A trip to Peru made Isabel Lai consider what's really important in life

A trip to Peru made Isabel Lai consider what's really important in life

Do you have any idea what a guinea pig tastes like? Have you been on a bus for more than 20 hours straight? I would have shaken my head if asked these questions two months ago. But now I'm back from my trip to Peru, I am proud to say I've had these experiences.

I knew what I had signed up for. This was no fancy tour around one or two Peruvian tourist attractions. Of course, Machu Picchu - the breathtaking Inca estate - was high on our must-see list. But we were in for a lot more, too.

For a start, this was a six-week expedition. The 15 of us from Durham University treated it like a marathon.

Volunteering was the main purpose of the trip. We visited an afterschool activities centre named Picaflor House each day for four weeks. We taught English, arts and crafts, and computing to local kids who attended the centre. We also repainted the classrooms and brought life to their garden.

On our first day, we got to play with the kids at the playground. They went absolutely wild. There was this one little girl who grew incredibly fond of me.

She would come to greet me every day and scream "caballo". That means "horse" in Spanish - she wanted a piggy back!

We also helped build a new cooking stove for a poor family. Their house had no running water or electricity. It was hard work, but it felt so good to know we had helped.

We were based in the city of Cusco for most of the trip. But we also spent our weekends in different corners of Peru. Machu Picchu, as you would imagine, was one of our very first stops.

After that, we went on countless adventures. We ate guinea pig, which is a popular food in Peru. We went on a boat trip around the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. And we took many overnight buses. The longest one was a 22-hour ride from Lima to Cusco at the start of the trip.

I also got nasty diarrhoea at one point. I had to spend a day at the hostel while everyone else went on another adventure. We were always on the road. A hot shower became a real luxury. It was the thing I craved most when arriving home.

Seeing and experiencing life across the Pacific Ocean made me reflect. Do we value the right things? Do we appreciate the opportunities we are given? And why does satisfaction still seem out of reach for many in Hong Kong?

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
An adventure of a lifetime

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