Since we started our financial independence journey our goal has always been to simplify our life. Live within our means, that it wouldn’t take so much work to make us happy. Cutting our overhead would mean more money saved, a smaller nest egg to build, and expedited work-optional situation. Today we’ll feature two groups of people that lead simple lives for hundreds of years. Could we use them as a lens to discover a way to simplify our lives?
Lake Titicaca and Puno
At 12,507 ft, Lake Titicaca is known to be the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. The lake boundaries are shared by Peru on the west and Bolivia on the east. Lake Titicaca is just beautiful, with a deep dark blue color that calms and cautions you at the same time.
Puno, the primary port of Peru in Lake Titicaca, is the folkloric capital of the Inca Empire. Legends has it that the sun gods sent down its founders from the heavens in a city that is now beneath the lake. Puno is about 6 hours away from Cusco Peru. The daytrip takes one and a half days to complete.
Puno wasn’t part of our itinerary, so we almost didn’t see it, but after hearing friendly tourists recommend it dozens of times, we squeezed it in a day before we headed out of Cusco. We booked the tour through Peru Hop. We found them to be very reputable, reliable, and cost-effective. Their all-inclusive packages are excelled by on time pick-ups, clean shuttles, and friendly guides.
The daytrip costs $79.00 for each person that includes everything except meals. Journey to Puno starts at 9:00 pm aboard sleep-in busses. Take sleep aides especially if you’re a light sleeper. The next morning you would have the chance to gather yourself in Puno at the Lucky Your House Hotel before a local guide picks you up at exactly 7:00 am.
If you prefer a space of your own, a room cost about S/ 60 ($15). Otherwise, you can stay in the lobby and store your luggage for no charge. Restrooms and Wi-Fi access is S/ 15 ($3.88), and light breakfast is S/ 10 ($2.58). Depending on the group’s arrival time in Puno, there might not be enough time to clean up and have breakfast, so have snacks on the go.
Uros Floating Islands
Uros is made up of dozens of man-made islands that are made from totora reeds, a local vegetation that thrives in Lake Titicaca. The Uru creates these islands by making huge floating pallets made of tightly bound dried totora reeds. More dried totora reed are piled up on top of the pallets until the island is about 3 meters (10 feet) thick.
To prevent waking up in a different country (i.e., Bolivia) in the morning, it is anchored by rope and stake at the bottom of Lake Titicaca. On these islands, they build a couple of small huts, a dedicated place for cooking and a watchtower.
The Uru are friendly people. They wear ornate, colorful garments but live a simple life that consist of making handicrafts, sailing on huge totora reed boats (Mercedes Benz of Lake Titicaca), rearing livestock on some of the islands, trading, and tourism. Revenue from visitors of Uros Islands is pooled together and shared by the whole community.
On one of the islands, we had free time to roam around, get it the totora huts, climb the watchtowers, purchase gifts, and talk to the locals, before we hopped on one of the totora reed boats for s/. 10 ($2.95). The boat took us to an island that is a dedicated post office where we had our passports stamped with the Lake Titicaca seal s/. 1 ($0.26). We bid the Uros Islands farewell as we were serenaded by the locals sending us off to the island of Taquile.
Taquile Island Traditions
This isolated island that sits 28 miles (45 km) from Puno Peru, is proclaimed “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. The reason for this is that despite being conquered by the Spanish, Taquileños continue to maintain their customs and traditions.
One of which is that they don’t do handshakes nor hugs in Taquile. When you meet an acquaintance, grab a few coca leaves from your pack and exchange. Then you could talk with each other while chewing on the coca leaves.
Do you know that by law, a couple in the island needs to live together for at least 2 years before they tie the knot. This is to hash-out any irreconcilable differences before they are married. Within the 2 years they can break off the engagement with no harm done but separating after marriage is punishable by expulsion from the community.
Taquileños wear simple clothing that is contrasted by strategically placed, bright and colorful accessories. By just looking at the Chumpi (belts) and Chullo (tall hats) colors and the manner they wear them you could tell a lot about a person. It conveys information regarding your social standing, marital status, the number of children you have and their genders. Imagine a simple placement of a hat could signal to people in a party that you are single and ready to mingle, without even saying a word. The island is governed by an elected council of elders, and this is also apparent in the way they dress.
Taquile Island Tour
After about 2 hours gliding on the waters of Lake Titicaca, the boat docks on the side of the Taquile island and everyone are handed out tickets to enter. The main village is 12,959 feet (3,950 meters) above sea level, so be prepared to do a ton of climbing.
From the port, everyone gathers around the main square where locals sell colorful handwoven Taquile clothing and accessories. A presentation of local dances will proceed afterwards encouraging participation from guests. Go ahead and join the group. Just go around the circle to the beat of the drum.
The island seemed deserted to me when we first stepped in. There are no hotels and restaurants, but thousands of tourists flock this island every year. Meals and boarding are provided by families taking turns in hosting guests, so that everyone in the community benefits from the tourism industry. Lunch is made in their homes and served in a covered patio in the backyard. We had a simple fried fish with salad, rice, potatoes, and soup. There’s nothing like having lunch, coffee, and good conversation with views of Lake Titicaca surrounding you.
After a satisfying meal we all head back to Puno while the boat rocked us to sleep as it drifted on the waves of Lake Titicaca. Some of the tourists in our group booked a room but we didn’t so we took the time to stroll around downtown Puno instead.
Avenida Titicaca to the west takes you to the Puno Cathedral situated in a huge Plaza Mayor. North of the plaza is Lima Street, a busy pedestrian only walkway, flanked by bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels, that continues north to Plaza Pino in front of La Santuario de la Virgen de la Candelaria. We had something to eat at Restaurant Tulipans, then we went back to the Plaza Mayor for dessert and a night cap at Mojsa Restaurant before our 8-hour journey back to Cusco
Friends we made along the way!
Simplify our Lives
The highlight of this trip for me is seeing how simple life is in Taquile and the floating islands of Uros. Everyday things we take for granted seemed a luxury to most people. Gadgets, designer clothes, huge houses, and entertainment at the touch of a button. I guess one could say that don’t know what you’re missing until you experience a life of wealth and comfort, but that to me is arbitrary. When the mission of life is to exist, survive, live on through your offspring and be content, how much luxury is enough?
I admit, living miles away by boat from the nearest store could be a bit too extreme. Everybody, maybe including the Uru and Taquileños, yearns to push the boundaries of what they could do to get ahead. We don’t want to extinguish the hope of achieving the American Dream or to let go of the possibility that we could all make it in life. Far from it, we are all about striving to be the best version of ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially.
What saves us from burning out in the process is to imagine what would that look like, but instead of stopping there we ask ourselves what we are willing to give up. As much as we want our dreams to materialize out of thin air, it won’t. If not money, we must spend time and sweat into the process. It is true with anything we want in life, from becoming a top performer in what you do, being the best father and husband, creating a billion-dollar business, and achieving financial independence.
How does a perfect day, week or year look like for you? How do you define your happiness? When will you say you have enough? What are you willing to spend to get there? This is all up to you. Rehab your life decisions. Live with intention.
Trial Retirements are periods of time we dedicate traveling to beautiful countries to know if they are perfect for us when we eventually retire. The time spent outside of work will serve as a preview of our habits and behaviors when we reach Financial Independence, and of course, our way to recharge after months of hard work.
Anything we missed? Questions? Violent reactions? Let us know on the comments below!