Seven Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo (At Least Once)

You love traveling with your friends. The jokes, the memories. It’s those times wandering through Time Square or getting lost in Barcelona that you’ll remember for a lifetime. But you will also remember the first time you successfully navigated the London underground by yourself or sat on the Spanish steps eating some delicious gelato pondering the meaning of life. Traveling Solo is an incredible experience and one that everyone should try at least once.

Build Self Confidence

If anything is going to help you build some self-confidence it’s traveling solo. You have to make all your own travel plans and ensure they are carried out. If you want to talk to someone, you’ll have to break the ice. If you get lost, you will be the one to find your way. There is something empowering about traveling solo – especially in a foreign country. I will always remember my first solo journey in New Zealand and my first adventure in the country. I took a ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island. I ventured around the island visiting wineries, finding hidden beaches, and devouring the most delicious burger I’ve ever had.

Mt Cook NZ

What You Want

This is a big one. No more agreeing on what sites you want to see or what hikes you want to do. You don’t have to worry if one friend wants to go rafting, but the other wants to zip line. If you are on a road trip, you create the itinerary and even better you are in control of the playlist. When you travel solo, you can do whatever you want, no questions asked.

Quad Ride Peru

When You Want

What you want, when you want. I was on a water taxi crossing Lake Te Anau getting ready to hike the Kepler Track. There were two other guys in the water taxi and we were all traveling solo. The driver asked if we liked traveling solo and in unison, we said, Yes! We can do what we want when we want. If your alarm goes off, and you want to hit snooze (for a few more hours) you can do it. You set your own schedule and you choose if it changes. There is truly something liberating about traveling solo.

Make New Friends

Either someone will see that you are by yourself and approach you or you’ll be craving for a conversation that isn’t on your phone and you’ll strike up the conversation. I believe it’s almost easier to make new friends when you are traveling solo vs with a group, and especially with other people also on their own. While traveling through New Zealand, I sat down for breakfast at a table with two girls and we started a conversation. I mentioned how I would be traveling to Ireland soon, and one of the girls said she lived in Ireland, and I should hit her up when I was there. Not only did I see her in Ireland, but I was headed to Scotland in a few weekends and she also had plans to go to Scotland with some friends, and we met up again! It was so much fun!

Rose and Keelie Ireland

Learn About Yourself

When you only have yourself to rely on, you tend to learn a lot about yourself. Like if you are good at directions, what type of activities you like the most and how you want to spend your time. You learn your limits like how long you want to spend exploring a city or how adventurous you are willing to get with the local food. There is no one there to persuade you in a direction and every choice in one you made.

No Expectations

Timon and Pumbaa said it best – “It means no worries.” When it’s just you, you are forever on island time living the island lifestyle. You might have some bad days, but no one but you will know. And tomorrow will be a brand-new day filled with brand new adventures. Create your own schedule and go with the flow. It’s relaxing when the only needs to service are your own and there aren’t any expectations to meet.

New York Skyline

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

I always thought of myself as a shy person. The new people I would meet were through friends or we would be paired together somehow whether it was school, work or a sporting team etc. And I usually took the safe route. I went to the safe school, took a safe job. But when I was in a foreign country all on my own, I had to broaden my horizons a little. Eat foods I wasn’t used to eating, jump off rocks I thought were a little high, and strike up a conversation with countless strangers. I love traveling with my group of friends, but I think we tend to be complacent when we are around people we know. When it’s just you, the limits tend to get pushed and you step out of your comfort zone.

Vatican Rome

So what do you think? Have you traveled solo before and it changed your life? Do you have an reservations about a solo trip? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at @keeliec5 and let’s get the conversation started!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

Which Country Has the Prettiest Sheep?

