The Trip that Started it All

Our first trek to South America was Peru in September 2014. Both of us had been to Europe before, in college and together in 2012 and 2013, and while those trips had their highlights (Oktoberfest two years in a row!), we were ready for something different. We each put together a 30-Before-30 list, which included things like scuba diving (Laura did in Belize 2013), run a half marathon (Vesper did his first one in 2013), and brew a good beer (both the mango wheat and VIIIRIS were amazing). When we were considering what to do next, we kept going back to hiking the Inca Trail, a top item on both of our lists. Neither of us had done anything this physically challenging as a “vacation,” and we were ready to do something beyond the churches, squares, and museums that largely characterized our European trips. We started planning the spring of 2014. We knew a few people who had done the trail already, so with their information, we selected a tour company, accommodations, and booked our flights.

Lima

We arrived in Lima around midnight and took a taxi into Miraflores, a touristy section in Lima. There were pretty parks along the ocean, but we were itching for something more than our overpriced pisco sours. The historic city center was beautiful and had some interesting sites, particularly the catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco where an estimated 25 thousand bodies are laid to rest.

Some of the food and drink around Lima

Cusco

When we flew to Cusco, that’s when we knew we were hooked on South America. Sure the main square was pretty touristy, but the surrounding scenery, the amazing people, and oh-my-god the food made it awesome. We stayed in a quaint little hotel a few blocks away from the main square, where we took advantage of the free breakfast and awesome hosts who provided all types of recommendations (both great perks when traveling). Whenever we describe our time in Cusco, it seems to be romanticized since everything went (more or less) perfectly. Even when we may have gotten a bit ripped off for a horseback tour, afterwards we stumbled into a “free” back entrance of an archaeological site that probably would have cost us an overpriced ticket had we gone through the main entrance.

Guinea pig, horseback riding, and a festival in Cuzco

The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail was the ultimate highlight of the trip:

  • Our guide Rojo instilled in us a fascination with Inca and Quechua culture and history that still lasts today.
  • The porters had our utmost respect as they carried the group’s belongings, tents, food, etc. in sandals as we all struggled along in our hiking boots and day packs gasping for air at the high altitude.
  • The group of hikers with us were so diverse, kind, and supportive of each other. We are still in touch with a few today, and hope to keep those friendships for life.
  • The food prepared on the trail was incredible. Vesper ate by far the most, including anyone else’s leftovers (it was that good). On our last night, Vesper had to learn some Spanish so he could tell the chef, “Su comida es la mejor en Perú.”
  • The scenery was beyond compare. We kept saying to each other, “oh my god this is so beautiful,” and then we’d round another bend in the valley and our jaws would somehow manage to drop even farther. The Andes now have a special place in our hearts.
  • Waking up at 3 am to hike to Machu Picchu may not have been our cup of tea as we are decidedly not morning people, but the hike was the most peaceful one of the four day trek. It was a cloud-free morning, perfect to watch the sun rise as we climbed up the Monkey Ladder and got to the Sun Gate right as the light came through onto Machu Picchu. It was a magical experience that we can’t wait to find again. We were now completely hooked on getting out there, trying new and challenging feats, and immersing ourselves in any culture possible.
The Inca trail to Machu Picchu

The Food Festival

The final icing on the cake of our Peru trip was an 8 hour layover we had in Lima on our way back from Cusco to the US. We had checked our luggage at the airport and were in a cab back to the historic downtown to wander for our last few hours, when our driver mentioned a food festival. Um, yes please? We asked him to turn around and drop us off at Mistura, which happened to be the largest food festival in South America. Amazing! We couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our last few hours in Peru, and we can’t wait to go back.

Cooking Alpaca and other food at Mistura

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We're Married!

Our wedding day was perfect for the two of us. We heard several comments of “Finally!” when we announced a date this fall, and several times at the reception itself. These outbursts were not necessarily due to the fact that we had been dating or engaged for a ridiculous amount of time, but more so that we had been engaged for 8 months and hadn’t put one ounce of effort into planning our wedding. This, however, was due largely to two things: Vesper hates planning, and while I consider myself the queen bee of planning, hated my job and the last thing I wanted to do on my weekends was do more “work.” So, really, we’re both to blame.

In July, I hit my 5 years at work, and we went on a glorious month-long sabbatical that my company provides a stipend for if you hit that milestone (more on that in another post). We hit up Belgium, Spain, Turkey, and Greece, and we often joked about how funny it would be if we just eloped while we there and didn’t have to do any of the wedding planning our parents and friends kept nagging us about. After a relaxing month, we came home and I put my notice in. We had spent the sabbatical planning our future: a national park road trip that fall, going to Hawaii to visit Vesper’s cousins, and then traveling the world for a year! And, oh yeah, we should probably plan that wedding sometime.

Our biggest problem with the wedding was venue: our family was pretty scattered across the US, so where should we have it? Do we do a destination wedding? How much of a pain would that be to plan from far away? Would we be able to invite all of the people we wanted there for our big day? After receiving several pathetic texts bemoaning various venue options, one of our closest friends (and soon-to-be-bridesmaid) finally snapped at me: “Just find a barn in Wisconsin!” There may have been an additional expletive or two in her scolding, but I did what she said and googled “wedding barn Wisconsin.” The first hit was a place 30 minutes north of Madison called The Barn at Harvest Moon Pond, which coincidentally had a cancellation for December 5 - aka my brother’s 25th birthday.

The events after that involved a quick call to my brother asking how he’d feel if we were to get married on his birthday (“haha ok, that’s cool”), and then telling Vesper that I’d found a potential venue and he needed to go see it ASAP since I was away on a work trip. Being the awesome person he is, Vesper went to the barn and took a million pictures for me, even scheduling another visit for the following week for me to come back after my trip. Then he was the literal worst (love him!) and didn’t tell me whether he liked it or not because he didn’t want to ruin my impression. Little did he know that I had already decided this was the venue (I did a LOT of googling weddings from there and thought it was great) and his going there was a test to see if he liked it!

Long story short: we went back, it was amazing, and we signed the contract right there. Another added bonus? The owners are also amazing, and the four of us were entirely on the same page about how to throw a low-key (but super fun) wedding. Since it was December, the barn had garland and a tree set up for the holidays, so we had minimal decorations needed - perfect! Instead of spending time pintristing and hot glue gunning (ugh), we spent our time personalizing the wedding by recruiting friends to brew beer for the bar and made scrapbooks of our previous travels to showcase what we love doing/are going to continue doing post-wedding. It took us less than 45 minutes to set up for the wedding Saturday morning, which was perfect… especially since the rehearsal dinner had gone quite late the night before!

With our best friends by our side - plus one marrying us! - we had a ceremony that was “so us” according to anyone we spoke to afterward. Apparently “so us” involves: lots of laughing and making faces when we couldn’t quite remember the vows we had memorized, people drinking homebrew during the ceremony (we didn’t realize the bar had already opened!), my MOH pulling tissues out her dress when I started crying, and Vesper not being able to get my ring on. All of that clocking in at under 6 minutes (someone timed us). It was perfect.

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