By The Chisnell Inca Trek and Service Group

For me, the strangest thing about the trip was the complete lack of strangeness or astonishment. I never went into “culture shock” or felt completely helpless and am I not sure why. Perhaps I have built up resilience to feeling lost or confused in a foreign place, or maybe our group never really met the right people or went to the right place that would have really “shocked” me. To me, everyone we met in Peru was just another human being, even though I was unable to communicate with them 90% of the time. I find nothing foreign about the human experience, trying to survive in a hostile environment and adapting. I knew that I led a much more comfortable life in the States, but that I also shared the same core experiences with all of the people we met; knowing that dispelled any fears of being overwhelmed by Peruvian culture. The only difference between me and the orphans we met was our upbringings, so I did not find it strange when we played soccer without many rules or cooked potatoes under rocks; if I had been born in Peru, I would have done the same things. I really enjoyed the trip, the scenery was awe-inspiring and the people were kind and easy to empathize with. The journey completely erased my fears about traveling somewhere that did not share the culture of the US, I hope to travel to another location in South America sometime in my life, hopefully soon.

Things I’ll Never Know – by Randon Chisnell
Some say we are born a certain way, with preset tendencies or personality traits. Some say we’re a product of our experiences, or perhaps our reaction to them. Maybe it’s a bit of both – or at least that’s what I’ve chosen to believe. That, of course, begs the question, “How has my experience in Peru changed me?” According to Stephen Hawking (and others, I’m sure), there’s a split in the timeline at every decision we make. Somewhere there’s another me who didn’t go. So here’s the rub: I’ll never know that other me. I’ll never know the me that didn’t go. I’ll never know what that version of me does with the rest of his life. Our paths are different now. My path is different now. Am I a different person for having had this experience? Certainly. Am I a better person for having gone? I believe so. But exactly how is just one more thing I’ll never know.

Interesting Title About Post Peru – By Karly L
Pre-Peru preparation had consisted of many days spent by my pool relaxing as I (sort of) read our two books, and those tumultuous mornings were followed by even more hectic afternoons at the coffee shop, as we gorged ourselves on some delicious fattening drinks while discussing the previously read novels.Having done absolutely no physical prep work for the trip, Peru proved to be quite exhausting.Hours of trekking from early morning to dusk had finally cut away at my accumulated layer of summer fat.Now that I’ve returned home and have had the chance to savour this trip, I can look back and see what I’ve gained… or lost.On the note of losing things, I no longer have my hard won Peruvian suntan, or to be correct, sunburn.This being the first time I’ve traveled out of the States/Canada I’ve also gained a new worldly perspective, one no longer based on information I’ve gleaned out of books or offline.It also seems that my many bug bites, collected from some rotten black bugs on the trip have finally stopped itching! Although the scars on legs still remain from those horrible insects… I suppose I’ll always have them now, a truly heartfelt gift from Peru.I hope that all of my Spanish speaking in Peru will help me at college this year, it was… interesting to be able to practice it with native speakers, and I now know that if I don’t know a word, it’s probably just poor English.I’m thoroughly excited to continue traveling, especially now that I have Peru under my belt!

Peru, like most pharmaceuticals, has interesting side-effects – by Emma Green

Upon returning home, I always find it strange to go over the things that I missed. Cold drinks, mosquito free beds, the convenience of reliable plumbing. Returning from Peru reminded me exactly how materialistic I actually am. I revel in a flow of constant hot water. I feel a fondness towards my own room, and all of its amenities. I truly enjoy the outdoors, arguably more than most, and I can frequently be found sleeping out in my backyard during warm summer nights. But there is something to be said for pure, unadulterated materialism.

After a few days of lazing about, repeatedly washing and rewashing my clothes, and marveling at the sheer amount of cable channels that my TV has, I began to miss the night sky in Peru. The view of mountains on the way to breakfast, and even waking up in the morning sore from a long hike. I always hesitate before proving proverbs to be correct, but this one stands true in every facet. That unavoidable grass is always greener on the other side, whether it be from chemical fertilizer or lack of pollutants. When we have it all, we want nothing, and only when we want nothing is it easy to wish for everything. It’s disheartening to learn how unoriginal thought can describe and dictate most of our actions.

