|By Leighton Katz, Marketing and Communications Intern|
Photos By Emily Radek, Marketing and Communications Intern
I have been traveling for my whole life, but it wasn’t until I came to Peru to work with Awamaki that I began to utilize this list.
Here’s the list, along with my thoughts and experiences with each one.
1. Leave your camera at home.
When traveling, most people have a tendency to want to capture every unique aspect of a place by taking pictures of what they see. However, not only does taking pictures distract from the present moment, but it also distorts one’s perception of an experience. If we spent more time appreciating the present moment, then our memories of an experience would be more authentic and well-rounded. When I go on hikes or to visit ruins, I don’t bring a camera. I like to capture the moment while I’m in it, and the memories I have are based on what I remember, not what I capture with a camera.
If you’re going to travel, do it big. The world has so much to offer, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to travel for pleasure, make it worthwhile. There are so many cultures and unique ways of life to discover, and the further out of your comfort zone you are willing to go, the more rewarding your travel experience will be. In Peru, I’m in a different world. I don’t have the same luxuries or comforts that I have at home, and I learn to live without them. Being far away from home can be scary, and I get homesick sometimes, but the opportunity to immerse myself in an entirely new world is something I would never give up.
It may be tempting to want to stay connected while you’re traveling, but in doing so, you miss out on many significant parts of traveling. The people in your life will be there when you return, and the more time you take to spend with yourself and your surroundings, the more clarity will be provided when you do reunite with your loved ones. Still keep in touch, but remember to be in touch with where you are and who you’re with while traveling.
When we meet new people, we have a tendency to want to connect. The way to connect while traveling, especially when you meet people from the area you’re visiting, is to ask questions. This is not to say you should never talk about yourself, but there’s so much substance to the stories of people who are culturally different to you. Be open and listen to the people you meet rather than try to steal the spotlight. The people I’ve met in Peru are incredibly multifaceted and interesting. The more I ask questions, the more I learn about their lives and cultures.
It’s not good to rely on technology, especially when traveling to remote places. You don’t want to become dependent on a phone or a GPS only to have it die without being able to find a replacement. Carry a map, ask the locals for directions or recommendations, and trust your instinct. I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt lost, panicked a little bit, and then taken a deep breath, asked a passerby, and observed my surroundings to get where I needed to go.
6. Observe intently.
Be conscious of your surroundings! The world is a big place with lots to see, and there’s a good chance you’ll only be in a place once. Notice the plants, taste the local delicacies, observe the way people dress and talk. Take advantage of the opportunity you have and really try to soak it all in. Look past the flashy signs and obvious tourist establishments. When you look around, you’ll be amazed at what you find. I sometimes let myself wander and just look around. I’ve seen beautiful flowers I never would’ve noticed, people talking and laughing in a tiny hidden restaurant, and kids playing in field after school.
Remember, when you travel somewhere, you are a visitor in someone’s home. Treat your hosts with respect and honor their culture and customs. There’s so much power and beauty in making a good impression, especially if you’re only traveling for a short amount of time. It’s important to represent your country, and also show people that you care about their home. I always try to help out anywhere I go, even if it’s just doing dishes after a meal or helping to carry something. It’s important to express your gratitude in ways that people will receive with warmth.
Jotting down notes is helpful when you experience something you don’t want to forget. If you have a notebook and a pen accessible, you won’t have to stress about remembering something later. Longer journal entries are also beneficial for revisiting your travel experience and fondly reminiscing on your time. I have a little journal that I take with me everywhere just in case I want to write something down. Even if it’s a little thing that seems insignificant, I want to remember the things that make me happy, especially if it’s unique to a location.
The only way to truly travel is by meeting people and making connections. It’s amazing how many interesting and unique people there are in the world, and the opportunity to hear their stories is equally unique. Additionally, meeting people while traveling is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. I’ve met so many people who have taught me important lessons about life and humanity. In Peru, I’ve learned about Andean philosophy and traditions from people I’ve met. It is so valuable to learn from and listen to locals about the world we’re living in. I have had the opportunity to spend time in the communities Awamaki works with, and I love to listen to the artisans talk about their passions and their families.
10. Make sure you capture the sounds, smell, and feel of a place.
The difference between reading about a place and actually going there is the intangible aspects you are exposed to that can’t be put into words. One of the incredible benefits of traveling is the ability to completely immerse yourself and experience firsthand what it’s like in other parts of the world. There are so many pieces that make up a community, and it’s impossible to compile them all into a list. When I leave Peru, I will have the memories with me forever. The sound of the stray dogs running in the streets, the smell of chicken cooking, the birds chirping in the morning, the way the town comes to life during a festival, and the feeling of rain on my skin have all made my time in Peru so special and unique.