This is a little outside my normal realm of blogs, but with an open mind, it should be entertaining nonetheless. When I was planning my trip to New Zealand, I read numerous articles about there being more sheep than people on the small island. This is 100% fact. There would be times when I would go on a walk and not see anyone for hours, but I would see about 500+ sheep. There are also a lot of jokes between the Aussies and Kiwis about how they treat their sheep – perhaps a little too friendly. After returning from my trip, my friends had found a movie for me to watch titled Black Sheep. It was a horror film about New Zealand and their sheep.

As I continued my travels, I found more sheep. These countries didn’t necessarily have more sheep than people, but they still had a lot of sheep that were a huge part of their economy. This sparked a debate amongst my close group of friends. Which country has the prettiest sheep? I told you this blog was going to be entertaining.

Ireland

I was in Ireland for about a week. I had hired a car and planned to drive around the whole country. It was February, so not a lot of tourists, and I felt pretty lucky with the weather. I’d heard an Irish winter can be quite rough. The countryside was beautiful. Lush rolling green hills, pristine beaches and old castles and churches. When I would reach my nightly destination, each town was as lively as the next and offered a true Irish experience. Cold Guinness, and a lot of Irish folk music. I was driving from the Dingle Peninsula to the Cliff of Moher and would spend the evening in Galloway. Driving on these tiny roads on the left side was a little challenging for me, but I was gaining more confidence each day. On this particular day, I turned a tight corner and saw a herd of sheep! They were headed right for me and taking up the whole road. At this point, all I could do was stop the car and grab my camera. I just stood still while the herd of sheep swarmed me and the car. The farmer was close behind on a quad and continued to herd the sheep past me. Welcome to Ireland, Keelie.

Peru

I went to Peru with two intentions. I wanted to hike to Machu Picchu and I wanted to do some volunteer work. I was there for three weeks. I volunteered at a local school where I helped make lunch in the morning and taught the children English in the afternoon. It was a humbling experience. After my volunteer work was complete, it was time to hike Machu Picchu. If you would like to learn more about the Lares Trek, you should check out my blog on Machu Picchu. During the trek, we walked through villages and farms of alpacas and llamas. They were everywhere! I know alpacas are more related to camels than sheep, but they have some sheep like qualities. I did manage to find some sheep sprinkled throughout a herd of alpacas, but they looked a little out of place.

New Zealand

The sheep capital. Technically, there are other countries that have more sheep than New Zealand, but they might win the category of most sheep per square mile. When I was on my Hobbiton tour, our guide told us that they used to let the sheep graze near the Hobbit house to keep the grass short. The Hobbit houses consist of the outside, and enough room inside for someone to walk in and shut the door. All the filming inside the houses took place in a studio in Wellington. Anyway, the guide said they can no longer use the sheep to mow the grass because one day a sheep wondered inside the small area inside the house and managed to shut the door on itself. The sheep panicked and busted out the fake window of the Hobbit house and destroyed the front area. It was quite expensive to fix, so now sheep are not allowed to graze near Hobbiton.

Another funny story about sheep and Hobbiton is that when they were filming Lord of the Rings, they brought in stunt sheep. The country of New Zealand has around 30 million sheep, but they thought the sheep looked too happy and the landscape wouldn’t look like dreary England. So, they hired some sad looking stunt sheep for the films.

United Kingdom

Speaking of England, the UK is home to a lot of sheep. While most of the sheep can be found in Wales, I did see some when traveling around England and Scotland. It was winter, so the weather was rather dreary, and the sheep were grazing through grass and mud. Stonehenge is located near a sheep farm, so as I gazed upon the ruins I also saw sheep, I couldn’t help but think about how they had to import sheep from England to New Zealand because they needed sadder looking sheep. And then it started to rain. Yeah, I’d be kind of sad too.

