Friday, March 21, 2008

Travels in Peru

So, got back from Peru a week ago. You know, I didn't enjoy this trip nearly as much as the one to Turkey. It could have been the week-long stomach bug I was battling, but I think that should be offset by all the glorious meat and ceviche (which probably gave me the stomach bug) that we ate.

No, I think the issue is large group travel. That's right, GF and I went on a tour group. Well, that is if you count 80 Wharton students a tour group. What I missed from Turkey was simply the chance to explore on our own, to meet native peoples and get lost in foreign cities. Because all that provides a much deeper experience and understanding of a country/place.

For example, we spent days exploring various Incan ruins and, of course, the Machu Picchu/Inka trail. But it was only when the two of us went to a museum on our own that all the various architecture, artwork, etc. finally started crystallizing into a coherent history. Similarly, we spent five days in Cuzco and only two in Lima. But I feel a much stronger understanding of life in Lima because it was primarily just the two of us walking around. No 80 person group of Americans to ward off interactions with local Peruvians.

Anyway, obviously none of this is groundbreaking, but I think it's firmly put me off of this kind of travel. GF, on the other hand, acknowledges the problems, but counters with the fact that we stayed at luxurious, high-end hotels at a fraction of the original cost. She also seems a bit less bothered with "understanding the local culture" thing, although that's probably because she reads the guide book diligently. Needless to say, if one of us is already going to do the reading, why should I? (Guys, don't take that advice.)


hcduvall said...

I suppose the appeal of luxurious hotels even at cheaper prices is limited to me, so even that isn't much of an enticement to me. I think there's a little bit of luck involved, but renting a home or a b&b style place could be the best compromise between comfort and, I dunno, ambience.

I'm curious about any anecdotally based sociological insights into the mind of Wharton students. Though these were MBAs, right?

Chengora said...

Given my other post on Indonesia, the whole luxury hotel thing is growing on me. That said, it was also a little isolating.

And yes, these were all MBAs. I don't know if I have any general insights into the minds of Wharton students, however. Most were very nice, but they did quickly breakdown into 1. the East Asian crowd, 2. the South Asian crowd, 3. the (kind of) white crowd, and 4. all the rest of us. GF would simply roll her eyes at #2, and #1 reminded me a bit of that Asian American Surviving group at college.

But I will say that group 3 was the most annoying. I was initially guilty of this, but they expected the trip to be a luxury one: great hotels, great food, professional service, etc. And the trip was remarkably well run, although it did hit some snags (some people weren't told that dinner was already paid for), while at other times some people just whine too much (they didn't like staying in hostels).

But what I didn't initially realize and much of group 3 never did was that our tour arrangers were simply relatives of one the Wharton students. They work in construction, not travel. And given that they were handling 80 people for 10 days, I'm very impressed with the level of service they were able to provide. I'm not sure the dissatisfied individuals knew that, but they probably should have. (I think I have an excuse of not being a Wharton student and being unable to attend any of the planning meetings.)

So, if there was anything that was a genuine sour note on the trip, it was the expectations some people had and the sheer arrogance with which they expressed it. After all, you're climbing the Inca trail: this isn't meant to be a relaxing, luxurious vacation, and the fact that significant portions of it were should be a bonus, not a requirement.

HoBs said...

yeah, i like traveling independently. and turkey rocks as a place to visit.

but main problem of going it yourself is planning is much harder. so i'm all for flanning (useful french word) for wandering, and letting the Tao take you to wherever, but to do it right, you still need to read ahead and prepare for it. and at the very least, know where hotels and transport options are.

was allyson emond on the trip? she was a high school friend of mine that should still be at wharton.