They Told Me Not To Eat The Ceviche

They Told Me Not To Eat The Ceviche

Anyone that travels will attest to how quickly and deeply bonds form with your fellow adventurers. There is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie. Everyone offers advice and pointers, telling you the best parts of town to visit as well as the ones to avoid. Which places are overrun by tourists and which places are raw and beautiful. They tell you about amazing food from local restaurants and the dreadful places that nobody should ever dare enter. They told me not to eat the ceviche. There was a laundry list of rumors from food poisoning to tape worms and every horrible reaction you can think of.

Generally, I adhere to the advice of veteran travelers because quite frankly, they’ve been doing this longer than I have and I appreciate a little guidance in a foreign land. We were wandering the streets of Paracas, a small beach town in Peru. As we ventured around, we continued to see backpackers and travelers from our hostel. They are easily recognizable by the tired, disheveled look on their faces, wrinkled and stained clothes, and uneven tans. We would gather in small groups to exchange reviews and recommendations on local food and attractions. After some pointers on avoiding raw fish and the best patios to watch the sunset, we decided to wander deeper into the fishing village to find a seafood restaurant for dinner. We were in a beach town, after all.

As we browsed the menu of grilled fish on lettuce, grilled fish on potato, grilled fish mixed with lettuce, and grilled fish stuffed with potato, you get the point… I decided to go rouge and order the mixed seafood ceviche. At first glance, it appeared a bit odd. Definitely different than any ceviche I’d eaten before and it had an unusual aroma. I assumed these were just the differences between American ceviche and small-Peruvian-village ceviche. So, after little hesitation, I dug my fork into the colorful mixture of lime-cooked fish, chiles, and cilantro. The dish was delicious; my boyfriend and I fought over the last bite.

After dinner we strolled along the shore observing the street vendors and perusing the tiny markets. We stopped in a little cafe for coffee and dessert, a move that was extremely out of character for us. That night was about embracing the local cuisines so we pulled out our sweet tooth and sat at a small table overlooking the water. We ordered a sweet waffle covered in ice cream, chocolate, whipped cream, and toasted walnuts. Had it not been for the witnesses, we may have licked the plate. Why didn’t we eat dessert more?

We rubbed our overstuffed bellies and continued walking along the shore. The backdrop was stunning. A pastel sunset dropped behind the ocean and cast a mesmerizing veil of pink and orange light on a row of fishing boats being pulled to shore by local men tugging on tattered rope. Incredible scenery, incredible food. The whole time, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about the ceviche. Wondering if I would eventually keel over in writhing agony and demand to be flown home immediately. Craving the comfort of my bed and the most under appreciated beverage on the planet, ice water. My mind raced with all sorts of unfortunate scenarios. Visions of hugging a toilet all night or tossing and turning in my lumpy hostel bed as my stomach tried its best to leap from my body. But it never happened.

As much as I heed the advice of experienced backpackers and appreciate their recommendations, it’s important to remember that you don’t want to have the same trip as everyone else. You can deviate from the path and get lost, try different things and wander into different neighborhoods. Of course there is a risk of getting sick, getting lost, or even getting your wallet stolen. But these things can happen anywhere. Not to mention, there is no guarantee that you will love the same trip as everyone else.

If you follow the recommended path everywhere you go, you are simply replicating the trip of the person before you – and the person before them. You’ll see the same statues, walk the same shorelines, take the same photos, and eating the same street food. Make your trip unique. Venture out. Get lost. Take chances and eat the ceviche.

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