It is difficult to believe that as of yesterday I am home now, 10 weeks later – No cellphone, not a lot of money, but innumerable priceless memories.
Colombia feels like it was both yesterday and also a lifetime ago. So much has changed, but at the same time nothing at all. I have learned so much on this trip, about the world and about myself. Going home to responsibilities and reality holds many things that I am looking forward to. However, over the past few months backpacking has become my reality. It may sound crazy, but if my budget would have allowed it I could gladly stay traveling for a few more months. There is a whole new wave of culture shock that will come with getting back into my everyday routine in North Carolina.
On this trip I can honestly say that I have experienced the highest of highs…
- Ending up in Puerto Lopez by accident and going whale watching with dolphins swimming next to our boat
- Arriving at the sun gate of Machu Picchu by Inca Trail
- Drinking batidos on the beach in the Galapagos with the sea lions
- Trying canyoning for the first time, having no idea what I was getting into
- Learning and practicing Spanish
Just to name a few…But along with that, the lows have been pretty low…
- Arriving at the hostel in Guayaquil to learn, after waiting outside on the street, that the hostel did not exist anymore.
- Being terrified of the creepy bus driver in Santa Marta
- Having my phone pickpocketed in Montañita
- Various illnesses for myself and my friends
I am thankful for all of it…except maybe having my phone stolen, but even that was a learning experience.
As I said, I have learned so much on this trip. I would like to share some of the most important lessons for me:
1. Life is so sweet, but it is also so unfair for so many. Your low could be someone else’s high. Through all of the people I have met on this trip, locals and travelers alike, I am realizing that you never know someone’s situation or background, nor can you assume. Some of the happiest and most proud people I met were fighting battles of immigration, employment, and daily sustainability that I have never had to experience.
2. Stereotypes aren’t always true. Everyone is an individual and there is good and bad in each culture. I have heard it said before that when you travel you find out that everyone is wrong about other countries. On each trip that I take I find this to be true in many ways. I know many of my friends and family were worried about me taking this trip, and I understand that there are many stereotypes and preconceived notions that Americans have about South America. However, I hope that for some, I may have been able to provide another perspective.
3. Appreciate the little things – clean laundry, a beautiful sunset, hostels with free breakfast, free airport WiFi, but also time spent without access to the internet, among all other things.
4. Lastly, there is so much more to learn. There always will be. This is only the beginning. I will always be learning, about people; the world; Spanish; and myself.
The lifestyle of trying new things nearly every day, from dancing salsa, to canyoning, whitewater rafting, scuba diving with sharks, surfing, cooking ceviche or empanadas, does not have to stop today. I hope to continue the adventurous spirit that this trip has revived in me. Although I am headed back to reality and the routines of daily life there is plenty that I look forward to trying and learning right here at home.
This trip was not always easy, but it was an experience I will always cherish. Traveling like this is never going to be easy. It may only get harder to do trips like this in the future; there will always be another excuse or reason not to, but I don’t want to be the person that wishes they had these experiences. I hope to continue to make traveling and experiencing new things a priority in my life.
Getting a little bit lost is sometimes the best way to find yourself,
~Life begins at the end of your comfort zone~