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Life's Journey Having fun, exploring new places and cultures, volunteering, learning & reflecting.

Laura's reflections of the Trip

PERU | Saturday, 26 April 2008 | Views [995] | Comments [1]

One of the beautiful sunsets of Colonia.

One of the beautiful sunsets of Colonia.

Laura writes:

This one year trip around the world has given us the opportunity to see the world from different perspectives. It has also taught me what is really important in our lives and what is not, what is worthwhile focusing on. It has also shown how little we and other people can live with, especially in the way of material possessions and still be happy, by placing the focus on family, friends, purpose, commitment to what we believe in, unity, a sense of community, solidarity with others, love, expression, unselfishness, devotion and having a meaningful focus.

There is something liberating in not knowing what is around the corner, what you will be doing tomorrow, or what new experiences await you when you get to your new destination. Sometimes, even though you experience fear, you still confront the unknown, the unfamiliar. It seems easier to leave fears aside when you have already begun your journey and you're away from what is familiar to you, far away from the privacy and security of your own home. Through the journey you become a different person and you also get to know yourself and the human condition a little better too. It was such a relief to know that I was capable of so much more. I was able to test myself in different situations and environments, including in more dangerous situations. How we limit ourselves in life, and all due to fear of the unknown. We cling on to "security" which we think we need and become mummified in the process. We also cling on to our material possessions as if they will be our path to happiness, how sad! We did not need possessions during our one year trip and realised how little we actually needed to live. In fact, we were so relieved that we didn't have much of that to weigh us down, just a sense of adventure and a desire to learn, experience, see and perhaps grow spiritually.

The people we met on this trip allowed us to see things clearer in many aspects. Each of those people, taught us something and made it clearer what kind of people we want to be, as well as what we do not want to be or do in our lives. These connections enriched us in one way or another. We could see things from other perspectives. Human contact is definitely more important and enriching than all the material possessions we could ever own.

We live life so differently here in the West, in the developed world. The excess we are so accustomed to, suffocates us without even realising it. We become more individualistic in our attitudes "As long as I'm doing well, stuff everyone else". We don't even realise the outcomes of that, not only to others in our own part of the world and especially to those living in the third world, but also to ourselves. We simply miss out on a more meaningful way of life; we shut off to other human beings. We end up looking for ways to fill the gaps in our soul. How superficially we live, that to fill these holes, we go shopping to satisfy ourselves momentarily, to give ourselves a "hit", just like a drug we take to feel joy for a short while. We live in a very sick society. This becomes even clearer when you experience other ways of life and how in other countries that do not have the material excess, people live richer lives with more purpose and meaning. The human element is there in the culture, in the free expression of emotion, in the sense of community, in the enjoyment of life shared amongst family and friends, in the rhythm of life through music and dance, the colours, the laughter, the sense of community. Even though some of the people we met thought they were poor when they compared themselves to us and how much we earn, they do not realise how rich they really are. Some of the people we met may not be able to afford the things we can afford, but without even realising it, they are millionaires.

Off course, there were the extremes as well. We did see so much poverty that left people with no choice but to beg for money to buy food, people wearing rags and sitting or lying on the streets, some with young children too. When you have reached these extreme conditions, I can imagine there would not be much room for happiness. Such a discomforting thought when you realise that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone and that the real wealth is in the hands of just a few in the more developed nations.

On a lighter note, there are particular experiences that stand out to me about this trip. My family in Uruguay and how giving they were, refusing to let us spend any money on food or other things. They even put us up for a total of 4 and half months, giving of themselves the whole time, total selflessness.

The gruelling 34 hour bus trip to Rio de Janeiro was a long journey to be doing by bus, but at the same time, I remember the shear pleasure of getting away from the freezing winter in Uruguay that was getting us down so much. I remember peeling of the clothes one layer at a time as we approached the warmer weather in Brazil. What a pleasure that was!

I can also recall the caution we had to practice once we were out of the safer haven of Uruguay with much less crime than Brazil and other countries we visited in the rest of Latin America where you had to have eyes in the back of your head so to speak. The nervous tension was at times too much, but at the same time what we learned as travellers was very valuable and it felt good that we were not innocent targets. We learned to look after ourselves.

