How Peru's culture gave me a greater appreciation
Updated: Jun 13
“I came to appreciate all of the practices that the Incan people cultivated to co-exist with their environment instead of blowing through their natural resources”
Being from Lake Tahoe, California I had the benefit of seeing some pretty amazing natural landscapes in my own backyard. Just outside the door were numerous hiking trails, mountains, and lakes that set my imagination on fire. It was a great place to grow up!
However, I was also very busy all the time. I was involved in many different groups and organizations growing up. While this was great for my personal development and I made many friends, it also meant that I didn’t have a lot of time for myself.
That’s why, just before my college graduation and start of a new job, I decided to travel to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. I had worked really hard throughout school and I finally had the time to do it. I saved up for a year to make sure I could go and visit one of the most unique landscapes and ancient cultures our world has to offer. It was the first time in a very long time that I had two weeks to do anything, so I decided to travel.
I traveled through Cusco to Aguas Calientes and saw all of the major cultural heritage sites of the Inca Civilization while hiking and exploring in the sacred valley. This included taking a motorcycle tour of the villages that line the Urubamba river and one of the last full glaciers in the Andes as well as visiting the sacred Machu Picchu itself.
How Peru changed my perspective
Throughout the trip, I came to realize the importance of diversity - both cultural and environmental - to the human experience. I came to appreciate all of the practices that the Incan people cultivated to co-exist with their environment instead of blowing through their natural resources.
For example, the people in Cuzco had experimental farming sites and salt mines that they used to preserve genetic variations of crops to survive during different climates and seasons. They used one dedicated farming site for experimentation and have managed to preserve the salt mines for thousands of years at Moras. In addition, the villages are completely self-sustaining and do not rely on any supply chains or capitalist networks. The villages in the Sacred Valley do much better on their own and have preserved the environment and culture in doing so.
My “aha moment” of the trip
There was some looming pressure on my mind since I did the trip right before I was set to graduate college and start working. But when I started exploring Peru and diving into the culture and natural landscapes around me, I felt a sudden feeling of space from all of the big decisions looming ahead. Being able to think about those decisions more clearly ultimately helped me to face them with a better perspective. Riding the train out of Aguas Calientes through the Sacred Valley, I knew I was mentally in a better place to return to my life in the U.S. and take the next step in my career with a renewed focus.
Most challenging moment of the trip
I had a fantastic trip. The only thing that went even slightly awry came on my way home. The connecting flight in Miami required me to run through the airport as fast as possible and the US Customs inspection proved quite the culture shock. I felt way freer in the Peruvian villages than I did with all the customs recognition technology and TSA nonsense thrust on me in the name of freedom back in the states. So, looking back on it, adjusting back to the high-strung American lifestyle was the most uncomfortable moment of my trip to Peru.
My takeaway tips for traveling to Peru
Be brave! Try the Guinea Pig!
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