The Magic that Brought me to Peru

by Nora on March 17, 2014

Twelve years ago, when I was living a very different life in Canada, I saw a vacation package to Peru, including a trip to the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu.

I was mesmerized. I had to go.


But as life was busy dealing me a very different hand, I realized I would need to be patient. Somehow I knew even back then, that Peru would be a very special place for me, and that I had to wait for the right time.


Twelve years (and about three lifetimes) later, that time is now.

Here is the magical – and almost unbelievable – story that brought me to Peru, where I am currently living for three months.



It started with a separation.

I separated from my partner on New Year’s Eve, while we were house-sitting in Panama. (The final breakup would happen a couple of months later).

In the wake of the separation, I was talking to a friend in Panama about how 2013 was a year that knocked the wind out of not only me, but a lot of people. I spoke about universal coincidences; the end of the Mayan calendar in December 2012, astrological changes, geological changes, and a variety of other principles that have the common ground of 2013 being a period of profound transition for many people.


As I spoke, my friend’s eyes grew wide.

“Hang on, wait right here!” She said, as she jumped up and raced back to her house. She returned with a book in her hands.

“You must read this,” she said. “I picked it up in Cusco at the airport by coincidence when I had a layover there, and it’s about everything you said”.



So I read the book.

The book – Cusco: The Gateway to Inner Wisdom was the story of the author, Diane Dunn. It describes her spiritual journey; one that took her from running a theatre company in New York, to theology school, to South Africa to do work with with homeless and unemployed people in Johannesburg, and eventually to Peru where she became a Shaman and opened a retreat centre.

I lapped it up.


At the end of the book, there was an email address. So I emailed Diane.

I told her how I enjoyed her book, how I’ve been drawn to Peru for quite some time, and I shared a little bit of my story with her. And of course, I told her that she has a spectacular last name (Dunn).


I had no expectations in writing the email; I was simply compelled to reach out to her.



It’s all about free accommodation.

24 hours later, I was shocked to have a response from Diane. Not only a response – but a job offer as well! Having checked out my site, she saw that I am an expert in getting free accommodation around the world, and as it happened, she was looking for an assistant manager for her retreat centre – a job entailing two days of work per week in trade for free accommodation.

The job was perfect for me. Having lived and worked at a retreat centre in New Zealand, I knew the score, and could bring a lot to the position.


Diane was also enroute to Florida, where I happened to be at the time. (Yet another coincidence in this long string of coincidences). We arranged to meet in Gulfport, where I was taking a personal retreat.

Our connection was strong, and after meeting she said I was the right person for the job.



But something wasn’t right.

Something wasn’t flowing. I was stressed out.

Then I remembered.


When I returned to New Zealand to live and volunteer at Mana Retreat for the second time in 2011, the magic I experienced the first time was gone for me. I was stressed out all the time, trying to balance my volunteer duties with my writing obligations. It wasn’t successful, and I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful retreat centre for all that it had to offer.

I wrote about things like travel fatigue, motion sickness, and time management and work-life balance, musing that I had traded one rat race for another in creating too many obligations for myself.



So I learned from history.

It damn near killed me, but I turned down the free accommodation job offer in Peru.


With my writing keeping me busy almost full-time, plus two days per week working at the centre, I realized I wouldn’t be able to actually enjoy the magic of Peru if I had the job; instead I’d be working all the time.

Not good. I sold everything I owned in 2006 to travel the world, not to work myself senseless.


Instead, I said I’d like to come to Diane’s retreat centre in Peru, but as a long-term paying guest. The cost of living at the retreat centre wasn’t exorbitant, and I could focus on my writing, have the personal time and space I needed, and explore Peru – a place I’ve been excited to visit for over 12 years.

Interestingly, despite my great fear of saying no and perhaps disappointing Diane and the hiring manager given the generous job offer, I was congratulated for my decision.



But, something still wasn’t flowing.

I was in Santa Rosa Beach Florida at the time, and not sure when I’d come to Peru, nor how long I’d stay. Even though I was happy with my decision to turn down the job, I was paralyzed. Most of it had to do with my partner in Grenada, to whom I was still drawn, but unsure of our future together.


Then, to my surprise, my partner took care of that and finalized the breakup (via instant message).


I reeled. Peru was initially to be a place of personal retreat during our separation, and it had just become a launching pad into a new life of unknowns.

