The best thing about my trip to Peru was not Machu Picchu. It may sound odd, seeing that Machu Picchu is on almost every “Top 10” list and is considered one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” but my favorite moments during my time in Peru were those spent hearing stories and learning about Peruvian culture.
A little over a year ago my parents and I, with good family friends, planned a custom Peru trip. Machu Picchu was high on our list, but we also wanted to see other parts of Peru. With Knowmad’s guidance and planning we came up with the perfect combination of down-time, activities, and culture.
We first went to Puerto Maldonado and stayed at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Lodge. That was, hands down, one of my favorite hotels on Earth. Our rooms were private bungalows, screened to keep the bugs out, but still open to the elements. Here we met one of our favorite guides, Moises. He helped us plan each excursion and we truly connected with him. I was struck by his intuition and environmental knowledge. You could tell that his rainforest understanding was innate, he grew up valuing the land and saw the Earth as a dynamic teacher and companion. He explained the medicinal qualities of different rainforest plants and recounted stories from his childhood as we walked amongst some of the oldest trees in the world. He told us of a Shaman he visits every so often that fixes a flower bath for you; soaking in this, along with ancient rituals, rids your body of negativity and refreshes your mind and spirit. Hearing Moises talk about his upbringing and learning about his culture’s history gave me a different perspective on my own. It inspired me to think more seriously about what I put into my body; medicine in our lives today, things as simple as advil, have natural origins and, because it’s easier, we take the artificial alternative.
After spending a few days in the jungle we flew west to Cusco. During our time there we saw Incan ruins and meandered through Peruvian markets. We also visited the high Andean village of Amaru. When we first met the community I was a little taken aback. Everyone was wearing traditional clothing and as part of the day we dressed up in traditional garb as well. It all seemed a little much, but as the day went on I was truly touched. At this time I was really getting into natural foods and medicine and the Amaru community leader explained to us the importance of using and thanking the land. They explained that all of their clothing and products were dyed with natural dyes, even though synthetic dyes are available to them. They also explained that each pattern they used had historical significance and told a story. And one of the big turning points for me, was hearing the community leader speak about the importance of tourism in their community. He explained how he was proud to share his way of life with others and because of programs like these, their community is able to afford a better education and health care system. It became clear to me that my feelings of aphrension were actually those of ignorance. I was completely disregarding what I was going to learn from them and pegged the program as one of exploitation before I gave it a chance; in reality, it could not have been more different. The concept of thanking the land really stood out to me. It made me recognize how lost we get in our daily routine and planning for the future, we forget to take a moment to be grateful, content, and most of all thankful.
Amaru Village Photo Credit: Knowmad Traveler – Michael Stewart
As we continued our trip, and visited Machu Picchu, my mind was in a calm place. As we walked through this incredibly magical place I thought more about what it would mean to truly live there. How dependent you would be on the land, the weather, and your neighbors. We still feel this dependence today but our connection has been diluted. We aren’t forced to truly live off of the land or experience the elements, but we still have the choice. Going to Machu Picchu gave me an appreciation for working together with others and our environment. It encouraged me to feel that connection more often, whether that mean turning my phone off for a couple hours or going on a vacation.
My trip to Peru made me realize one of the reasons I love to travel. Travel allows you to take a breath and cherish the world. We spend our days looking at photos of the outdoors and daydreaming about the possibilities, but we rarely take the time to actually go outside, touch the soil, and thank the Earth.
Nos Vemos, Lisa
Lisa is the Media Manager at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2012 and is continually planning her next adventure. Read Lisa’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.