I have fallen in love with travel many times.
It happened as I drove with my family through the Midwest of the US, mesmerized by the golden hues that colored the plains like acrylics on a canvas. It happened as I watched flamenco dancers in Madrid, twisting and turning in the same way that pieces of silk might float through a summer breeze. It happened as I hiked through Utah, the deep browns, reds, and yellows inspiring bliss despite my aching calves and the layer of sand covering every inch of my body. It’s these unforgettable experiences with travel that have always led me to the same tempting conclusion: Oh, why couldn’t I just travel for a living? I could be a professional traveler! Listening to people’s stories, tasting new foods…Oh, what a life! I have often lost myself in these thoughts, not quite realizing that in those moments I was slowly conceiving what would eventually become my gap year.
When I first began applying to colleges last fall, I realized that something did not quite feel right. While my friends talked nonstop and eagerly about their futures, I simply could not bring myself to look forward to college. That more obvious path was safe, it was familiar, but it was not quite right for me. My mind often wandered to my dreams of going abroad and my desire to go out and do something! The possibility of a gap year remained as some unforgettable, unattainable, undoable thing that loomed in the back of my head, always present but never acted upon. When I eventually learned about Global Citizen Year, suddenly the idea of taking a gap year became tangible. This was what I had always dreamed of doing. I was going to do something real and meaningful, something that would teach me things that my textbooks and guarded life in Chapel Hill simply could not. I had absolutely no doubts about the decision.
Now I am here on the verge of the experience of a lifetime. I am completely terrified, but it’s a good kind of terrified. Even stronger than my fear are my wanderlust and my desire for a worldly perspective through the lens of global issues. I enter my year in Ecuador with an open mind and an open heart. I am ready for the obstacles, the tears, the unfamiliarity, the new experiences and people. I am ready to be challenged in ways I could never imagine, and I am ready to approach the world with a problem-solving mentality. I want to help, I want to learn, I want to evolve, and I want to live.