Next: Nevada

I love rain. A few weeks ago there was a surprisingly strong thunderstorm in San Diego and I was at home with my sister, Sarah, and Dad. It started raining and progressively became louder, including thunder and bright flashes of light. At one moment, after the house lost power, Sarah and I decided to make a fire and had a lovely evening watching the storm.

I was also in Colombia a couple of weeks ago (which I will detail more below), and during this trip there were thunderstorms nearly every night. The storms and rain left us unexpectedly running towards shelter a couple of times, stranded on a sidewalk for 30 minutes waiting for a taxi to make it through flooded streets, and running to get clothes from the clothesline outside. One evening we slept in hammocks in a local national park and I fell asleep to strikingly loud thunder, lightning, and a 90’s female country artist playlist. It was magical.

I was never terribly inconvenienced by the rain, but I witnessed the way rain can shut a city down. It can impact transportation, safety, and business can be lost. We have all heard of the recent flooding on the East Coast and those who have lost their homes because of rain. It can be destructive as well as life giving.

I have recently found myself wishing the world was more black and white. I wish I could be thankful that a friend was healed or found a job without thinking about the neighbor whose child died or who lost their home and loved ones in horrific fires. I wish I could go to church without doubts running through my head and frustrations about they way God is represented so differently a few doors down. I wish I could vote with confidence instead of cynicism.

So, even though I can’t look at the rain and see only good and beauty, I still can see good and beauty.  There is always a little bit of sadness that accompanies my joy. This doesn’t mean I have lost hope. It means I will spend my life looking for the joy but not ignoring the broken. In reality, I wouldn’t trade this. I want this awareness to be motivating and to never let me sit in my comfortable bubble. Though I recognize I cannot and should not bear all of the burdens of the world, being aware of them helps me to live in a way that seeks redemption and healing. At least, I hope that it does. We are not called to comfort. I don’t ever want to go back to a blissful ignorance, but want to balance the brokenness and joy in a way which never stops seeking God’s kingdom.

On a different note- A couple of updates on my life are below:

I have taken a travel nurse assignment in Reno, Nevada and will be here for a few months. I bought a ski pass and am looking forward to spending as much time in snow as possible. I am renting a room from a lovely woman, have found a church, and am currently sitting in a coffee shop after driving around to explore the city. I will be working in geriatric psych while here and so far am fond of the hospital.

I also went to Colombia recently with a good friend, Candy, who was born and raised there. It was an incredible honor to be invited home with her, to meet her wonderful friends and family, and explore the beautiful Country. We spent several days in Santa Marta, slept in hammocks in Tayrona Natural Park, helped decorate for her parents’ anniversary party, explored the adorable village of Villa de Leyva and ended the trip with a few days in Bogota. It was a trip filled with moments of awe, beauty, friendliness, adventure, discomfort, and vulnerability.  I knew my Spanish was nothing to brag about, but definitely felt more confident than I should have going in. By the end of the trip I could understand the majority of conversations, but spent a lot of time asking people to repeat things and trying to pick up main concepts. I felt incredibly humbled during the trip, being so reliant on my amazing hosts for communication, planning, and safety for the majority of the trip. It is amazing how any step outside a comfort zone can help shift priorities. I left both challenged and grateful, seeing far more similarities than differences, and with a broader and more beautiful picture of the world we live in.

 

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Change

I feel sad today. Each day at work we go around in a circle and ask the kids to express how they are feeling, what their goals are, and then ask a silly icebreaker question. I said I was feeling thankful, which I am. Thankful for my family, for my work, for the fact that I got to walk on the beach today and play at the park with my nephew. But I also feel sad. While walking on the beach today I saw more plastic that I ever remember noticing – washed up in the waves of seaweed that line the beach and mark the various points of tide throughout the day. I noticed these colorful pieces of plastic tangled up in this seaweed after almost every step I took. These may not be new, but I noticed them strikingly today. It made me sad. It was also sad when I drove by the cemetery that my Opa was buried in this week, thinking about the next time we play pinochle and he won’t be there, and about how much I wish I could still talk to him and ask him questions that I never asked. I feel sad seeing stressful events in my friends and families lives: new health issues, financial stress, house disasters, and job stress. I feel sad about the kids I work with and those who seem to have little or poor support from family.

I have been thinking a lot about my life and the things I have the ability to change. These are some of those things:

*Seeing the plastic lining the beaches (along with the numerous photographs of plastic build up in our oceans and learning about waste in my public health courses) all remind me of how I would like to eliminate (80% realistically at the moment) single-use plastic from my life. It is possible with preparation and research, though it is definitely less convenient.

*I want to incorporate meditation and prayer into my routine before falling asleep, especially as the past few years have brought on more anxiety than I have experienced in the past.

*I want to take a long walking trip next year and I would like to have more endurance before attempting to do that which means more frequent long walks and more consistent exercise.

* I want to find a church and miss the consistency of meeting with other Christians, I have found myself frustrated with specifics about the church and doubts about Christianity which have caused me to bring my Christianity inwards and neglect meeting with believers as often which I believe is incredibly important.

*Etcetera

You get the point.

It can often be overwhelming when I look at the things I want to change about my self and my environment. I have been asked in the past how I can encourage others to be healthy if I am obviously unhealthy myself. I think this is the wrong approach. I think it is valuable to recognize that we are all learning from each other as incredibly broken and flawed humans. I may struggle with things you don’t and for reasons you don’t. I don’t believe that in order to be an advocate for something one needs to have perfected it. Each of us have our own definitions of perfection too and an order in which we prioritize these potential changes. I can fully acknowledge that I am not where I would like to be in many areas of my life. There is a danger in letting these feelings of hypocrisy keep me from acting, which they have done on multiple occasions in my life. I have a hard time knowing where guilt should come in to play, as I have not found it helpful personally. I find the opposite extreme of blissful ignorance just as unhelpful. I find myself motivated to change for a variety of reasons that are sometimes incredibly different from the person next to me.

