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This week’s edition of ‘A world of inspiration‘ is brought to you by JoAnna Haugen who is based in Las Vegas. JoAnna’s story is a special tribute to us travellers who roam the world seeking inspiration and finding it in our fellow travellers!

A Confident Smile

Courtesy of Cory Haugen
Courtesy of Cory Haugen

Cusco’s pale orange streetlights cast eerie shadows across the cobblestone sidewalks. A few lone people walked the streets, some drunk and laughing, others lonely and lost. It was barely four in the morning. We were due at kilometer 82 of the Inca Trail in a few hours, and our bus was late. My husband had wandered off to find out why while I sat—nervous and alone—in the middle of Cusco in the middle of the night.

Then they appeared: A group of porters and an unfamiliar 20-something guy with a backpack strapped to his back. When they reached me, the porters began talking among themselves in Spanish, but the other guy smiled and confidently introduced himself.

“I’m Klaas,” he said. “Cold out here, isn’t it?” Apparently late-night gatherings in foreign towns didn’t faze him. I soon found out why.

Courtesy of Klaas
Courtesy of Klaas Langeveld

Klaas was eight months into an around-the-world trip, and meeting strangers had become second nature to him. Over the course of the next four days, as we traversed the challenging Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Klaas shared his stories from the road, and I—along with the other four hikers and two guides in our group—listened, entranced by his tales. He’d tripped around India and marveled at the beauty of Nepal. He’d wallowed in the friendly manner of the Australians and racked up an impressive number of scuba dives. He’d just come from Bolivia, where he scaled a mountain that dwarfed the altitude of the Andes we were now attempting to conquer.

We welcomed Klaas’ incredible energy and charisma after a long day of forcing our bodies along the ancient Inca Trail. After a filling meal, we’d sit around the table, drinking coca tea while Klaas entertained us with jokes and card tricks. Between bursts of laughter, I wrote in my journal and asked myself, “Why him? Why not me?”

I think all of my fellow hikers were drawn in by Klaas’ excitement about life and the world around him, but his vitality stayed with me after we parted ways in Aguas Caliente, Peru. I’d met around-the-world travelers online and in passing in hostels, but I’d never gotten to know any of them on a personal level. Now that I had, the fire in me was lit. Klaas had made the decision to put everything on hold between schooling and a career to embark on the greatest adventure I could ever imagine.

Upon returning home from Peru, I made a commitment to myself. I couldn’t just chuck everything and live out of a backpack, but I wasn’t going to let the confines of society hold me back. I decided to forge my own path in this great big world.

Next time, I’ll be the one who smiles in confidence.

About this week’s guest writer
JoAnna Haugen JoAnna Haugen writes from Las Vegas, where she can often be found planning her next great adventure. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, her travels have taken her from the waters of the Nile River to the rainforests of Australia and the Inca Trail in Peru, where she met her around-the-world friend, Klaas. Read about her journeys at Kaleidoscopic Wandering. Please also read the interview with Klaas on Kaleidoscopic Wandering.

Follow JoAnna on Twitter.

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