South American Sight Map
Perspective. People often say, “Let’s put that in perspective.” But what does that really mean? For me, perspective is the lens through which I view the world. Sometimes my close-up lens illuminates intricate details, and other times it’s my wide-angle lens providing a multifaceted, expansive view. Of course, my lens can change from day to day, situation to situation.
Our individual perspective shapes and colors how we think. It’s the subjectivity we consciously, or unconsciously, inject into things we see, conversations we hear and words we say.
I bring this up because I recently came back from a trip that presented me with new perspectives. Vacations can be fleeting, but the different perspectives that remain may hold the true value of time away from work.
My husband and I efficiently, and happily, checked off two major items from our bucket list – visiting the ruins of Machu Pichu and observing the animals in the Galapagos Islands. I’m still processing everything I saw and did. But, without a doubt, these experiences already are changing some of my perspectives.
I could easily write 10-plus pages on my experiences spanning the three weeks. In fact, I did that, as I kept a journal that recorded what I did, who I met and what I learned. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the details, but I’d like to mention four new perspectives.
#1: The ancients knew plenty – without technology
Living in Southern California, I rarely think about ancient civilizations. The oldest structures around here are Spanish missions built between 1769 and 1833, while most buildings are circa 20th or 21st century. Viewing the ruins in Peru and listening to how the Incas’ advanced astronomy knowledge guided their progressive agricultural practices – and enriched their culture – was mind-blowing. So much was lost when they were conquered in the 16th century.
#2: Local pride
I was not surprised the Peruvians were proud of Peru or the Ecuadoreans were proud of the Galapagos. I WAS surprised to see and hear the passion they have for their homelands and their eagerness to share this with visitors. Both Machu Pichu and Galapagos are tourist magnets, and this can negatively impact a destination. Yet all the locals I met, regardless of their profession, were happy to help me better understand what I was experiencing. Both countries have embraced the importance of tourism, and the trained guides offer encyclopedic knowledge as well as passion. They love their country and were happy to share their heritage.
#3: International flavor
Often, American travelers find themselves inundated with other Americans overseas. This obviously happens when they travel in groups, but even when we’ve traveled independently, we tend to run into Americans, sometimes from Orange County! Not so in South America. We rubbed shoulders and broke bread with tourists from all over the world, especially Europe, other Latin countries and Australia. Even our 19-passenger boat that cruised the Galapagos Islands included folks from the UK, Africa and Europe, giving us eye-opening, international perspectives on everything we saw and did.
#4: No fear
I had heard that Galapagos animals were undisturbed by tourist visits. But deep down I suspected otherwise. How could animals remain unafraid, year after year, with so many people gawking and shooting photos? Well, it’s true. The animals were simply oblivious. Kudos to the people of Ecuador who have wisely recognized the prize they hold in these islands. Each island hike, and ocean snorkel, is “regulated.” While hiking, we rarely saw other humans. Each hike had no more than 10 tourists and a well-educated naturalist. The 19 of us split into two groups every time we ventured out in the little panga boats to hike or snorkel. Sure, we had to stay on paths, but, heck, the animals were there too! I had to watch my feet, or I’d step on a robust, snoozing iguana. Photos from my Samsung Galaxy 8 look like I used a telephoto lens, but in truth, the animals continued their daily activities just steps away. They ate, mated, nursed, slept and even tussled for turf. Sea lions greeted us wherever we went, and sea lion pups were quick to frolic with snorkelers. Humans are simply not seen as predators — because they aren’t. Admittedly an animal lover, I soon realized this was what it would be like everywhere if humans did not kill, or even capture, animals.
I don’t know what’s on your bucket list, but I’m certain your perspectives will change, too, as you cross off items.