And on that note…

It has been good to be home. At this point I have no moving date as I finish up my travel nurse contract and prepare for some field experience for my Master’s program. I did not anticipate being here for so long but am so thankful that I have been. It has been strange being home in San Diego with initial anticipation of moving soon, 3 months turned in to 6 and then to 8. There are numerous things that I am so thankful to have been here to experience, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I have been able to experience births, birthdays, going away parties, graduations, hospitalizations, funerals, and so much more with my friends and family. I am unbelievably grateful for these moments. I wish I could pinpoint a specific thing that is keeping me from feeling at peace with staying here long term, but I don’t feel at peace. So much of my life and the lives of those around me are transitional, and though I do long for a sense of being settled, I also am restless to see and experience more. There is a significant amount of conflict in my heart about this, about the balance between adventure and contentment. Too much adventure leads to loneliness, but too much contentment can lead to apathy. I don’t ever want to grow away from those I love and who love me, I want to be reliable and faithful as a family member and friend. I also am scared that I will stop learning and growing and stop seeing the world in a way which leads to compassion and passion. There is so much that is broken. I believe that God has called us to see that which is broken and help in the healing process. Somehow I feel that seeing the variety of people, communities, and struggles as I travel is helping me build a foundation to do this better. So for now, that’s the tentative plan.

Opa

My Opa passed away on March 16th and the funeral service is being held tomorrow. I miss him. I will miss playing pinochle with him and sitting on the couch watching classic movies. He was incredibly faithful and incredibly kind, he was hard working and generous. His tool-shed was always full of ‘just in case’ items and I don’t think he ever threw away a loose screw. He is part of the reason I love to hike, backpack and fish. I think the moments when I saw him the happiest were when he was teaching his grandkids to fish or ski.

opa dancing

Death is such a strange thing. I knew, with his worsening health, that each time I saw him it was precious and that it could be the last. I knew I wanted to be home just in case. I am so thankful for every moment spent with him, even when it was just to sit nearby as he rested. I know he hated us seeing him sick, I know he wanted to take care of us and not be taken care of. I will remember him as someone who cared fully for his family and loved us all more than we will ever know. I just left my parents where there are air mattresses and couches being made up, with 10 of his 20 grandchildren sleeping over. The immense gratitude I feel for my grandfather’s life and the legacy that he left is best reflected in this scene- a scene of genuine joy in being together and willingness to accommodate each other. I find myself sitting back in awe at this family and the ways in which we have grown individually and together as we grow up. I know my Opa was proud of us and I hope that the rest of our lives will continue to make him proud and honor his memory.

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Obituary and funeral information can be found at this address: https://wonderfullife.com/of/arthur-last/obituary/.

A good place to be from

As I sit in a coffee shop watching the sunrise over Bell Rock in Sedona, I am two days from being home. Rather unexpectedly too. I had intended on staying on the East Coast for a while longer and keeping my car there while flying home for Christmas, but plans changed. Granted, these plans had always been highly subject to change due to the nature of travel nursing. There are things I want to and feel I should be around for at home in the next few months, so, at least until April, I will be home in San Diego.

I have taken my time driving home, stopping along the way to see some beautiful things and visit with some beautiful people. I spent the day in Gatlinburg and Nashville, TN, finally visited my Aunt and Uncle in Texas, went back to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico (a place I have wanted to return to since visiting about 10 years ago with family), Sedona, Az, and head to my Oma and Opa’s tonight. I will be home tomorrow in time for a family birthday party and the Christmas season.

As strange as it seems, I think this is the most nervous I have been since I have started traveling. There is something about the expectations associated with returning home that has me on edge. I love my home. I love my family. I love my friends. I am so excited to spend time with them. It’s not that I have changed in many dramatic ways, or am an entirely different person, but I have changed. It is easy, in many ways, to walk into a place as an entirely new face. There is less pressure. And this pressure is mostly something I put on myself, but it still exists. As I have been traveling, I have discovered it is not too challenging to find a fit wherever I end up. It takes time and work, but I can find friends and a community in which I feel comfortable. At the same time, there is never going to be a place in which I feel 100% comfortable or as if I belong. I think this is the nature of life in general, there will always be unmet expectations, assumptions, and conflict when it comes to reconciling who I am and what I believe with where I am and the places I spend my time. I am continually learning and being stretched in this life, and as valuable as it is, it often means I find myself with many more questions than answers. The battle is not letting those questions stop me.

So, I’ll be home for Christmas. And I am so excited to be home. I stole the title for this post, I believe, from a Hallmark movie where it was a passing line. I liked it. San Diego County is a good place to be from. It is a good place to be returning to. I have no idea whether it will be the place I will stay.

 

One Year

This month marks a year since I began life as a travel nurse. I am in my third assignment in Salem, Virginia and find myself amazed at all I have done an seen in a short amount of time. I have driven across the country twice, worked in three different states, visited multiple national parks, and have spent time with some amazing people. I am very aware of how much I have to be thankful for.

Prior to this assignment in Virginia, I spent a couple of weeks with my family in Jackson, Wyoming and at home in San Diego. My brother and I then drove our infamous 11 passenger family van from San Diego to Connecticut (where I had parked my car), and then down to Virginia.. This trip included a brief walk through Vail, Colorado, visits with our Kansas cousins, nearly running out of gas in Utah, roughly 60 hours of driving time, a day in NYC to see Anastasia on Broadway, and trading off naps in the back seat. Fortunately we have mostly the same taste in music.

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So, now I am at my third hospital as a traveler and am enjoying the process of transition more than I anticipated. I enjoy walking into a new environment and figuring things out, meeting people, creating a new temporary home and comparing various hospital processes. I am finding it so helpful to look at the various ways in which hospitals approach mental health and the differences on a state-to-state basis. I have begun a Master’s program online and am pursing my MSN with an emphasis in Public Health, and though I am still early in the process, traveling has provided me with such helpful information as I figure out what comes next.

Virginia is a beautiful place. I love watching the transition into fall and seeing the leaves change. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop looking out at brick buildings, orange colored leaves, and pouring rain. It’s not too bad. The area of Virginia I am in is beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway and I see rolling hills when driving to and from work, have access to beautiful hiking areas, and have found a favorite park that I have begun to frequent. I have spent time in camping in Shenandoah National Park, driven to Baltimore and spent time with my Great-Aunt Peggy (who is one of the most hospitable people I know) and spent time in Washington DC. There is a lot to do here.

