Peru was in the back of Samantha Ramsay’s mind for years.
The University of Idaho assistant professor of foods and nutrition and dietetics, had been thinking about the country, and the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, since her brother visited it five years before.
“It had been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do,” Ramsay said. “It’s not extreme mountain climbing, but it’s a good adventure and I got the idea that I wanted to take my boys.”
This winter break, Ramsay acted on the plan she had been thinking over, and spent almost six days hiking the Inca Trail with her oldest son, Ryan.
“It’s a five-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu,” Ramsay said. “We camped overnight and hiked over 26 miles through all kinds of different ecosystems. It was awesome.”
Ramsay, a self-proclaimed adventure seeker, said she found the hike fulfilling on a number of levels.
“It was incredibly fulfilling, because it’s not only something I love to do, I love to be outdoors and be very physical, but it was also a chance to introduce that to my son and give him an adventure,” Ramsay said.
In addition spending time with her son, Ramsay said she learned about the Incan civilization and their way of life.
“As you’re hiking through, you’re getting tours of ruins and you’re getting tours of history,” Ramsay said. “You’re learning about a particular civilization that is absolutely mind blowing.”
Ramsay said she and Ryan returned to the United States on Christmas Eve so they could be with her youngest son, who wasn’t old enough to participate in the hike.
“We were not there through any holiday, but we were there right before Christmas. It was really fun to see the country’s strong Catholic ties,” Ramsay said. “My son and I did get to see how they decorated the festivities and how they set it up.”
Although winter break might seem like an unconventional time to travel abroad or make new cultural connections, Ramsay said breaks from school provide students with a great opportunity to explore the world, or even the region they live in.
“I know we all want to go home and see family, that’s important, but take advantage of the time to gain experience and have an adventure. It’s never something people regret,” Ramsay said.
While Ramsay and her oldest son were wrapping up their trip to Peru, UI senior Cailin Bary was 11,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, co-leading a group of 13 students on an Alternative Service Break in the Philippines.
The group arrived to work with a rural community on the island of Leyte right before New Year’s Eve, and Bary said some of their first experiences with the Filipino culture were participating in the local holiday celebrations.
“Right when we got there, we got to celebrate New Year’s and that was super fun,” Bary said. “There was lots of food, lots of dancing, the community had celebrations scheduled until 10 in the morning.”
Following the celebrations, Bary said she and her group spent one day learning about the ways in which a hydraulic-powered pump has impacted the community’s ability to access clean water. Bary said they then spent about three days at a local school in the village they were staying.
“It was a little overwhelming because this community is really rural, it’s in a place that’s not easily accessible for normal tourists,” Bary said.
Throughout the trip, Bary said she and her group had powerful discussions about the dangers of perpetuating the white savior complex, or the idea of a white person rescuing or educating people of color.
“There’s always the issue of white people going abroad to do service and going abroad for voluntourism,” Bary said. “Some of the powerful discussions me and my group had were the ways we could avoid just doing voluntourism and how we could make connections in a positive way.”
Bary said the heart of the trip was about making connections with other humans and expanding her knowledge of the world.
“It was a really wonderful way to connect with people in a new place,” Bary said. “That’s my favorite thing about alternative service breaks — they teach you that people are people are people, and that even when you’re far from home, you can find familiarity in human connection.”
Corrin Bond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CorrBond