Greetings from the mystical pueblo of Cusco, Peru! This week, I began my vacation from vacation…never thought that was possible, but let me assure you- it is. Being in serious travel mode has reminded me once again how important traveling is for the soul. By truly traveling (not luxury vacationing), I become vulnerable. I have to get into taxis with strangers in cities I don’t know, I share dormitories and showers with fellow travelers, and I am at the mercy of whatever life hands me. Sometimes my bank cards don’t work, buses break down, or I get caught in a heavy rain storm with all my luggage. In the moment, these events can feel catastrophic especially after spending many weary hours on the road. However, I have learned that it is extremely important to feel uncomfortable from time to time. In retrospect, such experiences eventually become a fond memory and/or learning experience. By traveling in this manner, we can break away from the norm. Through this, we learn about ourselves and the world- it shakes up the monotony of daily life and allows us to be flexible, self-sufficient, and accepting. These qualities are essential to living a peaceful and well-balanced life.
On November 24th, two very important people arrived in Bogotá: Tom and Janet, the founders of Magicians Without Borders. It was a surprise visit that we put together only one week before their arrival. Tom has been itching to get down here, but his ruptured pelvis limited his ability to do so. Just 4 months after his car accident, both of his feet were on the ground in Colombia. That in itself is inspiring. For a last minute trip, we are very excited about all that happened during their 10 days here. Again, thank you to all of you who have made donations to our project- Tom and Janet brought two suitcases full of props that we will give to the kids in the magic club. Those props were purchased with your donations. During their visit, we spent the majority of our time with Carlos Lopez, whom I’ve mentioned before. He has been amazing both as a support and as a friend and we are going to entrust him with managing the project when I leave. The four of us went to the hospital and the foundation together two times. There, we performed, taught, and shared many smiles and laughs with the patients and children. I learned a lot by observing how Tom and Janet performed and taught people who speak a language that they don’t. Magic truly is universal.
We spent one evening with Gustavo Lorgia in his home where we enjoyed learning about his journey as a magician and began brainstorming ideas for future collaboration. Another evening, we visited Richard Sarmiento’s home/magic school which is Colombia’s version of the Magic Castle. He is the other most prominent conjurer in Colombia. He has very generously offered to share his school with us. We can use the space to start another magic club, he is going have his students help teach the kids in this club, and he wants to be a part of everything we are doing. This was completely unexpected and I believe this was the beginning of a very incredible partnership. Another important highlight of their visit is that we met with Jim Russo, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy. Magicians Without Borders has organized programs with the embassy in El Salvador and it looks promising that the same will be happening in Colombia upon my return from the trip.
There was something special happening while Tom and Janet were here. Everything seemed to click. With it being such a last minute trip, we had no expectations for what was going to happen, and we were happily surprised with all that we were able to do and accomplish during their brief visit. We are looking forward to when they return with some of the magicians from El Salvador this March.
The past few weeks have been pretty intense. In the midst of Tom and Janet’s visit, I was planning my trip to Peru, I was finishing my teaching obligations at the university while preparing to move apartments, and Johanna graduated from medical school. It was challenging to decide how to approach my holiday vacation time. I was meeting my friends Ty and Jessa here in Peru, but they have to leave for the states on December 15th. Thus, I had to decide whether I would stick with them, go back to Colombia later for Christmas, or just make the trip as long as I possibly could and fly solo. After some discernment, I decided to take the risk and stay on the road. It came down to an extra 12 days of traveling vs. Christmas with friends in Bogotá. This will be my first Christmas away from my family and I decided I would rather spend it traveling. It will be interesting, and quite possibly a bit lonely, but I will welcome whatever comes my way.
Johanna and I had an important decision to make when I left for Peru as we will have a month apart during my travels. Also, in early February, she will be moving to a town 2.5 hours from Bogotá to carry out her required year of social service in which she will be working for the Colombian Army and caring for soldiers and their families. This was a big decision considering we have been dating less than two months. We really enjoy the time we share together and thus decided to stay together. We know there are challenges ahead, but we are not ready to give up on things at this point. Despite the circumstances around our relationship, I feel good about where we are at and how we are approaching everything. Of course, time will tell.
I literally just spent the majority of the last 18 hours trying to sort out some complications with my bank cards. For some reason, I couldn’t get any card to work at an ATM and I was stuck without cash. I have been in the midst of booking a Machu Picchu trek and needed money to make it happen. Long story short, I finally got it sorted out and am leaving for the trek early tomorrow morning. Ironically, I start the journey on 12/12/12- hopefully I make it to Machu Picchu before the end of the world! Couldn’t be more excited. It is an alternative trek to the classic Inka Trail. Day 1 involves a downhill bike ride descending 2, 000 meters that is followed by a raft expedition on Class III rapids. Day 2 is going to be a long day of hiking in the Andean Mountains followed by a refreshing soak in some natural hot springs. Day 3 starts with a 4km zip line adventure on the highest and longest zip line in South America and is followed by another solid day of hiking. The last day is a visit to the spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu. I have honestly been dreaming of going to Machu Picchu ever since I saw Motorcycle Diaries over 6 years ago. I am so stoked that my dream is about to be realized…and it will be in high style.
After living in a city with 9 million other people, I am looking forward to having some time in nature with PachaMama to re-gather myself. After the trek, I have no idea what will be next. I am leaning towards heading south and spending the majority of my time in Bolivia- Lake Titicacca and the famous salt flats near Uyuni. That’s the beauty of breaking away- I don’t have to know. And by traveling by myself, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want- as long as my bank cards let me take out money!
I am wishing all of you my very best this holiday season. Treat yourself to something special and take a few moments to stop and appreciate it. Make a point of doing at least one thing outside of your comfort zone. Remember, there is nothing better than sharing a bit of the holiday spirit by doing something special for someone else- better if they are a stranger. Break away from the norm, but please don’t break a leg! Much love from Peru…