Peace Pole at Machu Picchu in Peru

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” – Arundhati Roy

In January 2009, having quit our jobs in Seattle, Washington, and having sold or given away most of our belongings, Mi and I set out for the dream adventure of our lifetime — a 15-month journey around the world. A chance to meet others and see what it means to be human in conditions and situations we have never known, a chance to learn and grow in giving and receiving, and a chance to shed our habitual ways of seeing and doing things. It was a chance, we’d hoped, to find peace within ourselves, with one another and those we met along the way, and with our vast world.

Maybe it was for that reason that among the experiences that stirred us most along the way was unexpectedly stumbling upon Peace Poles (although we didn’t know what to call them back then!). “May Peace Prevail On Earth.” In our language, the language of the people we were visiting, and the Japanese language where the sentiment originated. Such a simple sentiment, with such piercing and profound power. To stumble upon one as we circled the globe was like a reminder of our intentions and hopes, and a literal signpost telling us, “You are on the right path…”


The first Peace Pole we saw was at Machu Picchu in Peru — the 15th-century Inca City. It is a sacred city carved into a sacred landscape. A place where the wafting morning clouds create an instant connection to the power of spirit and the beauty of nature, or “Pachamama” (Mother Earth) as she was called by the Inca and is called by their descendents, the Quechua. It is a place of peace. And there in the parking area as you enter and leave the timelessness of this place is a Peace Pole. When we found it, I thought this was something unique to Machu Pichu — a simple hand-carved pole, in the language of the natives of the land (Quechua), their conquerors (Spanish), and, arguably, the modern conquerors of the whole region (English). A statement that amidst battle and oppression and suffering, there really is one idea powerful enough to bring all sides to agreement. The pole also has a Japanese side, although I didn’t know why…