Traveling: Expectation vs Reality

We were verging on hour 7 of what could only be considered the muddiest uphill hike I had ever had the displeasure of embarking on. With raincoats that had exceeded their capacity for water resistance, and hiking shoes that could have doubled as swimming pools, the one thing that remained steadfast between me and a temper tantrum comparable to that of a 2 year old were my high hopes. We were on the verge of seeing one of the seven wonders of the world, and Machu Picchu would exceed all expectations. I had seen the photos; a magnificent city built in the sky, the rocks peaking above low clouds, the greenery for miles surrounding this architectural masterpiece. It would be worth it. Right?

DALL E image of Machu Picchu, Llama wearing sunglasses close to frame

With a glass half full of optimism and my newest fashion statement, ‘fresh out of the shower’ hair, I pictured what it would be like when I finally reached our highly anticipated destination. There I would be, standing on the edge of the world, and through the lens of my camera, a llama would pop into frame just in time to photobomb as I snapped a memorable shot. A llama with…sunglasses.

White Llama in front of Machu Picchu, close to camera frame
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Okay, so maybe I needed to lower my expectations to something a bit more reasonable. Yet with a brain almost as foggy as the environment surrounding me, that token photo floated around in my head. The pinnacle of my journey awaited me, and despite the monsoon weather and soggy leggings, I was going to be met with everything I expected to see. The perfect Machu Picchu experience that I had seen on every post card or social media post was just a mile away.

As the rain droned on, the distance between me and my Instagram worthy picture shortened. The only thing standing in the way was one more flight of rocky steps. With one deep breath, I powered up the stairs, stepped onto the platform awaiting me, and saw…

Original photo of Machu Picchu with significant cloud coverage. Barely visible. Reference image.
Image Capture By Tessa Van Bussum

Nothing. The never ending clouds that had been the root of my drenched adventure had now even further become the bane of my existence. There I was, finally at the completion of a 12 mile hike, looking at fog, when a smile spread across my face. I looked back upon the hard work I had taken to get here and the contagious moments of laughter I had shared with my family and tour guide as we considered our bad luck. That was my reality. And it was nothing like the picture perfect expectation I had in my head, yet it was a story unique to me. Moral of the story? Expectations are never Reality. But those imperfections that separate reality and expectation is what makes the realistic moments that much better.

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