Hey team! How is everyone doing? It’s been lonely these past few days, not having a whole team working with me to support me, encourage me, question me, eat, sleep, and laugh with me, and just be there at all times. Thank you for doing such a great job of all of this throughout the entire trip! You made my experience that much better in the end. Although at times I was challenged by our group dynamic, I know that I am a better, stronger person for it, and now more able to truly function as part of a team. ¡Somos los campeones de campeones! From the lowest mountain valley to Palomani Pass, I always felt your encouragement and assistance, and I hope that you, too, felt mine, as we completed our final moments of this month-long odyssey—our breathtakingly beautiful trek. Margaret, you were always there to lend a helping hand, no matter the situation, time, or place, regardless of how you were feeling. There was never a single moment the entire trip when I didn’t feel you encouraging our group. When I was sick on the hikes to and from Nation Q’ero and I was feeling particularly miserable, as you all know, you were there by my side, telling me I could do it, reminding me to think happy, positive thoughts, and to not give up. Later, on the trek, when you were sick and your body was really not feeling to great, you never once faltered but kept up an impressively forward pace. Your tenacity and optimism inspired me and helped to contribute to my new-found love of trekking. Thank you! Amanda, you were sick for most of the trip, but you still did it! You’re a trooper, and I think that we all have something to learn from your bravery and sense of humour about your situation. In terms of food, you had an extra challenge: being a vegetarian. Others may have been upset about having to eat potatoes day after day, but you instead fell in love with potatoes, showing us all how to make the best of a situation. You didn’t moan about having to order mashed potatoes yet again, but instead raved about how wonderful Peruvian mashed potatoes were. We had some great times on the trip, and I really enjoyed hiking with you both at Macchu Picchu and on the trek. We slow ones showed them how it’s done! Thank you for being so brave, you inspired me to make the best of any situation, no matter how terrible it may be. Ben, you made me laugh. Wherever we were, whatever we were doing, you were always on hand to “dominate a picture” with your arms crossed, classic “Ben face” at the ready. You were always friendly; asking me what was up, chatting to me, and just having a good time. You did an incredible job controlling your fear of vines in the Amazon; my fear of teeny spiders seemed mundane next to your fear of those gianormous vines you had to walk through in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. And you did it! Even when you were sick to your stomach, you still took full advantage of all our trip had to offer, never letting your frequent bathroom breaks get in the way of a good time. But don’t worry; you’re not through with me yet! I’ll be coming to visit you whenever I pass by, which hopefully will be often. Thanks for being so fun, you really brightened up our trip. Alex, I really saw you grow on this trip. At the beginning you were just another intelligent, interested American teenager, but by the end you had really integrated into Peruvian culture. Some people would have complained about not speaking Spanish, only Latin, but not you! You put a huge effort into learning as much Spanish as possible, and I’d say it really paid off. Now you know how to pick up girls in another language! We all enjoyed your red rooster hat, your jokes, and your common sense, too. That one night at the dinner table, when I didn’t have my glasses, your quirky comments made me laugh uncontrollably for a good while. I really looked to you for a good laugh, and I’m sorry about the comments I made at Los Amigos (but you do have to admit, they were funny). Thank you for cheering me up when I was upset, checking your map often on the trek, and helping remind me how to laugh at a situation! Zander, you were a wonderful leader on the trek. You helped the group to find a great pace and stay together, and even when something not-so-great happened, you were still upbeat. When we went off the path for a long, long time and ended up walking up hill for hours, you told us all, “hey, it’s better we went this way. At least now we don’t have to walk up that incredibly steep hill over there on the path, but instead we’ve been walking up a gentle slope for a while. This way is so much easier!” I was leading with you that day and I didn’t really do too much, but you were there helping me out, walking with me at the back when I was slow, and constantly encouraging me. It was you and Max joking around that allowed me to find my positive attitude that day and speed up and keep going on. You really made my trek, and also helped me see that no matter how horrible my body feels, my mind can still be ridiculously happy. Thanks! Polly, you seriously gave me the best, most timely advice I have ever had in my entire life, and not only did this allow me to continue on with the rest of the trip, but it changed my life. I will never, ever, in my entire life forget that night in Aguas Calientes when you helped me out. Thank you. At the time, I must admit, I was a little surprised to hear such wisdom from someone so young, but now I understand that you can be young, fun, and wise! Throughout the trip you were constantly, 100%, positive and upbeat, despite “The Polly Situation”. You always looked for adventure and a fun time, yes, but not only this—you also helped the rest of the group do the same. You encouraged the entire group, and your positive energy was contagious. In Los Amigos the night of the scream, you immediately calmed us all down when many of us weren’t thinking straight and you helped to restore order to our group. Amidst all the confusion and fear, your