Living Strong Abroad: A Fresh Perspective on Peru

(Photo: Jo Self/ Living in Peru)

Memory is an interesting thing, ain’t it? Our memories provide us with a sense of self. They can also sometimes make it harder for us to be happy in the present.

If you’ve been following my blog for any bit of time, you know that I recently went to Alptitude, a program for global entrepreneurs and visionaries. While I spent a week in the French Alps enjoying the company of some pretty remarkable people, my biggest A-Has! came from the rest of my trip through Europe. I was quite lucky to revisit some amazing places and catch up with friends whom I hadn’t seen in as little as 3 years and as many as 27. It was magical on many levels.

You might be wondering what this has to do with Peru. Hang tight, I’ll connect the dots soon enough.

(Photo: The French Alps/ Pexels)

I came to the realization that nostalgia does not have to be sad. I have spent a lot of time thinking more about the past and the future than I have the present over the last few years – neither of which is a great place to be if you want to be happy. We spend a lot of time thinking about “what if?” and “if only…”. When we spend enough time doing this, we can lose the joy of where we are and miss the beauty of the here and now.

I visited Peru for the first time in 1995 and it was one of the places I was happiest in my life. It’s what brought me back in 2011 looking for a place to call home. Unfortunately, I found a very different Peru than I remembered. I’m not entirely blaming Peru for this mind you because I think the world, in general, has changed due to technology and just the general busy-ness of people. I’ve changed as well.

In 1995, I was welcomed with such open arms everywhere I went. I couldn’t be left alone if I wanted to be. I was invited out to dine, into homes for lunches and dinners, out with friends for beach days and excursions. In 2011, I could barely get anyone to grab a coffee, let alone show me around. The last six years have been quite lonely for me and honestly, Peru is not always my “happy place” anymore. This is a multi-layered reality and one that does not choose to criticize Peru, but reflect on what it is about me that makes it so.

I’ve always been fascinated by memory.

How we manufacture memory and what that does to our perception of reality. Have you ever gone back to a childhood haunt, maybe an old school, and upon entering think, “Wow, everything is SO small?!” Because when you were there, you were smaller, so everything looked bigger. I’ve kind of had this feeling about myself for a while. I haven’t been happy in quite some time, but honestly, a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’ve been thinking about who I was and where I got lost along the way; instead of seeing where I am and how much of the old me is really still there.

This is what the visit to Europe did for me. No little one constantly vying for my attention. No husband with criticisms or expectations. A carte blanche to just be me and enjoy it. And you know what I found? There is joy in nostalgia. With every place I re-visited and every friend I re-connected, I found pieces of me I had thought were long gone. They weren’t. They’ve just been hibernating and needed a good poke.

I’ve come back to Peru with fresh eyes.

A new appreciation for how to enjoy my days and how to make the tough ones a little bit easier. Sometimes we just need to step away for a bit to give us a fresh perspective. I’m grateful for the connections I’ve made here and I am looking forward to making new ones as well.



Jo Self

Jo Self is Peru’s only Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and is on a mission to disrupt the status quo and raise a Strengths-Based Generation. She believes in a world where everyone can live to their full potential, talents aren’t wasted & happiness is contagious. As a mompreneur & expat living in Peru, she understands the challenges and rewards that both entail. When she’s not helping others create extraordinary lives, she can be found at the sewing machine, at the movies, enjoying a glass of wine with friends or horsing around with her terribly precocious little boy, affectionately known as O. or

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Richard LaFleshe

    Great article. I can really relate to this because my best friend from my teen years just contacted me through facebook where he had posted a video of our across Canada road trip we took together in 1963.
    What a suprise and a boost to my morale.
    I can also relate to yo ubecause I too live in Peru with my Peruvian spouse of ten years .Thanks