03/09/2012 07:15 am ET Updated May 09, 2012

Rendezvous With My Conscience In Peru

When your mother asks you to accompany her on a ten-day trip to Peru, there are two natural reactions. The first is: "Wow what a swinging time I'll have going to the Amazon and seeing Machu Picchu as I embrace all the danger, blow darts, malaria and spectacle." The second: "Christ, I'm going to be with my mother for ten days."

You see, from the ages of around five to ten, family trips to places like Disneyworld are magnificent because you haven't discovered friends yet. Not friends like the kids you play kickball with at recess, or fling off monkey bars at Jewish day school. Family takes precedence during these years, because little tykes know no better. And seeing as, my clan is spread out around the world from South Africa to kingdom come, when it came to family excursions, it was my mother and I huffing it alone.

At this age, I think I've come to understand how family relationships work, especially in the context of college. By seeing family less, conflicts are simply reduced. This correlation would be undermined the moment I agreed to travel mono-e-mono with old mommy dearest. So what's a fella going to do? Abandon the opportunity of a lifetime to experience a country akin, in my mind at the time, to a place in The Temple of Doom, just to avoid having to do so with my closest family member.

As immature as it seems, this thought did run through my head at points. Vacations are now predicated on the notion that there will be friends around and with friends comes drinking, mischief, and mishaps. Thinking about being in a foreign country without the opportunity to express myself in the same barbaric manner as I do in my own, sounded like a travesty.

So it was with a degree of trepidation that I decided to whisk myself away to the land of the Incas, where the only certain thing that awaited me was long-overdue heat. Throughout encounters with alpacas, hikes up the Andes, and smoke-ridden 85 mph car rides through the streets of Lima, avoiding deadly crashes at every turn, there were days that tried my patience.

Of all the moments that blurred together from that beautiful whirlwind of a trip, I remember the sounds of jaguars howling in the Amazonian jungle, biting into a hunk of rotisserie guinea pig and racing to the peak of a mountain next to Machu Picchu. But maybe the moments that have lingered longer were those when I forgot I was traveling with my mother, and saw a friend sitting beside me on plane rides throughout the country.

Sometimes it takes a foreign country to see the forest for the trees. As I get older and more cynical, I am still surprised at how some human interactions make me a better man.