calm, logical presence helped us immeasurably. Thank you so much, and I hope that I can one day (soon) share your wisdom in order to help others as you so helped me. Charlotte, you give great feedback! Throughout the trip I felt as though I could look to you for advice and encouragement, as well as some super Spanish translation. I was always impressed by your level of Spanish, your huge vocabulary, and the ease with which you so adeptly translated stories, myths, and feelings. It’s great that you interviewed so many people from all different places and situations, and I’m interested in seeing what you’ll do with all that diverse information. When you were feeling sick on the hike, you never once complained or felt sorry for yourself, and you reassured the rest of the group that you were fine. You were always a calm, reasonable voice when we, the group or just the girls, got upset and argued. In Los Amigos the night of the scream, you, too, were a calming voice when we were all freaking out, and your ever-present reasoning always served to help the group chill out and think more clearly. Thanks for being so helpful to me and giving such good feedback! I tried to do my best to use it to grow and learn from this experience. Ham, your quiet, calm presence really added something to our group dynamic. When all else was kayos, you were there, relaxed and ready to work things through. Throughout the trip you were a behind-the-scenes leader, showing us what we could do and who we could be. You worked well with everyone in the entire team, and I think that by the end of the trip I had learned to be more like you, and just relax and observe the situation. Having an older guy in our group helped to bring logic and order to the team. On the trek you were inspiring, never faltering, never discouraged by the seemingly never-ending uphill stretches. You were an amazing health person! You did a wonderful job fixing my “hot spots” (future blisters), and never once did you complain when I had to stop you yet again to tell you that I had another hot spot. I’ll always remember how bravely you carried the med kit and then that broken LNT bag on the hike. Thanks for being so laid-back and helping me learn to relax and just chill out. You really added something functional to our group dynamic! Liz, you rock! It was great to see how courageously you dealt with your asthma, and you made me feel pretty silly on the trek to be feeling bad because I just had some trouble with the altitude, when you were blazing ahead of me. You were always ready to play a game of “fútbol” with the locals, and, not being a soccer player, I loved to see how excited the entire town/research station/school became when soccer was mentioned. I learned from you and the rest of the soccer-playing group how important sports can be to building bridges between cultures. Thank you very, very much for carrying my bag at Nation Q’ero without even being asked; without a moment’s hesitation. Your spirit and constant energy are wonderful. You never gave up, and I learned from you to do the same. I’m really, really sorry that you had to be sleeping next to me the night of the scream, but, I must say, you handled it very well. Thank you for sharing such wisdom about what you learned from our trip the day of the debrief! I was inspired by your reflections and ideas, and from you I have learned to never, ever give up. Harry, being the youngest on the trip, I think that sometimes it was tough for you, but since you’re strong, you kept going. You were constantly prepared, Lonely Planet at the ready, able to guide the group to the next town, help the instructors find a hostel, or just share some interesting information with us. Throughout the trip you asked important questions about where we were, what we were doing, where we were going, and how we were getting there. You took a lot of initiative to help guide the group, and I’m really glad you did, because there were times when no one else wanted to! That last day of the trek you were inspiring! Despite your blisters, your sunburn, and your cracked lip, you just kept going forward. Thank you so much for sharing your story of overcoming your greatest fear, and encouraging me to keep going. I’ve thought a lot about what you did, and if I’m the kind of person who could so bravely face what terrified me most. I know that if I believe I can then I can, and you helped me to believe that I can face my greatest fears and just keep trekking onwards. Thank you for this. Max, from the beginning of the trip until the very last day I saw you grow and change constantly. You never lost an opportunity to learn or have a fun time. I know the trip wasn’t easy for you, but in the end that is what is most important—not the easy moments, when all is fine and dandy, but the hardest, darkest moments, when you feel as though you simply can’t go on. Throughout our adventures in Peru, no matter what happened, you were ready with a joke, a funny comment, and a positive attitude. On the trek when I was being really slow, feeling sorry for myself, and just wishing it were over, you made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and then I perked up and had a great time. You knew when to make me smile and laugh in order to help me go on! At the end of the trip you had really become a mature, knowledgeable, and culturally immersed young man, more aware of Peru and what we have to learn from it. We were all impressed by how much you changed and developed, and your perseverance and sense of humour helped our group dynamic immensely. Thanks for putting in such a huge effort and helping cheer me up so much! Every member of the group contributed to our dynamic and experience, and every one of you was wonderful, helpful, inspiring, challenging, and necessary. Let’s keep in touch and never forget how we felt in Peru: part of a team, part of an experience, part of a life-changing adventure. Thank you to all, and I miss you. Love, Colleen