It was this time last year when my husband, also an entrepreneur, and I set off to hike Machu Picchu. Camping in the Andes, exploring small villages, and getting back to ourselves with two weeks off the grid was the perfect Thanksgiving.

We set out with backpacks, fleeces and fierce excitement. We were used to camping and had a lot of our own gear. We didn't bring much of it because we'd sprung for the expense of a local guide and outfitter. We were making sure our city-living selves could soak in the experience.

How my bucket list got started

I've always had a seeker's soul. I spent time in Moscow as a college student. I got hooked on how well the lens of other cultures helped me see my own. I've spent weeks in Istanbul, Florence, Oslo, Prague, Mexico City, and camping across Costa Rica. As my experience with other countries grew, so did my appetite for how other cultures create change. When I met my husband a few years ago, I remember telling him that while I lived in Atlanta, I didn't really feel I had a specific home. I felt at home anywhere.

I swallowed the second truth. I also didn't feel particularly at home anywhere. I thought maybe all entrepreneurs were like that: unsatisfied with with status quo, seekers.

Machu Picchu was a pilgrimage I'd fixated on for years. It was one in a spreadsheet of eight to ten bucket list trips I was committing to taking. You know how entrepreneurs roll--these excursions were often my way of rewarding myself for accomplishing business milestones like sales goals, a  new office, etc.

Altars to anywhere

Once we made it to Machu Picchu, I remember staring at the rock condor carved in relief at the temple. The sun was hot on my shoulders and hair. It was a picture-perfect day. Mist in the valley swirled under high clouds. The condor lay in the sun, hacked in rough stone.

I wanted to feel something. The rocks of other sacred spaces I'd seen tapped on my memory. The egg from the Oracle at Delphi. The night my mom and I sat under the stars in Greece, by the old stone beds at the Artemis temple in Vravrona. Walking over the graves in the floor of Westminster Abbey.  Hearing the lonely water still calling  from the abandoned baths of Corinth. I've sought that "most significant stone" for a long time.

How my bucket list got busted

Peru stopped that seeking feeling. Maybe it was the altitude sickness that reset my head, although we were over that in days. Maybe it was the camp food, although I'm usually a big fan of simple food. Perhaps it was the poverty, although that's all over the world, too.

I think it was the scale. Coming over a ridge, we'd hear the snuffle of alpacas on the prairie below. We saw flamingoes stunning against snow-melt swamps. Every valley and desert had its own culture, crops, language and signature weaving. Our guides told us stories about the volcanoes that defined the sky. We heard about the sacrificed children buried in their bosoms. 

The scale of my life snapped into focus. Maybe it just snapped. It's short. It's far too short to take in the vastness. If I'm going to make a difference, it's going to be on the small scale, where I have the privilege of presence  every day.

We left Peru. More importantly, I came home for the first time in my life.

I deleted the bucket list spreadsheet. I am sure all those places I have not seen and may never see, like Santorini and the Nile, are altars of achievement worth attention. Here, however, is where I can do more than watch how history went. I can be part of how history wins.