These past several months have been full of to-do lists. First to-do list: get all my vaccinations, check. Second to-do list: send off my Visa application, check. Third to-do list: the infamous “packing list,” where every day I checked something off and added something on for the entire month of July, check. I now have, piled up in the corner of my messy room, everything from mosquito spray to a warm down jacket, carelessly piled on top of a couple novels, blank journals, and empty luggage. It’s funny because I used to imagine that corner of my room would be crowded with a new twin bedding set, school supplies, and a Keurig. I find a strange comfort and thankfulness whenever I glance at my “Ecuador” pile, as my family and I call it.
If you were to look at all the crumpled to-do lists I have satisfied and stuffed into my purse, all the items I’ve successfully crossed out, you would say I am prepared for my eight months in Ecuador. The thing is though, despite my impressive pile, I am not as prepared as I may seem.
I don’t know where I will be living in Ecuador. It is a geographically diverse country; I could be living in the Amazon or the Andes, two very different areas. Currently, I’m just hoping my packing of clothes that I can layer will satisfy either climate (fingers crossed).
I don’t know what my host family will be like; I don’t know of my future living conditions.
I don’t know what I will be doing for my apprenticeship. I could be teaching, working with animals, or getting my hands dirty in an agricultural job.
I don’t know where I will be going to college next Fall, and that really scares me. What if Wi-Fi is near impossible to find when I have to do my college applications?!
I don’t know how I will do being away from my family and friends for eight months. I think of myself as independent and have never really experienced homesickness, but then again, I definitely have never left my home of eighteen years for eight months before!
I find myself saying “I don’t know” a lot lately. My friends, family, and anyone who is curious about what I’ll be doing in Ecuador always ask fairly specific questions, “Where will you be living? What will you be doing for work? Etc.”
It’s always amusing to see their expressions after I simply say “I don’t know.” “What do you mean you don’t know where you’ll be living/doing for work?” I don’t know!!! “Where will you be going to college next year?” I DON’T KNOW!
While when I utter those three words I tend to feel a small pit in my stomach, I also feel a sort of excitement, “butterflies” would accurately describe it.
I have begun to realize that I cannot exactly prepare fully for these unknowns. But what I can do is be open to anything and everything that comes my way. I recognize that there will be instances that I am completely not ready for, and that whether I like it or not, I am going to have to deal with them and overcome them. I’ve accepted that this is why taking a gap year is so influential for young adults my age; we are placed into such unfamiliar environments and have to adapt and mature and this is what ultimately does us so much good.
“Man is born to live and not to prepare to live” –Boris Pasternak
We can prepare all we want, we can buy all the supplies we think we need, and research Ecuador as much as we can, however we will never be fully prepared for what’s ahead of us. I may not know what my weekly class schedule is, or know what floor of what dorm I’m staying in, and I may not know what my cafeteria food is like, or have a parking pass, but I have a lot of sunscreen, hiking shoes, and a plane ticket to Ecuador, and I would choose the latter a thousand times over!
So in conclusion, the unknowns may keep me up at night, confuse people, and worry my grandparents, but what I am prepared to do is to take them on with an open mind and heart, because while the unknown is frightening, blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.