The morning of our four-day trek to Machu Picchu, our guide Harry picked us up in the lobby of our hotel. My daughter and I got into a van with him along with our cook for the trek, and the driver. Not long into the two-hour drive to the trailhead, I realized that we had just gotten into a van with three strange men in a foreign country and were driving out to an unfamiliar wilderness to meet up with two more men we had never met. Aside from accepting drinks and candy from them, we had just done everything we are taught as women not to do. I couldn’t help but think that this scenario could easily be the beginning of a Liam Neeson film. The problem was, I do not have a very particular set of skills, nor do I know anyone with a very particular set of skills that could save us from being taken. I started to take a mental inventory of what I had in my pack that I might possibly be able to use as a weapon. All I really had was a can of bug repellent that I could use as mace, some dull tipped hiking poles that I might be able to poke someone’s eye out with, assuming I had incredibly accurate aim, and a sturdy pair of boots that would be great for a swift kick to the groin. So yeah, I had nothin’. My daughter’s initial thought was that as a runner she would be able to outrun them if necessary (“but not in this altitude.”). Since my daughter’s survival mentality was that you only have to be faster than the slowest person you’re with, I was completely on my own. So there I was, in a van with strangers in a foreign country driving out to an unfamiliar wilderness and realizing that there were aspects of this journey I hadn’t considered, that I was not as prepared as I should be, that I was literally putting our lives in the hands of four strange men, and that I was completely vulnerable.
Vulnerable is a scary place to be because it requires some degree of trust, and while it didn’t take me long to realize that my life was not in danger and that the men that were paid to take care of us were very good at their jobs and completely trustworthy, I was still vulnerable and ultimately, taken.
No, I obviously wasn’t taken in some sort of horrifying against-my-will kind of way, but I was taken in a wonderful surrender-to-the-beauty-of-the-journey kind of way. I had embarked on this little adventure with absolutely no expectation of what it would be like or even how capable I actually was of doing it. Oddly, I think it was this “I don’t really know what the fuck I’m doing, but I’m gonna do it anyway” attitude that allowed me to not only be taken by the beauty of the landscape and the people, but by the beauty of the experience and the freedom that came with being completely present in every moment without judgement or disappointment. I have described this trip as charmed because everything just seemed to go so perfectly right, but I can’t help but wonder if it was a charmed vacation or if it was the attitude in which I approached it that made it seem that way. Certainly, my outlook on life will influence my experiences.
Regardless of our attitude, the truth is, we are never really completely prepared for what the journey of life may bring us. We can plan, save and prepare in every way we know how, but life is always going to present us with situations and opportunities we hadn’t considered. It is during these times, when we are forced to deal with or willingly choose to explore the unfamiliar, that we develop our own very particular set of skills that will help us successfully travel through life. It is during these times, when we are forced to be vulnerable, that we discover not only who we can trust, but that we can trust ourselves and the skills we’ve previously acquired. It is during these times, that we need to accept the fact that we don’t really know what the fuck we’re doing, let go of expectation and judgement, surrender and allow ourselves to be taken by the beauty of the journey and all the experiences that come with embracing our inevitable vulnerability in the unexpected unfamiliar.