Now that you’ve heard my stories and seen pictures of the sheep, what country do you think has the prettiest sheep? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at @keeliec5. Hopefully, my stories weren’t too bias to sway your opinion. 😊

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Hiking to Machu Picchu – The Lares Trek

Machu Picchu is a household name and considered one of the Seven Wonders on the World.  The site was built around 1450 by the Incas just before the Spanish Conquest. When the Spaniards invaded Peru, they tore down all of their places of worship and built Spanish Churches on top of them. The reason why Machu Picchu still stands, is once the Incas heard of the Spanish invasion they fled their sacred city and covered up the trail so no one could find it. It wasn’t until 1911 when an American Historian stumbled across the Lost City that Machu Picchu rose to international fame.

How do you get there?

The largest city closest to Machu Picchu is Cusco, and from there you have a couple different options. You can take a train to Aguas Calientes and from there a bus to Machu Picchu, or you can hike. The three most popular hikes are the traditional Inca Trail, Lares Trek and the Salkantay Trek. The Inca Trail is the most popular; you travel the same road as the ancient Incas and enter the ruins through the Sun Gate. The Lares Trek will take you through a remote part of the Peruvian Andes where you walk through villages, breathtaking scenery and get a sense of a less touristy Peru. However, the trail does not end at Machu Picchu, it ends at Ollantaytambo and you take a train to Aguas Calientes. The Salkantay Trek is a longer hike, and from what I’ve heard a little more difficult than the other two. The trail offers views of snowy peaks such as Huamantay and Salkantay and ends at a town called Santa Teresa which is just a few kilometers from Aguas Calientes.

I completed the Lares Trek and absolutely loved it. Everyday there was a new scenic gorgeous view, and the trail wasn’t overly populated with other tourists. Sometimes when we would break for lunch, we would see other tourists, but most of the time it was just my small group of five, our guide and the Sherpas. We had donkeys and horses with us that carried our belongings, food shelter etc. So, we hiked with just a small backpack of supplies. The donkeys and horses cannot make it up the steps of the Inca Trail, so you have to carry all of your own gear on that trek. The Salkantay Trek also has horses that can carry some of your supplies.

The benefit of the Lares and Salkantay Treks, is you get to spend a night in a hotel in Augas Calientes before headed to Machu Picchu. This means your first proper shower in days, a real toilet, a bed, all the comforts you might have missed over the last couple of days. Do check the weather and bring appropriate clothing. The days can be very warm and the nights very cold. Plus, you might experience rain, wind and sun all in one day.

Elevation

The elevation of Cusco is 3400 m or 11,200 ft. Guides recommend you spend a couple of days in Cusco to adjust to the elevation before heading the Machu Picchu. The Lost City itself is only 2400 meters, but during your hike you will reach great summits of around 4500 meters. Coca tea is a popular drink to help with altitude sickness, but the coca leaf is also how the narcotic cocaine is made, so it can deliver a false positive on a drug test.

Machu Picchu

We arrived in the Lost City just in time for sunrise, and I am still in awe. To think something was built so long ago and still in such incredible condition, but the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. After a morning tour and history lesson with our guide we parted ways for a little free time. My group chose to hike up to the Sun Gate for lunch (you cannot eat in the ruins) and another incredible view. Another thing I liked about the Lares Trek, is it’s such an intimate group that you become really good friends with everyone you traveled with. To help with overcrowding, Machu Picchu now limits the number of visitors to the site each day, so make sure you buy your ticket ahead of time.

My time on the Lares Trek and visiting Machu Picchu was an adventure I’ll never forget. I loved the history, the culture, the food! Some of the best food I had during my stay in Peru was on the Lares Trek. If you’re thinking about visiting this sacred site – do it! If you have any other questions about Cusco, Machu Picchu or the Lares Trek ask me on twitter at @keeliec5 or leave me a comment below!

