In 2003, I lived in Lima, Peru on exchange for the International Business program at Carleton University. It was an incredible year full of unbelievable and very unexpected journeys. A couple of which I would like to share with you today.
A benefit to living in Peru was its beautiful and diverse physical geography. Beaches, mountains, deserts and rainforests to explore meant many weekend trips with other fellow exchange students.
One trip I made a few times was to the northern part of Peru, the beaches of Mancora. When it was gloomy and damp in Lima in the wintertime, it was hot and sunny in Mancora and quite inexpensive to visit. My friends and I would hop on the overnight bus Wednesday after class and 16 hours later we would arrive in Mancora. A bit crazy now that I think about it but for a 21-year old student, it was awesome.
One of these trips, however, proved to be a bit more of an adventure.
There were five of us (one Canadian, one Austrian, one German, one Mexican and one Dutch) on the bus back to Lima after a fantastic few days of sun, sand and ocean. A few hours outside of Lima we noticed our bus stopped and once we awoke from our grogginess, went to ask our driver what was happening. There was a national strike in Peru, and the only highway to Lima was blocked. After waiting and seeing no movement, we were told we could get off and walk a few kilometres to the next town where buses were running. So we started out. Well, a few kilometres turned into TWO full days of walking with a stop in the middle to find somewhere safe to sleep before night fell and it would become dangerous in the desert. Oh, and since we’d been at the beach, I was in my sandals and one of mine broke just a few minutes in. Funny now but not so much at the time.
It was a bit scary not knowing if we’d be robbed or how far we would have to walk, yet it also meant having an experience unlike any other. We paid money to get doubled by kids on bikes, rode in wagons that should never carry people and were part of a large entourage making the trek. We also made it into the front section of the Lima newspaper – equivalent to our Globe and Mail (photo below). The photographer who took the picture was the only vehicle we saw during our time and the picture reveals my look of disgust when he wouldn’t give us a ride. Little did I know the purpose of the photo and that it would help our teachers believe our story for missing class.
Photo from El Comercio – I’m 2nd from the left with the light over me.
Another adventure was when my brother visited me from B.C. We planned to hike the Inca Trail (the two-day trek, not four due to timing and ambition) and signed up with a travel company. Then, the day before our trip, we were notified that the trek was cancelled due to a soccer match. Of course!
So, we took the train and stayed in a hotel. We got up at 4 am the following day to hike up the ruins in time for the sunrise, and awoke to the sign of rain. Not a light rain – a downpour. We decided to head out early anyway and took the risk to hike up Huayna Picchu – the mountain you see in the background of all the pictures of the ruins. We passed only two other people on the trail. It felt like our own trail.
Hiking the trail is difficult enough not to mention you’re at an altitude of 2,420 metres above sea level. We made it to the top, sweaty and out of breath and sat down. Moments later, the rain clouds parted, and the magnificent ruins were revealed beautifully and dramatically.
It was a moment I’ll never forget.
It was also not part of our plan.
In fact, a lot of my life has not gone according to plan and has turned out better than I ever could have imagined.
Sometimes you need to find ways to adapt and not stress.
It’s the build-up of stress and anxiety that can lead to burnout.
Sometimes, we just need to embrace the journey.