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And in the midst of these good things, it has been an incredibly heavy couple of months and has been challenging to be away from home. I am homesick. The world, the country, and close friends of mine have been experiencing horrific tragedies, evident evil, and periods of grief. It is hard to be away. Though I know that being home wouldn’t change much, there are so many recent events which make me long for those closest to me and to simply be able to sit with people in times of grief. I feel helpless, as I know so many do right now. I frequently think of the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, and it has become a frequent prayer in a time where so much seems unknown. I had a moment recently where I found myself more afraid than I can ever remember being, not about any particular event, but about the world as a whole. I found myself thinking about the dangers associated with almost everything. The floods, fires, shootings, and hurricanes: these were all in such different locations and some with no warning at all. I have chosen a current life where I am in a lot of places that involve the unknown.  I have to consciously choose to not live in this fear. Yes, the world can be incredibly dangerous. Yes, I should be and am taking precautions and being safe when it comes to my various adventures. But I will not let fear keep me from living and experiencing the beautiful things in the world. It is too easy to hide and to shy away from things when I feel doubtful or fearful. My prayer is that my life will be one which brings forward that which is beautiful, hopeful, and life giving- even if I don’t always know exactly how to do so well.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. 
Where there is hatred, Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled
As to console; To be understood,
As to understand; To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are
Born to eternal life.

Moving lighthouses

 

Connecticut, Boston, Virginia, North Carolina, New York… and more.

The opportunities to explore that travel nursing has provided have been amazing. I love exploring and doing it alone, with old friends, or with new friends. I hope that no matter where I end up staying long term, I always keep exploring and take advantage of the amazing things I am surrounded by. No matter where you live, take the time to explore. Ask people where there favorite places are and go.  Most likely you will be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful things you find.

Part of being a stranger in a new place is that I am pretty dependent on the recommendations of my coworkers and new friends. In conversations when I ask for travel advice, I get amazing stories and suggestions. I hope I never stop asking people these questions.

Now some places I have explored

Boston, MA

I love Boston. It is a beautiful city and incredibly easy to get around. I went for a music festival on the Harvard campus with another travel nurse and explored the city the following day. There are beautiful green parks in the city, multiple historical sites, and great people watching. I will definitely be back.

 

 

 

New York City, NY

I drove in to New York City which I am now proud to say that I have done and will never do again. The constant chorus of honking and shouting along with the pedestrians who follow no rules makes it a chaotic experience. The city itself is huge and I explored a small part in Brooklyn and SoHo this trip. I was able to go to a photography gallery of a favorite nature photographer, Paul Nicklen which was wonderful. After 24 hours I was overwhelmed by the crowds and noise, I made a point to stop at a lake to have dinner on the way back just for some space.

 

 

Virginia

I was able to drive down to see Luke during my time here, which was worth the 8 hr drive and multiple toll violations (I hate the EZ pass system). Virginia is green and beautiful and I loved hiking the appalachian trail and driving through the blue ridge mountains during my short time there. I am excited to go back. I am also glad Luke has some solid friends, a couple of whom graduated the week I was there and I am amazed it has been 4 years since my college graduation.

 

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

This remains one of my favorite places in the world and I couldn’t pass an opportunity to go if I am within driving distance. It was so fun for Luke and I to show this place off. It was such a fun group of people and such a refreshing week full of nostalgia. It was also the perfect place to turn 26.

Yale University

I have had the chance to meet up with a couple of dear friends from college, one of whom happened to be in Connecticut. I stopped to see her and we walked around Yale and some Connecticut beaches.

 

Traveling has given me a significant amount of time to think. I have spoken before of the fact that many aspects of my life felt, and still feel, transitional. I am already feeling restless for the next assignment, I am enjoying the unknown and adventurous aspect of my travels. The most challenging aspects remain the lack of community. Don’t get me wrong, I have made some wonderful friends here and love getting to know new people but there is an extra level of effort expended when you spend time with people who don’t know you well. It is odd to have a lack of balance when it comes to new and old friends. I go through waves where I prioritize calling my friends and family back home more frequently and am learning to make this a more common practice.

There is a lighthouse in Cape Hatteras, NC that is the tallest in the US at 210 feet.. The lighthouse in 1999 had to be moved 2,900 feet inland due to erosion of the shoreline. This process took around 3 months. My family was there before and after the move, it is a remarkable thing to see. When sitting near the spot where the lighthouse was moved from this May, I was strangely reassured. I feel like that lighthouse. I feel like I am being, sometimes tediously, moved to a stronger foundation. As I have wrestled with questions spiritually, politically, and personally I frequently feel overwhelmed. I think the most reassuring theme to me was that the purpose of the lighthouse in the move did not change, it was actually able to accomplish this purpose better. There was a necessary trust that the engineers and those behind the scenes knew the best positioning and method. I have had a fear that in changing some of my perspectives, it makes some past experiences less valuable.  I vary between phases where I study, listen, and read a lot in an attempt to filter through differing perspectives and an almost paralyzing apathy. I don’t have a lot figured out, but trust the journey is worthwhile. I don’t ever want to stop asking hard questions but I also don’t want these questions to be so distracting that I miss the joyfulness of faith. Anyways, I’ve got a way to go.

 

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I have one month left in Connecticut and I am starting to feel homesick. This assignment has been full of wonderful adventures, but I am ready for it to come to a close. My mom is coming out next week to explore a bit more of New England before I leave which I am extremely excited for. I will definitely continue travel nursing for a time and am in the application process for the next assignment but am excited to go home for a bit. I had a recent realization that this is the longest I have been away from home and my family, nearing 9 months.  I am frequently overwhelmed with gratitude that I have so many amazing people to miss. See you soon, San Diego.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entering Spring

IMG_5629I am in Hartford, Connecticut on assignment #2.

I have not once had feelings of regret about deciding to travel- even though there are difficult moments. I have found that I love this and I could possibly become addicted to this lifestyle for a while. I have found that I love entering a new hospital environment and discovering the quirks of various geographical locations. This world is full of amazing things, I feel so grateful to be a momentary participant in some of those amazing (and some not so amazing) things that are happening. There are many moments when I feel like an observer, simply staying on the outside of projects or unfolding drama but the most amazing aspect of traveling is when I have been invited to be involved in things- whether in things happening at the hospital or in peoples lives. I feel so grateful to be welcomed by so many when I am here for such a short time.

I have been here in Connecticut since January 23rd. The time does fly by. My drive from Washington was amazing. If you have never taken a long road trip… pick a destination and just go. I feel so grateful that my parents took us on so many long road trips growing up. It is amazing how many people are terrified of the idea of a long drive. I have seen many a shocked look when telling people I made the drive alone, but I am experienced thanks to my family and was taught how to do it safely. This meant I felt comfortable during the trip because 1) I stopped driving when it got dark 2) updated my family and a few friends frequently when stopping for gas or for the night 3) have a car full of emergency supplies and 4) watched the weather closely. I was definitely nervous taking the trip mid-January, but amazingly missed all bad weather. I think it rained for 1 hr of my entire drive and the roads were almost completely dry. I would have loved to take some more time to cross the country, but was able to stay with Luke in Virginia for a couple days and see where he goes to school before completing the drive to Connecticut.