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie

The Amazon and Back Again

As I sit on this extra-long plane ride home from Dallas, (thanks Air Force One) I have decided to finally finish writing about my trip to Peru. I left off returning home from Machu Picchu tired and excited. I had a free day before I had to go back to school and then that night I would take the bus to Puerto Maldonado (Peruvian Amazon). I did most of my packing before school, but it didn’t even dawn on me that I was supposed to check out of my room and remove my belongings since I wouldn’t be sleeping there. I ended up having to pay for the extra night, but luckily it wasn’t expensive. My silly mistake. I grabbed my bags and took a cab to the bus stop. The bus we were on was pretty fancy in my opinion, and I had a killer seat. I sat on the top level, right up front. It was a single seat with no one behind me. The closest people were across the aisle. They had free movies, and I was getting into my book. It was an overnight bus, meaning I left at 9pm and was arriving at 7am, so I knew sleep was crucial. In between cat naps I would look out the window and watch the rain fall and the scenery change. I was going from 11,000 feet high in the Andes to Sea Level in the jungle. I could see the condensation on the bus windows and feel the humidity. I finally dozed off for quite some time only to be awoken by the bus making a sudden stop and people getting on board. It was the Peruvian Military, and when they came on I could vaguely understand they were asking for passports. I handed the man my passport, he looked at it, looked at me and then returned it. He did the same to my neighbors across the aisle and then asked me for mine again. I assumed he was looking for my visa slip which I kept in a different location so it didn’t slip out of my passport. Everywhere and everyone in Peru wants to see your passport. I handed it to him a second time, he checked everything out and then returned it back to me. He left the bus with some of the local’s id cards and returned later to hand them back. I guess he was cross checking their names on some database. I found out later that he also took some passports from the lower level off the bus and returned them later. I think I would have been nervous had a scary looking foreign military man that I cannot communicate with took my passport out of my sight. Everything ended up okay. I guess they do random stops to make sure no one on the bus had been reported missing or is on a known list. Safety precautions. I arrived in Puerto Maldonado and boy was it humid. I hadn’t felt that type of humidity in a long time. Luckily I showed up during a “storm” (it was overcast), so I wasn’t getting all the heat. I found the man with the sign waiting for my group and he took us to our destination. We were to hang out at the headquarters of our lodge while we waited for everyone else to arrive before we could take the boat to our lodge. I was definitely tired and ready for a shower. We got a home cooked breakfast from the neighbors who were originally from Morro Bay, California. It was delicious. The boat ride down the Made de Dios River and it was was long. It felt like forever before we reached Planet Amazon. I liked the lodge. I got my own private bungalow (because I was travelling solo), and we had all our meals cooked for us. I was there for two nights and everything was led by a guide.  I thought the main lodge area might have wifi but it did not. I was okay with the idea of being separated from the online world for a while, but I had told a few people I would take to them that night, so I was hoping they wouldn’t worry. We went on guided walks looking at the flora and fauna and keeping an eye out for wild life. We visited a wildlife sanctuary, went Cayman spotting and on a night nature walk. We climbed a tree bridge that gave us an incredible view from the tree top. Since it was overcast the whole time I was there the weather was perfect and I didn’t have a problem with bugs. I had some pretty awesome people in my group, and luckily a few of them were taking the same night bus as I back to Cusco. Because of flights, we had to take the boat back to the main town quite early. Puerto Maldonado is not as big of a tourist town as Cusco, so it was nice getting a different view of Peru. I slept like a baby on the bus ride back, and this time no cops came aboard. The only bummer was we got back at 7am and you can’t check in until after 12, so we dropped off our bags, grabbed some breakfast and explored more around Cusco. This was it for me. I was going home the next morning. I bought any last minute trinkets and headed back to my room. I took a much needed shower and nap. Even though I slept on the bus, there is nothing like sleeping on a non-moving bed. I grabbed one last meal and hung out at the bar in my hostel one last time. I had an excellent time in Cusco. I was a little sad I wasn’t getting to explore more of Peru or South America, but I had been travelling for a long time and was ready to go home.

