by Niall Doherty


I quit drinking three and a half years ago, dreaming of a day like today. The birthday boy in a mad Irish pub on Paddy’s weekend, able to let loose with nare a tipple. Chatting and laughing with strangers, dancing for hours, and making a move on the girl with the deep eyes and cute smile. I had many a good night on the piss, but none can compare to this.


The Wild Rover in Cusco is a special place, pub and hostel combined. People plan to stop a day or two and end up staying for weeks. I’m sure the biz turns a tidy profit but easy tell that’s not the point. An old school buddy runs the joint, a man who has found his calling, doing his utmost to create the best of times for whoever comes through.


Just moved into a new gaff, like a decent hotel room with fast wifi and a shared kitchen downstairs. Cost is about $53 a week, will stay here for three and get back on track with the work stuff. My savings are now at their lowest point since I quit my day job back in 2010. Luckily, I’m more confident than ever in my ability to earn. Time to punch in.


It’s an interesting mix of people you see here, three distinct types. You have all the foreigners roaming around the place, often dressed for the beach. Then the urban Peruvians in modern dress. And then the rural Peruvians in traditional garb, usually with a baby wrapped to their back with a rainbow blanket. The latter group never looks very happy.


The market is closed so we head to a juice shop. On the way I stumble through an explanation of my spiritual beliefs, then over the jugo we talk about vegetarianism and that whole lark. Later we stroll through the plazas and she tells me about the time some dude swam in the fountain to impress her. I repeat back to make sure I understood. Tis coming along nicely.

Domingo en Cusco

Domingo en Cusco


We’re dating, though she knows I’m only here for a short time and there’s been no spoken commitment. But if I’m out some night and hit it off with someone else, does that constitute as cheating? I’d be okay with her dating other people, but pretty sure she doesn’t share that sentiment. And I don’t want to do it behind her back, feels too sneaky.


The town is called Aguas Calientes. Accordingly, there’s a hot spring, and we make that our first stop after lunch. We soak in the drizzle and see a hummingbird and meet an Englishman who can’t comprehend making money online. I’m struck distracted by all the bodies. Jealous of that guy’s pecs. Impressed with the shape of the elderly gent. Wowed by those hourglass gals.


It was built some five hundred years ago, and abandoned a century later. Nobody really knows why. The construction process also remains a mystery. They didn’t use wheels or iron tools, yet they managed to quarry, carve, transport and place massive rocks all around the mountain. And they were smart, their architecture accounting for earthquakes and erosion.


Lying in bed this morning, making her late for work, and then I say it: “I’m worried that you want to be my girlfriend.” She says yes, she’d like that, but she understands that we’re only temporary. Which is a relief, but something still feels off about all this. She likes me too much, that’s probably it. It would be perfect if I left town tomorrow, but I’ll be here two weeks yet.


On the walk back up the will, thinking how to handle the call. I’d like to talk her into it, but any attempt to do so will most likely be futile. You can’t change a mind that doesn’t want to be changed, pointless to even try. So I’ll just aim to understand, as deeply as I can, why she doesn’t want me to publish what happened between us. Fuck. Wish I’d never made such a promise.

Early morning at Machu Picchu

Early morning at Machu Picchu


I haven’t been exercising much here. It’s cold for one thing, the air is thin, and the place I’m staying isn’t all that conducive to my regular core and stretch workouts. But not to worry. I’ll just focus on the work stuff and watch what I eat. I’ve got the meal routine down pretty good. Breakfast at home, then lunch and dinner in the same spots every day. Plenty of soups and salads should do the trick.


So it’s like this: if I want to go to the travel conference in Brazil next month (should be good networking for the SaaS biz), and then set up shop in a nice apartment in some cool Brazilian city for three months, I need to conjure up somewhere in the vicinity of $2k before mid-April. This is the corner I painted myself into, and I’m actually pleased to be here. Lots of learning dead ahead.


If you’d told me this morning that things would shake out like this, I would have been quite happy about it. Pretty much the best case scenario, no tears, no drama, spoke my truth and parted on terms amicable. Yet I still feel a tad uneasy. And I know why. It’s that disease to please. I hate to disappoint people, even when it’s the smart thing to do.


There’s the sound of smashed glass, voices raised and feet scuffling. I turn off the light and pull back the curtain. It’s a full-on brawl happening right outside my window, looks like it spilled out of the pub across the way. One middle-aged dude is getting the worst of it, down on all fours and suffering kicks to the head. They leave him lying in the middle of the street. I wonder if I should go help.


Cusco doesn’t feel so cuddly at four o’clock in the morning on the walk back from the hospital. You see faces drooling on doorsteps and an old man dragging a ragged sack of plastic bottles. There’s rubbish everywhere and the unrelenting smell of piss. You stay wary of the shadows, adjusting your gear to aid a getaway. Face straight ahead, eyes scanning side to side.


I published the book today. Made about $300 in pre-sales, which was nice. I’m aiming for a hundred total sales before mid-April, which would be at least $1,000 in revenue. Not big money, but I’d be pretty happy with that. The reviews have been good so far, though it’s mostly been friends reviewing. You never really know how good your work is until strangers have their say.

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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