Connecticut is a funny place. I am enjoying it so far and decided to extend my stay until July because it is an ideal location and I love the hospital that I am at. Most people I have talked to don’t really like living here. The most common complaints are about the weather and the taxes, it seems a lot of people have moved away due to the mismanagement of the city. Everyone has said that Spring and Fall are incredible but the Winter is too cold and the Summer too humid. It is nice to come in as an outsider and see the beautiful aspects with fresh eyes. This winter was incredibly mild so I am told I didn’t get the true feel for what the winters can hold.

I am working at Hartford Hospital, the Institute of Living. The hospital is the second oldest psychiatric facility in the US and is doing some amazing things. I feel proud to work here. There is a wonderful residency program and some incredible outpatient options for patients that are so vital for continued wellness. There are pro’s and con’s no matter where you go and there has been some tension with nurses attempting to join a Union, but I am glad I can be here to be helpful. I am still in love with Psych nursing and have considered returning to school for my Nurse Practitioner degree, but I am not willing to give up travel yet.

One of the reasons this location is ideal is that it about 2hrs from both Boston and New York City. I have yet to travel much, but am looking forward to some trips in both directions. Luke brought some friends out for their spring break and we were able to take a day trip to Newport, Rhode Island one day and go sledding another. My coworkers laughed that a bunch of 20 year old college students would choose to come to New England for Spring Break, but fortunately Luke thinks his sister is cool enough to spend a few days with. We got snowed in one of the days they were here and had a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon (extended versions) and made some good snow-day snacks. I loved coming home to a packed apartment.

I have been asked many times why I decided to travel as a nurse. “It seems like it would be hard to get used to a new hospital.”  Yes, but it makes me a better nurse and I enjoy the challenge. “Don’t you get lonely?” Yes, but I got lonely at home too even though I am surrounded by loving friends and family. “Why would you leave San Diego and come here?” Why not.

I am excited to continue exploring. I have gone to the Mark Twain house, gone on a couple hikes, spent some time at cute coffee shops, and explored antique malls. There is lots more to do and I am glad it is warming up so I can do them. I bought flowers and a bird feeder for my porch yesterday to welcome Spring and the warm weather. As cheesy as it is, I put a bumper sticker on my car as well that appropriately states “Not all who wander are lost”. I am two months into this assignment and have four left before I decide where to wander next.

The Palm Springs of Washington 

I had a good thing going in San Diego when I recently decided to pursue travel nursing.  I had an amazing job, incredible coworkers who had become my dear friends, lived close to family, and had several wonderful friendships. I was also struggling with various aspects of my life, including: where to live, whether to truly settle and look at planning to buy a home, transitions of friendships, singleness, and multiple aspects of my spiritual life and church. I realize none of these struggles make me unique, especially as a 25 year old female. But they were real. They are real. So I decided to Travel. 

I won’t bore you with every detail that ultimately led me to decide Travel Nursing was the best option, it was something I had always thought of as a  ‘nice, but impractical idea’. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy picking up and moving every three months. I remember in college having conversations about how nice it would be when life was not constantly in transition. I have since realized that I could stay in the same place for the rest of my life and I would never escape transition. So why not adventure.

So here I am in Yakima, Washington. “Why Yakima?” I have been asked several times since my arrival. Honestly, because they called first. I ultimately was encouraged by my recruiter (after talking to numerous recruiters and being bombarded with phone calls) to choose my top three or four states and apply for my license. Then my application would be sent to these various locations that had openings and I would wait for a call. I didn’t have to wait long. Within 2 weeks of receiving my Washington license I had a job lined up. It is a quick process.

My drive to Yakima was incredibly beautiful and necessarily filled with quiet. I stopped in Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, and Mt. Shasta. I spent a few days with my cousins in Grass Valley, Ca and stopped for a few to visit my sister in Portland. It was a perfect balance of quiet time outdoors and valuable moments with my family. I also got my first take of Powell’s bookstore with a dear friend from college.


And so refreshed, I drove up to Yakima and saw that I was entering ‘the Palm Springs of Washington’. Or so a large sign informed me. Yakima is surrounded by grassy hillsides as opposed to the more often thought of Washington filled with evergreen trees. I found myself frightened and concerned when I drove down the incorrect Yakima Avenue looking for my apartment but was quickly relieved when I pulled up to a very nice 1 bedroom apartment in a good area and was met by a very kind landlord.


I had given away basically all of my belongings prior to moving and decided to travel with whatever I could skillfully stuff in my Chevy Malibu. I tried to move as much as possible into my apartment and get settled in before driving around town to explore. My apartment was nicely furnished with a TV and microwave surprisingly included. It was a nicer set up than I had expected. My apartment is a mile away from a river that runs along the freeway surrounded by trees that were in the process of shedding their leaves for the fall.

Yakima itself has little to offer, but is not far from multiple beautiful places. I have driven to Mt. Rainier national park, spent some time in the Colombia Gorge, and saw the Stonehenge of Washington (which apparently is a thing). I met up with my sister to drive to Seattle and Sequim near Olympia national park. Sequim is apparently the lavender capital of North America – which you know made me extremely happy if you know me well or have ever been in my car. I plan to ski a few times before I leave and explore some of the popular winter spots.


The best aspect of this particular assignment has been the people at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. I was warned prior to starting that I may be treated poorly or given rough assignments as a traveler, but was met with the opposite. Everyone has been so kind to me and helpful as I have oriented to the unit here. The manager called before the holiday schedule came out to make sure I was happy with everything and that he was taking my needs into consideration as he thanked me for being so helpful. It has been such a valuable experience to be on a medical psych unit as well and to become more acquainted with Washington State Mental Health laws. My coworkers have made an effort to invite me to do things and let me know that I am appreciated here.

There have definitely been difficult aspects. I do get lonely and have had a lot of time to fill, so often find that I waste it. I have had to adjust to a 12 hour NOC position, which sometimes doesn’t faze me and other times has me knocked out for a full 48 hours of recovery wherein I feel worthless to the world. I have watched a lot of Netflix, started to chip away at my constantly growing book list, learn more about some things that I am curious about, and picked up a guitar again. Knowing that this assignment is short makes it difficult to invest fully in relationships but has also allowed me to have some sweet moments with people.