 

Machu Picchu

I arrived for my briefing the Tuesday before my Machu Picchu Trek. I met the other people I would be hiking with and my guide. We had 5 people in total. Two Greek girls, one lives in Zurich, the other in Edinburgh, and an Australian couple who were on their honeymoon. We were given the run down for our trek. Turns out I only needed to take my small day pack and carry my essentials. My clothes, toiletries, and anything else I needed would be carried in a duffel bag by a horse. My first backpacking experience was proving to be a fancy one. Not only was most of my stuff going to be carried for me, but I was going to have all my meals cooked for me, and they were going to be proper meals. No MREs or boiled noodles. We woke up bright and early the following morning. I decided to rent trekking poles because I wasn’t sure how my knee would handle the steep decline. The last time I did a steep decline was in Big Sur, it hurt quite a bit, and since I was going to have to hike for about 4 days I didn’t want to take any chances. I don’t know if it was the hiking poles, or better use of my brace, but my knee never hurt. The only thing that suffered on my trek was my feet, but I’ll get to that. After renting any last minute equipment we might need, we got into the van and started our journey up the mountain. We made one more stop in a town for any last minute snacks and breakfast. The hot chocolate I ordered was terrible. Awful. We needed to get toilet paper. Some toys to hand out to children we would see on our hike if we wanted to, and any other last minute snacks we wanted. We continued to drive up the hill and boy was the scenery pretty. The mountains were so jagged and majestic. They were green, brown, black, and had all sorts of grass grazers roaming the sides. It was a long drive to where our hike was beginning. We left Cusco at about 6:30, and didn’t start hiking until 11ish. The 5 of us hiked with our guide Percy, and our stuff was tied to the three horses who were lead by the horseman and accompanied by the cook and his assistant. The very beginning was quite steep, and I feel my breath shortening and my heart pounding. We started our hiked at about 12,000 feet. Maybe more. It eventually leveled out so we could catch our breath and rest. After a few hours, we stopped for lunch. The horses and crew had taken a road while we hiked on the trail, so by the time we showed up to camp they had a lunch tent set up and food was just about ready. We had juice, guacamole, trout, rice, really fancy food for a hiking expedition. I don’t usually eat this fancy while camping. We sat around for a bit after lunch to let everything digest and then started hiking again. We eventually did walk right through the middle of a small village and yes the kids saw us coming. They are used to hikers walking through their village and giving them treats of some sort. I had a few toys I had bought to give out, and then I shared my bag of M&Ms. I didn’t realize there would be so many kids. I would of brought all the gum my mom gave me and handed that out, but I had left it behind for the school kids. Our camp for the night was just at the outskirts of the village. I watched a girl run up a mountain and cross a creek just to get to us and see what we had. Luckily I had a few M&Ms left. It’s almost like a permanent Halloween for these kids. They live a simple life. Miles from anywhere. Definitely self sufficient. We did see a school, but they live in small homes, and no wifi. We arrived at camp around 5pm. I should of brought a deck of cards, but at least I had a book. The cook puts on a happy hour for us around 6 which is basically tea and crackers. Then we have another 3 course meal, and after we chat for a bit, discuss the following day, and return to our tents for bed. The first night I read for a bit and went to bed around 9 or 9:30. I froze all night. I tried really hard to sleep without socks so my feet could breathe, but I couldn’t take it any longer. I was wearing yoga pants and a ski thermal, and I froze. So I didn’t sleep so well. Our morning wake up call came around 5 or 5:30 with one of the helpers tapping on our tent, “Buenos Diaz Senorita, muna tea.” And I would unzip the tent and he would hand us a cup of hot muna tea. I was originally supposed to sleep in a tent by myself, but I ended up switching with one of the Greek girls because I thought it would be warmer. Day two of our hike was meant to be the hardest. We were going to summit to about 15000 feet before lunch. It was also the most beautiful day, besides Machu Picchu. It was freezing when we first left, but as soon as we started hiking and the sun peaked out from behind the jagged mountains the layers started coming off. One of the hardest things for me was going to the bathroom. It had been over 24 hours since I’d last had a proper toilet, and we had done quite a bit of walking. Squatting and trying to your business was not that easy. Our hearts were still pounding, so we took it slow. We admired the landscape, the llamas and alpacas. It was just us and nature and a few villagers. You would see the farmers in the hills running after their flock in sandals, and here we were in proper hiking attire, walking slowly, and about to keel