I ARRIVED to Lima just a few weeks after waking up in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado with a desperate pang in my chest. I had to get out of there. Boulder isn’t a small town, but it is small in culture, and I was choking on routine. Twenty four hours later I had a ticket to Peru. It was the largest,and loudest place I’d ever been to, and it was my very first time away from home. I was overwhelmed by the waves of people coming at me, the scent of carmelizing sugar from the churro stands, the chatter flitting past me far too fast to ever decipher. I thought I knew Spanish. I had a lot to learn.

I was so overwhelmed with Lima that I started to wonder if I’d made a mistake. My first defense against the chaos I was experiencing was to document it. By putting my camera between myself and this place, I had a barrier. I started photographing everything — literally every single thing — in an attempt to feel like I was experiencing this place, when really I was busying myself out of the experience. Every building, every door, every piece of fruit, every cobbled alley, anything different to what I’d know. I shot it all to death.

Several days in, I realized what I was doing. We were at a fountain called Magico de Agua, and the square was so simple that I was out of things to photograph. I had to just lower the camera and let my guard down. And it sank in, that I was avoiding the place, skirting around it by snapping photos. I didn’t want to go home with a million images and no stories. I watched my boyfriend stroll in front of the coloured fountain and finally felt this sense that we really were on an adventure. I snapped this one image, and put my camera away.

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