At some point during my vacation in Machu Picchu, I found myself staring up at a yellowing slab of paper in an English-language paper cup, sitting among hundreds of travelers. My thoughts slid out of my head, nearly tearing the paper as I started to sob. This was truly the beginning of my final days in Peru, and I had just asked the guide to take me up into the mountains and away from the hurt and sadness of my history lessons. I knew my body would change while I was gone, but I did not know exactly what I would lose.
I couldn’t go anywhere to escape the feeling of no longer having any meaningful history, no idea of where I had grown up or what the people who created me ever looked like. As I sat among these magnificent tour groups looking at our great accomplishments, I felt lost and confused, or maybe I felt like the people in them were lost and confused. Maybe, when you need someone to help you navigate the unknowns and answers that come with visiting Machu Picchu, you already see you’re on the right path because you can see the true meaning of how you connect to this world.
This discovery at Machu Picchu, known now as Termas de Nasca, is exactly where I feel the true power of travel lies. You don’t have to know what the answer is. You’re just here. Your whole body will stop feeling dusty and busy just by stepping into the mountain, and everything seems endless from there on out.
In the days after my big realization, we had a piece on the travel section in Saturday’s paper. Jessica Broder, who had experienced the Andes for herself at the age of 19, shared a different side of her exploration. She described how, on a simple day trip in Cusco, the taxi driver told her that the city of Lagunillas in the Vicente Castillo National Park was the oldest city in the world.
Broder went on to write about Lagunillas, and all the incredible and unsurprising discoveries that a simple visit to a foreign country can bring.