As I pushed myself to take one step after another on spiraling stairs through the Peruvian jungle and cloud forests, I contemplated how I got here, sidestepping around alpacas and slowly but surely trekking my way to Machu Picchu.
Alpaca in front of Machu Picchu; Photo by Pav-Pro Photography/stock.adobe.com
About a year-and-a-half before I stepped on a plane heading to Cusco, Peru, I knew I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to get in shape but had no desire to go to the gym, only to lose interest (and maybe a pound) a few weeks later. This was the constant cycle I found myself in whenever New Year’s resolutions came around, but this year I decided it would be different.
The key for me was finding something I could look forward to – an end goal to attain – and a reason for me to become more physically active. So, I decided to hike the Inca Trail with Club Adventures. Believe me, as much as I wanted to experience the wonders of Machu Picchu, the trek scared me. I knew it would be a challenge, but that’s what I needed to inspire me and I honestly became a different person over the months I spent training for the trail.
Hiking the Sun Gate Trail to Machu Picchu; Photo by Lukas Uher/stock.adobe.com
I watched countless videos, read articles on what to expect from the trail and I got answers from all kinds of people who had completed the trek – from recent high school graduates to 70-year-olds ticking off their bucket lists. I began going to the gym daily, carrying my daypack filled with water and sometimes even weights for an extra challenge to mimic the higher altitudes I’d experience. I would go on hikes over the weekend with friends, often discovering incredible places close to home that I’ve now visited multiple times, even after returning from Peru. Having the goal of completing such a challenging trek pushed me to become the best version of myself and discover how much my body is capable of.
Machu Picchu; Photo by SCStock/stock.adobe.com
So, let’s talk about the trek itself. No photos or stories can do the Peruvian Andes justice, and to have the ability to walk along the sacred Inca Trail, pausing to learn more about ancient history and traditions while surrounded by towering mountains, is simply mind-blowing. At times you’ll feel tired and winded, but you’ll keep pushing, and every step is more empowering than the one before. Arriving at the campground each night feels like you’ve won the lottery and every morning you’ll wake up to friendly porters beginning their day knowing you’re that much closer to your final goal: Machu Picchu.
View from Sun Gate, Machu Picchu; Photo by waldorf27/stock.adobe.com
That feeling when you reach the Sun Gate to overlook Machu Picchu is one of sheer awe — for respect of the skill and brilliance of the Incas and yourself for what you just accomplished. I cannot tell you enough how much this journey has changed my life. I’ve continued to exercise and keep up a similar training program as I did before the trek and I’ve even started regularly going to the gym. And, yes, I’ve actually lost a few pounds.
I say all this to you to push you to try something new. Getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things is one of the best ways to keep growing. If you struggle with New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to look at them from a new angle and I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.