Sunday, October 20, 2013

365 Inspirations—293: How I Learned to Stop Planning and Love the Mystery (Guest Post by Patti Shelton)

On board our faithful ship heading out into the deep waters of Lake Titicaca
“All human plans [are] subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.” —Arthur C. Clark

This guest post was written by Patti Shelton who came with us on our yoga trip to Peru. She shares a story here about a trip we took to Lake Titicaca, Peru last September and how she learned to let go of her need to plan and just go with the flow. We enjoyed having her on our journey and I love her story. Please be so kind and leave comments for Patti here. Here it is:

For most of my life, I've had a tendency to be a planner.  Sure, I'm open to spontaneity when traveling.  As long as I know where I'm going to sleep.  And most of what I'm going to do.  And how I'll get there.

So to find myself in a car with my husband, two good friends, and a guide, speeding from Cuzco towards Lake Titicaca with no idea where we'd sleep for the next three nights, was a bit unexpected.
These particular friends, Yoon and Kathy, are the most spontaneous people I know.  Yoon especially has an uncanny ability to feel out a situation and operate by intuition.  I've never met anyone who plans less or experiences more.  I've been needing some intuitive energy in my life, and so I'd decided on this trip to become a spontaneity apprentice.  Here I was, traveling to Lake Titicaca with no idea of where I'd sleep.  And I was loving it.

We got to Lake Titicaca in the late afternoon.  It didn't take long to find a hotel for the night, situated right by the lake and just outside the city of Puno.  (Let's just say that "outside" was really the best place to be in the city of Puno.)  I couldn't stop staring at the lake.  I don't know if it was the altitude, the clean air, the vacation high, or the energy coming from the lake; maybe it was all of these, but we all felt extremely positive and energized.  We could not stop smiling.

We wanted to go out on the lake the next day.  A lady from a travel agency offered us an overpriced, touristy trip; lots of money to be on a crowded boat for a few hours.  We said no thanks, we'd travel on a local boat.  Should we check the ferry schedules and decide which one to take?  "No," said Yoon, "Let's show up and see what happens."  I took a breath of that delicious air and decided to go with it.
So we showed up on the boat dock a little after 9:00 the next morning.  All the public ferries had left already.  Oops.

But there were a few private boat operators still hanging around the docks to catch the stragglers.  We mentioned that we wanted to go out to the islands, and they immediately began fighting over us.  We finally chose a kind, quiet man named Genaro, who went to get his boat.  It took a few minutes for him to maneuver his boat into position for us to board, which caused the other drivers to try one last time to lure us onto their boats.

This delay turned out to be quite fortunate.  As we waited, another couple walked onto the dock and stood waiting.  I asked them if they'd like to join us - after all, we were only five people and it was a pretty big boat.  They were happy to come along.  They'd also planned on taking the public ferry, but missed it that morning.  They'd thought they wouldn't be able to make it out to the islands; but, like magic, here was a waiting boat and some new friends.  Spontaneity won the day for them too.
So we boarded the boat, choosing to sit up on top to feel the fresh air and sunshine.  It was sunny and warm-ish (we needed sweaters, but we weren't freezing).  We made a quick stop at the Uros Islands (aka floating islands), then headed to the little island of Amantani.  The boat traveled slowly, so the trip took three hours.  I enjoyed every second, watching the scenery and the birds while getting to know our new friends better.  We had no idea what was coming; a homestay could mean we'd be sleeping on the floor, and what would we do for clean water?  I could've worried about whether we'd be safe and healthy that night, but I let that go and just enjoyed the ride.  What would come would come.
The boat pulled up to a little dock.  A woman and a young girl of about seven met the boat and helped it dock.  They introduced themselves as our hosts for the night.  As the girl and woman led us through various fields to get to their house, the boat driver came with us.  It soon became clear that it was his house too; the two were his wife and daughter.  The kind man we'd met on the boat dock had taken us to his own house.

When we got there, the woman (whose name was Flora) immediately began preparing us lunch.  Not just any lunch; a three-course Peruvian meal, with quinoa soup, little fish pulled from the lake, and many types of potatoes, along with an herbal tea she told us was extremely healthy.
As we digested our lunch, Flora led us to our rooms.  Not only were we not sleeping on the floor; each couple had their own delightful little room, with handwoven blankets on the beds and windows overlooking the island's coast.

Then Flora asked if we'd like to go to the top of the island (it's a low mountain) to watch the sunset.  "Of course we would," we replied.  She gave us each a handwoven hat to wear, insisting that we each take one (we could return it when we got back), and told us, maternally, to bring coats; it gets cold after sunset, she said.  Madeleini, the seven-year-old, would be our guide.  Flora said she couldn't come with us; she needed to stay home to prepare our dinner.  Skipping through fields at a pace that left us foreigners, unaccustomed to altitude, breathless, Madeleini led us to Pachamama (the highest point on the island), where we enjoyed a 360-degree view of the lake as the sun set.  We couldn't take our eyes off of it.

Soon after sunset, Madeleini started leading us back down.  Most of us soon realized that we hadn't brought flashlights.  This turned out to be no problem; the full moon provided plenty of illumination.  She led us, without hesitation, back down to her home, taking a different route to get there.  This seven-year-old had clearly spent plenty of time wandering the island, safe among her community.
After a delicious, home-cooked dinner, which the family shared with us, we went to our rooms for one of the most peaceful nights of sleep any of us had ever had.  We awoke with the sunrise, ate a huge and delicious breakfast, and prepared to board the boat again to ride home.  When we asked how much we owed, Flora surprised us by saying, "Whatever you want.  Pay nothing if you didn't have a good experience, or pay whatever you think you should pay."  Of course, we all ended up paying generously.

Flora and Madeleini surprised us by boarding the boat with us.  Flora had brought a bag full of cooked potatoes of many kinds for us all to snack on during the ride back.  We stopped by the neighboring island of Taquile, then headed back to Puno.  All too soon (well, it was three or four hours, but I could've stayed out on that water for days), we docked.  Hugs, photos, and effusive thanks followed, and then we had to say good-bye to our amazing hosts.

We could have planned a trip out to the islands with the travel agency.  I'm sure I would have enjoyed it; that water, those birds, all that beautiful clear energy would have been there anyway.  But we wouldn't have gotten anywhere near the experience that we had.  By letting go completely of my expectations, I got something that far exceeded whatever I might have expected.
Yoon and Kathy keep teaching me this: Just show up, and be open to possibility.  Their lives so far have been filled with adventure by following this simple formula.  I'm ready to see what more it will bring my way.

Do you feel the need to plan or are you comfortable following the mysteries of life?

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