To Peru: An OG Journey with Caroline

Hi there! My name is Caroline Wiechers and I am a 23 year old travel lover living in Toronto, Ontario! I am a musical theatre performer here in the city, and when I’m not singing, dancing, or acting I love reading, admiring dogs, and listening to True Crime podcasts. Plus, I have always had a desire to travel and learn more about the world around me. When travelling, I wasn’t interested in traditional tours or all-inclusive resorts; I wanted to learn about the heart of the places I visited. The best way to do that is to learn from the people that live there themselves. That desire and drive for a unique experience is how I found Operation Groundswell.

During high school and my post-secondary studies I had travelled to Kenya and the Dominican Republic on volunteer opportunities. However a few months after graduating, I felt stuck. I wanted to go somewhere and do something completely different but I had no clue where to start. Then, as I was scrolling through Facebook, like a message from the universe (or Facebook knows me too well), I came across Operation Groundswell.

Backpacking With a Purpose

I was immediately struck by the idea of backpacking with a purpose, and how I felt that their “Backpacktivist Manifesto” was written for me! I scrolled through the list of programs and picked a program that sounded interesting but I knew nothing about. Why not? Motivated and excited, I worked all night on my application and submitted it full of hope. Cut to my interview and my acceptance letter, and I was officially going to Peru on the Secrets of the Sacred Valley program in March of 2017!

Of course, I was super excited to go on my program, but I had a lot of fears. What should I pack? Will I make friends? Will I feel, comfortable, and will I even like it? Even though I had been travelling before, I had never felt so nervous! But the second I walked through the Arrivals door of the Cusco airport and saw the huge orange OG flag goofily waving at me, I knew it was all going to be okay.

Falling in Love with Peru

The way I would describe Peru and the program I went on would be moving, heartfelt, and engaging. I remember walking through the cobblestone streets of Cusco into the markets with bright textiles, fresh fruits, and hilarious knickknacks. And how could I forget sitting in the grass at a beautiful farm looking at the mountains surrounding you? This country has a way of making you feel so far from home and so small compared to its natural beauty, but so grateful to be in this incredible country with the people that make it so. I felt a bond with the communities we visited, with my program leaders who made the trip so comfortable, and with my group members. My fondest memories from this trip are sitting after dinner in the candlelight, talking for hours about anything and everything.

 

I came home from Peru and knew Operation Groundswell was special. It made me want to be involved in this organization that encourages people to take the leap they’ve wanted to take, and see the reward. Upon returning home from Peru, I felt motivated to keep going! So, I embarked on a month long adventure with one of my best friends in Southeast Asia hitting Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bali Indonesia. Next up this year is Western Europe and South Africa! Someday, I hope to see Morocco, Australia, Japan, and many more to follow.

A Few Words of Wisdom

My advice to anyone reading this who wants to go travelling or go on an OG program: take the plunge. It can be scary and hard and overwhelming, but it is also invigorating, magnificent, and life-changing. Don’t forget to pack your SPF (no matter where you’re travelling!), a journal, and an open mind. You never know! Your travels might just change your life, just like they’ve changed mine.

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