Earlier this year Face Time spoke to Mike Overend before he began his journey as an Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership student to Peru.
Overend joined Professors Joe Pavelka, Elena Carbarhal and 14 additional ETOL students for a one month journey to Peru to conduct a field study school for ecotourism research.
Overend says the full experience of his trip to Peru hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but he has many good memories.
One of the trip’s highlights involves a family that Overend met while climbing Machu Picchu.
“I found one of the most relevant aspects of the field school, was during our hike over the Salcantay pass towards Machu Picchu when we had the opportunity to stay with a Quechuan Family, who're running a tourism business right in the middle of the increasingly popular Salcantay trail,” says Overand.
Overend says that it was extremely helpful to see a fledgling tourism operation try to build from the ground up.
"To me it just seemed like ecotourism at its grass roots. It starts with the flow of tourists coming in, and the opportunity to offer a service that is beneficial to both the family and the tourists," he says.
He feels that there might even be an opportunity awaiting him in Peru with this family if they can work through some of their challenges.
Turning and experience into career contacts
"I had the opportunity to have the eldest brother speak with me, and his views on tourism in the area were very interesting. He spoke of the desire to educate tourists about his family’s way of life and the ancestry and tradition that their land holds.
"Our Professor Joe Pavelka has developed a strong relationship with the Wari family over the past few years dating back to previous field schools. I believe many of us, began to see an opportunity for ETOL students to start working with the Wari family to benefit both the students in the ecotourism field as well as the family," Overend says.
Life on the road
“Going into the field school I felt confident that the ETOL program had prepared me for the types of challenges I would go through, and to be honest, after the field school was completed the aspects of the trip that I found challenging were completely unexpected,” says Overend.
What he was not expecting was the challenge of working in a group, in a foreign land for thirty consecutive days.
Overend says that when the group as a whole had to work and trek together, personality differences were noticeable.
“The group-dynamics aspect is always one of the most difficult parts of the education as it usually means one has to learn a lot about himself,” Pavelka says.
“(Overend) managed to overcome typical group dynamic challenges mostly because he was so well prepared to carry his independent research and that he had additional energy to focus on his ability to navigate the group successfully.”
Aside from the difference in approach others took during the field school, Overend also misjudged the language barrier between himself and the indigenous population.
“I think I will learn a bit of Spanish before I return next time,” he says.
— Fred Cheney, Sept. 22, 2011