I am in the process of deciding where to go next and am excited for what is to come.

…​

Oh, and there is a wild game farm in Sequim where you feed whole wheat bread to animals from your car.

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When I went to Peru 2016

On March 23rd 2016 I had an awful day at work. I love my job, but this day was one of the more difficult. I work as a psychiatric nurse and I had aggressive patients, intrusive patients, patients attempting to self harm. I was in charge that night and was attempting to control as much as possible. I did not have a break but was able to leave work 15 minutes early due to my plans to pick up a friend from the airport. I had to pull my car over on the way to the airport because I thought I may vomit. I was so looking forward to picking Rachel up, I had not seen her since we graduated nursing school in 2013. All I could think about on the drive over was that I needed a break, I was tired, and I needed food. Rachel and I went straight to In-N-Out from the airport.  Feeling refreshed after a meal, I was able to think about the next day and the excitement associated with preparations for Peru. Rachel had called me roughly 1 year prior and asked ‘if I climb to Machu Picchu next year, do you want to come?’. My answer was an emphatic ‘yes’. I had been out of school for almost 3 years and was beginning to feel restless. I had resolved to take advantage of opportunities to travel and experience new things.

Rachel and I were being driven to LAX by my mother for a midnight flight to Peru. I was able to spend all of the 24th showing Rachel a little bit of my home. It is amazing to me how refreshing it is to show someone new around my hometown. Though I take advantage of living in San Diego, I still appreciate it so much more when walking someone around for the first time. That day was a mini vacation before our adventure. We went to Vinaka for coffee, sat by the pool at my parents house, and hiked Torrey Pines. It was so pleasant. It was nice to appreciate the moments with a friend who I had not seen in so long. I didn’t feel the need to rush through the past years events or even rehash the same events of the week that I had talked through with so many others. We could just enjoy the day.

My mom and Opa drove us to LAX that evening and we had to circle around twice because we missed the international terminal. Rachel asked what the elevation was as we turned on the 5N towards LA. We all just waited for her to realize we were feet from the ocean. We made it to our gate plenty early and talked about our excitement for the trip. A bus took us to the boarding site and we settled in for the long flight. On the flight I found it easy to sleep for the majority of the time. I found a soundtrack for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel that I listened to for the full 8 hr flight, sleeping off and on.

We landed in Lima and had to go though customs, step outside the airport for a few hundred feet, and get back in the check in line. I awkwardly was carrying a backpack, small bag, and a laundry bag that had multiple other items in it. I am sure I looked absolutely ridiculous as I shifted weight around every dozen steps. We rechecked our bags and walked to board our plane to Cuzco. Cuzco, we later learned, means ‘Naval of the world’ and was the capital of the Incan world at one time.  The flight to Cuzco was absolutely breathtaking. As we began flying over the Andes, I was in awe of the small villages so isolated in the beautiful greenery. There were obvious pathways throughout the mountains that twisted and turned between these villages and through the valleys. Small rivers flowed down from the mountains and between the hills. The structures became more common as we approached our landing site of Cuzco. We landed in a small airport and walked to the airport. We had booked our trip through Valencia Travel Agency, and unsure exactly what to expect, we awaited transportation to our initial hotel. We had booked a package deal through The Clymb and decided to add a couple days to our trip (why not, when traveling so far?).

At the airport terminal a friendly woman held a sign with Rachel’s name on it along with the company name and she let us know she would be our guide for the day. She showed us to a taxi with another driver. It is a weird thing to trust that you are being guided by the right person in a foreign country. You hear so many horror stories about travelers. Rachel and I had done lots of research, we stuck together, and we checked the driver had our information from the company we booked with. And then we had to trust. Driving through the city we first were in the obvious outskirts of town, houses with poorly constructed foundations, thin walls, tiny rooms. There were so many signs that seemed to be shouting at you with bright colors and bold pictures of the items advertised. There was also an incredible number of ragged dogs roaming the streets and eating garbage from the side of the road. We neared the town center and the streets became better cared for, more cobbled stones, and newly constructed buildings. The venders became geared towards tourists and we passed multiple women with Llamas and Alpaca’s on leashes who were charging people to take photos with these animals. I will not lie, taking a picture with a baby alpaca was quite tempting.

We arrived to the hotel Casa Koricancha and were greeted by a wonderful young man who did not stop smiling. He handed us some Coca tea and helped us sign papers before carrying our bags to our room. We were escorted to the most adorably quaint bedroom on the outside of a beautiful courtyard. The breakfast provided the next morning was bread, sliced cheese, eggs, and jam. Nearly every morning these were the options. We had to be intentional about not drinking the water, so were weary of fruits that may have been washed. I did slip up one morning and eat a grape and felt significantly anxious, all was well and no GI issues ensued. Our first day in Cuzco we were on our own to explore. We walked to the main center square after a nap. There were dozens of cars and skirting through the thin streets that widened as we neared the Plaza de Armas. Multiple young men approached asking us to purchase and look at paintings they were selling. There was an elderly gentleman who faithfully stood outside his restaurant inviting people in, we passed him on our way to and from the hotel dozens of times. Several women walked up and down the street selling jewelry and souvenir tokens. There were carts selling tamales, water bottles, and candies. I have traveled to Mexico and walked though the markets, in my experience people selling these things on the street are incredibly persistent. I had intended to avoid eye contact to not invite a bartering session, but found that once I said no thank you I was left alone. The people were pleasant and polite. We wandered to a little cafe and ate a chicken and rice dinner which was delicious. Rachel and I were confused by the menu pricing for the first couple of stops, but got the hang of the conversion by day 2. I think the meal was about 10 US dollars each. We stopped at a chocolate museum which was incredible, they had chocolate liquor and we got a couple chocolate treats to split. I got a hot chocolate that included mix in cayenne and cinnamon with a bottle of melted chocolate and hot milk you stir together yourself.

