This past summer I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for a trip to Bolivia and Peru for 24 days. It was with the Youth Ambassadors program sponsored by the US State Department. I traveled with 11 other people who I didn’t know and to a continent who’s language I didn’t speak. Needless to say, I was very excited and nervous.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
I had many wonderful experiences on the trip, however most didn’t involve landscapes or objects in a museum. They involved people—specifically, my host families. During my time with them, I was able to see how they lived, what they ate, and who they were as people. The host families I stayed with weren’t wealthy or even well-off. In fact, they were being paid to host us. Before this trip it was hard for me to imagine life without, what I thought were necessities such as a car, computer, or even electricity. My host families showed me that their lives without these “necessities” were just as active, enjoyable, and rewarding.
The last host family I stayed with on the trip lived in Patacancha, an isolated mountain village about one hour north of Ollantaytambo, Peru. The family of five, plus myself and another member from the trip, stayed in a two-story, adobe house containing only a kitchen and sleeping area. We had no electricity, no indoor bathroom, and no running water. However, I ended up not minding these things because they weren’t necessary to life in the mountains. My family didn’t have anything that required electricity and if you wanted water you just walked down to the river, poured some into a container, and boiled it back up at the house.
My family had so few possessions and even less money, and yet every day there was always something fun to do, something laugh about. For example, every night you could sit outside to look at the stars. There is little light pollution up in the mountains so the stars were twice as dense and entire galaxies were visible. One time, some kids tied a stick on a string to their waist so it would trail behind them. Then they ran around the village trying to get dogs to chase the stick. It was espacially funny when the dogs managed to catch the kids. Finally, the picture I have attached represents my favorite moment staying Patacancha. In the picture my host mother is showing me how she weaves bracelets, which is what she does for a living. We had been sitting for the last 20 minutes, her showing me the steps and me watching in awe as she forms intricate art in front of my eyes, . She’s laughing in the picture because I told her, through a translator, that she has magic hands, being able to take yarn and create something out of it in such a short time.
This trip made me realize that money makes life easier, but it doesn’t make life better. The people in your life and the things you do with them can make you more happy and content than any amount of money or possessions.
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