All the more reason for me to go. But for some reason, I couldn’t make a decision on flights or timelines.



Then, flights materialized.

I’ve been a (free) member of a mystery shopping service, featuring highly discounted flights, hotels, and other travel arrangements. For over a year, I lurked the site, waiting for the right mystery shopping opportunity to come up.


Voila. A flight from Toronto to Lima appeared. For a ridiculously low fee, I could fly (in business class, no less) from Toronto to Lima and back. Although I’d have to fly from Florida to Toronto (in winter – eek!) to catch the flight, it was still cost-effective, and I’d get an unexpected chance to hug my friends and family.

It also has me returning to Toronto at the launch of summer, and the next stage of my travels, after three months in Peru.

It was all perfect.



So here I am.

And it’s magic.


I’ve got three glorious months to enjoy the Paz y Luz retreat centre in the sacred valley near Pisac. I’m taking workshops, dancing, meditating, hiking, practicing Spanish, eating good food, and enjoying the magic of Peru.

I’m catching up on a ridiculous backlog of writing which fell by the wayside in the traumas that encapsulated the last year or so of my life, and I’m reconnecting with myself, and figuring out what’s next.


Peru – especially the sacred valley – is a profound place of healing and exploration, and for everything to have fallen into place as mysteriously as it has, is simply status quo for Peru.


I have arrived.



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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonathan March 17, 2014 at 11:06 am

Great post. I love it when serendipity happens. Why are there so many spaces between your paragraphs?


2 Nora Dunn March 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

Jonathan – Ha ha! I don’t know….maybe I needed some “space” to write about this topic!


3 Elizabeth H March 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

Great post Nora. Well Dunn!


4 Nora Dunn March 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

Elizabeth – Ha ha! 🙂 Thanks.


5 Rob March 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

It’s great that it all came together for you!
It’s even better when you remembered the “you” time and became a paying customer rather than jumping for the ‘free’ lodging, I know how the ‘free’ rent can blind you & then bind you.

What did you use to take the pictures?


6 Nora Dunn March 18, 2014 at 10:46 am

Hey Rob – I like that mantra: “blind you then bind you”. I might need to use that some time! 🙂
I used the Nokia Lumia 1020 to take the pictures….it’s the smartphone/camera combo I decided to go with after testing it and the Samsung out. The official comparison post will come out on Thursday!


7 Rob March 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm

It’s true about the word “free’ isn’t it? I had just read about your experience and I was thinking about where I am right and it all came together. The “free” blinded me and now I’m stuck until this is over… (feel free to use the “blind you then bind you”)

The pictures turned out great!


8 samantha March 17, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Hi Nora,

I have been reading your blog for over a year, I don’t remember how i can upon your blog but I lingered and connected with your because you were staying in Grenada at the time. I was born and raised in Grenada, and although i have lived in the USA for 23 years i still go home every year and consider Grenada home. I never wrote or commented before but today i felt the need to say Hi and I am a truly happy to see you are connecting with yourself after all you have been through over the past year. Love your blog stay well and connected…..SAM


9 Nora Dunn March 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

Hi Sam,
Thank you so much – and I’m so glad you found my site, and decided to comment as well! I’m also glad that you’re sticking around even though Grenada seems to be a part of my past now. I miss the island very much, but for the time being I don’t think I can go back.


10 Steven Garrett March 18, 2014 at 7:07 am

Wow what a journey! Talk about things falling into place! Sorry about your devastating break-up and the stupid, hurtfully childish way it came about, but it led you to Peru, and hopefully, happiness.


11 Nora Dunn March 18, 2014 at 10:53 am

Thank you, Steven!
Indeed, I love it when things fall into place so magically – as it often does if we just give it a chance and keep our eyes and ears open. I think life can be much easier if we accept that control is an illusion. (This being said by the world’s greatest control freak, so I’m still learning that lesson)!


12 Tomas March 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Nice to hear that you are at the spot. Fantastico!


13 Nora Dunn March 19, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Gracias, Tomas! 🙂


14 Bronwyn March 18, 2014 at 10:30 pm

I’m so happy you’ve found a place of healing, Nora. You deserve it! You made the right decision for you and let the universe take care of the rest — that takes a lot of courage. Buena suerte, chica.


15 Nora Dunn March 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Thank you, Bronwyn. I’ve long been a proponent of letting the universe take care of the details, but sometimes it’s hard to keep the faith that everything will work out. I’m glad I was patient!