After we left the restaurant we began to saunter towards our hotel, taking in the sights of the surrounding hills and lighted buildings as we did. On the periphery of the Plaza de Armas there are two cathedrals and we noticed a crowd forming outside one of them. We made our way and noticed a fire lit outside the building and people walking in. We followed the crowd, noticing there were locals as well as tourists respectfully walking into the church. We sat with the crowd and together decided we would watch the service at the back for a few minutes and then sneak out. Then the lights turned off and we heard ‘salida’ over the speakers. People slowly stood and began walking towards the exit, so we followed suit. We were then in a crowd of people surrounding the priest and the fire outside of the entrance, where the priest began to chant and light a large candle. He then took this candle and lit the candles of the crowd, many individuals had purchased candles outside the church prior to entering. People slowly took these lit candles and walked back into the church which was now lit only by the light of the individual candles. People made there way back to seats and a beautiful service began. We san through the entire service and could understand enough of scripture and spanish to be able to follow along and worship along with the others in the church. A choir began to sing from behind us and a man with a resoundingly deep and pure voice began to chant Alleluias and other beautiful worship. I definitely snuck my phone out of my pocket and recorded some for a couple  minutes. I was mesmerized and filled with gratitude being surrounded by such worshipful individuals on the night before Easter. Rachel and I walked out in silence when the service ended and couldn’t help but laugh at the incredible nature of this change encounter.

The morning of Easter we were to begin our group tours and walking. We went to the main square initially to meet up with our group at a nearby hotel. We passed a crowd of people surrounding dancers in the street with incredibly colorful clothing. They were holding brightly colored cloths and spinning in circles in a very celebratory fashion. There were individuals in the crown passing out food and drink. There were multiple men in white masks with faces drawn on them, these men usually had brightly colored jackets and furs, and many of them had backpacks which appeared to be dead baby llamas. I still have no idea what they were doing or represented. There were children in bright costumes participating in the dancing, people in suits watching from the middle of the square, and multiple families surrounding the events.

For the next couple of days we met up with people who were also traveling with Valencia. There are three common treks taken around Machu Picchu, the Lares trek (which Rachel and I were about to embark upon), the Inca trail (most popular by far), and the Salkantay trek. We did not meet anyone during the first two days who would be traveling with us on our Trek, but were able to meet some incredibly interesting individuals. There was a gregarious father and daughter obsessed with photography, an adventurous couple who told stories of all their travels and translated Spanish for us on multiple occasions, and a wonderful family from Encinitas that I could easily converse with about home.

We were led by Alex, a wonderful gentleman who obviously loves his home of Peru. He had a kind smile, was patient with us tourists, and made each stop interesting through his stories and obvious passion. He let us on a walking tour one day, during which we stopped in a large cathedral which was so intricately built. We walked about half a mile from the center square to a site which had originally been the Inca’s temple to the sun. There had been a large Spanish building built atop the ancient temple, but the beautifully constructed stones were still utilized as a foundation. The way the Inca’s hand carved each stone and placed them, almost like legos, together so they stood firm was described to us. The precision involved in this task to not only perfectly construct, but to move stones and build tools was impossible acknowledge with out recognizing the obvious work ethic of the Inca people. It was impossible also, not to wonder about the Spanish who came to conquer. How sad that something so beautiful could be destroyed so quickly. The Spanish made a point to destroy all religious symbols of the Incas. It was pointed out to us that when the Spanish did this, they failed to recognize the importance of wide open spaces to the Inca religious. When ceremonies were done to worship the Sun or Mother earth, they did them in areas that the Sun could look upon, so many of the places where ancient artifacts were found were untouched by Spanish because no man made structure stood atop them. Korikancha- the golden place was one of the places we visited which was filled with beautiful ruins. The buildings were trapezoidal with thatch roofs to keep them from falling when earthquakes hit. We visited Sacsayhuaman which means satisfied falcon due to the last bloody battle of the Spanish and Inca where falcon hovered above following the defeat.  We learned the three key elements of Inca life were to work hard, to learn, and to love. We learned that the Inca work ethic was based on the values of helping and sharing, of community benefit, and of paying taxes through working for a set amount of time on specific community oriented projects.

On the morning that our Trek across the Lares Valley was to begin, we woke up around 5am to gather on a bus d before heading to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a small village in the Sacred Valley where both the Inca Trail and the Lares Valley trek begin. We drove to this village, walked around a market and ate breakfast. We all purchased Coca leaves and some cookies to hand out to villagers that we passed on the trail. We were told that the locals enjoy Coca leaves of multiple reasons, primarily medicinal and for tea. Often the shepherds will chew the Coca leaves when they are tending the flock all day and this will suppress their thirst and appetite. (Maybe this is why I couldn’t eat much on the trail?) We then took a bus for another hour up a winding road towards our trail head. We were very eager to exit the bus, as all the travel by bus is on windy roads that feel like a roller coaster. The bus drove us through incredible views but made 90 degree turns after every 30 seconds (or so it seemed).

At the trail head we gathered snacks brought by the Valencia Travel team, adjusted our backpacks, put our tents and some supplies on the mules and horses and started the trek. The first few hundred feet felt incredibly long. We started around 13000 feet elevation that day and I was amazed at the difficulty. I had hiked prior to the trip, as had all the other travelers, and we all struggled. We began climbing and knew that this day was the most intense of all our hiking. I had climbed multiple sets of stairs without much difficulty the days prior, but struggled this day. It may have been the altitude, it may have been the bus ride prior to starting, or something I ate… but it was hard. About a mile in, I had to stop because I felt dizzy and nauseous, Dimas, one of our guides, noticed I was struggling and took out a bottle of what he called ‘Condor Piss’. He rubbed it on his hands and had me inhale it. No idea what it was, but it took away the nausea and helped me to power through a bit more.  It was some sort of alcoholic substance. Multiple others on the trip were struggling, a couple of people had GI upset prior to starting so were in rough shape. About another mile in Dimas chose to take my backpack from me and had the horse carry it. Soprisa was the women who led the horse that carried our backpacks when we were unable to carry our own. She was a beautiful woman. She spoke primarily the ancient Inca language but was incredibly kind and patient with us. Along the trail we were able to visit her home.

On this first day March 29th we hiked 10 1/2 miles all together. Part way through the day we came over a bend and saw a lake with tents set up.  We had been walking through terrain that included dusty trails, lush green meadows, flowing streams, hills filled with Alpaca, and mossy ground. There were a few portions of the hike that had no specific trail, we just marched through mushy grass and tried to not step where our feet would sink. I think most of us made it out dry. This is where we had a beautiful lunch that I was surprised by. The chef had made a 4 course meal of fish and soup and vegetables. It was delicious but I wasn’t able to eat much. We all drank tea and rested a bit before continuing on. We could see the top peak we were to climb to at this point, but it was obviously all up hill and seemed daunting. We made it to 15000 feet elevation and it looked as if we were walking into a cloud. I prefer hiking alone in general, so was quite content to stay towards the back and walk at my own pace. I was second to last crossing this line and had kept myself going by listening to Glen Hansard for portions of the trail. I would listen to one song and then break. For the last 1/4 mile or so, all I could do was count 30 steps at a time and then break for a minute. It was rough but at the top I was greeted with cheering peers who had all just completed the climb as well. We were all exhausted but so proud of ourselves. It was such an incredible feeling of accomplishment.

