I’ve been home from my journey in Peru for more than a week now, and it’s an interesting predicament to be in- getting used to being home, here in Detroit, with firetrucks sounding and no gleaming stars above when I look up at the smoggy night sky.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m thrilled to be home- I was homesick like crazy the last week of my month in Peru. Still, the fact that my time in the country is over is extremely bittersweet, which was a realization that came over me as we were driving to the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Callao, just outside of Lima, where we initially landed when we arrived in Peru. As I passed all the billboards for food that had caught my eye the first day in-country, I realized I had eaten many of the products with my homestay family. I felt the way I had when I boarded my luggage into the taxi going to the airport to fly back to Miami as I had when I arrived a month earlier, but wholly different at the same time- excited, full of anticipation, ready to face new experiences head on.

My time in Peru was glorious- whether it was laying on my back in a bull arena gazing at the stars with friends or eating pan al ajo (garlic bread, the best I’ve ever eaten in my life, by the way) at a local cafe in Ollantaytambo. My memories of Peru are filled with sounds of toucans and screeching “HOLA” at the top of their lungs early in the morning at the resort in the Amazon and images of hungry monkeys swiping up fresh bananas from tourists on the Monkey’s Island in El Rio De La Madre. Still, I feel the sticky residue of the Amazonian humidity on my body, the cold night breeze on my balcony in Ollanta, just above freezing, on my face. I fondly remember the soft fur of Alpacas encountered at the summit of Machu Picchu, and alpaca hats encountered everywhere else!

From my host family, I gained a sense of new-found humility in respect to my Spanish skills and just in general. In hotels across the country, I learned to cherish the warmth of a hot shower, and the unexpected comfort an episode of Law & Order: SVU could bring after climbing up mountains all day.

With my group leaders and all the young people involved, I learned how utterly exciting new journeys with no expectations can be- not to mention how close you can become with complete strangers, all united by a deep, abundant curiosity for life. The summer of 2012 will always with me, along with all the people I met, the adventures I had, the ups, the downs, and the food… oh, the food… for years to come, I’m sure. The lessons this experience enlightened me to will never be forgotten, and I am deeply grateful for Walking Tree, The Wandering Scholar, and all those who made this opportunity possible.

Now, I know I will always have a home away from home- Peru will always be a place of awe and inspiration for me, and it’s people, my family. Adios, amigos, adios.

XoXO Jonathan