16 Stevie Dee March 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

Hi Nora

Its sad to see how bad a time you’ve had but good to see you back writing again.
You have influenced my life and made me get up and go do what I want in life. My house is currently on the market and when it sells I’m off to travel the world.

I am leaving in just over a week for a 20 day tour across the states doing some charity work.

Thanks for changing my life and look forward to reading about your travels in the future.



17 Nora Dunn March 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Hi Stevie,
Awesome! (And thank you – it’s an honour to know I’ve been a positive influence). What kind of charity work are you doing?


18 Stevie Dee March 20, 2014 at 5:50 am

I’m busking, playing guitar and singing in aid of UNICEF. I will be dressed in the tradition Scottish attire (ie the kilt) I’m hope this draws more attention to me. I’ve been in bands since I was 15 and was a Buddy Holly impersonator for years. One of the highlights of the trip is a visit to Lubbock Texas the birth place of Buddy where I hope to play at his statue.


19 Nora Dunn March 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Awesome! Enjoy.


20 Yulianna March 19, 2014 at 10:35 am


I’ve been a huge fan of your travel blog and I’ve always had many questions but not many specific ones….
However, recently I’ve started planning my small spring adventure which is supposed to be a 1-month volunteer/cultural exchange program (~ mid April – mid May).
I still haven’t chosen a country though…Costa Rica or Peru..,Peru was my first choice but I can only go to Lima and some locals told me that it is already too cold to swim in April and the weather is not very nice…What do you think? Have you been to Lima yourself?
And what about Costa Rica?
I would really appreciate your advice!


21 Nora Dunn March 19, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Hi Yulianna,
I didn’t spend any time in Lima enroute to Pisac, so I’m not sure what the weather is like for swimming. Costa Rica would certainly be a little warmer, but it depends on where you are (and on which coast) as well. I haven’t been to Costa Rica, but I have been to neighbouring Panama – which is beautiful and has awesome wildlife. I hear that Lima is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of city, but other parts of Peru can be quite magical (as attested to in this post! ha ha).
Sorry I can’t be of more help. Any other readers want to chime in on this one?


22 Pernille March 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

Yulianna, I was recently in Costa Rica for six weeks and loved it. April is one of their hottest month on the Pacific Coast, and you can definitely go swimming (I did every day). I was in Flamingo at a language school, CPI. It was a great experience and the school have a volunteer program too. Check it out at Good luck.


23 Elena March 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Nora–sorry to hear you had a tough year–but also glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one sucked into that 2013 vortex (the last three months were especially brutal, as I am sure you can attest). 2014 is shaping up to be beginning of every good thing, really and you are making the choices that will allow that to happen. Much luck and good fortune to you!


24 Nora Dunn March 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Thanks, Elena – and much the same to you! May 2014 being you many blessings.


25 Ryan March 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm


If you find yourself back in Florida again and you are looking for a cheap flight to Lima or a number of other countries in South America you might want to check out Spirit Air. They have flights out of Miami and Orlando for around 200 USD one way.


26 Nora Dunn March 19, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Hi Ryan – WOW! Awesome deal. Thanks for the tip!


27 Bishnu Subedi March 22, 2014 at 5:20 am

After waiting 12 long years, you are in peru…… enjoy your travel and writing 🙂


28 Nora Dunn March 22, 2014 at 11:33 am

Thank you, Bishnu!


29 Pernille March 22, 2014 at 8:41 am

Loved the post – and it’s very timely for me, as I’m looking for a place to stay in the same are in May + June. I’m currently in Buenos Aires til the end of April, but next stop is Cuzco. I’m a writer like you and have a novel I want to finish while I’m in Peru, so I’m wondering if there are any good writing nooks at the retreat center – and if there’s a desk in the room? If there is, it might be the perfect spot for me. Uh, and how is the internet?


30 Nora Dunn March 22, 2014 at 11:36 am

Hi Pernille,
Yes, there’s a desk in the room at Paz Y Luz, and lots of little spots for curling up with your laptop. The internet isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. But that kind of comes with the territory when you live rurally, in my experience. I manage it okay…..
Check out the centre (and make sure you say I referred you)! Hopefully there’s a room available for you….


