Paz y Luz retreat center in Pisac, Peru

Inside Nomadtopia: Unplugging and Reconnecting in Peru

May 7, 2013 | ,

Last year, not long after I first started thinking I’d like to lead retreats in different locations around the world, my friend and colleague Heather Thorkelson invited me to be guest faculty for her Adventure Reboot in Peru.

I didn’t hesitate for a second. “Hell YES,” I told her. “I’m in.”

Not only was this a chance to get some retreat experience under my belt, I knew it’d be lots of fun to work with Heather (and her other amazing guest, Leela Codron from South Africa), and to support a group of women entrepreneurs during a unique and powerful experience.

Plus, I’d finally get back to Peru, where I kicked off my round-the-world trip, and my own Nomadtopia, in 2004.

I just got back from a two-week trip to Peru for the Adventure Reboot, and it was all that I expected it to be—and more.

When I went to Peru the first time, I didn’t have much to compare it to, having yet to do much travel beyond the U.S. and Europe. And Lima, now considered a booming Latin American capital and a gastronomic hot-spot, wasn’t known to be worth most travelers’ time back then, so I skipped it.

This time, I spent a few days in Lima at the beginning of my trip (and another day at the end). I think it was my first time traveling alone in a new place since I met my husband, and it took me back to those early days of solo travel.

I did just fine navigating the streets on foot and using taxis and public transportation, and I got my fill of ceviche and other Peruvian favorites. Lima’s seaside location gives it a much different feel than Buenos Aires, and I spent a lot of time soaking up the views and sea breeze in the parks and walkways on the bluffs above the beach.

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I walked a ton those first days, and discovered that Lima is surprisingly less pedestrian-friendly than Buenos Aires! But it also feels more relaxed, and I started to appreciate the Peruvians’ laid-back nature, which I think I took for granted the last time I was in Peru.

Cusco, the main tourist center near Machu Picchu and the town I called home for nearly six weeks in 2004, hasn’t changed much. I was saddened to hear about some of the chain restaurants that have opened on the main square, but thankfully they were required to blend in with the traditional architecture, and I might not have even realized they were there if they hadn’t been pointed out to me.

The sounds, smells, and tastes of Peru are so familiar to me, and all my memories and experiences there came flooding back.

Peru then and now

L: 2004, R: 2013

And yet I was aware that I’m a different person than I was when I first visited Peru, and I’m at a different place in my life. I’m older, of course, and wiser, I’d like to think. I speak better Spanish, which gives me better insights into the local culture (though not the more traditional Andean culture, where they still speak Quechua). I’m better traveled, which may help me from getting ripped off as easily, but sometimes also means I’m less patient and less interested in talking to every person who tries to sell me something (for better or worse!).

I spent a lot of time by myself at the beginning and end of this trip, which balanced well with all the together time in the middle.

 

Me and Heather, pre-retreat pow-wow in Cusco

Me and Heather, pre-retreat pow-wow in Cusco

Thankfully, Heather, Leela, and I traveled really well together, and we had a great time while wandering around Cusco and preparing everything for the retreat. The participants on the retreat were wonderful, and the group gelled really well.

Most of the retreat took place in the Sacred Valley, near Cusco and Machu Picchu. There’s something truly magical about the Sacred Valley, and a lot of healers, both foreigners and locals, now call the area home, including Diane Dunn, who runs Paz y Luz, the retreat center where we stayed.

The mountains stand tall and silent all around, and their energy made me feel immensely powerful yet inconsequential.

 

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We shared magical moments, silly moments, powerful moments, happy moments, sad moments, loud moments, quiet moments, and much more. Being there during a full moon, and having Leela lead us in a Sanskrit fire ceremony called a havan under the nearly full moon, made it even more special.

I was traveling with just my smartphone, and during the retreat I decided to completely disconnect. Being offline for almost five days gave me space in my brain I haven’t had in ages. I wasn’t thinking about work, or anything else in my life. I was very present, instead of having my mind rattling all over the place like it usually does. I fell asleep easily and slept soundly.

Of course, I was taking it all in so I’d be able to share it with others who couldn’t be there, but I wasn’t worried about what to do next in my business, what tweaks to make to my website, or how to figure anything out.

I only cared about showing up fully for the people on the retreat, and fully enjoying the experience myself.

When I came back online, it took a few days to get adjusted and reconnect with “real” life. I found that nothing very important had happened while I was gone, and the time away gave me a new perspective on what really matters and how much time I really need to spend online.

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This trip reintroduced me to a country I’d grown to love during my time there years ago, and I’m eager to go back yet again. It also reminded me of the importance of unplugging now and then as a way to truly reconnect to myself and others.

Being part of the retreat was a great opportunity to work with people in person, and it confirmed that I’m ready to run my own retreats in the not-too-distant future (so stay tuned!).

If you missed it, check out my Peru video here.

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