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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

our first trek

At the start of the trek, I was honestly very worried because unlike the majority of the group, until 5 days ago I had never been trekking. I´d gone hiking over the summer with my family but it´d only been short day trips with small packs, not multi-day events where I´d be carrying a 75 L pack full of clothes, equipment and food. I also have issues with overpacking and so despite my best efforts my pack was far heavier than it should have been. The first few hours of the trek was the hardest physical activity I´ve ever done. At one point as we climbed back up after seeing the beautiful cave art of an indigenous group, I stopped, on the verge of tears and said what I´d been thinking for the last 2.5 hours, ¨I can´t do this¨.  I was incredibly embarassed and felt like I was dragging the group down but everyone was incredibly kind and told me that it was ok just to take a minute to breathe and drink some water. And while that was the only time I said that I couldn´t do keep going, the kindness of the group continued. Over the next few days pretty much everyone in the group, even Alex (one of our wonderful guides), carried something for me. I know for a fact that I would have never finished the trek had I been carrying the full weight of my pack over the entire three and a half days and so I´m still in awe of how everyone willingly helped me so much. Once we returned to Sucre we discussed the trek and how it made us function as a group. One of the things that we talked about was how this related to our focus of interest on indivualism versus collectivism. Americans tend to be more individualistic and so we see it as a weakness to admit that you need help or even to accept it. Yet in collective cultures like Bolivia, there´s no shame in doing so. It´s still hard for me for moving past the stigma of being weak if you accept help but I´m also focusing on how grateful I am for my group and everything they did for me and hope that in some way I have or can help them in return.