31 Pernille March 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

Thanks, Nora. It sounds perfect. I will send them an email right away. Maybe I’ll see you there 🙂


32 Pernille April 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Hi again Nora. Well, I’m all set. I got my room booked at Paz y Luz. I told them that you referred me, so they gave me the room next to yours. I will be arriving around May 1 – I am just finalizing my travel plans. Looking forward to meeting you in real life and getting some peace and quiet to write 🙂


33 Nora Dunn April 13, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Woohoo! Looking forward to meeting you!


34 Jo March 22, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Every single thing happens for a reason, the sacred valley is such a perfect place. See you there!


35 Nora Dunn April 8, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hey Jo – Somehow I missed this comment. Are you coming to Peru???


36 Marie-France (a.k.a. BigTravelNut) April 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Hey! My last blog post was about coincidences:

What a coincidence! 🙂


37 Nora Dunn April 8, 2014 at 9:00 am

Ha ha – Gotta love coincidences! (Glad your hotel in Burma worked out – whew)!


38 Vagabond Elmer April 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Awesome post! When things are not align, the universe will show you what is wrong, so you can align them. If you don’t take care of cleaning them up then the universe will do it for you at a cost of course, so you can learn… and after the storm always the calm comes young Padawan (LOL) 😉

Enjoy the lessons of the calm!


39 Nora Dunn April 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Hi Elmer – Indeed, I’ve only been here 3 weeks, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. I’m taking lots of time for myself, and there are lots of opportunities for growth. The grasshopper learns! 🙂


40 Elizabeth April 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm

It does beg the question – why not hold a workshop? (Rather than people taking your time while you are taking a break 😉



41 Nora Dunn April 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Hi Elizabeth – Hmm….good idea! I don’t think I’ll do it this time around (I’m dedicated to more personal growth during this trip), but I wouldn’t be surprised if Peru became a regular stop in my world travels, and I have indeed been considering holding workshops.
Thanks for the suggestion – and reminder!


42 Sofie April 17, 2014 at 5:12 am

Great post, and I’m really happy that things felt right for you in the end.
I’m on quite the search myself at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll get there… eventually:)

I actually signed up as a mystery shopper after reading that post of yours, but to be honest I haven’t really followed up to see if interesting offers appeared. Might have to give that another go…


43 Nora Dunn April 17, 2014 at 8:41 am

Hey Sofie,
Ah….the great search….isn’t it fun, and agonizing at the same time?! 🙂
I was a member of EvaluateIt (mystery shopping) for about a year before the right opportunity came up. So….keep an eye on the opportunities, and have patience. It helps for me to have family and friends in Toronto, since many of the flights are out of Toronto and it gives me an excuse to go back.


44 Molly May 13, 2014 at 11:44 am

What a cool story and that area of the world is magical. Glad it is all working out!


45 Nora Dunn May 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Thanks, Molly! It’s a magical place, that is working out in ways I had never suspected it would.


46 Javier May 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm

It is not about universal coincidences. Leave that for the average traveler. It’s all about universal energy; which is available to anyone in this world. Some knows how to use it, like all shamans in Peru; and, some grasp it when your soul happens to be opened-up. Perhaps, you should read the book, The Celestine Prophecy. If you read it by any chance, then you didn’t get it. If you are in Peru, then you should keep your soul open and wonderful things will light-up your path, as I can see, it already is happening. Peru has the four winds (western translation: North, South, East, West). Search them, what it means in the spiritual world of Peru. I guarantee that you will not be the same person. Being in Peru, it’s a journey, not just travel, but a life time spiritual journey. That of course, if you keep your soul open.


47 Nora Dunn May 14, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Hi Javier,
Yep! I’ve been in Peru now for 2 months, and it has been an amazing soul-opening journey. So much so, in fact, that I have every intention of returning for a longer period of time.
And yes, I did read the Celestine Prophecy, and yes – I did get it. 😉


48 Libby Walkup May 13, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Yes! Dear Buddha yes. 2013 was a terribly trying year. Nearly every one I knew broke up with someone after long term partnerships. Not to mention financial collapses, etc. I thought I might be making connections where there were none. Sigh. I’m sorry it got you too, but am glad you’re replenishing. I may have to venture to this retreat at some point when I’m free again.


49 Nora Dunn May 14, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Hi Libby,
I can’t recommend this place and the area highly enough. It’s great for a personal retreat and whatever work you want to do on yourself. And Paz y Luz is beautiful.
Truth be told, if I didn’t have a terrible year in 2013, I wouldn’t be here today. And that – that would be a shame. So all’s well that ends well!


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