When my mother first asked me to help her with a trip of her neighborhood residents from Cresswind at Lake Lanier to South America, I was skeptical.
My doubts stemmed from the proverbial age factor: What would it be like traveling across Ecuador and Peru with a group of older adults? Would our activities be limited by their ages?
Looking back these apprehensions just make me laugh. When you travel with the Cresswind crew, you better be ready for an adventure. Because when they say active-adult community, they are definitely not kidding.
We began our journey in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, which is cradled by mountainous volcanoes. The air at Quito’s elevation was thin, making it necessary to stay constantly hydrated. If not, your head would begin to swim.
During the tour of the city, we wound our way through the city streets admiring the colonial churches and homes, listening to our boisterous guide Antonio. And as we were baking in the midday sun, everyone remained cheery.
The Cresswind crew was ready and willing for each exploit ranging from dining on traditional empanadas and guinea pig to touring a spot at the Equator where we saw actual shrunken heads.
Visiting the Darwin Research Center on the island of Santa Cruz represented a special highlight for a man named Robert. A former student of the Darwin College, which is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, Robert was allowed to look inside the facilities while the rest of us returned to the main village in Puerto Ayora.
“Charles Darwin said he was going to meet me here,” Robert said jokingly at dinner the night before.
After walking around the center and snapping pictures of Robert with a statue of Darwin, I got the sensation Darwin had met Robert in the Galapagos in a way.
After the Galapagos, we flew to Cuzco to meet our new guide Jessica, a local who addressed our group from the get-go as “family.”
And we saw the native families, too. Old mammas were selling herbs and garments while whole families were clad in traditional Incan garb. We even swapped stares with babies wrapped tightly in rainbow cloth satchels.
Next, the Incan railway transported us to the area surrounding Machu Picchu. We walked through the ruins as Jessica explained the purposes of various structures.
After touring the main site, a few of us decided to attempt the Huayna Picchu hike. Touring the main ruins was a challenge in itself, so I expected the rest of our group to stay put. Contrary to my expectations the Cresswind crew hiked to the Sun Gate.
The hike is no easy task. The peak rests at an altitude of nearly 9,000 feet and the trek takes you across 300 meters of winding rocky pathways. Nevertheless, as we completed our Huayna Picchu hike, we ran into the rest of our group at the base of the Sun Gate finishing their own journey.
This trip reinforced an adage I’ve picked up while traveling: Adventure is about attitude, not age.
If you embrace things outside your comfort zone, you will enjoy your traveling much more.
I would take a trip with the Cresswind crew over a group of disheartened youths any day.