When people come into the store, they often ask me - so how did you get to live Cusco, Peru?
The short answer is that I arrived for what I thought would be a 3 month trip, just 10 days before the Quarantine, and after my flight got cancelled to return back home I just decided to stay. Fed up of life in a big city, and thinking that Cusco would be a great place to ride out the Pandemic. Little did I know it would lead to me being able to fulfill some pretty big dreams I just wasn’t ready to let go of, even though I had no idea where I was going.
The long answer is that me living in Peru is the tail end of a long sequence of serendipitous events from Los Angeles, to South America. Starting with a hard break up, losing my job, and desperately trying to figure things out from there. Going through the painful journey of trying to create a life I would love through not know where the hell I was going, or even what it would look like at the ‘end’. It all worked out pretty good though ;).
A friend and company I was freelancing for in Los Angeles told me about a sponsorship for designers in the USA to visit Peru Moda, a fashion Trade Show in Lima, Peru, and not being one to ever pass up a free trip I of course said yes. Peru had never been on my radar, or wish list, but as soon as I arrived (for the first time in April 2019) I was struck by the energy that welcomed me and how at home I felt in this totally foreign place. At my Airbnb I met a women who - little did I know - would go on to be one of my best friends, and give me all sorts of ideas about how life could be lived. She already had a shop and her own brand in Cusco and told me about how she still makes things everyday with her own hands, and gives work to local people and does things how she wants to! Wow - she is really living the dream I thought! A passing comment, once she heard I was a Knitwear designer was, ‘oh, you should just come to Cusco and do it from there!?’. This is after we had known each other for all of 12 hours, but this passing comment put this little idea in my head which I guess resounded pretty strongly with me!
I decided to come back and visit Cusco, just a 3 month trip to look into some production options for how to get things made here, and to take a break from LA life, which was feeling more and more like it just didn’t fit with who I wanted to be and the life I wanted to live. I didn’t plan to move out of LA, but when the questions arose of ‘shall I keep my apartment, just to have something to come back to?’ Then my lovely landlady - and friend - kindly asked me to move out as she wanted to use the space for something else. The question of ‘shall I keep my car, just to have something to come back to?’ Was met with the answer of, well if I am going to travel for 3 months I could do with the extra money, so what is the use of it sitting in a driveway, unused? Each dilemma of how far is this really going to take me, was met with an answer of - just stay open, one step at a time. The less ties you have the better, to really step into the new and unknown with a light load and flexible choices. It wasn’t easy, but to really open up your future, sometimes you REALLY have to let go of the past, or even present, before you can see what lies ahead.
So I came for the second time at the end of 2019, I travelled, explored, worked with some amazing groups of women, let go of some of the stress of the last few years and got familiar with some of the areas of Cusco city and the Sacred Valley that in the end has become my home. It was a very special time of opening up to life, of following my heart in the moment, healing a lot of things that were still holding me back, and breaking out of the box that the USA so easily slips you into.
Even after a lovely long Christmas holiday at home in England - the longest I had been able to take in the 9 years of living in the States, and still not knowing where I ‘should’ be, something inside me was pushing me to just go back - just a little bit longer. I am not quite done with Peru. And then I arrived in Cusco 10 days before the quarantine, I found a place to live 2 days before and then that was it! Fast forward to 2.5 years later and here I am with a shop and a dog and a business and a really beautiful life in the high elevation of the Andes mountains.
The life I live here is totally different to what I ever dreamed my life could look like. And I would love to tell you more - about life in Cusco, about the values I truly believe in to make a positive impact on the lives of women here, as well as the lives of our customers all over the world, keeping our precious planet at the front and center. I hope you will join me for more as I delve deeper to show you what I, and HJK, is really all about.