This past summer, my husband and I hiked the Inca trail with two other couples to see the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. We planned our trip thoroughly, and I started my physical training five months prior to our departure. The hiking portion of our trip consisted of a four-day, three-night journey through the Andes Mountains, reaching a height of almost 14,000 feet. The adventure outfitters provided us with a local guide and twelve native Inca porters, who each carried 50 lbs. of our gear. We were required to carry our day pack and daily water, which weighed approximately 10 lbs. Not only did our porters carry five times more weight than we did, but they also wore leather sandals or cheap gym shoes--certainly not the high-tech boots like ours. I became painfully aware of my privileged status and my utter dependence on them for survival.
Our vacation proved to be an epic, glorious adventure! It was astoundingly beautiful. But it almost killed me (at least that’s how it felt). The mountains brought me to my knees, and I was humbled beyond measure.
I, like most Americans, value independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency. Although these are necessary elements of a well-balanced person, the reality of being a human is that we cannot survive alone. Let me repeat: we stand no chance alone. If it weren’t for the love of my husband, the support of my dear friends, and the extraordinary kindness of strangers, I would not have been able to complete my journey.
Hiking the Inca trail brought to light the truth of my/our interdependence on other human beings and the Earth. What a bunch of hubris was my the belief that, if necessary, I could survive alone. Indeed, how disconnected I had become from the sheer power, beauty, and wisdom of Mother Earth. In the face of this truth, I was reminded how tiny and vulnerable I am and how liberating it feels to truly embrace this reality.
As a result of my adventure, I’ve learned that the most effective method to find truth is to stretch your comfort zone and become uncomfortable. The truth reveals itself painfully as the ignorance of a particular belief is wiped away. We are a species that often denies our very nature. In other words, we are eusocial--very complicated, altruistic, aggressive, and interdependent on all life. I can’t wait for my next adventure when I will discover more about myself and this world!