This is part one in a series of three about my trip to Peru.
Years ago, I felt a calling. It was more powerful than anything I had ever experienced in my life. In the eyes of those who could not understand, it was crazy, bold, borderline suicide, risky, financial insanity and an impossible feat. In my eyes and in my heart, I believed with certainty that it was my destiny. I knew I had to climb Everest to honor the life of my mentor, Dr. Sean Egan, who died attempting to become the oldest Canadian to summit the world's tallest mountain.
I had no money, no experience, no clue and no means of making this happen. Five years later, two failed expeditions on Everest and years of sacrifice and relentless commitment to a dream led me to living the most rewarding adventure of my life. I reached the top of the world, founded a non-profit organization called FindingLife, created an award-winning film and led a first-of-its-kind interactive educational campaign on Everest that resulted in a school and well being built in Nepal for orphaned children.
Through the climb, FindingLife, with the help of educators and our partners, enabled 20,000 students to travel virtually to the top of the world from their classrooms and together, we fulfilled a promise made to a man who reshaped my entire life. The nay-sayers suddenly understood. I believe we all have a story like this one waiting to be written. And it all begins with your calling.
We live in a world of certainty-dependency. We are dependent on knowing all of the answers, the outcome, the timelines and the return on our investments. Now, don't get me wrong, certainty is a great thing, especially when it comes to family, children, money, investments, our health and so on. However, not everything in life needs to revolve around certainty. Not everything in life should be measured by what we can see and what we can scientifically or mathematically predict.
What I've learned is that if you feel the need to control everything in your life and you choose to play it safe at all times, you are missing out on one of life's greatest teachers: Uncertainty. Because therein lies the field of all possibility. It's where the magic happens and where your ultimate potential exists. What scares you the most is what will ultimately become your greatest teacher.
Last summer, I felt another calling. I felt an innate feeling of: This is something I am supposed to do. Four letters came to me: P-E-R-U. I didn't know why and I didn't know how -- I just knew. I also trusted that the answers would reveal themselves when I arrived. And that was enough for me.
I fired off an email to my travel agent, booked a flight that very same day and a few short weeks later found myself in Peru living one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I hired a local French-speaking Peruvian guide and visited temples and lost cities, walked and climbed amidst buried Inca civilizations, shot time lapse photography under an ocean of stars, spent evening after evening sipping wine and feasting on Lomo Saltado (a local delicacy), capturing life through my lens, wildlife extraordinaire, local community projects, historical ruins, visiting spiritual hotspots, developing friendships with local people, trekking in the Sacred Valley and of course, I visited the ruins of Machu Picchu.
I could write for days about the energy I felt and the richness of every moment spent in the Sacred Valley. Imagining life before the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire is inevitable with such vibrant and genius architecture surrounding you at every turn. I can articulate every vibration of my soul as I walked upon the sacred sites of the Land of the Incas and experienced the splendor and stupor of Machu Picchu.
The inability to comprehend how or why this ancient city existed, while imagining what it must have been like for them to hide it during the Spanish invasion, leaves your imagination stimulated for a lifetime. I could attempt to spell out the beauty of this country, describe through words the emotions I experienced and the revelations I concluded, particularly as I climbed to the summit of an ancient Inca watch point before sunrise in the darkness of the night... but I won't. I'll leave it for you to experience for yourself so you too can feel the awesome power and energy that Peru has to offer.
Amidst the serenity and sad history comes great understanding of man, his ego and the innate nature of oneself. All of this, despite its incredible and indelible soul transforming properties... was not my calling. It wasn't the reason why I traveled to Peru. I knew this, because I tuned in and realized that somehow, my journey had only just begun. I knew there had to be more. And I knew that the answers would somehow reveal themselves somewhere else. Somewhere beyond where I had traveled and somewhere deep outside of my comfort zone. Somewhere my soul yearned to travel, but that my body and mind were deeply afraid of. This is where you make a decision: Certainty or uncertainty? The unknown was my compass and I decided to follow in the footsteps of uncertainty.
How did I know this for sure? I just did. Intuitively, I knew. I used the same intuitive powers that we are all gifted with. The answer, I felt, was to be found deep in the Amazon forest. So I spontaneously booked a domestic flight from Cusco to the city of Iquitos located on the shores of the Amazon River in the Northern Jungle of Peru. I had no idea what I was in for.