Below is an account from Evan Jones, MA in History, following his recent post-graduation Machu Picchu trip.
So there I was, September had arrived, I had a degree in hand and absolutely no idea where to go from here. The stress of a defense was all I could think about, and when it was done I felt this wave of relief wash over me.
That lasted about two minutes.
After that, a creeping crawling anxiety swept over me. The my entire thought pattern focused on these two words.
I had a part time job at a local museum. At least there I could make some money and afford to plan out where to go next. But the museum I worked at closed at the end of October, and I knew that my life was going to go from safe to scary in a matter of weeks.
I began to job search, frantically looking for the one word all young employees would dream of having: Stability.
The job of my dreams could wait. And while I loved my parents, I could not go back to a life of misguided career advice from people who are far more interested in leaving the job market than breaking into it.
So October rolls around and with it came the season of fruitless job hunts. I was feeling like each day, I was shoveling new resumes and cover letters into a metaphorical pit. Each one carefully crafted, and each one taking a small part of my soul with it.
OK perhaps I exaggerate, but only slightly!
But along with the now dwindling work hours, came a revelation. If I did not work, I wouldn’t have to ask for time off of work to do the things I wanted to do. And there were a tonne of things I wanted to do.
At the top of the list, was Machu Picchu: A true wonder of the world, in every sense of the word. The postcard picture I had in my mind was stunning, and the only thing that it lacked, was me there beside it.
I booked the trip a week later, forgoing a life of stability and safety for that of sheer excitement and adrenaline at the bottom half of the world.
I arrived in Lima a month later, a Spanish guidebook in my pocket and a smile on my face. From there met a tour group which would drive me to Cusco (the staging point for the Inca trail) and I never looked back.
The Inca trail was a 4 day hike through the heart of the Peruvian Andes. The highest point was well over 13000 feet above sea level. I still believe that people should not live in that altitude. Someone should really move Machu Picchu lower. Ideally to a place where there is enough air (please read my feedback tour company!).
But when you weren’t plagued with altitude sickness, you were constantly concerned with the state of your jaw, as it was agape most of the time. The views on that trek were the content of legends. Inca ruins next to lush jungle, traffic jams consisting of herds of wandering alpacas and llamas, and trees that seemed to be iced with the remnants of a fading cloud. The trek itself was dreamlike in a sense, and more than made up for the smell of sweat and dirt, which coated us like a cocoon when we arrived.
I awoke at 3:30 am on the final day of the trek. The porters insisted I do so in order to see the Sun Gate at dawn. And although I am not typically a morning person, I made the exception this time.
The pictures you see before you are the product of such an insane adventure. Machu Picchu is even better than the postcards, and even better than any of the pictures I could show. I don’t know a camera in existence which could capture such beauty. And perhaps it was the lack of oxygen, or perhaps it was the cocoa leave and the lack of sleep, but for one afternoon I felt completely at peace. Peace with the world and peace with the fact that I have absolutely no idea of what direction my life would take next.
The ruins themselves have no real written history. The Spanish never found the city, and the Incas never had a written system of communication. Machu Picchu is the city that history forgot, and as a historian, the unknown made it even more beautiful and surreal.
My trip was littered with these surreal moments. From zip-lining across a mountain valley, to dirt biking down a dirt road that was decommissioned because it was too dangerous for cars to drive on. The joy I found on this trip was incalculable, and the views I witnessed were only matched by the quality of people who shared it with me.
Vacationing makes you rich beyond measure. My wallet may disagree, but memories and friends I made on that trip will last me a lifetime. I feel so blessed to have taken part in such an amazing adventure, and I hope you too shall do the same in time.
Stability is overrated. Life begins when your comfort zone ends.