In the summer of 2012, I travelled to Peru with Global Leadership Adventures. I thought I'd make some new friends, buy cool souvenirs, give back to the community a little, nothing more than a touristy trip. Never have I been so wrong in my life.
Although we had many cool weekend outings such as white water rafting, biking down a mountain, visiting an alpaca farm, hiking the Incan Trail, visiting Machu Picchu, camping next to snow-capped mountains, and bathing in sulfur springs, what truly made the trip special was the volunteering. Every week day, we visited a school in the small community of Sunco in Cusco, Peru. There, we smashed bricks into mud, built up walls, and slowly developed the structure of a greenhouse. We watched how together, we could make such a huge improvement to the little community. Gradually, kids started watching us, following us around as we worked, chatting and laughing with us in Spanish. That was our day-waking up early to the smiling faces of little Peruvian children. Our trip was about service, about helping these kids, not touring or buying or making new friends.
Some other cool activites we did were: play traditional Peruvian music, dance a traditional Peruvian 'baile', make Peruvian pots/bowls, and learn Quechua, Peru's tribal language.
At night, before we went to bed, we always had Leadership meetings. During these meetings, we would play team-building games to improve group unity, share leadership characteristics/techniques, or meet with a mentor to talk about things going on around the world. Those nighttime meetings were speical as well- I got the chance to truly re-define what I believe a leader should be and should do. I got to explore bigger societal issues, while seeing both sides of an argument. I got a crash-course in Linguistics (something I never expected to enjoy). I truly miss those nighttime meetings.
All together, the morning volunteering, the weekend outings, and the nighttime meetings all presented a really cool, unique experience for Peru. My trip exceeded all expectations I had set forth. The only difficulty I had to overcome was returing to the United States, returning to see the wealth and shallowness of in the "bubble" of my own community. Don't get me wrong, I love where I live and I love all the people around me. It's just, it was difficult after such an enlightening and revealing experience to be forced back into reality. But part of Peru will stay with me wherever I go, part of the summer of 2012.