Last spring when my daughter’s school announced plans for an organized group tour to Peru, two words piqued my interest: Machu Picchu. Little did I know, the trip would offer a whole lot more, in addition to the amazing opportunity to visit this great wonder of the world with my 13-year-old daughter.
Our journey into the southern part of Peru brought us into ancient Inca cities and historic sites, across the sprawling countryside, and amidst breathtaking vistas.
We stood at the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Lima, wandered the streets and plazas in Cusco, stared in awe at the majestic Machu Picchu, visited the Uros floating islands, kayaked on Lake Titicaca, crossed the snow-capped Andes, ventured into the lush Amazonian jungle, explored numerous archaeological sites, shopped at local markets, and ate a variety of regional cuisine.
Through it all, we gained valuable insight into the history and culture of this South American nation, and the best was still to come.
Living with locals
The trip was an experiential learning adventure through EF Educational Tours entitled “Supporting Sustainability on the Shores of Lake Titicaca.” In addition to visiting amazing tourist sights across Peru, the main element of the trip was a service project at a small community on the shores of the highest navigable lake in the world.
For two days we stayed in the homes of local families in Luquina and worked together to help build a restaurant that would, in the future, allow them to host a group like ours as part of their community tourism efforts.
By day we performed assiduous work, by night returning to our host families for meals, rest, and relaxation. We worked side-by-side, played cards and soccer, danced customary dances while dressed in traditional attire, and conversed over home-cooked meals.
We were thus immersed in the Peruvian culture, the Spanish language, and real-life, present-day issues, using our collaboration, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, all while making a lasting difference and gaining a new perspective on the world.
Building connections through experience
Overall, the trip was, for me, all about community. Not only were we helping the community in Luquina grow, we were building connections with the locals through our time and experiences together.
Our own school community traveling together enjoyed fellowship and bonding. The service work we did was meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding, the sightseeing was educational, diverse, and spectacular, and the entire trip was one incredible experience we’ll never forget.