After traveling for nearly 24 hours, I finally set foot in Cusco, and the altitude welcomed me with open arms. The once capital of the Inca Empire, situated at 11,152 feet in the Peruvian Andes, Cusco has become a necessary a pit-stop for travelers seeking to visit the world-famous citadel. I researched substantially prior to my trip about avoiding altitude sickness, yet I found myself still vulnerable to the effects of the sudden change in elevation. For the next few hours upon my arrival, my breathing was labored. It was a conscious effort to inhale and exhale. My chest felt heavy, as if a person has pressed their foot on my lungs.