Unexpected Lessons from my Family Hike to Machu Picchu

On August 5, 2014

In late June I jumped on a plane with my parents, and met my sister and bro-in-law in Cusco, Peru for an adventure that was years in the making.  We spent a couple days in the city, getting acclimated to the altitude then did the 4-day hike down the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu.

As a family, we’ve always been into adventure. Typically we travel in twos, with my dad at the helm taking each of his girls on special journeys around the world.

My dad-trips are some of my most special memories growing up, and they started when I was 10.  Our first trip was white water rafting down the Colorado River.  I was the only kid in the group so I got to hang with the adults and even taste a beer.  I was a tiny thing getting tossed around in that big boat and learned quickly that I had to hold on for dear life.   My dad didn’t treat us like daughters.  He treated us like kids so those dad trips taught me to be tough, flexible and enjoy beauty everywhere.

As I got older we took even bigger trips.  He would ask me what I was studying in school and what I’d like to see.  That brought us to places like Egypt, the Amazon rain forest, Hawaii, Russia, Morocco, India, and Bhutan.

(**Note to any parents who are reading this: Do this if you can.  Spend magical one-on-one time with your children.  Bring them places that will challenge their will and expand their mind.  Not only can they take it, they’ll appreciate it for the rest of their lives.  These experiences will seep into every fiber of their soul.  It will expand their understanding of the world, and it will make you a hero.)

Our most recent dad-daughter trip was to Patagonia in Janauary.  When we got back the whole family was so jealous that they all wanted in.


Like most families, we are not the Cleavers.  We fight, we have ups and downs, but underneath it all, we love each other ferociously.

Deciding to go on a big, international family trip was intense.  I think we all had a little trepidation.

Personally, I’ve been on a journey of self discovery and healing for many years and felt that I was finally in a place to just fully accept my family as they are, instead of holding onto ideas of who I want them to be, and resentments for how they’ve made me feel in the past.

That attitude, I think , was a game changer for the group dynamic.

I realized that if I wanted the family to get along, I needed to be in the moment and appreciate them for who they are.  

family photo

Family is a mirror, those things that trigger me to react are probably things I don’t like about myself.

So, instead of getting sucked into any of the fights, I did my own thing and checked into the mad gratitude I have for (1) having a family, and  (2) having a family that is willing and able to go Peru, hike all day, sleep in tents, and marvel at the majesty of nature.

This trip was not perfect, we fought, we freaked out, some of us were even pushed to our physical and emotional limits.  But in the end, I think we all left feeling even closer.

I can’t quite articulate the shifts that took place but as we got back into our normal routines at home there was a new found sense of ease.  Instead of an obligatory “I love you”, those sentiments felt truer and more deep.

Some unexpected, all-over-the-place things that I learned along that way are:

1) I really like sleeping in a tent, not wearing makeup or having a mirror.  I’m one of those people who typically puts on mascara as soon as I wake up. I joked to my Soul Camp bunk-mates that mascara is like coffee for me… I liked it so much I decided to keep it up.


2) Incans were the original permaculturists.  They were all about terrace farming, crop rotation and seed breeding.  Which may sound nerdy to you, but I get real stoked on traditional wisdom.


3) My gluten allergy is less severe!  Our first night out to dinner I ate some “ignorance is bliss” items and later found out they had gluten in them.  The good news: I didn’t have debilitating migraine for 2 days!  I just had stomach ache.  #healing

4) My sister is pretty hilarious.  Or humor is really different but everyone in our group found her to be super entertaining, so, I guess it must be true!

5) Our thoughts are our reality.  I know this to be true, but experienced it on a cellular level.  My mom, who turned 65 on the trail, did not have the easiest time.  I could hear her mantra of “this is so hard, I’m not gonna make it” and tried walking a few steps with that myself.  It was hard.  Much harder than my personal mantra of “you can do this, everything is beautiful”.  With that on my mind, every step had ease.

6) Little Peruvian porters are some of the fittest people around.  They never ceased to amaze me!  These dudes would run past us on the trail every day. First to set up a temporary camp and elaborate lunch. Then to set up our overnight camp and a 3-course dinner.


7) Age is just a number.  I feel like I should highlight a different aspect of #5.  MY 65 YEAR OLD MOTHER HIKED MACHU PICCHU.


8) You catch more flies with sugar.  I didn’t learn this one, but I think I taught it to my dad, who loves nothing more than to complain.  It happened more than once that he had a mega freak out over something.  He’s a lawyer, he can’t help himself.  But literally, these tantrums don’t often help him.  When I needed something changed or fixed, I asked nicely, with a smile and TKTKTKT

9) More animals should wear hats.  Exhibit A


10) Agave plants look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.






If you compare this with what I learned about my body in Patagonia, it’s a pretty different set of life lessons.



One Response to “Unexpected Lessons from my Family Hike to Machu Picchu”

  • Hi there!
    I was wondering if you had any advice on traveling in Peru. My boyfriend and I are going and I’m so scared of getting sick there. Any advice???

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