It was the event that would solidify my love for travel. It was also the most intense moment of my entire life.
I was a 20 year old North American girl backpacking alone for the first time. I had boarded a bus at night going through the Amazon of Peru. Despite the very uncomfortable bus, I managed to fall asleep.
I was awoken at 3:00 am by an image that can only be described as surreal; for a moment, I was positive I was in the midst of a bad dream.
In front of the door that separates the driver from the rest of the bus there stood a man. His face was covered by a black mask, and he held a large black gun pointed towards us all. He yelled in Spanish, but I knew not the language at that time. The rest of the bus was filled with locals, so when they threw their arms into the air, I followed suit. The men were then all marched off of the bus, causing my first instinct: What are they about to do with the men? This was quickly followed by a second internal question: What are they about to do with the women? Knowing that I was the only non-Peruvian on the bus, and remembering warnings of kidnappings that I had heard, I then wondered what they would do with me. I had embarked on this trip after a bad breakup with my first love, and I had entered the country a complete wreck. It occurred to me at this point that this may be the end; I may be about to die. I asked myself if I was okay with this.
The answer came to me almost instantly: Yes. I in no way wanted to die, but I had seen and learned more about myself and the world in that brief trip than I had in my entire life combined. I had recovered from the breakup and emerged a new person. If this was my time, then it was okay.
The man with the large black gun left the bus, and a different masked man, this one with a small silver pistol, entered. He proceeded to go through all of our bags and taking anything of value, while unceremoniously throwing anything else onto the floor. The entire time, his finger was on the trigger of the pistol. When he reached me, he took my iPod and my camera. He looked through my wallet, but did not see my money as it was in between cards and little pieces of paper containing contact information of people I had met. He asked me in Spanish where my money was. Though I understood his question, I played dumb; I told him, in broken Spanish, that I didn’t speak Spanish. He repeated his question and I repeated my answer. He looked at me for a moment, and then continued on; he must have decided that I wasn’t worth the trouble. To this day, I have no idea where I had the guts to refuse giving the man who pointed a gun at my head my money.
After what seemed like forever, the second masked man left the bus, and the men were marched back onto the bus. The bus continued on to its destination, with all of the passengers wide awake and speaking words I couldn’t understand.
Three and a half years after this event, there is nothing I love more than travelling. And this event alone showed me the true strength and courage that I have within me. I finished my travels in Peru as planned, and I have returned since, without an ounce of fear. For when you have considered that you might die at the age of 20 on a bus in the middle of Peru, far from everything and everyone you have ever known, the world is no longer a scary place.