A few years ago, my husband and I trekked over 3 days to the summit of Machu Picchu. The highlight of our Peruvian vacay. 

Inca Trail, Peru.

The morning we were to finally arrive, I made a very serious request to my husband: I needed the PERFECT, classic, IG worthy Machu Picchu photo and it was imperative that I snapped this before the landmark was covered in travelers.

You see, up to FIVE THOUSAND people visit this World Wonder EVERY DAY- if you ain’t getting up on that mountain before the crowd, your chances at this pristine photograph without the “Where’s Waldos” of the world speckling over your picture, is slim to none. 

I had been given this advice from a tour guide and other past hikers before we began our 3-day journey: “It’s nearly impossible to get that photo people talk about” they would say.

“Impossible, hey?”

Well, if you know me, you know that would be my mission. 

We awoke at 3:45AM- purchased an espresso shot at a nearby cafe, strapped on our headlamps and awaited the gate to open so we could natures-stair-master our way to the top amongst HUNDREDS of other eager-beavers ready to complete the final leg of their journey. 

Rob made this push-to-the-finish VERY serious business. I received a pep talk from my husband before the gate opened that morning as he smacked away at his gum and paced in his hikers, a boy-scout at heart and a soul of fire. He was ready to mad-dash. My husband was beyond determined to get me the photo of my dreams. We needed to be the first ones up this mountain.

 Like I said, this was VERY serious business. 

We may have had a few nudges from other packers, perhaps given one or two, and I maaay have told Rob to slow the f*** down more than once. I hustled my ass like never before as my man was cruising ahead of me, like a Doberman pulling a toddler, encouraging me over his shoulder “let’s go babe, let’s be the first ones!” 

Every 5-10 min he’d shout with counterfeit words: “IT’S RIGHT THERE”- “OMG I SEE IT” (he never saw shit; he just knew it would keep me from slowing my pace). 

We basically flew up the mountain that morning with me bitching- and Rob fibbing his way to the top. “OH BABE, IT’S STUNNING” he would say, and yet every corner I rounded, I still saw nothing but uneven ground and big rocks. 

I was the first female of the group to arrive at the top. Drenched in sweat and hyperventilating, but I made it. Truth be told my eyes teared up under my sunglasses when I saw the beauty of the ruins, after much false hope given from my husband the last hour.

Only ONE guy had beat us up the mountain, out of HUNDREDS of travellers eager to reach the summit and the THOUSANDS who would appear throughout the day: we were the 2nd and 3rd folks there that morning. I was quite proud about my performance and have boasted about it a few times since. #Fitness

We set up our camera right away and captured EXACTLY what I had wanted. The vision I had had in my mind the entire time we trudged to the top. The perfect Instagram photo of Machu Picchu awaited me: clean of ANY photo-bombers. I couldn’t wait share this on our Christmas card. 

Impossible they said? Bologna! 

We had it. 

Our perfect Machu Picchu photo


We didn’t. 

It wasn’t until I later viewed the photos that I saw that the man who had beat us up the mountain that morning had unknowingly snuck his way into the bottom right side of my frame. That asshole. 

Of the WHOLE mountain, the entire f*cking mountain, what are the odds he would be standing RIGHT THERE? Ruining the perfection of my imagined photograph, the picture I had in my mind was blemished. My photos were forever tainted with this hiker dude’s desire to get his own pic. 

I know now that there are enough photo-tricks out there that I am confident I could find a way to crop him out and generate the photo I dreamed of: but I just can’t find it within myself to do it. 

To have the photo without him, well, it just wouldn’t be the photo we took. That wasn’t our journey. The photo we took shows someone else beat us up there that day. The photo we took wasn’t what I had believed I had on camera the entire hike back home. It wasn’t EXACTLY what I had pictured in my mind.

Although a beautiful photo nonetheless, I realize I am being traumatic here. It is JUST a photo afterall, but my goal was clear: a traveler-free photograph. He ruined the way it was supposed to be. And when you throw an A-Type perfectionists dreams and vision out the window- she might overreact a tad. Cue, OCD. 

As I refuse to eliminate this stranger from the frame, I am choosing to look at this memorable picture as a little analogy for life instead. And of course, an awesome memory of the journey up that mountain and the pride we both felt when we made it to the top as a team. Cue, pictures don’t do it justice. 

My poetic takeaway from this first-world-problem: 

Perhaps perfection doesn’t always mean no flaws in your plans and an easy journey to the top. 

Sometimes what is perfect in the long run requires you to go all in, hustle up the mountain, do all the hard things, win the race, and still not get the picture you imagined in your mind. 

And guess what? That’s OK. 

A traveler-free photo isn’t the photo I was meant to have. An error-free life is not likely. A little blip in the radar of progress is a sign to stop, reassess, re-direct, and just fricken breathe. A reminder of the solitude you can often find in misfortune. 

These little things: the little detours, the not-going-to-plan-especially-MY- plan things: they’re part of reality– they make the bigger picture even bigger, they give the journey character, they remind you of a story years later that you had almost forgotten. They all serve a purpose even if we are unaware of what that purpose is right now. 

These imperfections in your perfect plan are good for you, they are God’s way of keeping you humble, they remind you to be grateful, they make you adaptive, and most importantly: they make you grow.

Small beauty-marks give uniqueness and beauty. They teach us empathy, they give us charisma, they make us stronger, they make us human. 

And lastly, they teach us

They teach us that when we hustle up a mountain together again, we will be the FIRST ones to the top. 

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