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It’s midnight, my flight for Peru leaves tomorrow, and my room still looks like this:

While I suppose I’ve been known to get things done at the last minute, take a moment to consider my situation before you judge me too hard. Imagine that you are traveling to Cusco, Peru, where the average climate varies by over 30 degrees on a day-to-day basis. It could be as hot as our July during the day, only to drop to as cold as our January at night. Imagine that you are planning to go on 4-day treks through areas as remote as northern New Hampshire, at altitudes of up to 4,000 meters. Then imagine that your addicted to a series of books called Game of Thrones (this part shouldn’t be too hard to envision if you have seen any of the hit HBO series), each of which numbers anywhere from 800 to 1000 pages. Factor in U.S. Airways’s absurd baggage rules and suddenly you’ve got a logistical nightmare about on the level of the creation of the Roman aqueducts. (Ok, it’s probably not THAT bad, but can’t you feel my pain?)

While I’m in the business of complaining, I want to draw more attention to how much U.S. Airways sucks. I was doing a little research on their baggage policy, mainly to make sure my carry-on was within the specified dimensions. A chart told me that international flights charged no fee to check your first bag, so I thought “Great, just stick to the weight limit and you’ll be fine.” I later discovered, to my horror, that are some serious exceptions to this generous baggage allowance. Transatlantic flights give you a free checked bag, but for anything going to the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and South America (except Brazil), your luggage costs you $25 each way. Great. I wouldn’t have thought a flight to Peru would be considered “domestic,” but U.S. Airways knows best. They sure make a big deal about not charging for your checked baggage if you’re going to Brazil, giving this category its own column on the chart. Maybe they have a deal with the Brazilian government or something. The overweight charges are cheaper and they even give you a second bag for free! Maybe I should have gone to Brazil instead, but then I would have wanted to learn Portuguese throughout high-school instead of Spanish. And I didn’t have the foresight to check the U.S. Airways baggage policy upon entering Freshman year.

Ok, you’ve probably had enough griping. I’m sorry. This is my first blog, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure exactly what you’re supposed to write about in these things. I’m sort of just giving it a whirl. So if you do decide to keep reading, I ask you to please keep any “dislikes”, negative comments, hate mail, digital rotten tomatoes, and other forms of virtual lampooning to a reasonably moderate barrage. Being a generally optimistic guy, I can also promise that I THINK, once I actually get to Peru, these posts will get a little more interesting. There will be pictures, insights (although I make no promises as to how insightful they’ll be), general comments and cultural observations, and (who knows?) maybe even some cool stories thrown into the mix.

If you’re reading this and you’re not a friend or relative, let me say first of all that I’m immensely flattered. Secondly, here’s a brief introduction of myself, so if you read something outrageously insensitive or downright false, you’ll know who to blame: My name is Raymond Emmanuel Hawkins, but you can call me Ray (like I said, I’m optimistic… we’d probably be friends if we met). I was born in England in a village called Shepton Mallet. Yes, there’s a place called Shepton Mallet. I just imagine swarthy blacksmiths hammering away at molten iron horseshoes whenever I try to imagine my birthplace, but none of those smith skills rubbed off on me. For most of my life, I’ve lived in the great state of New Hampshire, in a town called Lyndeborough. Yes, Lyndeborough is also a place. It’s nice if you love the great outdoors, but it might have been a little lacking in excitement, discounting the 2-mile walks to the Village Store that my sisters and I took on almost a daily basis. After spending my last to years of high school at Phillips Exeter Academy for Boys (the last two words are just a little joke, it’s actually been co-ed since the 70s), I went to Connecticut College in New London. The city’s not very new and it’s definitely no London, but I suppose it has a few more attractions than Lyndeborough, so I can’t complain.

Studying abroad in Spain last year gave me the travel bug, and I haven’t been able to kill it since. I guess that’s why, instead of doing something responsible and practical for my college’s funded internship program, like interning at a tall and important office building in New York, I decided to go to Peru. After a lot of searching on the internet, I found South American Explorers, a travel organization that has clubhouses in Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador. It was the Cusco clubhouse that really struck my fancy. Located in the historical heart of Peru and within close proximity of Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Wonders of the World, it seemed the perfect place. I realized that South American Explorers had Travel Writing internship program, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Once again, I apologize. I promise that is the most information about me that this blog will ever contain. If you’ve gotten through all this and still want to keep reading, you’re probably either really charitable, really interested in Peru, or some combination of the two. Whichever it is, thank you. I fly for Lima tomorrow, and will be spending a day or two there before taking an overnight bus through the treacherous peaks of the Andes to Cusco. So tomorrow is when PeruZing begins for real. Stay tuned.

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