‘Cusco was magic’ — Peru adventure puts Boston team in the heart of South America

At Vantage, we love introducing travelers to new parts of the world and welcoming them with unforgettable enriching experiences – and that includes our employees! Nothing helps them more than being able to meet travelers and know first-hand the itineraries and activities that await around the world. Here, Groups Marketing Coordinator Dustin Catuzzi shares his experiences on his Peruvian adventure with Vantage. 

Q: What did you enjoy most about the trip?
I’m sure the most common answer (as far as this trip is concerned) is visiting Machu Picchu, and for good reason. I also decided to climb Wayna Picchu at the last minute, which is a really daunting climb, and I did it alone. When I reached the top, I hiked around the mountain to see the Temple of the Moon and just sat in amazement for a bit. As corny as it sounds, being there is kind of like a life metaphor, it really sends you on this journey through your life. I sat, I reminisced, and I just felt this energy. There was this moment when I was descending on the death stairs where I didn’t know if I could do it; it’s a really overwhelming thing that reveals a lot about you. The experience was incredibly worthwhile.

Q: Had you ever traveled to that part of the world? And how was this time different or especially exciting if it was your first time to this country/region?
This was my first time traveling to South America, and it was definitely an adventure; with adventures, you have to expect the unexpected. The small-group dynamic was perfect and the day-to-day itinerary was full of fascinating places and cultural insights. Our visit to the Larco Museum was fantastic, and so was our stop at this beautiful cemetery in Cusco. Cusco was one of my favorite parts as well; Cusco was magic. I was truly blown away by how much respect Peruvians have for their culture. I came back from this trip with a better understanding and respect for the people of South America.

Q: What do you think makes Vantage special, after having the opportunity to experience our product for yourself?
Regardless of whether we had met each other previously at work or were just meeting for the first time, the other travelers and I instantly formed this fantastic bond. By the end of the trip, it really felt like a family trip. Group travel has this great way of naturally inspiring mingling; it’s really valuable to share in someone’s emotions, thoughts, and opinions while experiencing a new place. By the end I had made some lifelong friends; our Farewell Dinner went on for hours! There was a lot about group travel that I didn’t know until that point, like how the leisure time also gives you a chance to sit and connect with people. It ended up being one of the aspects I enjoyed most; if you allow it to happen, the connections you make really make it a monumental life experience.

Q: What were you professional takeaways from this trip?
For my position in the Groups Marketing department, it really helps to put a face and personality to the people I’m talking to, from potential Group leaders to Adventure Leaders. I speak with people every day about these trips, and this experience really gives me insight on what makes these adventures remarkable. It allows me to talk about the small details, the things that set it apart, like a restaurant recommendation I discovered or something to watch out for.

Q: What’s your dream destination?
Before this trip, South America was probably the top destination on my list. I’d really love to go to Holland or Portugal next; cities like Amsterdam fascinate me. My next trip will hopefully be a European trip, since I’m a big soccer fan!

Q: Biggest surprise about this trip?
During our visit to the cemetery in Cusco, we met two young boys, ages 15 and 12, who had been working there for several years. Child labor laws are practically non-existent in Peru, and these boys spent hours cleaning the gold [ornamentation at the cemetery] with limes. And it struck me how remarkable this was, that these two boys not only spent most of the day in school but then worked several hours afterward. I was instantly impressed with the toughness of these boys; I thought, “These boys are going to grow up to be men—or maybe they already are.” I never imagined a simple a cemetery visit could be so eye-opening and emotional.

Q: What would your advice be to travelers considering going on the Vantage journey you traveled on?

If you’re 6’1” like I am, be prepared to bump your head on a lot of low doorways! Actual advice? Make sure you think of it as an actual adventure as opposed just another trip. When we were there, we were aware of ongoing strikes, about Chile’s natural resources [many computer materials are mined there]; you have to understand that there are things that you really can’t plan for or do anything about. It’s important to visit a place with respect, to embrace the excitement of travel and the thrill of not knowing what might happen next. At one point, I witnessed a fellow group of travelers getting frustrated with the language barrier, and it reminded me how important it is to recognize that you’re the one visiting, that this isn’t yours, and that’s what makes it incredible. When you get to Machu Picchu, remember to drink plenty of water and just breathe (and bring bug spray!). It’s a big adventure, but so unbelievably worth it. I’d go back tomorrow in a heartbeat.