They say travel broadens the mind, and my experiences have been no different. There is nothing more fulfilling in life than immersing yourself in the cultures of others around the world, getting to see first hand the lives others lead, day in and day out. Traveling to other countries is always such a surreal experience, it’s incredible to escape your own little bubble in the United States and experience what makes Earth the amazing little planet it is. I had the opportunity to visit Spain my freshman year of high school, something that has stuck with me to this very day. This year I was lucky enough to take another international trip, this time to Peru, and it has left an imprint on me that will last for the rest of my days.
Most of my time in Peru centered around the town of Pisaq, a small town located in the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is home to an incredible array of Incan ruins, an ancient civilization way beyond their times. While in the sacred valley I saw my fair share of ruins, from Saksaywaman right outside of Cusco, to the famous Machu Picchu just outside of the town Aguas Caliente. Both were mind blowing experiences, to stand in the midst of a once great civilization is nothing less than humbling. Seeing the incredible buildings and stonework they were able to accomplish even with primitive technologies is a feat all should witness at some point in their lives. One thing that stuck out to me at all of these sites was the respect the Incas had for what nature provided for them. They built temples to the sun, the most important deity in their minds as they saw it as the giver of life, to the lightning that brought the rains to quench their fields, and even the mountains that they called home, along with many more. They also had a great respect for the alpaca and llamas that saturated their territories, each animal was used to it's fullest extent; no parts went to waste, similar to the Native Americans and their prized buffalo that once roamed the Great Plains of America. In a modern world so obsessed with consumerism and driven by greed, these ancient people knew the true beauty of the earth isn’t the wealth that could be acquired, instead it was all the natural resources and beings that makes the Earth the amazing place it is. They didn’t try to exploit the Earth and its resources, instead they cherished it. I would love to see the modern world respect what the Earth provides for us as the Incas did, maybe we wouldn’t be in the face of an intense imminent environmental disaster we are now. I wish we as humans could learn and implement more from those who came before us.
During my stay in Pisaq I also had the pleasure of interacting first hand with the people of Peru. Nearly 49% of the inhabitants of Peru don’t know the modern civilization we do in the U.S., instead experiencing life in the mountains and in small communities living in a way similar to the Incas who came before them. They farm, weave, or make other goods to barter with their neighbors. Yet, this simplistic lifestyle seemed to bring them immense amount of happiness; it’s another great reminder that wealth is not the only provider of happiness. I had the pleasure of having lots of close interaction with two native Peruvians that looked over the home we were staying at. Every morning they would wake us with a Peruvian breakfast, and when we would try to do the dishes they would shoo us away. Their kindness, even for complete strangers, was a fascinating thing to experience. It seems so often back home people immediately build a wall up against those who they don’t know, yet these Peruvians opened us with welcome arms, and even though we struggled to speak Spanish, we shared a lot of laughs in our short stay together. This is another thing that stuck out in my mind, no matter where you go in the world raw human emotion is the exact same. From the foothills of Peru to the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan, all anyone wants in life is happiness, laughter, and a family to share it all with. It reminds you how interconnected the human race is, even from backgrounds that have nearly no similarities.
I also had the pleasure of ringing in the New Year in the town of Pisaq. My family went out to a nice dinner at around seven on New Year’s Eve, a tradition many in the U.S. participate in. We made sure to make reservations early, in fear that the restaurant we were going to would be absolutely packed. Yet, what we found when we arrived was a ghost town; we were the only people present at the restaurant. After our meal we walked the streets of Pisaq and it became clear why the restaurant was empty, the people of Pisaq were too busy in the streets of their community celebrating the impending New Year with their neighbors. All throughout the streets were young children setting off fireworks, families laughing and chatting, and an overall sentiment of joy. The celebration of the New Year for the people of Peru is not to be celebrated alone, instead it’s to be celebrated in unison with all those in your community who made the year as great as it was. Community was so clearly important to the people of Peru, something that I wish the whole world could recognize.
A final Peruvian experience I was incredibly pleased to have was surfing on the coast of Lima. I am a boarder at heart, from snowboarding, to long boarding, to surfing, and more. I put on my wet suit, grabbed my board, and hit the waves and it was one of my favorite experiences I’ve had in a long time. The surf was crowded, tons of native Peruvians were out enjoying the same thing I was and it was incredible to see someone across the globe as dedicated to my hobbies as I was. When someone would catch a big wave, the people around would celebrate with them, as life’s little successes and happiness should be shared. It was fun to see everyone reveling in others accomplishments and the excitement was transcendent even across a language barrier. It reminded me that success isn’t an individual aspect and not every aspect of life should be treated as a competition. The true beauty of the human race isn’t what an individual can accomplish, instead it is the collective of our accomplishments and successes that make our species so incredible. The modern world wasn’t built in one day, instead the accomplishments of those before us live on to be built on by those who come after. Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to be so competitive and instead pushed all of each other to be the best versions of ourselves, and thus achieved all we can as a unified human race.
Peru has left an impression on me that I won’t soon forget. Every time I travel it baffles me to see what those from other areas of life can teach you, especially coming from a country that likes to think it has it all figured out. Everyone should strive to visit Peru at some point in their lives, maybe you will take home with you some of the same lessons as I did or even learn some I wasn’t able to. It truly doesn’t even have to be Peru, any country can bring with it it’s own lessons that we can learn if you visit with an open mind. For just as the old Peruvian proverb goes, “you won’t catch trout without wetting your feet,” and you won’t catch the beauty of life and lessons available without leaving your comfort zone and traveling the world we are so lucky to inhabit. Thank you Peru for all you taught me, I’ll never forget it.