over. It was a long slow hike up, especially the last part which was the most steep, but it was so worth it. The view of the Lares Valley was calming. After spending time is a busy, firework loving, car honking Cusco, it was nice to be in a more remote and peaceful part of Peru. I felt more connected to the country and what it represented. We left camp before the helpers had finished taking it down. They had packed up camp and zoomed passed us on the mountain. At the end of our trek I called them loco for running up the mountain. After summiting, we took a nice well deserved pow wow. Photos were taken, food was eaten and I stretched. We were going to descend basically everything we had just walked up and then some for the rest of the day. Lunch was after the initial decent. The view for lunch was probably my favorite of the hike. I did acquire a bit of a headache and had some coca tea with lunch and took an Advil. I felt better, and then proceed to whack my head on my way out of the lunch spot. So mixed with lots of walking and high altitude, my head was throbbing. We left lunch early because it had started to rain. It was only a light rain, and it stayed away just in time for us to reach our next camp for the night. It was on the edge of another village. We arrived at 4, but I had to take a nap. My head hurt. Plus it was raining, and there wasn’t much else to do. After happy hour and dinner, we retired to our tents for bed. This place had about as proper of a toilet you can have in the middle of the Andean Wilderness and helped alleviate some stomach cramps. We were awoken the following morning with the same wake up call. Buenos Diaz Senorita, Muna tea. I slept much better that night. I wore socks. I wore my yoga pants and rain pants. And I wore my ski thermal and a fleece. I was toasty. We were only walking half a day on day three. Once we reached Ollantaytambo for lunch, we would have the day to explore before taking the train to Aguas Calenites or Machu Picchu Pueblo. And for night 3 we would be staying in an actual hotel, where we wouldn’t freeze, a true bed, proper toilet and we could shower! It was a dream come true for my group. The hike into town was a downhill gravel road. And it destroyed my feet. Since I wasn’t able to let my feet breathe because there was a lot of horse poop around, so I always wore my boots, or it was cold so I always wore my socks, my feet looked like they had been in the shower for to long. I had blisters all over my toes, the one on my pinky made the toe double in size, and the balls of my feet. I think the worst part was the athlete’s feet I started to develop. It was tearing my sensitive skin. As soon as we reached Ollantaytambo, the boots and socks came off. I apologized for any offensive smells. We didn’t explore the town. In our defense it was pouring rain, but we were also beat, and my feet hurt. So we sat in the cafe and drank awful coffee until our train. The train ride was gorgeous. Even with its misty atmosphere. Our guide picked us up at the station and showed us our hotel. We had 20 minutes to shower before dinner. Luckily I had a room to myself. It was an amazing shower. And I was really excited that I could wear shorts and no socks to bed. We got back from dinner late. It was a great time, but we all missed our cook’s food. He was an amazing cook, and earlier that day we had said our goodbyes to our team except the guide. We went to bed around 10 or 10:30 that night and had a morning wake up call at 4:00am. The reason for our trip had finally arrived. We were going to Machu Picchu. Our guide did not knock on our hotel doors and hand us a cup of tea, but the hotel did provide us with a sack breakfast. Everyone looked clean and refreshed from our days in the Andes. We had to get in line for the bus which wasn’t leaving til 5:30. Even though we arrived at about 4:50, the line was already long, and we were on the 6th bus. The bus ride up was steep, windy and gorgeous. There were some people hiking up. We were glad that wasn’t us. We had done enough hiking, and still had some more to do at the site. We waited until the gates open at 6am, and watched the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Just like the Incas. We took some tourist photos, and our guide gave us the run down on the incomplete ruins. Thank goodness the Spanish never found it. We said our goodbyes to our guide, and decided to climb up to sun gate. Basically its another gigantic hill you climb, in the heat, to get an epic view of the site. Sun Gate is where the Inca Trail trekkers first see the ruins. It’s where the “sun first hits”. It was another long and hard hike, but beautiful. Everywhere you looked was beauty. Everything was so green, and ridged. We ate our lunch at the top and then made the climb back down. We took a few more tourist photos and decided we were ready to relax. After taking the bus down we grabbed lunch, did a bit of shopping in the market, and waited for our train. The next 3 to 4 hours were long. It was a train ride, and then an exceptionally long bus ride home. It was after 9pm when we got back to Cusco. And by the time we ate dinner and showered we all were going to bed close to midnight. It was a long but magical day. One I will remember forever.

