I sat in a colectivo travelling towards Ollantaytambo (a popular stop before Machu Picchu) when a mountain rose up before the speeding bus as it turned a corner. Without thinking I uttered, “Beautiful.” It sat there unmoving and magnificent in the bright Peruvian sun.
We had just passed through small villages with women in traditional Peruvian wear pulling at cows and working on their plots. I saw the sparkle of a blue lake and the spread of farms stretching across the hills and diving towards lakes. Was I dreaming? Was I actually here in Peru? And on my way to Machu Picchu?
At that moment I felt that nothing could compare to this experience. Nothing could measure up to the beauty that I was experiencing and the emotions that I felt. But I was also aware of the loneliness that would later come when I sat alone in my hostel.
I hated traveling alone. When I lived in Europe, the majority of my trips were with a group of friends. Always there was clamor, action and movement. Something going on. Something to say. Someone to say it to. However, since coming to Peru, I had to accept this…I don’t know…this discipline of loneliness. I had to deal with myself.
It meant confronting disorganization and procrastination. I had to think and plan this trip where as before I would leave it up to “luck” or another friend traveling with me. I had to be my own cheerleader as I pushed through exhaustion and fear to climb the steep 3000 steps to the top of Wayna Picchu. It was great to just focus and complete a task on my own. And at the top I was able to survey the majesty of Machu Picchu.
During this trip, I was forced to be outgoing: smile more and initiate conversations. And I have loved the time to appreciate the beauty of nature. Without disturbance–to just take it all in. And throughout my time in Peru, I have had to come to grips with myself: the good, the bad and the ugly.
So, as I sat alone in my room that first night in Ollantaytambo, I wrote to my Dad: “Yes I feel lonely. But for every minute that I am alone, it is worth the beauty that I experienced today.”