We continued from this peak, after a time of rest, to our camp site. We still had over a mile to hike but it was all down hill. We hiked into a clouded marshy hillside, portions of the hike you could only see a few feet in front of you and just trusted the guide was ahead of the train. There were portions where the hill on one side just rolled into a deep valley and all I could think about was The Princess Bride scene ‘aaaaaaassss youuuu wisshhhhhh”…. as he rolls down the hill. I kept to the mountain side. When some clouds lifted it was obvious there was a deep area that looked like a lake bed filled with animal bones. Quite eery. We rounded a hill, receiving much encouragement from our guides, and saw a campsite. I was one of the first to reach this campsite and all I saw was a circle of rocks with our tents set up for us and dozens of alpacas in the surrounding hills. There was a hut in the distance and one family with adorably bright dressed children in the area where our camp was set up. It was a beautiful sight in the middle of the Andes. Such a long day. One of the best days I have ever lived.

Once we settled in for the evening we ate a delicious meal and were all extremely exhausted. One of the guys on the trip had some whiskey with him and made some of us Hot Toddy’s, an amazingly satisfying beverage following an extreme hike. We ended up being in a group with 12 friends from New York who were all around 30 years old. They were an incredibly enjoyable group of people and we couldn’t have been placed with a better group. A few of the group was sick, most of us had some sort of digestive discomfort due to either elevation, exhaustion, or the food. I could barely sleep that night, at one point I had to get up to go to the bathroom. It took me a while to get the courage to step outside the tent into the unknown. I could hear the dogs in the distance, and though I knew there were not many large creatures out there, I still was terrified to go even a few hundred feet in such incredible dark. I eventually couldn’t hold anything in and had to brave it. I realized the rock I had found was not nearly as far as I had thought when I woke the next morning.

This day of hiking was primarily downhill. A huge relief to us all. Throughout the trip I was constantly grateful for the wonderful people I interacted with. The tour guides, the fellow hikers, and the locals were so kind and friendly. I never once felt I was intruding on someone, or asking too many questions, or going too slow. There were moments I felt incredibly weak and moments I felt incredibly strong. But I was never met with discouragement from those around me.

As we hiked downward about 8 miles towards the Lares Hot Springs we encountered incredible views of streams, rivers, mountains, and alpacas. We would encounter random shepherds with their flocks of alpacas and hand out coca leaves. As we neared the village there were many women and children with blankets full of tourist trinkets (keychains, headbands, toys, and coin purses). The wonderful woman Soprisa, whose horse carried our packs when we were unable to, was generous enough to show us her home when we came across the village in the middle of the Andes. All of the individuals in the village were gathered in a town square voting on various community issues. The bright colored clothing (that I had assumed was a tourist attraction) proved to be the normal wear of the Andean people. There were incredible bright orange and reds. We were told that the women would wear different colors depending on their marital status. We were also told that the women were very involved in the town meeting discussions and influential in the communities.

Soprisa’s home was a small hut with a thatched roof with large plants growing in the front yard. Inside there was a kitchen stove, stored food, some layered cot like spaces for beds and in one of the corners- about a dozen guinea pigs. We all knew the guinea pigs were eaten in Peru but had assumed it was a rarity or a delicacy. No, it is a common source of sustenance. In fact, we were told that many of the plants growing in the front were to keep the guinea pigs fed. Soprisa let us try on her bright poncho and other clothing and sold us some of the trinkets for tourists. She let us into her home and let us touch and feel her tools and clothing with a huge smile on her face the entire time. Some of us spoke enough Spanish to get by in Peru, but Soprisa spoke the native Andean language only so there was a large language barrier. I was so touched by her ability to show so much hospitality during our two days in the Andes with so little verbal communication.

We walked along a beautiful river for the last portion of our hike and rounded a bend to see a beautiful hot springs retreat where we were to camp for the night. Many of us sat in the hot spring for a long time and were incredibly grateful for the heat following the long two days of hiking. There were various temperatures of springs which made me extremely happy as a lover of heat. The warmest pool was incredibly soothing. At one point I began speaking with a couple who was visiting the hot springs. The dreadlocked blonde man told me he was in Peru on a spiritual journey and that ‘marijuana is my spirit plant’ after I declined his offer for some. He and his Venezuelan girlfriend spoke of their adventures through Peru before retiring for the evening. I slept incredibly well that night with the rushing river right next door.

The next day we walked about a mile out of town towards the Lares Village. We were to meet the bus there and head to a Inca trail several miles out of town. The bus was to drop us off and then pick us up where the road met the end of the trail. We drove through incredibly windy roads, stopping atop a mountain for a bathroom break many of us needed. We ultimately were told we could not hike the trail we expected to due to a protest in a nearby village. There was a dispute over the land between villages and a very peaceful protest was taking place so the roads were blocked into town. We were escorted out of the bus and the local officers walked us past the protesters (none of whom were aggressive in any way) to their vehicles. They offered to drive our bags to the end of the village where we could meet them. Many of us opted to keep our belongings with us but walked through the village to where the bus could meet us at the end of the road. This happened to be Alex’s home town so we had the privilege to meet his sweet dad and walk through the local markets. On the other side of town we walked past fields of humongous corn and Alex told us stories of his competitive childhood climbing nearby mountains and altitude sickness.

We eventually arrived at a restaurant where there was a monkey chained to a tree outside and a couple of goats hanging out on the lawn. We ate a delicious meal and played a ridiculous game of volleyball. I was on the far less athletic team. Rachel’s team won.

The bus then drove us to Ollantantambo where we were to catch a trail to head towards Agua Callientes. This train ride was incredibly beautiful, following a river and through beautiful landscapes. We were served delicious beverages- mine was a combination of ginger and anise that was delicious.  When we arrived to Aguas Callientes we walked to our hotel and were extremely grateful for the showers. We were all exhausted and extremely hungry by the time we sat down for dinner at a nearby restaurant and made plans for the next day at Machu Picchu. We were to wake at 4am to meet at the bus stop which takes you to the top. A few in the group debated hiking the trail leading to the ancient site and meeting us at the gate when it opens at 6am. Four members of the group decided to do this after much deliberation and some hesitation.

