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Travel notes from islanders’ journeys (PART 2)

Heidi Kuhrt, David Demner, Robyn and Ryan land in Peru

It has been a long, cold winter for many of us, with too much white for the preference of most rainforest dwellers. 

Some of us have been fortunate to enjoy beach time in sunny Hawaii or Mexico. Others have gone a bit farther out of their personal comfort zones, like the travellers featured in this section.

Architect James Tuer made a return trip to Guatemala, not for adventure but for service, to build connections and help people in need. Jill and Ty Kenney travelled to India, offering eight-year-old Ty his first international experience. Heidi Kurt, David Demner and their kids Ryan and Robyn sold their house and headed off to Peru for six months. While their ties to Bowen are still strong, their plan is to move to Saltspring at the end of this journey. Heidi, David, Robyn and Ryan adjusting to life in Peru.

We are fortunate enough that one of us, David, can earn an income no matter where we live as long as there is access to the internet. 

So, about one year ago we decided to try living in another country to learn a second language. I had been homeschooling Ryan and trying to teach him Spanish, but I don’t speak Spanish, so obviously, it was not easy. 

Our Bowen neighbours, Wade Davis and Gail Percy have done a lot of work all over the world and also extensively in South America. We asked them for their advice as to which part of the world they would live in with kids and they suggested Peru or Colombia. 

Later we narrowed it down to Peru, Sacred Valley, and they connected us with their close friend Nilda who owns the Chinchero Centre for Traditional Textiles. Nilda, over email, answered questions about villages, renting, and schools.

Our arrival in Peru was made easier by the fact that we were accompanied by our friend from Bowen, Maria Cuba, who is from Peru. She took us to Lima, and helped us get settled in.

We live in Urubamba the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is surrounded by tall, lush mountains right now as it is the rainy season. 

There are small fields of quinoa, corn, squash, potatoes and cabbage. People grow limes, avocados, peaches and pears in their gardens. All the side streets are dirt. Urubamba is not a tourist attraction but it is surrounded by many ruins from Inca times and farther into the past, including Machu Picchu, which is the main reason most people come here.

After Maria left, we located the school that I had been communicating with over email. It is a school opened up by a lady from France who wanted to provide a quality education, free from any form of discrimination (race, religion, ability and economic class), to the children of the valley. 

It is supported by wealthier families who pay for their children to go (us), donations and a hotel, Sol y Luna, that she runs right beside the school. 

Classes are small, 15 at most, food is provided and having just wrapped all the textbooks I would have to say the academic standards are much higher than in Canada. 

There have been many hard things about coming here. Leaving Bowen was the hardest for us. We miss our friends on Bowen immensely and the children sometimes cry about this. Luckily technology is very useful here so we Skype with family and friends when we can.  We don’t speak Spanish very well. Karen Apparchio, from Ecuador, was our tutor for a few weeks before we left. She was very helpful, but it is not enough to practise only two hours a week. Most people do not speak English here. 

We do not know the customs. Simple things like how to flag down a combi (local bus), how to say where you want to get off, how to know who is next in line at the store, etc. So confusing. 

The water is not safe here and there are many germs we are not used to. We did get vaccinated before we came for many things, but our stomachs were really not well for about four days. Poor little Robyn is still not 100 per cent. 

I am normally lax about cleaning. I usually just clean with water, vinegar and baking soda. Now I am using bleach and boiling water for 10-20 minutes. Seeing people’s houses, which are not at a standard I am used, to is also hard on me. 

Most houses are unfinished here, with exposed adobe bricks and rebar sticking out of the roof. They look small, dark and cramped to me. 

I know most people cannot afford the luxuries of hot water, internet and space like we can and this makes me embarrassed.

Why did we do this? So many reasons. 

Firstly we can. I do not feel better or more righteous than anyone else. David and I have the resources to travel and the ability to earn money while away from our home country. I would love for us all to have another language. Spanish is widely spoken in the world and it is similar enough to English that I feel we can pick up relatively easily by just living in it. 

I want to see and live in another country just to experience something different. I want my children to know what it feels like to be the “other.” 

I know this sounds almost mean, but I think it is important for them to know what this feels like because in Canada they are part of the mainstream culture. I think this will benefit them as adults and allow them to navigate in our multicultural world better. At the very least it will make them more empathetic for people who are struggling to fit in.

If anyone wants to contact us they can send an email to [email protected]. We will also be starting a blog at (when we get internet access at the house.)