A trip to Machu Picchu is the ultimate example of the importance of enjoying the journey. We left early on a Wednesday and arrived at Machu Picchu mid morning on a Friday. From my home in Springfield, MO it took 4 flights, a ride by private car, a ride on a train and a ride on a bus to get to the ruins in the mountains of Peru. There was plenty of time to sit, observe and count my blessings. Worn out from hiking Machu Picchu Mountain and exploring the ruins, I got to do the journey in reverse with brief stops in Cusco and Lima. I loved almost every minute of it. From the airport massage at the Centurion Lounge in Miami to the private car ride to Inka del Tamba in Urubamba to the Vistadome train ride to Machu Picchu, I was having a great time.
But all that time (and money) for just one afternoon in a sacred place? Yes, because I was present for the new experiences and places I got see. Yes, because it gave time to reflect on the world and my place in it.
This is why I love travel. I always learn something, not just about the world but also myself. Here are a few of the life lessons that presented themselves to me on this journey south and back.
There are layers to every experience. The views of the haves and have-nots are very different.
Staying at resorts is not my normal travel experience. We stay at nice places but they are typically in the heart of busy downtown where we can just walk out the door and explore. The Inka del Tamba was gated with a guard. The world outside the resort, that we watched zoom by via the car window, was much different than inside. I don’t want to say I felt guilt for our beautiful accommodations as I looked at the modest homes built of stone and mortar but I knew I was privileged. I knew my experience was much different than the average person in Urubamba or Aguas Calientes. I felt grateful for the opportunity to make the voyage and to stay in comfort. I felt appreciative for what I have at home. I tried to see me through their eyes but I knew that could never be entirely possible. I gave thanks as often as I could.
Your goal, your path.
Many people who visit Machu Picchu chose to do so by way of the Inca Trail, a 4-day hike through the sacred valley. I feel no shame in my train ride through the valley and my bus ride up the mountain. I love to hike, but I also love a soft bed and a good meal at the end of the day. It was a great reminder that my experience to Machu Picchu was no less valid because I took a different path to get there. I still experienced the connection to the space and the beauty of the ruins. I still had a morning of hiking that made my legs shake.
I was even greeted by a good omen, a mid afternoon rainbow, as I walked through the remains of temples and homes. Everyone must get to their goal in the way that makes sense for them.
The harder you work the bigger the payoff.
Having said that, results and rewards are usually in proportion to the amount of work you put in. Wandering through the ruins is a magical thing in itself but the best views are from the top of the surrounding mountains. We added the hike up Machu Picchu Mountain to our itinerary before we left without realizing a couple of key things. One, there was a time limit. You have to start the climb by 11:00 am or you would not be allowed past the entry hut. You must reach the peak by 12:30 pm or they make you turn around. Two, the path is pretty much all stairs. With only one day to acclimate to the elevation we set out to make it to the top of the Montana. I can honestly say I have never huffed and puffed so hard in my life. I can also say there was a time or two I wondered if we would make it. I was glad when Brian paused to take a photo because it gave me a chance to catch my breath. As we trudged on, stopping to breath and for a snack, a funny thing started to happen. People on their way down would stop on say, You’re almost there! You can make it! I felt like I was joining a fun new club. The more they said it, they more I believed it. Just a little farther, I told my lungs. Just around the bend, I told my legs.
Soon it was true and I saw the gorgeous rainbow flag of Cusco flying before me. As we reached the summit, we mingled with the others who had made it before us. I stopped for a snack while Brian started snapping photos in every direction. Of course I took a selfie at the top. In a rare tourist moment, we both posed with the Montana Machu Picchu sign. I will never forget being above the clouds, watching as the parted to reveal the valley below. If I had given up when my legs and lungs said I should I would have missed out on one of the wonders of the world. Just like a workout, I can’t imagine anyone who has ever made the climb has said they regretted it. Even as my legs were visibly shaking on the way down, I smiled with pride of what I had done and the beauty I had witnessed.
I travel for tea. I travel for food. Mostly, though, I travel for the experience. I travel to keep learning about the world and myself.
Why do you travel?