My Unforgettable Journey Backpacking South America: The Story of Philippe & Language Barriers

This is a damn difficult question to deal with. The longer you travel, the more people you meet. Some are great, nice, and fulfilling. On the other hand, sometimes, you meet people who makes you want to live on the moon even without oxygen. The farther, the better. And here I am thinking should I honor this most amazing person when I traveled as a family or should I bring someone I met when I was alone. I will go with the latter.

His name is Philippe Godefroy from France.

I met Philippe in Lima, Peru a day before departing to sole journey to sell the family vehicle. I met Philippe sitting alone quietly in the lobby of the hostel in such a humble way. Though we have many years difference in age, we connected pretty quickly. Philippe is about 63 years old and he decided to backpack South America alone. I met him in Lima after he already explore most of Chile. At that day, Philippe had no plans for the coming week and he expected several friends from France to join him in Lima for some kind of reunion. I had offered him to join me for 3 days to Ica, Peru to enjoy some sand boarding in the great dunes of Huacachina. We both left the next morning.

Philippe and I did not share any common language. My French start and ends with Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir (I want to sleep with you tonight) and this is not something I rather say to a 62 year old man or to any man. On the other hand, his English and Spanish were limited to very several words. So you ask yourself, how did we communicated after all? I am still asking myself that question.

But guess what? Regardless of the language barrier, Philippe and I created a great connection against all odds. After 3 days in Ica, though he planned to go back to Lima, he had decided to continue with me to Cusco. Our journey together brought to him a new aspect of how to travel and what to explore but more than that, it was our connection that made he decide. The trip to Cusco was long and exhausting. When we reached very high altitude, I literately collapsed. I could not breath, I felt my eyes are popping out of the sockets, and my body was shaking. At that point, Philippe took over the car and drove us down the mountain. Shortly after, I was back to normal.

In Cusco, we spent only short time together since Philippe took the next morning a plane back to Cusco. When we hugged (for the last time), I cried. I knew I will miss him and he left. I can swear that he was crying as well though I was not 100% confident.

But guess what? a week or so after, I get an email from my wife who is still in Lima saying “Philippe is here, he met his friends and he is coming back to you in few day!” Wow! I did not believe it. and there he was, after few days, Philippe and I are back together. I know, it sound like a love story… ha ha ha.

From Cusco, we both, and sometimes with other backpackers who joined the ride, rolled through south Peru, Boliva, and Argentina. In Boliva, we both suffered from the altitudes. The best part was the Salar de Uyuni. We enjoyed 4 days in the mountains on a 4×4 journey.

In Argentina, our ways separated and this time for real. I may not see Philippe again in my life though I promised to pay him a visit in France. But regardless, Philippe will be always a great memory of a great person I met in this jouney.

oh.. by the and of the trip with Philippe I learned many phrases in French but my favorite was Je t’aime (I love you).

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