After a breakup changed everything, Lindsay Tuggle took a detour and found the path to healing her heart in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
For countless travellers, the emotion that washes over you as you step into a new destination, leaving the airport behind, is a cherished way to begin a journey. ‘Walking out of the airport in a country entirely alone, knowing there is an adventure ahead of me that I can make into whatever I want, is one of my favourite feelings,’ Lindsay says.
She certainly wasn’t expecting to cry as she touched down in Cusco, the ancient cobbled city in Peru’s Sacred Valley that was once the capital of the Inca Empire, but she couldn’t hold back her feelings. ‘There was a rainbow as I walked out of the airport, and I burst into tears.’
Rainbows are a powerful and sacred symbol in Incan culture. Some locals might say that seeing this colourful arc in the sky was a promising sign for Lindsay’s trip, especially given the reason she was in Peru by herself in the first place.
‘My partner shocked me and everyone in our lives by calling off our wedding a week before it was set to happen. Her decision emotionally destroyed me. We had a one-month honeymoon planned in Europe afterwards, and I ended up taking my mom for two weeks of it.’
Lindsay was heartbroken and unsure of how to spend her remaining time off. She had a stash of cash she had been working hard to save for years to explore the world and make memories with the person she loved.
‘The life I’d envisioned for myself had just crumbled into nothing. I kept thinking I should be a happy newlywed right now, or I’m supposed to be on a romantic honeymoon today. Instead, I cried myself to sleep, worrying I was unlovable and terrified about being alone forever.’
All she knew was that in the past, in her darkest moments, taking a solo trip had often helped. ‘Travelling alone has always breathed life back into me.’
Lindsay learned about the transformative nature of travel while going through a significant life change at 30. She quit her job, sold nearly everything and went backpacking for a year. ‘Solo travel is a great conduit for problem-solving and confidence-building, or for when you need to see the world and your problems from a different perspective.’
Sure enough, as she reflected on what to do next, the pieces started to come together.
‘The weeks after my wedding had been called off were some of the hardest of my life because I felt so unmoored.’ Lindsay felt like she needed to do something to help her fall in love with life and the world again, and she realised that wasn’t going to happen sitting at home. So she decided to book a last-minute trip to Peru.
‘I wanted to knock something off my bucket list. I’m a massive fan of Intrepid’s trips – I’d been on six already at that point – so I decided to visit a place I’d been dreaming of since I was a kid: Machu Picchu.’
‘I hoped hiking in the Peruvian Andes for a week would help me get out of my head and feel some awe and gratitude again. I wanted to do the Inca Trail, but it was far too last-minute to get a permit, so the agent booked me on the Quarry Trail.’
The Inca Quarry Trail is an alternate route to Machu Picchu. While it doesn’t lead to the Sun Gate like the traditional Inca Trail, it’s much quieter. Hikers can enjoy views of the Andes and natural landmarks like waterfalls in solitude, with no one for miles. Which is exactly what Lindsay needed.
She met Marcia Cardenas, her Intrepid leader, the day after she arrived in Cusco and is certain fate brought them together. ‘We hit it off right away. She was divorced, single and a badass hiking guide in a country where women are usually not any of those things at her age.’
Lindsay ended up being the only traveller on the three-day hike, and every step she took alongside Marcia brought her closer to finding her own feet again. ‘Marcia and I chatted the whole time, switching between English and Spanish so we could each practice the each other’s language. I can’t tell you how much I adored her.’
‘This Quechuan woman made me laugh, offered amazing advice, introduced me to her friends and culture and led me out of the woods. She physically led me through some remote mountains and metaphorically guided me through some mental and emotional mountains.’
Linsday describes the experience of being on the trail as incredible. As hoped, the Quarry Trail had no foot traffic, so Lindsay and Marcia pretty much had the trail all to themselves.
‘It was in those mountains in Peru that I could finally step back for the first time and look at my unexpected life event as something I could grow stronger from. As something that could open me up to places and experiences I would never have had if I’d married my ex.’
The day Lindsay reached Machu Picchu was overcast, and she was worried she wouldn’t experience the citadel as hoped. Marcia told her to be patient. Together, they sat on a spot overlooking the ruins, and Lindsay surrendered herself to the moment.
‘Sure enough, after ten minutes, the clouds parted, and I saw all of Machu Picchu materialise in front of me.’ As Lindsay took it all in, she couldn’t hold back the tears. Witnessing the beauty of this ancient citadel after the journey she had been on was beyond anything she could have imagined.
‘I felt so lucky to be there. At that moment, I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and I made it happen for myself. Because I am enough.’
In the months after her time in Peru, Lindsay fully split with her ex-fiancée and moved into a new place to start over as a single person. ‘It was still a tough time, but Peru had gotten me through the worst. I started a new job as well and rebuilt my life. Eventually, I fell in love again – with myself.’
If Lindsay’s Machu Picchu adventure inspires you, follow in her footsteps on the Quarry Trail with Intrepid.