A gap year between high school and college can be whatever you make of it. It could be a transformative experience where you venture off somewhere you’ve never been before to discover yourself. It could be a year where you work to regain focus and passion for learning. It could be a year where you see who you want to become, and where you want to go.
Once high school ended, I thought I had departed the maze that hid my future, but arriving in Ecuador showed me I hadn’t even taken my first steps. Eight months in the Ecuadorian Amazon led me into a labyrinth full of new questions, a new language, and a new family.
Each morning, waking up to shrill voices of roosters, the jungle would present new twists and turns for me to unravel. Whether I had to find my way through the bones of fried river-fish without choking, or learn how to use a machete and ignore the stinging bites of ants at my ankles, as well as the blisters on my hands, the challenges of daily life began to become exactly that, normal daily life. As the months blurred together, I stopped choking on fish bones and eagerly ate tilapia wrapped in banana leaves. I no longer grimaced when faced with the prospect of grilled worms. On one special occasion at a wedding, I even ate grilled monkey without a second thought. When the time to work on the farm came, my calloused hands were swinging a machete with ease, and ants posed no threat when faced with my quickly moving feet.
Events I first looked upon with scrutiny and a hint of disbelief: jumping off of waterfalls, climbing through caves, and exploring the jungle with my younger brother and sisters–eventually became part of the backdrop of regular life. The puzzle pieces of my Ecuadorian life fell into place alongside my American past, and after months of feeling out of place, I was finally home.
Putting it as simply as possible, I took a year to live. It may seem a bit cliché how going off into the world broadens your perspective and gives you confidence, but the truth is that that’s exactly what happens. No matter how difficult or easy your experience may be, you come back from it stronger, and more prepared for the life ahead of you. My days, my family, and life in Ecuador put a close to so many questions I had, and opened the door to a world of demands I now have of myself, and of my future. I may not be sure of what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, but I am sure of the direction I’m heading in.
Eight months strengthened my passions for culture, language, and learning; now what could it do for you?