Monday, February 17, 2020

Unlocked Machu Picchu Retreat Review



How does one measure an experience? What are the variables we use, how do we collect our data and what do we compare with? Though some may have answers to these questions I feel as though these should be left open-ended. Each experience is so unique to each person and should not be measured or compared... instead, it should just be felt. 

In July of 2019 I went on a retreat that completely changed my life. Over the course of the 9 days that we were away, I felt changes in my emotional and spiritual sense of being. I grew as a person because I explored more than just the Earth around me but I was also given a place to explore myself as well.

The finding of this retreat was completely by chance - through the friend-of-a-friend acquaintance. As someone who both loves yoga and travel I had been on the lookout for something to combine two of my favorite things. A friend of mine told me she knew someone who was running this yoga retreat that went to Peru which included a hike up Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was of course on the top of my bucket list, as I'm sure is the same for many others, so when I heard about this retreat that offered travel, yoga, and an opportunity to scratch something off my list I thought - okay I have to do this. As if that wasn't enough, I began looking at the dates - the trip was scheduled to begin on my 26th birthday - and that, my friends, sealed the deal.

This trip was one of the best memories I've been able to make so far because it changed me so much and left such a lasting impression. So, I am here to give you a full review of everything there is to know but I encourage you to pack your bags and experience it for yourself!


Cost 

When deciding to take a trip, cost and financing is always number one, so let's get right to it. Total cost for the trip - at the time of writing this post - is $2,250 and covers pretty much everything once you reach Lima, Peru.

The cost of airfare to and from Lima is not included in the total cost of the retreat which is to be expected considering people from all over the United States get involved. This means multiple cities with Lima as the final destination via several different airlines all flying at different times. Hard to incorporate into a flat rate fee to be included in the cost of the retreat if you ask me.

Once you are in Lima though, transportation to the various cities you'll visit - including the flights between Lima and Cusco, lodging, food, and activities are all included! If you're looking for someone else to take the reigns while you sit back, relax and enjoy the journey - this is the way to go!

** I've partnered up with the team at Unlocked to extend to you their "Share the Love Sale" which officially ended on February 14th, but you can still redeem the discount by referencing this post to receive $150 off your retreat! **

Travel

On the first day of the itinerary there is an early morning flight from Lima to Cusco - included - so when I went, I chose to fly down the day prior and stay the night in Lima. I chose to fly Avianca Airlines out of JFK in New York City and had a layover connection in Bogota, Colombia before reaching Lima, Peru.

Thankfully I booked in advance and ended up getting First Class tickets round trip for $600. This was even less than an economy seat would have been on the major American based airlines. I was so thankful for lie-flat seats on the A380 between NYC and BOG and the comforts of the wider reclining seat on the A320 between BOG and LIM. Economy has its place, but when you find a First Class ticket at this cost - you cannot pass it up! Ultimately my recommendation here is to take a look at other airlines aside from the top 4 major US companies. 

If you're looking for a place to stay that first night in Lima before linking up with the rest of the group, there is a Holiday Inn directly in front of the airport. It is close enough to walk to - which is what I chose to do as I felt very safe in this foreign country - but there is also a shuttle that runs between the airport and the hotel approximately every 15 minutes. 

You'll be moving around a lot on this trip so having a bag that you can easily carry around is key. I would recommend not bringing any wheeled luggage and focus on packing light and carrying what you can in a large backpack. I easily managed the whole trip with a small backpack and a duffle bag. 

Food

This was the one thing I was most worried about considering my strict vegan diet. I had reached out to the team before finalizing my decision and they assured me that there would be no problem accommodating my needs - and they were right!

In fact, just in Cusco alone, there were so many vegan-friendly restaurants and shops, more than I had ever seen in a similar-sized American town. Every restaurant was selected by the leaders of the retreat to ensure optimal food selections for both health and tastes! I never felt like I didn't get enough to eat and I didn't have to resort to eating just salads every day - which is a major vegan win! 

Water is also provided in the rooms and I strongly recommend bringing a good-sized water bottle you can easily carry around with you or invest in a good camelback option which some people had on my trip! There are 1-2 days in which lunch is on your own so do factor that in, but for the most part every meal is planned out to be shared with the full group to fuel up for the next day's adventures and bond together. 

Lodging 

You will stay in several areas throughout the days you spend in Peru. In the varying places you go, you will have shared spaces with at least one roommate. I had not known this before going in but I am glad it was set up this way. As a cancer sign, I tend to easily want to crawl into the safety of my shell in seclusion and probably would have done this had I had my own room. Thankfully, by incorporating the roommate sleeping arrangements it fostered the opportunity to get to know the others who were on the retreat and begin building those relationships - some of which are still going strong today!

As part of the retreat, you will spend a few nights at Wilka Tilka retreat center which is one of the most beautiful places I have seen on this Earth. Make sure to grab yourself some tea made with fresh chamomile flowers and herbs or some perfectly roasted coffee grown right on the grounds of the center! This place is an abundance of beauty and I strongly recommend taking all the time you can to wander through the perfectly curated Chakra Gardens!

Activities 

The capstone event is the hike of Machu Picchu which made the list as one of the wonders of the world. This was by far one of the best and hardest things I had ever accomplished. What seemed like a strenuous, long duration, leg work out turned out to reveal stunning mountain views of an old civilization. Standing on the grounds and thinking of what life used to be is such an experience that cannot be put into words. 

As part of your ticket, you also will get access to a further, second hike in addition to reaching Machu Picchu. I had the opportunity to climb up Huayna Pichu which gave me a bird's eye view of everything. The still of the air surrounded me so much that I felt as though I shouldn't even breathe as the noise of my breath would have disturbed the silence. 

Truly nothing can compare to the experience of hiking that day and it is a memory I'll hold onto forever. 

Aside from the capstone event, there are many other sites to see along the way including salt mines and an array of artisan shops selling beautifully colored products. Make sure to keep space in your bag for souvenirs! 

Finally, I cannot forget to mention, The Yoga. Each yoga class was beautifully constructed and taught. The sequences were challenging and exciting and most importantly - beginner-friendly. Even if you do not have a steady yoga practice you can feel confident knowing that you could make it through the classes taught along this trip. The mantras we learned and exercises we did are still some I incorporate into my own personal practice today!

So what more is left to be said? 

All in all, the trip was absolutely fantastic. A leave-your-worries-at-the-door-we've-got-you attitude was felt upon arrival and I never once felt left out or out of place. Everyone on the trip was so great and easy to get along with and comfortable to be open around. If traveling around a foreign country with a bunch of people you don't know scares you, then you MUST do this trip. Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones to do things that we are scared of is how we grow. 

I'm thankful for the opportunity I got from being on this retreat. The friendships I made will remain with me and the memories will be in my mind forever. If you have been in search of something or if this sounds like something you may be interested in I encourage you to just go for it - you'll be so happy that you did. 

Take care my friends - Namaste


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