We came for the Inca Trail, a four day ascent through epic mountain scenery culminating in the hidden ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. But there are so many other things to do in Peru that aren’t the Inca Trail. From endless miles of barren desert on the western coast to the dense, humid jungle of the Amazon. Discovering high altitude towns hidden in the mists of imposing mountain ranges and exploring cities bursting with vibrant colour and gastronomical delights. There are so many things to do in Peru, but it’s the people of Peru that make it an unmissable check on the bucket list for me.
Travel makes you richer
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives, lost in technology, enduring the daily grind to save up for the ever more unattainable item that promises us a better lifestyle. But travel has a habit of breaking that cycle, putting things into a broader perspective and reminding us that there is more to life than making money only to have spent most of it by the time the next paycheck comes in. It was whilst travelling around Peru that I came to a realisation about life; happiness is really a journey, not a destination. I think we spend so much time chasing our goals in our day to day lives that sometimes we forget to just take the time to enjoy the here and now. Something, I think, Peruvians know all too well.
Living in the here and now
Craft is a huge part of Peruvian culture with brightly coloured knitted garments and decorative items telling stories and connecting families through the generations. Weeks at a time are spent creating intricate geometrical designs relating to a particular village from fine alpaca wool. We were lucky enough to visit a traditional village just outside of Cusco where tourism is being used to support the communities of local women through their weaving (Planeterra Womens weaving workshop).
Everything from how the dye is made, spun and woven, to the finished product was proudly shown to us by the local women. All of the sales directly benefit the local community. Truly an inspirational experience seeing all the hard work that goes into a single jumper or throw. But Also how all the women from different families work together towards a common goal. I think it is this great care for tradition and attention to detail that gives the Quechua people of Peru a sense of purpose and happiness.
Appreciating what you have
Continuing our journey we sailed over Lake Titicaca to discover the floating islands. Landing on the floating islands of Uros is like stepping into another world. Everything is made of reeds on these self-sustaining islands, from the floor we stood on to the simple single room houses that family life here revolves around.
The lake is the lifeblood of the community providing the food, shelter and protection: The people were said to have moved here to escape invaders, the high altitude lake providing an impenetrable barrier which leaves them isolated to this day. Traditional reed boats are the only way to get around linking one family island to the next. Cut off from modern technology and convenience these islands thrive on their traditional ways. Back on stable ground we found our beds for the night on the neighbouring island of Taquile in the form of a home-stay with a local family.
Different lives, same needs
Another example of sustainable tourism the families on these islands had been encouraged to build extra rooms to give visitors a glimpse of their unique way of life. Here we joined a game of high altitude football and learnt to dance, Quechua style, in full traditional dress before tucking in to a hearty home cooked meal we helped prepare. Our hosts giggled as we struggled to peel potatoes with the blunt knives they so skilfully wielded, we chuckled back realising just how easy we have it back home.
We didn’t have to grow, water or harvest our vegetables. Our meat comes in a packet for just a few pounds. Nothing is wasted here either, taking our leftovers and peelings out to feed the pigs after dinner. The next morning, after being rudely awoken by an antsy donkey, we sat looking out over the lake with the youngest member of the family. Like every 12 year old boy he seemed mesmerised with mobile phones, so we played Duolingo (a language learning app), his Spanish of course much better than mine although not his native tongue. Part of the income from tourism helps to send children in Taquile to school to learn Spanish and get an education.
I left Peru with an overwhelming sense of gratefulness. Grateful for the convenience of my life. Thankful to witness the enduring traditional culture of the native people in the modern age and the friendly, generous nature in which we were welcomed in to it. I can’t say that I won’t ever spend money on things I don’t really need, or chase unattainable goals. But I will appreciate the value of things more and take that open-minded Peruvian philosophy with me wherever I go. Without doubt one day I will return to Peru and peel some more potatoes.
Want to know all of the best eats and secret spots? Have a peak and follow Lost Wanders on Google maps here. Just click the link and pick a country to start exploring.
How to travel better for less
These are the companies I use to travel the world for less. The reason long term travel is cheaper than you think is often down to shopping around for a great deal, here I’ve done the hard work for you!
Booking.com – I always book with this site if looking for cheap accommodation as the filters are so easy to use. Become a genius member after five bookings and get great discounts too!
Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!
Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!
Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.
What to pack – Here is my ultimate list of what to pack for every trip, available on Amazon. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.
Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!
G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips of a lifetime.
Some links in this post are to affiliate sites. If you purchase something through them, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. I am very grateful when you use my links to make a purchase as it helps keep the blog running. Thanks for reading.
Always dreamed of a life in travel?
Sign up to the newsletter for tips and actual links for different careers in the travel industry.
All you have to do is take the first step!