From Brazil to the Grand Canyon

We caught up with Global Citizen Year Alumna Holly Sullivan (Brazil ’12, Coconino Community College) to learn about her work river guiding in the Grand Canyon, the impact of her bridge year, and her advice to students today. Here’s Holly’s interview.


Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now.


I live near/in the Grand Canyon, depending on the time of year. In the summertime I work in it’s grand and beautiful depths, guiding week+ long river trips. We show people of all sorts this natural wonder, connecting with the ancient time warp that lives inside that place. Most of my summer is spent down there, eliminating the need for rent; so I’ve mostly lived in my van between trips.

I have been attending college since Global Citizen Year …five years ago…and well…I almost have an associate’s! 🙂 I have always been kind of a “bridge-life” kinda gal, so I’ve interwoven many life experiences into my traditional education. I plan on studying psychology for now and entering into the mind-body healing world.

Outside of that, music is my main gig 🙂

Surrendering to the power of Upset Rapid

What is a favorite memory from your Global Citizen Year?


Oh goodness. There are so many. Singing around the fire with my community members sticks in my heart and mind and comes out in my memories almost every day. The down-time spent with fellows was also invaluable. Those people changed and formed my world.


 Are you still in touch with other members of your cohort or other Global Citizen Year alumni?


Alba Marina and I have met up a few times for some fun travels, and I’ve seen Tonino Peluso a few times and my ramblings ‘round the west. Though it is very hard to choose a most formative part of my GCY, meeting the cohort was maybe the most powerful in that aspect. I had never really met people from big cities like that-progressive cities. I came from a tiny desert town on the side of Glen Canyon Dam, so interacting closely with young people with a million different backgrounds and mindsets opened up my head in a huge way.


Cohort and local pals in the space where we practiced Capoeira



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Looking back on your Global Citizen Year, what part of your experience has had the greatest impact on you and why?


I lived in an intentional community that, among many things, provided environmental education to people around the Itamboatá river valley. They did this not only from, say, a scientific perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective. They worked to help people of all ages put their hands and feet in the earth and breathe into it, reconnecting to a fading truth about humanity. I grew up in the canyons so I always loved nature, but I never quite realized our responsibility and power to preserve and protect this place.


My little host sister at my first homestay, Adriele. A bright and shiny little angel girl


How has taking a bridge year impacted your college and/or career experience?


I came back from that trip and just about literally fell into the canyon. Opportunities opened all around and I landed the coolest job any little desert chick could ever dream of. Without my experience in Brazil, my mind would not have been supple enough, not open enough to be searching for such an opportunity. Challenges are abundant in the Canyon, and I might have never believed that I could overcome them without the strength I gained in overcoming one of the hardest things I’d ever done: learning Portuguese.


The jasmine flowers near the entrance to our community, Terra Mirim

What do you think a bridge year abroad contributes to an education?


Global Citizen Year crushes comfort zones. Political, emotional, environmental, and spiritual change does occur inside the comfort zone. Can we even imagine what it feels like for a caterpillar to metamorphosis into a butterfly? Discomfort is inevitable, and I believe that testing that marrow at the ripe age of 18 prepares young people to deal with that discomfort effectively.


How are you continuing to live life in your stretch zone?


Well, I just got home from yoga 🙂


Haha, my whole life is a stretch zone. I take periods of rest too, but always with the intention of recharging and returning the radiant fire of life. Sometimes it burns and hurts and those moments usually hold the strongest growth. For now, I challenge myself mainly in the outdoors. I expose myself to the elements-often in their extreme form- to see what they can teach me. It’s usually quite a lot.


What would you say to someone who is on the fence between going directly to college after high school and taking a bridge year?


Take it, kid. Free yourself from the goldfish mentality. The world will scoop you right up from bowl, to tank, to pond, all for the reasonable price of $65,000. They might even include a t-shirt, but what they don’t tell you is this: On the other of the wall, just beyond the pond, lies potential that you might not even be able to imagine just yet. But if you are reading this at all, it is there. Free yourself, my friends. Join the realm of the grand Garibaldi 🙂


These days. Another day in my office

Because of my Global Citizen Year, I am.…. aware of the human-planet connection



















Ready to start your own adventure?


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