Enjoy this guest blog, written by one of our former employees, Tito! He went on a homestay in the community of Vicos and was so awestruck by what sustainable tourism can achieve, that he decided there and then to become part of our team. Read on to discover his whole story.
We had recently heard about the RESPONSible tourism initiative in Vicos, a beautiful community in a small valley of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Range due to snow), situated near Huaraz, in the region of Ancash. Only a few days later, we were already staying there with a local family. More precisely, it was the family of one of the co-founders of RESPONSible Travel Peru, Pablo, who welcomed us with open arms.
I remember his daughters laughing while their mom invited us to a bowl of hot soup to warm up our bodies in the cold night of Vicos. The vegetables used for the soup had been grown in the nearby fields where sheep graze and children play. This is how Pablo´s girls were growing up, surrounded by nature and freedom, just like their parents.
Above Vicos, the majestic Copa mountain overlooks the land and the rooftops of the peaceful community. People here speak Spanish and their native language Quechua, which they are eager to pass on to future generations.
After finishing our soup and sharing stories with our hosts, Pablo´s family already went to bed, as days start early here in the mountains. We decided to do the same. On the next day, we had planned a trip on a route passing through the most extensive and highest mountain range of Peru.
Luckily, Pablo had prepared us for our trip before. He had lit up the fireplaces in the room, shown us the route on a map and told us that he would be waiting for us with breakfast in the morning.
It was quite clear to us that Pablo and his family love their town, their farms, their animals, the trees and the mountains a lot. In fact, there are families and communities all over Peru that want to preserve the places where they grew up and have lived for generations.
But to be able to do that, they need support to have better life quality and not be forced to migrate to the city in search of better conditions. Thinking about a solution, rural families came up with the idea to collaborate with travellers coming to their lands from all over the world. Why not offer them accommodation in their homes and get to know them a bit more while benefitting from it? Pablo, his wife and children saw this opportunity as well and are now happy to host people who come to discover Peru.
After our visit, we feel that we have explored a beautiful place, connecting with the Cordillera Blanca by sharing stories with its people. We have left our daily lives behind to meet a new culture that makes us richer. I think we have taken a part of Vicos with us in the shape of memories and new friends that we made.
But we also leave a part of us here. By visiting Pablo´s family, we have supported the local economy and helped them get access to better food, good health care facilities and, most importantly, better education. In a nutshell, we have contributed to improving people´s life quality by visiting them and we feel proud and complete knowing that.
Nowadays, children play and grow in the field of Vicos knowing that many people come to meet them and see their valleys, animals and mountains. They feel proud of their customs and their two languages. But above all, they have learned that sustainable tourism is a great tool to protect this inheritance. And so have we! As we were playing with the children on our last day in Vicos, we realized how much we can help a country like Peru by traveling RESPONSibly.
In the end, this experience encouraged me to leave my job in the city and join the team of RESPONS to enable travelers from all over the world to explore my country. We offer wonderful experiences that promote sustainable community development and environmental protection. I invite all of you to travel RESPONSibly and feel the satisfaction of improving every part of Peru that you have explored, even if it is just a little bit.
This post was first published in 17 March 2014