by Jessica Whitter Hanson and Rick Whitter
Don’t let the jerks ruin your trip. We were part of a group of 16 people who hiked the Inca Trail. As is always the case when you get in a group, there was one person who rose to the top as the group creep. One woman made it apparent from the beginning that the trip was all about her. She was late the first time we picked her up on the bus, and several times thereafter. She talked incessantly. She dominated every conversation. She was loud, she was crude and she was inconsiderate. But she did not spoil our trip. We made a decision pretty much immediately that we would, to the best of our ability, ignore her. A few times, this was a difficult task, but we managed.
It is not possible to eliminate all the jerks from your life. There will always be someone who dominates and does their best to make your life miserable. Don’t let them do it. Don’t give them that much control. If possible, ignore them, if not tolerate them. But don’t lose the purpose of your journey. By the time we were finished with our trip, we were feeling sorry for this lady – she had some real issues. But when we think back to the amazing things we experienced on this trip, this woman doesn’t even make the list.
You can overcome phobias if you focus. I (Rick) am afraid of heights. Getting on a roof is a major accomplishment for me. The thought of hiking up a mountain may seem insane for someone who is acrophobic. But I made a determination to not let my limitation prevent my enjoyment of this trip. Along the trail, I had zero issues with height. We were climbing stairs, crossing over old wooden bridges over rivers, squeezing by narrow ledges high above steep drop-offs. Jessica was quite impressed that I jumped up on a couple of ledges for photo ops. The only issue I had was at Machu Picchu, while we were taking a tour of the city. I got a little edgy when we were standing on a ledge and had to relocate for a bit. I got over it.
You don’t have to be controlled by your fears. Don’t be held in the bondage of preconceived ideas. Get over your phobias and get on with life.
Effective leaders sometimes need to present a filtered view of the vision. Let’s be clear: we are not saying that leaders should lie to those who follow them, nor should they sugarcoat reality. But sometimes, presenting followers with all the information about a challenging situation can intimidate them or weaken their resolve to complete the task at hand. Example: during our hike, our main guide, Henry, was famous for presenting a much nicer picture of the trail than what we actually encountered. At the beginning of the day, he would tell us about “a few hours of rolling hills” that “weren’t too difficult.” After a few hours of hiking those rolling hills, we realized that they were difficult, but that by presenting us with a rosier view of the day, Henry has kept us all from despairing. If we had known exactly how difficult those rolling hills were going to be, many of us would have become discouraged, or maybe even have decided to give up before the challenge even began. Don’t lie to those you lead, but presenting the cold, hard truth isn’t always beneficial.
You can go potty pretty much wherever you have to. Without getting graphic, the restroom facilities along the Inca Trail are less than civilized. They were nasty. At the beginning of the trip, this bothered both of us quite a bit. But as we got into the spirit of the journey, we adjusted. Before long, we just did what had to be done.
The life-lesson are obvious. Sometimes things aren’t pleasant but they have to be done. Our advice, take a deep breath (maybe literally) and get it over with. It’s not that bad. Plus these experiences really make you appreciate the comforts of home.
If you want to see Machu Picchu in person, there are 2 options: 1 – you can take a few-hour, air-conditioned bus ride. 2 – you can hike for 3 and a half days, sleep in a tent, use very questionable bathroom facilities, and have your feet go numb from so much walking. Both options lead you to the same Machu Picchu, but are about as different as night and day. For a lot a people, this is a no-brainer. Why bother with all the hiking, camping and sweating if you can reach the end goal (the ruins) without all the work (the Inca Trail)?
When we arrived at Machu Picchu, we laughed about the obvious differences between us and the people who arrived by bus. They were clean…we weren’t so clean. They smelled nice…we didn’t smell so great. They looked fresh and rested…we were exhausted to the bone. Yet, we had seen things the people who took the bus will never, ever see. We interacted with the Peruvians and their culture in a way the bus travelers didn’t. We saw half a dozen other ruins, waterfalls, bridges and animals that gave us a greater appreciation for the country. We passed through the Inca Sun Gate at dawn, getting a first view of Machu Picchu from high above the city. Best of all, we connected with each other and with God, as we experienced His creation, and many challenges and difficulties, along the trail.
We hope you enjoyed our observations about our trip. Hopefully, we will be posting some great pictures over the next couple of days.
All in all, the Inca Trail trek was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for both of us!