey?
Well, as I think back to that night at two in the morning, when I was desperately searching Google for a sign of encouragement about traveling as a female in South America – words are great, but there’s something different about seeing someone doing what you want to do, seeing that they’re okay doing it. That night, if I’d stumbled upon a video of two girls hiking Machu Picchu, not only would it have eased my mind, but it would have allowed me to start putting myself in their shoes: to see myself in South America – hiking, laughing, having adventures.
I would have been more clearly able to say: “If they can do it, so can we.”
Noelia & Zsa Zsa at the entrance to Machu Picchu, Peru
Too many things in life tell us what we should fear. About all of the things that could go wrong.
And that is why I created this short film: as an antidote to that fear. I wanted to document my actual experience in Peru: which was beautiful, and challenging, and just as it should be. I wanted to tell other women: it’s okay to travel. I wanted to give them permission. And I wanted to tell them: it’s not that scary. You can do it.
But above all, I wanted to show them, not what could go wrong while traveling.
Instead, I wanted to show them all of the things that could go right for them while traveling in South America, as a girl.
Even if they don’t have a dark wig handy.
Noelle Bertram is a former fitness coach & restaurant owner who travels full-time now & writes all about it. Catch up with her on Instagram or @ her website about being the ultimate, fearless travel girl: GirlWhoTravelstheWorld.com!