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


For the last eleven days, our group has traveled from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco, and then hiked for 7 days through the mountains to visit Machu Picchu. The last eleven days have been full of moments to distinguish them but what is most impressive to me is that we planned them all ourselves.

When I first heard of X-phase it seemed a Herculean task that we as a group would never achieve. We would have to plan, and budget 11 days of our trek without any help from the instructors, in a country where we spoke the language with only somewhat fluency.

But if this trip has taught me anything it is that when we put our mind to it, our group can accomplish a lot. Our first task, was to figure out what we wanted to do and while that portion of planning took a lot time, deciding what we wanted to do was the easy part compared to what came next.

Budgeting expenses, booking hostels, planning activities, and buying tickets. So many things we now had to plan that until then we had taken for granted would be done by the instructs. At first planning everything seemed impossible but as we began delegating tasks they slowly got accomplished. Sofie, Katherine, and Emi all booked hostels. Mira and Rory researched Cusco activities and Ella arranged our trek with our guide Edson. I managed the budget which was both challenging as I had to track the expenses without a calculator but also rewarding once it was finished. We learned the necessity of being prudent and not trying to do to many activities in our two days in Cusco and to have faith in our fellow group members. And we learned how to compromise on activities, particularly the controversial topic of visiting Machu Picchu

Both X-phase planning and X-phase itself was full of challenges but it taught us to work together in a group, to travel responsibly, and a new appreciation for all the work our instructors did for us prior to X-phase.