Lessons Learned at Machu Picchu


BY CHARLOTTE LANKARD For The Oklahoman January 28, 2014

Exposure to different places and cultures changes you. At age 43, my friend Tisha Tate booked a flight to Peru and joined a group to hike the Inca Trail, which led to Machu Picchu. It took four days to go 26 miles — a journey up and down original Incan staircases, in high elevations (the highest nearly 14,000 feet at Dead Woman’s Pass), all the while sleeping in tents with no “real” bathrooms.

Machu Picchu was a place Tate had wanted to visit since a sixth-grade geography class. I asked what the experience taught her.

• Push past fear or say no to life. Sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and wondering if she were really strong enough to make the trek, fear of the unknown engulfed her. It was then her yoga practice helped her breathe deeply, release the tension from her body — and board that airplane bound for Lima, Peru.

• I couldn’t keep up, but I could finish. Many in the hiking group had hired personal trainers for a year of preparation for the Inca Trail. Fortunately there were two guides — one for the experienced hikers and another for Tate and a civil engineer from Australia who couldn’t walk at the same pace and who were always an hour or two late arriving at the evening campsite.

• The power of one changes everything. She remembers the kindness of the Peruvian porters — men who carried their big packs, sleeping bags, tents and food and served nourishing snacks and delicious evening meals.

• I didn’t win the lottery but got a lot richer. The last day of the hike began before dawn. As the sun rose, Tate and fellow hikers stood in awe at the Sun Gate for their first look at Machu Picchu. With the sun rising behind it, the picture from a sixth-grade geography class came to life in front of her.

Tate says, “I now strive to be the ‘porter’ to people around me. I am much quicker to say ‘yes’ to life, and when I feel anxious, I take a deep breath, relax and keep going forward.”

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at clankard@opubco.com.