Estoy AquĆ­

Contemplating Cuenca
Contemplating Cuenca

I am home from Ecuador a bit early. I had planned to be traveling for seven weeks, but alas I only traveled for four. It was a great run – so many empowering moments for me and a lot of self-reflection, which was the whole point. But I got tired of the backpacking style – living out of one bag that I had to pack and repack each time I was leaving a place, hauling my pack on long and dreary bus rides, staying in some dimly lit lodgings, etc. Mostly, though, I was lonely. I met some great people, of course, but the nature of my trip was such that I was in each place for a couple days and then I moved on, and people were rarely moving on in the same direction I was, so each couple of days I had to say goodbye and head off to meet new people who I would say goodbye to in a couple of days.

Late one night, as I was stewing in my own anxiety about an upcoming 8-hour bus ride across the border from Ecuador into Peru, I realized I just wanted to go home. What fun is traveling if you have no one to share it with, or if you’re going to work yourself up into a debilitating anxiety each time you have to do something difficult? It really didn’t seem worth it anymore.

I was surprised at how at-peace I was with my decision, though. Much of my self-realization on the trip was focused on how much I beat myself up over things that I don’t do or don’t do “right”. I expected to feel really disappointed in myself for what others might view as “giving up”. I met so many others who were backpacking alone for months at a time. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t do the same? Was I not flexible enough, or adventurous enough, or outgoing enough? Why didn’t I eat guinea pig or jump off a bridge or completely change up my plans or all manner of other things that backpackers did?

My “aha” moment was this: who cares that I didn’t do those things? I am myself, not other person, and I need to be okay with that. It’s so much easier to beat ourselves down about the things we aren’t doing than it is to build ourselves up about what we are doing, especially when we constantly see things on Facebook or Pinterest or YouTube that would suggest that other people are living lives much more epic than our own.

But for most people, life is about 5% epic and 95% normal (at least by other people’s standards) and so making sure that you’re happy with your non-epic moments seems a lot more important than striving to make everything epic, right?

This is not to say that I don’t want to have dreams. I still want to travel to India and sing on a Broadway stage, and I think having cancer made me feel like there was no time to accomplish my dreams so I had to do everything RIGHT NOW, and that caused me a lot of anxiety because, realistically, you can’t accomplish all of your dreams at once and sometimes you can’t even accomplish them at all. So I would like, instead, to focus on being satisfied with what each day brings because life’s too short to be anxious and disappointed.

And this is why I’m starting a new project on my blog, which is to check in each week with something that I did that made me happy. I’ll call it my “weekly happy”, and along with my own posts I’d love to hear from my dear readers with their weekly happy, too.

Advertisements

La Mariposa

Today I visited Mindo, a town about 2 hours outside of Quito that is known for its cloud forest, orchids, butterflies, and adventure activities like zip lining and tubing.

I went with a woman I met in my hostel. She is from Russia and doesn’t speak English, plus her Spanish isn’t great yet so it was a bit frustrating. But during a particularly frustrating moment (she had lost some tickets that we bought earlier in the day for an activity I wanted to do), a butterfly landed on my bag and I had to smile.

20130209-200116.jpg

After that, the day improved greatly with some spontaneous zip lining high above a lush forest and rushing river. I was scared but I sucked it up, reminding myself that I lived through cancer so what’s a dangerous activity in a third world country going to do, really?

The meaning of a broken bracelet

I’m in Ecuador. It’s hard to believe, but I’m here among the mountains and valleys, the jungles and beaches. It’s been wonderful so far – I’m already afraid that a month won’t be enough time to see and do everything that I want to see and do.

Today, the baci bracelet that I got during my First Descents trip back in September snapped off as I was scrambling to find my hostel keys. I cannot think of a more exquisite symbolic moment for my first day in South America!

First Descents was my first step toward breaking my routine and making life changes. It was a small step, but one that got me to believe that there was more to life than cancer and playing it safe. I learned that fears could be overcome and that I can take back control. The baci bracelet embodied that spirit of adventure and vibrancy.

Ever since First Descents I’ve ached for more adventure and chances to challenge myself and feel empowered. Whenever I looked at my wrist, I was reminded that I could do more.

And now, I am doing more. This trip is my next step, a much bigger one. If that bracelet could speak, it would have told me that I was on my way and that I no longer needed it as a reminder to take life by the horns. Also, it probably would have called me grasshopper. Thanks, baci bracelet.

20130205-223231.jpg

Have shoes, pack, hair… will travel.

I haven’t updated in quite a while, but it’s for good reason. I’ve been planning a big life change and I’m finally ready to announce it here! Yes – I have quit my job (last day in the office will be this coming Friday the 25th), and will be embarking on a two-month adventure through Ecuador and Peru.

I am endlessly excited and endlessly terrified all at the same time. So many people ask me why I’m doing this, and it’s sometimes hard to articulate. So often throughout the past year, I’ve thought to myself, “there’s got to be more to life than the routine of working 9 to 5, cooking dinner, watching Thursday night sitcoms, and going to bed, just to do it all over again.”

While my life was by no means bad, I still just felt like there was more out there. Like I could get closer to finding my passions, I just needed an out-of-the-box experience. I needed to get out and see things, spend some contemplative time with myself, and be challenged, empowered, and humbled by the universe. I could blame it on cancer, but I can’t say that this wouldn’t have happened anyway. Cancer just made it seem more urgent.

So… solo travel to South America emerged as a viable plan. I was a Spanish minor in college and I love the region’s literature and culture, plus it’s a haven for backpackers, and Ecuador is one of the cheapest countries in that part of the world.

I’m off on February 4th. First I’ll enroll in a Spanish school in Quito to get back my language skills, and then I’m off to adventure. First to the beach with my boyfriend for a week, then back to Quito to see him off and make my way down through the varied Ecuadorian landscape and into Peru, where my main goal is to get to Macchu Picchu, however that might happen. I’m not planning to blog regularly, because I would rather be living in the moment, but hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures and updates here, just so I have some documented memories!

Hiking shoes
These shoes are made for walking
photo 3
Hey, hair past my ears!
photo 2
My pack. Think I can fit my mattress in there?