In the morning we showered, placed our backpacks in a storage room in the lobby and headed to the bus stop. We were first in line for the first bus. We were warned multiple times that because we were in the ‘cloud forest’ we would most likely not see the typical grand Macho Picchu when we first walk in but that it would pop out at periods as the day went on— or not at all. It could also rain the whole time. We came prepared. When we arrived to the top a huge crowd began to gather, we were to enter together and participate in a tour prior to exploring on our own. We walked through the gates and rounded a bend and watched as the clouds lifted off an incredibly intricate ancient city. It looked far more incredible than the pictures. The more we explored the more the city began to be unveiled before us. We stopped the tour to take pictures when the clouds cleared in full. I am still in awe at the amazing detail and architecture atop a mountain surrounded by other mountains. The amount of green was unreal. The religious significance to the Inca people was explained to us, as well as the genius of a city hid in the mountains of the cloud forest. We learned of the defeat of the Inca people and that all had fled the ancient city prior to the Spanish defeat which is why it was not discovered until hundreds of years later. We learned of the child who showed a curious archeologist his hide and seek playground, leading to one of the greatest discoveries of the ancient world. We learned about the capabilities of humans to create beautiful things and to value every aspect of the world around them.

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There are some who walk the more popular Inca Trail leading straight to Macchu Picchu. Those who take this walk first will see Macchu Picchu from a distance at the Sun Gate if the clouds have lifted. There were several of us who wanted to see this view so walked up the side of the mountain towards the Sun Gate observing incredibly colorful views along the way. I wandered around Macchu Picchu alone for a while and took in the incredible details. We had been given our train tickets earlier in the day and had a plan to meet in Agua Calliente sat a restaurant prior to our train leaving at 4. You had the option to walk down the trail or take the bus, I was the only one who opted for the walk down and took my time walking the ancient trails. This was the most difficult walk of the trip for me due to it consisting primarily of stone stairs going downwards. My knees were happy to be sitting once arriving to the restaurant. We sat and ordered food and celebratory drinks as people began to meander in. Someone asked where we were seated in the train and as I looked at the ticket, I realized we were supposed to leave at 1400, it was now about 1320 when we saw this and we only had about half our group.

We frantically began attempting to reach our group by text of phone (which only worked with wifi) with little luck. We debated sending some ahead and the rest waiting for the two guides (neither of whom were with us) to explain what happened and wait for a future train. We had no idea if the train would be full or if we would be stuck there for another day. We decided to have a few people get backpack and go the train. They happened upon Alex and Dimas on their way and those of us in the restaurant saw Dimas flash in yelling to hurry up, he would take care of the food bill (due to the fact most of us had ordered), and run. So we ran. We grabbed our bags from the hotel next door (not caring whose bag we had) and ran. We had about 10 blocks uphill to go. We were about to step across one set of train tacks in the town when we heard a train approaching. We quickly stepped off waiting for the train to pass… but it stopped. We looked both ways deciding how to get around the train and saw one our team members, with Indiana Jones hat and all, waving us to the front of the train to keep running. We ran. By the time the second half of us got to the train they had stopped checking our passports and just let us run. Right as I pulled my ticket out I looked to the side and saw the waitress from the restaurant asking for money for drinks. I still have no idea how she got there but myself and another traveler pulled out some cash, handed it to her, and went into the gate. We made it with barely any time. Dimas had stayed back at the restaurant to wait for a couple that had not made it in time… .or so we thought. The couple walked on to the train just in time. They had happened to see Alex running with multiple backpacks and had just looked at the tickets and realized the time mix up. They decided to trust we had their backpacks and ran with him, making it right after we did. We couldn’t help but laugh and then quickly realized we were starving. I had walked about 13 miles, not easy miles either, and had only had a 2 granola bars for breakfast. We were eagerly awaiting the restaurant food when told to run, so all were ravenously sharing some almonds on the train ride.

We were to part ways after the train stopped, Rachel and I were heading back to Cuzco for two more nights and the rest of the travelers had a tour of the salt mines scheduled. We said goodbye and exchanged contact information for pictures and future visits to New York. Rachel and I had a taxi driver waiting for us to drive us another 2 hours to Cuzco… So we didn’t grab food. I began to feel super sick after driving for 30 minutes so tried to sleep until we got to the hotel. I had another granola bar in my other bag that I grabbed, but I needed much more sustenance at this point. When we finally got the hotel we couldn’t decide whether we wanted a shower or food more. We were at the point that we were so hungry we didn’t want to eat. We showered and ran across the street to grab some empanadas to bring back to our room and then crashed.

Water rafting was our last days scheduled event. Rachel had never been and I was excited to try again. We were bussed to a portion of the river where there was a lodge, changed, grabbed gear and were given an orientation. We went to the start of the rafting river and were put in a boat with a few Canadian friends and a very gregarious guide. We had been incredibly adamant about not swallowing any water during the trip, so continued to keep mouths shut and avoid as much water as possible. Until we flipped and all of us feel out. We had been told at the orientation that when you fall out you stick your feet up and grab the boat, so after pushing whoever had fallen on me off and coming up for air, that is what I did. I soon realized only the guide was left in the boat so the pull in method was going to be difficult alone. I grabbed paddles and threw them into the boat and when we came across a rock tried to assist the guide in getting into the boat. Every time I tried to stand to help get others in, another person fell in on top of me, after the second person I just stayed down. We eventually found everyone though one of the guys ended up in a boat ahead with multiple shoes we had given up on finding. The sauna and delicious roasted chicken was amazing following this. We walked around Cuzco some more in the evening and then slept in the beautiful hotel we had spent the first night in.

We left our bags at the hotel and went to the ‘highest Irish Pub on the planet’. I ordered a Pisco Sour with Passion Fruit as we overlooked the town square. At one point in the travels we had a Chica Morada (fermented purple corn drink). There were pretty good beverages on this trip.

We were tired. We were grateful. We had experienced Peru. I would go back in a heartbeat and would highly recommend Valencia Travel as well. We couldn’t have planned it better. I needed the beautiful views. I needed the friendly people. I needed the quiet.