In exactly 24 hours, I’ll be lifting off from LAX en route to Panama City….where I’ll catch a flight to Lima, Peru…where I’ll catch a flight to Cuzco…where I’ll meet up with author Allison Gilbert, two guides from the nonprofit organization Trekking for Kids, and sixteen readers for a 10-day service and trekking adventure custom designed just for us. We’ve been planning this trip for almost a year, since Allison approached me with the idea and the TFK team leapt at the chance to help us create a trip for the 20th anniversary of Motherless Daughters — and also to commemorate Allison’s book, Parentless Parents. Women are coming literally from all over the world, from seven states in the US, two provinces in Canada, Thailand, and Dubai, many of them founders or members of Motherless Daughters groups around the world. We’ll spend four days volunteering in the Ninos Del Sol orphanage in Urubamba, about an hour outside Cuzco, and the hike several days through the Sacred Valley, ending up at Machu Picchu. I’ll be blogging as often as I can — assuming I can get wifi at various points along the way — so please check back here periodically for updates and photos.

Even when a trip has been planned for so long, somehow the last days before departure always feel rushed and chaotic. In my case, the past few months have felt that way, with so many incredible things happening in such a short period of time. The opportunity to be a visiting professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington for a month this spring;  followed by the Motherless Daughters Anniversary Conference in Los Angeles in early May; and then my 50th birthday in mid June and all its attendant celebrations (because 50 is an accomplishment! at least in my world view); and then a month in Iowa City where I taught two writing classes and hit my reset button for the year, as my older daughter likes to say. I’ve been training physically for the Peru trek for months and really upped the exercise these past four weeks, with the help of the Amazing Adam the Personal Trainer at Iowa City Fitness, and I’m now in better shape at 50 than I was at 40, with lots of hard work. But with all other prep work — I’m kind of winging it with this one. I’ve never taken an overseas trip before with so little mental or logistical preparation. I’m the kind of person who will research a destination ad nauseum before leaving, but this time I don’t even have a guide book for Peru. Trekking for Kids has planned our itinerary and I’m handing my trust over to them. For once — out of necessity — I’m taking my hands off the wheel and letting chance and faith steer me on this journey. I’ve got a broken-in pair of hiking boots, a water purifier, and a good attitude. I hope that will be enough to get me through the next two weeks. I’ll find out in about 48 hours, and I’ll let you know.

(Photo below is from the Motherless Daughters conference in May, and includes five of the Peru trekkers. From left, Cathy Draeger, Lauri Lucas, me, Allison Gilbert, and Linda Miller.)