The people we met are also unforgettable. The families we stayed with in Cusco, Puno, Rio Muchacho and Santiago de Cuba, who all made our experiences the more enriching. This type of travel where you stay with local people is the best way to travel. It is the best way to be immersed into the culture and to really experience and learn about the people that live there. I actually felt like a local! I will never travel any other way again! The family we stayed with both in Cusco and in Santiago de Cuba made me feel I was part of the family and we were also very nurtured which is something that surprised me. The two women at these two households, including my aunty in Uruguay, became substitute mothers for me. Their nurturing way which is common amongst Latin people was comforting to me, especially since I had not seen my own mother for many months.

The challenge now for me is not to loose contact with these wonderful people, including the other people we met along the way and that we shared so much with, including our experiences, our hopes, our dreams and desires, our views and off course the common elements that brought us closer together. It is very easy to get caught up in routine again and forget the friendships we made while away, but I think it is now more important than ever for me not to lose them, especially after the realisation of how significant other people are in our lives.

The experience of being in silver jewellery making classes with local Peruvian people while Nigel studied Spanish was also quite unique for me and is not an experience that is open to most tourists. I feel lucky that I speak Spanish and that I was given this opportunity by the lady (Marina) who we were staying with in Cusco. If we hadn't stayed in a home stay, this opportunity would not have come along.

Well, Machu Pichu was to me a journey of resilience, strength, determination, mystery, surprise, inspiration, adventure, as well as self discovery. What I felt during this 3 day journey was special to me and like I've said before, the journey was more important than the final destination. The views and scenery like nothing I have seen before and the long walk to the ruins, a challenge in itself. However, there is something about this experience that I am struggling to put into words, a feeling that is almost clear but not obvious whenever I take myself back to this place, to this experience in my memory. It brings up a strong longing to be there once again, present in those surroundings that made me feel joy to be alive, surrounded by the beauty of nature and the presence of such a strong and invisible force that seemed to be all around.

The uniqueness of Cuba, the people with such strong determination, their strength was inspirational. Their solidarity, unselfishness and humbleness like I have never seen in human beings before. Some of the people we met there did not seem to be driven by ego at all but by some collective force that had to be nurtured for the good of everyone.

Finally, our experience in New Zealand which was a very different travel experience to what we had become used to in the space of one year. Travelling by car, gave us the freedom to travel wherever we wanted and  cheaper than if we had seen what we saw through organised excursions. The freedom of having our own transport after such a long time felt very foreign to us. One of the things that stand out to me the most was our shock to experience the incredible difference in the cost of things compared to Latin America. What made this even more impacting and strange for us, was that one day we were in Latin America and the next in a country where we paid twice as much for everything. Could everything have gone up so much in just one year, or had it always been that way but we could not remember?

It was very strange to get on the plane the day before in Latin America and be on the other side of the globe the next day with a very different culture, language, buildings etc. Everything looked so kept, manicured and organised, epecially for tourists with all the tourist information you could possibly want which was absolutely everywhere (I guess NZ has much more money to invest in this area). It literally felt like we had just arrived from Mars!

This trip is not one I will forget easily. It has been very different to any travelling I have done before, but what I am starting to realise, is that even though I thought nothing had really changed within myself when I first arrived home, I am now starting to realise that I am not the same person. As I begin to relate to my world once again, I realise that many things have changed, my strength, my desire to live life more fully, the desire to explore the creativity within has also become much stronger. I now struggle to remember the person I seem to have left behind; some of my internal enemies have been shed like a snake sheds her skin. I have experienced too much to go back now!




I think you have done a fantastic job in conveying your thoughts and feelings over the past year. It sounds as though you really have had one of those "life changing" experiences and a trip that you will NEVER forget. I look forward to catching up with both you and Nige soon. I must also give you both great credit for taking the time out to keep us all updated while you were enoying yourselves overseas ! I know it's not the easiest thing to do.

Now...what's it like to be home ??


  Stephen May 2, 2008 6:57 PM

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