I have this theory, however strange and ill-conceived it may be. I think that maybe, we leave little pieces behind in every place we go. And not in the corny, drops of kindness, warm hearts way. Rather, in the way that we forget to empty our pockets out, and little slips of paper, or wrappers of gum can leave our bodies without our knowledge. And with these tiny fragments of our own world, we leave this viable print on any place we travel to. Perhaps it isn’t positive, or maybe it’s just glorified littering, but it is this idea, these bits of trash or otherworldliness, which allows us to claim land. Now I am not saying I own Peru, with a tiny wrapper to mark my place, much like the early astronauts claimed the moon. It is not a mark of ownership. I think of it more, as the way people dog-ear books. They aren’t claiming the book, simply leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail behind of where they once tread. And in the same way that we fold the corners of our travels, they come with us to the present page. There are chunks of mud, bits of foliage, and little stones that I still cannot fully eradicate from my duffel. In some way, this obscure game of “I’ve been there” is comforting. So perhaps, much to my mother’s dismay, I’ll leave the backpack just a little longer on the floor of my room.



Post Trip- by Greg Cline

I’ve noticed that Peru has become an integral part of how I see the world. Almost every conversation I have, no matter what the topic, somehow relates to my trip to Peru. I’m sure that my friends are getting tired of me talking about it all the time, but there is no way for me to not compare what is going on to the trip. When I went to africa in sixth grade I was not mature enough and observant enough to be able to relate my experiences there to my life here in the way that I can with Peru. I am so glad that I went on this trip; my life and the way I look at the world is so much richer. That’s the corniest sentence I have ever written, but it’s absolutely true. The blisters and pain were well worth the memories.


The Lesson from Emilio – by Steve Chisnell

I am fairly well read. I have a few degrees and certifications from university classrooms. None of that really means anything.

In Peru, I became accustomed to one particular image from which I learned a great deal. This was our guide Emilio. In the image, he is on the Inca Trail, alone, a floppy hat and sunglasses, his hands resting on the top of his walking stick as he waits for me to reach him. I am wheezing from altitude dizziness as we ascend—already my pack is stowed away on a horse. I imagine he must be anxious or tired of me, but he is not. His face shows only friendship, even some pride, and he tells me, “Steve, very few people can do this. Even many from Peru will quit this trail. You, Steve, you can do this.”

He will tell me this in various ways a dozen times or more over the four days of our trek. During the first several, I believe he is giving me the “motivational guide talk,” but as our companionship grows over slopes and valleys, I begin to believe his sincerity. He speaks honestly to me as we walk about everything—his wife, the edibles of the mountains, money, the coca leaf, Lima, the food preparation.

I can seldom recall the cloud cover roiling over the escarpments across the valleys, the lichens atop lichens scaling the boulders, or the “Dr. Seuss”-like trees bordering our descent without also picturing Emilio’s face.

I watch the high school students trotting ahead—though later, even they will be blister-wearied—and I know that the Andes have humbled me, reminded me who’s in charge. Several times on the second day I fall on the rocks, once hearing my camera body crack and a lens splinter. Once I become so dizzy that rather than risk taking a misstep down a 1500′ slope, I toss my body against the uphill grade and sit, waiting for it to pass. But around that next bend, I know Emilio is waiting with his words.

And here is what I know—parts of this world challenge us, push us to quit, but I can meet them. And I will find friends who will help me. I am not meant to defeat whatever I encounter; I am, though, capable of meeting it and learning from it.

Emilio is the face of Peru for me, but he is also the same face I’ve met elsewhere. He is the teary-eyed 16-year-old Miho in Japan who led me through the Hiroshima Museum, he is Khagda of Nepal who explained Nepali politics to me on a rooftop in Pokhara, Lucia of China who tried to embarrass me with incorrect translations, Jem of Dominica who reminded me why a treehouse is better than a London apartment, Chief Archie of the Bella Coola peoples who took me to an ancient place, and the Karmapa Lama of Dharamsala who, at age 19, explained to me the critical difference between religion and ethic. There are dozens of others.

The Andes nearly knocked me flat. But I have learned some things.

That there is nowhere in the world that I cannot visit; that there are few people in the world who aren’t worth meeting—or who will not welcome me into their community; and that I can meet no one who cannot teach me.


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