As a recent graduate, I have a fair amount of time on my hands while job hunting. This meant that I have plenty of time to indulge in reading, one of my favorite pastimes. I am a pretty avid reader cutting across a variety of subjects: history, biography, biology, classics, philosophy, to name a few. One of my favorites things to read is books about foreign places, cultures, and histories.
I recently devoured the book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams. The author retraced the expeditions by Hiram Bingham III, who was famous for “discovering” Machu Picchu and a host of other Inca ruins in Peru. The book is highly entertaining and really reminded me of my own time as a research assistant in the Peruvian Amazon. If you are interested in learning a little bit about Inca culture and history, there is lots of nuggets in this book. If you want to visit a foreign place, but is unable to physically at the moment, this book will take you on a journey through Peru.
The descriptions of the climatic craziness and incredibly diverse landscapes in Peru resonated with my own experiences – from the gloomy and coastal city of Lima, to the high altitude and rocky Cuzco, and the tropical and humid Puerto Maldonado. One moment you could be freezing in the cold winter of the coast, the next you could be dressed in shorts in the blazing heat of the tropics. With these varied, difficult to navigate geographies and climates, Peru actually still have vast areas with limited human presence. It is an incredible place to visit if you enjoy the outdoors.
Mark Adams also described the intricacies of each major Inca ruin and of their importance and interconnections: how the Incas used their sites for rituals and astronomy, how the Inca Trail connected all of the sites in a pattern, why was Machu Picchu built where it was. This got me thinking about my travels again…
I am very fortunate that I have been able to visit so many places at my age. Growing up as a third-culture kid, it was somewhat inevitable that I developed somewhat of a wanderlust. It grew out of a need to find an identity and a sense of belonging. Travelling can either broaden your worldviews and horizons or narrow them. For me, each trip I took served as food for growth and added to my identity, but I don’t think I ever got closer to finding a place I belonged.
Seeing foreign cities and cultures fueled my interest in studying human behavior and our relationships with the environment. Turn Right at Machu Picchu was a reminder to why I chose to study Environmental Social Science at ASU. I hope I can land a job that will lead me further into the exploration of cities – the foundation of human society -, be it modern or ancient.