Exploring around Cusco

I had a half day Friday. I left about an hour before my tour, so I had time to grab lunch and visit the ATM. It took me an hour to get home, traffic was horrendous, so I quickly changed and skipped the ATM and lunch. The tour guide was a 1/2 late picking me up so I would have had plenty of time to do the things I skipped. I used the last of my cash to get inside a church. I can go into detail about the Church and its history, but you can also google it. We got into the bus and made our way to some ruins just outside the city. Turns out I needed a lot of cash to buy a tourist ticket. There was no ATM nearby and no one took a card. I was going to have to sit on the bus for the entire tour when the bus driver decided to loan me some money. It was really kind of him. The ruins were beautiful and the history was kind of sad. The Spanish sort of annihilated the Incas and their traditions. It was a long tour with lots of sites to see, but I was also starving, and I started to get really cold. The tour ended, and I paid the bus driver back, got food and prepared for my quad tour in the am. The next day I left before breakfast, so I packed a few snacks. I was on a tour with all Remote Year people. They were friendly enough, but I was definitely the oddball. I was familiar with the quad. Peru is the 3rd country I have gone on a quad ride in. We road around some beautiful scenery. Saw some more ruins and a salt mine. I got extremely dusty, and we were gone all day. So now I had no breakfast or lunch, only my snacks. Overall it was a good day. After we returned from our adventure, the group of us went out to linner, and I made my way back to my place for a much needed shower. On Sunday I went river rafting. The guide retrieved me from my hostel and took me to the bus. We sat on the bus and drove around Cusco for an hour and then started our journey. When we arrived at the rafting spot, the guide told us we would zip line first. A few people didn’t go because they said it didn’t look safe. I thought it has to be safe because the company doesn’t want that reputation. A few people were hooked up wrong, and it wasn’t properly explained to me how to break. Everyone made it across. A different guide explained to me how to break, so the second zip line was a bit more enjoyable. Even though it was shorter. We then geared up for river rafting. I was in the boat where half spoke English and half spoke Spanish. The sun was hiding behind the clouds, but I had a great time. I sat up front and got extremely wet, but it was a blast. After river rafting, we had a delicious lunch and started the journey home. The journey home was awful. We got stuck in traffic like I had never seen, and I was exhausted. We were supposed to be gone for 6 hours and ended up being gone for over 10. And I think almost half of that was spent on the bus. I needed to do laundry before my trek, but that didn’t happen because we got home too late. I still enjoyed myself, but it had been a really long weekend. I spent my nights socializing in the bar in my hostel. I met some really cool people from all over the world, and my friends won the beer pong tournament. Meeting people is probably my favorite part about traveling. It makes me forget how terrible traffic is, or how exhausted I am.

