I recently returned from a 2-week vacation to Peru during which my husband and I hiked the Andean mountains, explored mysterious ruins like Machu Picchu, and met many fascinating people. During the trip, I learned a lot not only about the culture and traditions of Peru but also about myself.
So, in the spirit of Chris Brogan’s 3 Words, here are mine for 2013: Abundance, Ritual, and Connection.
We are truly blessed to live in the United States (same goes for Canada, Australia, England, and other developed countries). Until you have visited a developing country and seen firsthand the poverty, scarce resources and lack of infrastructure, it’s easy to lament what is wrong in the U.S. (I’m not saying things can’t be improved here, but I’m talking on a broad scale. Also, the Peruvian people were friendly and kind.)
What we classify as “the basics” (sturdy homes, clean water, electricity, paved roads, supermarkets full of food) would be unimaginable abundance to a large number of Peruvians, much less items most of us would consider “must-haves” like Internet connectivity, mobile phones, televisions, and cars. During our drives from one area of Peru to another, we passed row upon row of shacks and more stray dogs than I could count, and saw entire villages working the land, truly living at subsistence level.
Besides the basics and other must-haves, what we have here in the U.S. is abundance of opportunity. We can relatively easily change jobs and careers, move to another part of the country, go to school, learn new skills, start companies, and pursue our passions because of the extraordinary society in which we live that provides us with these opportunities.
So, the next time I start to feel discouraged or, let’s face it, want to complain, I’ll remember the abundance of resources and opportunities I have (literally) at my fingertips. I will also remember the abundance of wonderful relationships I have – with my husband, friends, co-workers, and clients.
During one of our hikes, we climbed a mountain to reach a pristine glacier lake. It was breathtakingly beautiful and well worth the effort it took to reach it. While we were there, our group got to take part in an Andean ceremony to honor Pachamama (Mother Earth), led by a local shaman named Sebastian who had climbed the mountain with us.
During the ceremony, Sebastian placed various items like rice, quinoa, sugar, and coca leaves in a pile that he then wrapped up, blessed each of us with, and subsequently burned as an offering to Pachamama and to his ancestors.
The ceremony reminded me of the importance of regularly giving thanks, of honoring the earth for the abundance it provides, and of remembering our ancestors and our family history. Rituals like these ceremonies are incredibly important for building and uniting groups and communities, and rituals can also be powerful on a personal level.
Rituals can focus our attention, help to center ourselves, and provide us with meaning and comfort. So, this year, I’m going to work on establishing rituals of daily meditation and yoga for myself, and for my family, celebrating old traditions and creating new ones, like the compassion circle we did on the first evening of our trek.
Thinking of rituals led me to my final word for 2013: Connection. During our hikes, we were able to connect with nature in so many ways: the sun, rain, wind, trees, flowers, birds, rivers, lakes, mountains, rocks, and mud.
Sometimes Mother Nature smiled on us with beautiful blue skies and the warmth of the sun, and other times she let us have it with blustery winds and cold, driving rain. Even during the worst weather, I was in awe of the beauty and majesty around me and felt fortunate to be able to be a part of it with an amazing group of people.
There’s something about traveling to another country and being part of a tour group of people you’ve never met – you so quickly and easily form bonds and memories that you never would during the equivalent time period at home. It also helped that we were without access to phones, the Internet, or TV for a week – what a joy that was! Without technology constantly wanting our attention, we had the time and the space to get to know each other, to talk about what brought us on this journey and what we hoped to learn.
Many of us, myself included, find it easier to connect with people virtually – on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and email – rather than taking the time and effort to see them in person (or even talk to them on the phone). So, for 2013, I plan on making more lunch and dinner dates, going to conferences so I can see people I follow face-to-face, and being present.
As you can tell, my trip to Peru was an amazing experience. I strongly encourage you to find the time and money to take a trip – it will open your mind and heart in ways that will be life-changing.