As my travels are winding down, I have started doing a little reflection on my trip. 16 months away is a long time to be away. Was it life changing? Not in any dramatic way [although I did make one big decision as a result of my volunteer experiences]. Did I make a difference in some one else’s life? Maybe on some small level for at least the time I was there. I can’t say what happened after I left. Did I meet my goals? Yes. My goals of the trip was to have fun, engage in meaningful volunteer experiences, and meet new people. I am a little bit torn. In one way, I feel like I could go on traveling forever. There is a great big world out there, and this experience has taught me that I have only seen a tiny part of it. In another way, I am ready to start down the path of my new career. I am a little bit scared. It will be a long road. I don’t know when I will be able to travel again, especially like this. I feel conflicted about going “home.” I don’t really have a home. I have friends that I want to be near. I can’t wait to see the children in my life, and how much they have changed.
There are things I have missed–such as having a regular study spot, sleeping in my own bed, taking a bath in my own bathtub–hot water and all, and of course my kitties. I have people who I want to see although I have learned I can make friends with nearly anyone. So in one aspect I am ready to get home, tackle what I need to tackle in order to meet my goals. Another part of me says traveling is so easy–much more so than real life, so I should continue doing that. I think my next international trip will be to some part of Eastern Europe. I am not sure where or when, but until then I have a little more that half of the United States to explore [and now I have new friends in previously untraveled parts of the country].
Since I know the questions will be coming, I spent a few minutes in thought about the best and worst parts of my trip. Here goes:
Highlights: unexpected almost free trip to the Galápagos Islands, Iguazu Falls, seeing Aconcagua, being at the end of the world
Low lights: catching malaria during my first month of my trip. I didn’t show symptoms for about 6-8 weeks though. Or at least that’s the best guess based on when I was entering and exiting the Amazon.
Thing I wish I hadn’t lost: my head lamp… I actually know where I left it; I was just too far gone before I realized it. I have been in the dark ever since then.
Thing I wish I had lost: I never used my rain poncho. I gave it to some kids and they had a blast playing with it.
Most useful items: Zune with speakers, Swiss army knife, sheet, travel pillow
Least useful items: camera accessories (I used them because I had them, but I would have been fine without them), umbrella
Best new food: Manjarblanco with apples…. mmmmmm
Worst new food: cuy–too small, too little meat, too much work, and too greasy
Funniest moment: “beerbombs”–how my Brazilian friend Henrique pronounced/understood the explanation of “beer-bong”
Scariest moment: There were two: 1. Being pounded into the rocks like a rag doll with a surf board tied to my feet, not being able to catch my breath, or regain my balance, and looking back and seeing nothing more than a wall of water coming my way…really thought I might die that way. 2. Being kidnapped by rouge taxi drivers crossing the border from Peru to Ecuador who tried to extort money from me.
Favorite place visited: Angel Falls, so remote, so beautiful and Usuhaia… for the same reasons as Angel Falls
Least favourite place visited: the midad del mundo monument… so overrated
Favorite new activity: para sailing… its like floating in the air
Least favourite new activity: Surfing
Favourite countries: Argentina and Colombia
Least favourite countries: Paraguay and Ecuador
Favourite cities: Mendoza, AR, and Santa Marta, CO
Least favourite cities: Santiago, Chile and Rio de Janeiro, BR (just too big)