My School

I was up and ready for the taxi at 9am, but this is South America. He arrived at about 9:20, and told me the following days he would probably be there around 9:15. I was told to not bring a lot, so I had change for my bus ride home, my cell phone, and a water bottle. I arrived at the school and was greeted by a male teacher. He did not speak English, and I don’t really speak Spanish. I asked for the name of the principal, but she was not there. He showed me to another administrative type of lady who speaks a tad bit more English. She gave me a tour and then showed me to the Art room where the first male teacher I had met was sitting. He motioned me to sit down, and we had a bit of awkward silence since there is a language barrier. There were a few kids there. Most had some type of a disability,  and none spoke English. He showed me a drawing, and motioned that I copy it. I am a terrible artist, but I did my best. I drew and colored, and then the teacher perfected it. In the end it didn’t look half bad. Eventually the cook showed up, and she started preparing lunch. She didn’t speak any English as well. I believe at this point the main principal had showed up, and she told the cook I was there to help. My first day in the kitchen mostly consisted of peeling and chopping which I am terrible at. I’m used to all my first world kitchen tools, so to take those away from me I am almost useless in the kitchen. I would peel one potato by the time she would peel 5. But I was helping, kind of. As lunch time grew closer, another volunteer showed up. She was fluent in both English and Spanish. I was relieved to have a conversation with someone that didn’t require sign language. We had some downtime before lunch, so I sat in the sun. Mary Ann, the other volunteer, said sometimes she brings a book, because there is often downtime around lunch. I don’t remember exactly what we had for lunch my first day, but I have yet to have a bad meal. After lunch, the 3rd volunteer, Lauri, showed up. I was going to help her teach English in the afternoons. Mary Ann is there a few days a week and she helps with homework. The first day of class was quite interesting. We have two groups. Basically the young kids and the older kids. They knew a little bit of English, but not as much and I thought they would. They were also quite wild. Everyone would talk at once. They were easily distracted. They constantly kept coming and going out of the room. It made for an exhausting first day. Luckily Larui was taking to same bus as me home. Only difference is she got off earlier than I. The bus turned out to be the easiest part of my day. No issues getting on, with the ride, or getting off. The second day of school was very similar. I did some painting in the art room in the morning, helped out in the kitchen before lunch. I brought a book, so I sat in the sun and read a bit until it was time to teach the kids after lunch. The kids were still rambunctious. They would slide on the floor, the older ones would play on their phones, and they loved to write on the dry erase board. Some kids were better at English than others, they all seemed interested in learning, but some were more easily distracted than others. I would essentially be at school from 9-6 everyday. So when I got home from school, I would eat, relax for a bit, and then go to bed. Outside of school I would either hang out at an Irish Pub or my hostel. On Cinco de Mayo, I went to the only Mexican restaurant in central Cusco, along with every other American. I kept wishing everyone a Happy Cinco De Mayo, and expressing my excitement for tacos and margaritas, and everyone thought I was a weirdo. Except all the Americans at the restaurant. They knew what it was about. Turns out they was a group of about 75 all travelling together on a Remote Year. I don’t feel like explaining what that means. You can ask me privately if you are interested in learning about it. Thursday was probably the best day for the kids. They were calm, and active, and you could tell they were really learning. It was a beautiful moment as a teacher. That Thursday morning when I showed up, I didn’t see anyone. No teachers, just two kids. I think an administrator was upstairs. I sat in the sun and read. I was reading a really good book so I didn’t mind. Friday was a half day for me. I was only at the school for a few hours. I didn’t even finish helping with lunch. I was going on a city tour which is why I left early. I’ll explain my weekend in a different post. Monday I returned to school, as I did on Tuesday. I was only working two days that week because I was leaving for Machu Picchu on Wednesday. I had a lot to do before my trek. It was kind of a sad moment because that Tuesday was my last day volunteering with both Mary Ann and Lauri. We had a mini picture day before class. The younger kids were all about taking pictures, but only one girl from the older group would take a picture, and she was all about the selfie. I have one more day of volunteering, and that is Monday, or tomorrow. I will have one familiar volunteer, John, and one new one. The new one is replacing Larui, and John rotates days with Mary Ann. I have enjoyed my volunteering experience. Everyone was really friendly. The kids might be wild, but they have a good heart. I will miss everyone.