“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber.
The end of 2016 was a very confusing time in my life. There was a culmination of realizations, that I believe every life encounters. My universe had been engulfed with a strange energy; fueled by work, surrounded by, what felt like, a world I was begging to belong to. A sense of belonging is something I’ve never truly felt. I’ve always been a misfit of sorts, at least that is how I see myself. As I approached my 40th year I began to evaluate or reevaluate who I was, and what I was doing. The conclusion of which left me more confused and alone. I felt as though my entire life, I had been begging to be a part of something. Begging for people to like me, begging for acceptance, friendship, success, happiness, love. I was begging for someone, anyone, to claim me. But no one ever did. Now this is not a pity piece, I have much to be grateful for. But in the chaos that engulfed me in 2016, I realize, in retrospect, was a culmination of many years of simply wanting to be a part of something not of myself. And perhaps it’s egotistical of me to think that my emotions are akin to the emotions that everyone feels. I assume, maybe foolishly that we all feel lost sometimes, we all feel alone. Some are more aware of their innermost feelings, others are not, but in the end, what connects us as human beings, resides at our core. It is that deep down, whatever it is, that I assume we all are.
So there I was, end of 2016, headed into mid-life, unsure, lost and wanting to belong. I decided that maybe, I had spent too much time thinking of myself. Perhaps, I needed to look outside of myself to truly find myself. I began to research different independent charitable organizations that I could lend myself to, and found Living Heart Peru, a charitable organization that assists impoverished communities that sit high up in the Andes. I called them and asked them if the needed my help. The answer was yes. And so it was set in motion, a new adventure, a different kind of travel; a trip with purpose.
the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
“the purpose of the meeting is to appoint a trustee”
synonyms: motive, motivation, grounds, cause, occasion, reason, point, basis, justification
Finding purpose in life is never easy. I struggle with it all of the time; but back in 2016 when it felt like I was in the eye of a storm, I found a purpose, one which would encapsulate me in the things I loved and desired most; travel and belonging.
Traveling for purpose is perhaps a “trend” these days, but I wasn’t following a trend. I was following my heart, my own inner pain, that told me, that if I attempted to heal another, perhaps my own pain would subside. And it did. For a while. It just so happened that I stumbled upon a place that was also magical. The mountains of Peru had been calling me, long before my decision to go. I arrived in Cusco, and was surprised by the primitiveness of this country. It was as though time had seemed to forget this place. The energy was not of this world, it was different. A poor country with a rich history and people rich with color. From Cusco, I traveled to Pisac, inching closer to the Sacred Valley, where I would find Living Heart Peru.
It was a tumultuous time but the colors of the Peruvian village in Pisac were undeniable. It was as though a rainbow had somehow exploded. The antiquated feel of the locals contrasted wildly with the hippies and so called free spirits who have descended onto this small locale, likely looking for themselves as well. The trip to visit the children of Living Heart Peru, gave me a sinking feeling, an experience like I’d never had before. I was a middle-aged woman, with everything going for me, brooding over my own first world confusions. And here I now was, high up in the Andes, a stone’s throw from the Sacred Valley, surrounded by children who in some cases, had lost everything. And yet they were happy. The dichotomy of my life and theirs was difficult to understand in that moment. The poverty that surrounded these children did not diffuse or dim their light. Their smiles, still branded in my heart and mind. I felt ashamed. Ashamed that with so much, I allowed myself to pity me. And now surrounded by these children, who had every reason to feel pity, all they exuded was happiness and love. And then, she came to me.
I had noticed a very little girl, who had not taken her eyes off me, from the moment I arrived. She seemed to be smaller in size than what she should of been for her age, but she was beautiful. Her eyes were older than she’d ever know. And without hesitation, she simply took my hand. My entire life had passed me by so quickly, but this moment, this moment moved slowly. Without words, this little girl knew, in some strange way, how much I needed to belong. Maybe she felt the same way. She took my arms and wrapped her little body with them, allowing me to hold her, as though I was hers, and she was mine. Perhaps it was true, that in that brief moment in time, we belonged to each other. She didn’t leave my side, the entire time I was there, and when I left, there was a true sadness in her eyes. I understood, in that moment, a few things. First, what we are seeking, often seeks us. The second thing I understood, is that love is momentary. Yes, most will marry, and complete a life with another person. But there is an undeniable, cosmic, undefinable energy, that is “love.” An energy that cannot be described or defined. It is maddening to even try to explain it. It is a self realization of how little we know, how silly we can be, and how finite our time on this planet truly is. I can’t seem to forget that little girl, not that I want to. In some ways, she was an angel. My angel. Who succeeded in telling me, without words, that I did belong. That maybe misfits have their purpose too.
Traveling for a purpose offers a different world of possibilities. An ability to become a citizen of the world, without boundaries. It is an opportunity to find other misfits, who are all searching for their way, their place, and love. As a place to travel to, I can recommend Peru as one of the most incredible destinations you will see. Machu Picchu is undeniable in its otherworldly energy. Climbing Machu Picchu is not for the faint of heart. I managed (though I am deathly afraid of heights) to reach the top of the mountain. And in doing so, I also reached the end of the life I had been living. It was clear, that this was a defining moment of my life, when things would change. And they did. Some change came for the better, some change was not so good, but I now know, that my Peruvian adventure, would be emblazoned in the history of my life, as a pinnacle, when the pendulum would swing and a new normal would begin.
The little girl asked, “what’s the meaning of life?” – as I sat there and looked, her way. What could I tell this little young girl. Who was just starting to find her way. I thought of the bad things this world can project. The insolent and sullen lies. How sometimes failure comes so drastically, to the ones who always try. I thought of the madness we all go through, the confusion and heartbreak of love. I thought of the moon and the sun and the sky, and the doubt that I felt from above. But when I looked in her eyes, so innocent and wild, I knew just what I needed to say. And without thinking twice I leaned into her and responded in this very way.
“My dear girl, the meaning of life is to know no meaning exists. Other than that which you choose to believe, on those things that you truly wish. Life is a series of steps you must climb, unsure of where you’ll end up. But the purpose is in the not knowing, you see, until you reach the very top. People are broken and they may hurt you, but remember, for the most part they are good. The ones who love you, will tell you they miss you, and you’ll never feel misunderstood. Life is about loving and living as such. In a world that is so full of hate. It’s about finding a friend you can invest in, a profound and life long mate. The meaning of life is to look past the beauty of youth and money and things. Image is fleeting, and not the real truth; so be careful, just who you let in. Follow your heart, wherever it leads and remember, these simple words too – whatever or whomever is meant in your life will find its way back to you. There’s a fine line between determined and desperate. Give your all, but know when to walk away. A person can tell you they love you with words, but their actions is where love is portrayed. If you are too good, you may be used – to gratify someone’s most basic needs. Be good anyway, and remember in time, God will return flowers, for all the goodness you seed. If you can find the courage to love through your pain, and smile and help when you can. Then my dear girl, you will have discovered, the meaning of life, for every woman, child and man”. – Poem by Beatrice Pitocco, ode to my Peruvian Angel.
Support Living Heart Peru by purchasing a print from IllusionPhotograph, where proceeds from each purchase are donated monthly to support Living Heart Peru. A Limited Edition print of Cusco available!