Summer is about here – and it means kids will be on summer vacation – AND it means that another Niece Project is in motion! I’m starting to wonder if each niece is trying to ‘outdo’ the other. Considering we have some of the same genes, I can completely understand the desire to go further and continuously look for more unique experiences, and it appears my nieces have got this bug too. If we keep this up, Niece #6 will have taking her on a spaceship to the moon, which I honestly would love!
This June, Niece #3 is dusting off her passport and getting ready for her Niece Project adventure. Meet Megan – she has it all for a 17 year old – brains and looks – but most of all she knows how to use both. Something that most adults haven’t figured out yet. But most of all she has a mature way of understanding adults – better than most adults do. I’ve seen her in action many times – reading a situation and person and then using her gleamed knowledge and observation to get what she wants. For that reason I call her the ‘dangerous one’.
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If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
When we sat down this December over the holidays with her parents and started talking about where she wanted to go for her summer trip with me, it was quite the family affair. Unlike my other previous niece trips where Bethany and Evie were not asking anyone else for advice, Megan involved a number of people in her decision.
I’m really excited to announce that my good friends at Intrepid Travel are a part of the Niece Project again for Niece #3! I can’t imagine a better partner in this endeavor. I’ve been a huge fan and customer of Intrepid travel from my beginning stamps in my passport and I love the fact that I get to introduce my nieces to culturally responsible small group travel through Intrepid. It’s a perfect mixture of ‘close to the ground’ independent type travel, but with just the right amount of support. So when it came time to decide, Megan and her parents opened up the Intrepid Travel website and started to search for her dream destination.
She had some criteria which I loved. “I always knew that I would rather do something adventurous than just touristy (walking around temples and museums).”
So she was ready for a little adventure travel apparently – as I sat and listened to the discussion (and tried my best to stay out of it and not influence it), I silently wondered if I would be able to keep up with a 17 year old doing adventure travel! My older niece Bethany (Niece #1) was also sitting in the family room where this was taking place and was giving the play by play on Twitter – as any good 20 year old would do. It went down like this:
So that was it – the decision was Peru!
The Peru Itinerary
She chose the Inca Trail and Amazon Trip:
Travel from the heady heights of the Andes to the exotic lowlands of the Amazon on this journey through the best of Peru. Get acquainted with the charm and grace of historic towns before hiking along ancient pathways to Machu Picchu and discovering the heart and soul of the Inca Empire. Then eyeball exotic plant and wildlife in the world’s most remarkable jungle. From vibrant cities to glorious natural wonders, this trip shows you all corners of Peru.
We won’t be hiking the Inca Trail, instead we are hiking the more local and remote Quarry Trail. The hiking is going to be out of this world – and it’s at altitude (14,337 ft max) is going to push my limits and my lungs no doubt. I’m not sure Megan or I are prepared for the physical part of the hiking, but Megan wanted adventure so she’s going to get it!
But Wait…There’s More!
But the travel doesn’t stop there – Megan wanted to go a step further and add a new element to the Niece Project – volunteering. We worked with Intrepid to help us find a volunteer opportunity in Lima that would be perfect for us to get more involved in the community and see a different side of Peru. Project Peru has been kind enough to welcome us into their refuge for a week to help with a variety of things with the kids. Megan took woodshop in high school so she was eager to help build and construct things. I will help out with language, building, gardening, and whatever else I can do. I’m actually hoping to take an extra camera to donate to the refuge and do a little photography with the kids too. Megan is working on doing some fundraising for Project Peru too, so she is getting the complete volunteering experience at a young age.
Volunteering was not my idea at all – it was all Megan. Of course I was supportive of it since I think if you are going to travel in the world you should also give back in whatever way you can. Here was Megan’s thoughts on the volunteering aspect of this trip:
“I decided to add volunteering to my Niece Project trip because I’ve always found joy in helping the less fortunate. I have had a very easy life, and I think it is necessary for teenagers like me to get out and learn how good they have it. My aunt Sherry found Project Peru, and I went along with it even though I didn’t know what the organization was all about. After researching the charity and talking to the founder, I have a greater understanding of Project Peru’s goals. I look forward to taking a week of my summer and dedicating it to the children of this charity.”
I know you can’t tell it through text, but I’m bursting with pride for my nieces – I’m so happy that they are embracing this project. I joke about them trying to outdo each other, but in truth it’s pushing them to get deeper and deeper into the world and view it from different angles. Angles that most adults don’t even see. They are stepping outside of their teenage comfort zones – something I doubt I ever could have done myself when I was 17.
I asked Megan what her fears were about this upcoming trip and she responded, “I am most nervous about leaving my friends, family, first-world living, and cell phone service. I really enjoy my big queen sized bed, and I will be missing it greatly. Because I am so used to being in touch with my friends and family at any given moment, it will be hard for me stay away from my phone for so long. I am also scared that the children from Project Peru won’t be able to communicate with me (I’m not the best Spanish speaker). I hope the food is alright, thankfully I’m not too picky. Out of everything, I am least scared about the flight. That seems easy enough!”
As a side note – I’m depending on Megan’s high school Spanish once we get to the Project Peru Sight! And yes, I will be encouraging her, the self proclaimed non-picky eater, to try the Peruvian food staple – guinea pig. I think her fears are pretty normal for a teenager – being away from family, friends, and a cell phone for 3 weeks is going to be challenging.
I of course have my own fears beyond the altitude hiking and the language barriers. I will once again have the burden of responsibility for a family member – this always makes me nervous and more stressed as I’m used to a life of no responsibility as an ‘professional aunt’. Plus – even though I’ve spent a lot of time with Megan, getting along 24/7 for 3 weeks is always full of ups and downs. Luckily we’ll be traveling with other travelers from our Intrepid group which always provides a nice variety and other people to socialize with when we get tired of each other! Plus – Megan is great with adults – so I have no worries that she will fit in just fine.
I’ve actually been to Peru and Macchu Pichu before – but it was before I did photography and travel writing, so I’m really excited to experience it through the eyes of my new profession. But most importantly I’m excited to experience it with Megan. My goal with the Niece Project has always been to get the girls out to see the world and act as a travel mentor in a way, but the main goal is to build and strengthen my relationship with the girls.
So far I feel like that has been accomplished. Not only am I closer to Bethany and Evie after traveling, but I feel like there is a mutual respect that was created and a relationship formed that will guide us through the years. I look at these trips as a beginning.
So join me this summer for the beginning of the Niece Project Version 3.0 in Peru! We leave on June 12th and I’ll be covering the experience live via social media with #NieceProject . And if this project has inspired you to do something similar – please let me know. I love to hear stories of aunties and uncles bonding and traveling with their nieces and nephews. My bigger goal has always been to inspire people to get out there and do their own Niece (or nephew) Project!
Disclosure: Intrepid Travel is partnering with the Niece Project and funding portions of our Peru trip. Check out their great family travel opportunities. Family doesn’t always have to mean the conventional family, it is also for aunts and uncles! As always, all opinions expressed on the site are my own.