There I was—a single female thirty-something traveler, heading to Peru to achieve my dreams of seeing Machu Picchu via an off-the-beaten path trip: the Sacred Valley & Lares Adventure to Machu Picchu. I was traveling alone, which was not new to me as I’d adventured solo in New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands, Guatemala and various U.S. states for personal travels and via my travel industry job. But this trip marked the first time I took a guided small group tour by land. I certainly wasn’t looking for love, but I was curious about who might be on the trip with me. I was delighted to find that my travel companions were much like I had experienced aboard small ship cruises worldwide: likeminded, adventurous folks who are eager to connect with the local culture and each other. And as luck would have it, one of them would become a treasured friend for life!
Among our group were two couples traveling together from the U.S., two women friends from South America, a single female traveler from New York and a young couple from Alabama named Hunter and Catherine. How fun to not be the only single traveler in the group but to also have such a diverse crew to chat with each night. We were able to choose our own adventure each day, ranging from cultural experiences to long hikes, so every day I was able to hang out with a slightly different variation of our overall group.
Hunter, Catherine and I chose virtually every challenging hike the trip had to offer, and connected over our high-altitude giddiness, our love for street dogs, hot tubbing next to llamas at Lamay Lodge and one particular snowy hike on the trip that had us sweating, muddy and yet elated at the adventure. Not to mention that our guides would always feed us amazing meals along the route. Since the trip, Catherine and I have remained in touch, and this past summer she came out to visit me at my home near Lake Tahoe—some four years after we trekked together in Peru!
Especially around Valentine’s Day, we’re reminded of the bonds and love we have for our friends around the world. And the new friends I’ve made on my travels are at the core of my experience of each place. What would New Zealand have been without the new friend who agreed to hike Abel Tasman with me? What would my Galapagos cruise have been like without the free spirit who got us invited to visit our guide’s house on Puerto Ayora?
Travel friends are certainly among life’s many relationships worth celebrating! And Catherine and I just may do so again. Since the trip, we’ve both been to Antarctica (on separate trips), but we hope to connect for a new adventure. There’s been talks of the Alps, or perhaps a return to Peru to trek on the Lares Adventure’s sister trip, Salkantay: Trek to Machu Picchu? I now urge every solo traveler who might be afraid of going alone to embrace the unknown and keep their eyes peeled for new friends!
All photos provided by Lis Larson/AdventureSmith Explorations