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Machu Picchu was the bucket list experience I never knew I needed

Machu Picchu, a historic Incan site in Peru.

I know people will read this with raised eyebrows, but hiking the Inca Trail and seeing Machu Picchu were never on my bucket list of must see sights and activities. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do them, there were just things I wanted to do more, and Peru as a country seemed so foreign to me. That said, they were both high up on my boyfriend Andrew’s list, so he encouraged me to have an open mind and trust that the experience was going to be incredible.

The Peru Uncovered trip was my second with Contiki (the first being the Asian Adventure), and despite my initial hesitation, as the time got closer to departure I started to get really excited. I think because I didn’t have any real expectations about how seeing Machu Picchu would make me feel, when I did see it, I was completely overwhelmed. Looking at the site my daily worries felt so minuscule in comparison, and I felt emotional, as if I’d been given a gift that, without knowing, I’d been longing for my entire life. I felt so lucky because I’d come so close to missing out on this spectacular place without even realizing it.

Seeing Machu Picchu is of course the highlight, but for me the Inca Trail trek was its equal in terms of life defining moments. The 4-day hike gave me time to be quiet and just reflect, and sometimes you need this. You need to be taken out of your safe, regular environment in order to see things more clearly.  During this time, I thought about my life, my goals and what I want to achieve, but I also spent a lot of time focusing on being present and in the moment. As humans we’re always so busy planning our next move that we often forget to appreciate the right now, so this was a real focus for me on this trip, and doing it helped to clear my mind.

I think everyone needs a break like this from time to time, to explore new realms of life. You learn so much about who you are when you travel, because you can’t run from yourself or get distracted by daily routines. Instead, it’s just you and the open road ahead. It’s a common learning that ‘life is what you make it’, and in many ways Contiki is something of a metaphor for life. It’s busy, sometimes tiring, often interesting, always fun and yes… it will end. But if you make the most of it – take all the opportunities and have no regrets, you’ll get so much more out of it. And that’s really how I should be living my life every day. Contiki teaches you that.

The Travel Project encourages you to think about the ways in which travel makes you a better person, and for me exploring the world has helped me to relate to people better, irrelevant of culture or background. Whenever I travel I’m always reminded of how similar we all are. Even if we don’t look the same or sound the same, we’re all part of the same family – the human race, so actually we’re not that different at all. Travelling has also helped me to value moments over things, and has made me less fearful of the unknown. I’m a better person and a better storyteller because of travel, and best of all my journey has only just begun.

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