Looking Forward to 2012

31 Dec

2011 was definitely a life-changing year.  It wasn’t necessarily a good year but I can’t say that it was all terrible either. Either way, the events of the year have changed me, whether for the better or not. I have turned from a shy, scared-of-everything teenager into someone that is graduating a year early and ready to take on the world. By this time next year, I will have graduated high school, been on my own for a few months, and be preparing to take off for Latin America in a few short days. It’s scary and exciting all at once. Some days I am so excited that it’s all I can think about and other days I am beyond convinced I’ve lost my mind, especially when everyone around me is just waiting for me to fail.

I have no idea what 2012 will bring and I’ve learned that setting concrete goals of what MUST happen usually leads itself to disappointment so here are just a few things that I’m HOPING will happen.

Return to Guatemala – I still dream about the few days that I spent there. I miss the people, the atmosphere, the FOOD, and everything about the place. Unless something horrible comes up, it looks like I’ll be returning on March 23rd. Only 83 days!

Explore more of the US – I’ve lived here all of my life and I’ve seen a whole lot of…nothing. I’ve barely even explored my own state! I might dream of visiting all things foreign but at the same time, I know there’s so much to my very own country to explore. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to head on over to the West Coast before the year ends!

Visit one other country – I don’t have any places for this one yet but I would love to visit another country besides the US and Guatemala. Somewhere new and foreign. I have no idea where or when or even if it’ll happen. But I’m crossing my fingers that something comes up!

Go to the beach. – I haven’t been to the beach since I was little and visiting my uncle in Florida. I’ve been itching to go to the ocean for a while now so I’m hoping this is the year it’ll finally happen, whether it’s in Florida, California, or somewhere else!

What are you hoping will happen in 2012?

 

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5 Places on My Must-Go List!

28 Dec

I can spend hours looking through travel blogs and perusing the internet looking at all the different destinations in the world. My list of places I want to see is growing daily and some places that I wanted to visit are no longer that high on my list but there are some places that I want to visit no matter what. Here are 5 of them.

1. Cambodia – There’s really no reason or story behind this. My interest in Cambodia started a few months ago and the more I read about other travelers’ adventures there, I know I need to go too. There is just something about the culture and the people that is calling my name. I know that it will not be an easy place to visit but the desire to understand and learn more about the culture, people, and history is much stronger than any fear I have about going.

2. Peru – Given my love of Latin America, ancient ruins, and culture, this one is pretty obvious. If all goes as planned, I will be spending at least a month here during my gap year. Going on the Inca Trail is a definite adventure for me and hopefully I will be taking an Inca Culture class at a school in Cusco. The history nerd in me could not be more excited.

3. Morocco – This was recently added to my list after we studied a small amount of Arabic Literature in my World Lit class. The unit prompted an interest in the Arabic language as well as the Islam faith and culture. A quick Google search resulted in finding a school in Morocco that teaches a few dialects of Arabic as well as offering various history, literature, and culture classes. Perfect, right? Plus, Morocco just looks really cool.

4. Africa – Okay, I know that Morocco is technically in Africa but I also want to go to other parts of Africa. I don’t even care which country, though Ghana seems to stand out to me. I want to go somewhere and I want to help. To me, the people of Africa are the biggest example of what it means to be strong out there. They have suffered through so much and yet they still maintain a vibrant culture and keep fighting.

5. Amazon Rainforest – I would be lying if I said the thought of riding down in a boat down a river full of huge, gigantic snakes and flesh-eating fish where neither side is visible didn’t scare me. Or that the thought of staying in a jungle full of poisonous snakes and frogs and who knows what else doesn’t make me want to hide under the covers and never leave me house. But at the same time, the Amazon Rainforest is one of the greatest natural things left on the planet. It provides the entire WORLD with so many things and I know that I would kick myself if I never get to at least SEE it in person. Hoping to cross this one off of my list on my gap year as well!

Big News!

23 Dec

I have some exciting news that I’ve been waiting to announce…

I’M TAKING A GAP YEAR!

Yes, that’s right. When I graduate, I will not be running straight to college. Instead, I’ll be heading off on my own set of adventures.

Destination? Latin America!

In January of 2013, I will be heading off to Latin America! A lot of the things for the trip are still up in the air, since it’s so far away. I think I have it  all planned out and then I read something that makes me change my mind. Places that I’m definitely going? Guatemala and Peru. I plan on spending a few months in Guatemala taking Spanish lessons and volunteering and at least a month in Peru. Everything else changes on a daily basis.

I could not be more excited about this trip. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long and I’m finally going to make it happen. I have about 1 year to get everything organized and earn enough money. The countdown is on!

 

Why riding elephants has been crossed off my bucket list

22 Dec

When I first began this site and created an official bucket list, riding elephants in Thailand was one of the first things I put on there. The idea had come to my attention was I was researching summer travel trips and found one that involved community service in Thailand and ended with an elephant ride. Cool, right? Even though I’m terrified of heights and falling, there is just something so majestic about the idea of riding an elephant that I immediately latched on to the idea, even after that particular trip was a no-go.

Then I read this article.

I have no idea how I thought they got elephants to be so docile and let humans on them. After all, these are the same animals that we see charging through the jungle on Animal Planet so it’s not exactly in their normal behavior to let humans crawl all over them and meander slowly along the beach. I guess I just never gave thought as to the HOW, just the “oh, cool!” factor.

It turns out that the process of turning an elephant into a docile animal is quite cruel and vicious. It involves a lot of beating and torture until they finally learn to obey a human. As someone who cannot stand to see any animal hit at all and who visibly flinched in the theater every time the elephant in Water for Elephants was hurt, this is beyond horrifying. I won’t go in to any more details because I think the author of the article says it better than I ever could but I definitely suggest reading the article, along with all of the comments. Very interesting and eye-opening discussion.

I refuse to be a part of any type of animal abuse. I will not give my money to another tourist trap where elephants are hurt. That is why I have changed “ride an elephant in Thailand” to “volunteer with elephants in Thailand”. I encourage you to do the same.

First Payment Down and Flight Booked!

21 Dec

As of today, half of my trip to Guatemala is paid for! The flight was booked today. The countdown is officially on! 93 days until I return to my favorite place on Earth.

Since I’m so excited, I thought that I would share some pictures from last year.

This is the school that we volunteered at.

The entrance to the Mayan Ruins we visited.

Our first look at Lake Atitlán at an overlook driving into Panajachel!

 

I cannot wait to return – we’ll be going to the same places again and I’ll be seeing everything through completely different eyes. I miss my friends and my Guatemalan family and it’ll be so nice to spend a few days with them again. Plus, I am totally kicking myself over not buying a few things I passed up in Panajachel, so I am really looking forward to some shopping!

Fundraising Fun :-)

31 Oct

Guatemala is going to cost approximately $1500 again this year and I would like to donate some money to the school, to help them achieve their goal of adding on to the school so more students can attend, so I’ve set myself a goal of $1800 this year. That will mean at least a $300 donation to the school and more if the cost of the trip happens to go down (which may happen, it did last year).

I began my fundraising a few weeks ago with a bakesale at my library. It was a last minute thing and I was definitely not fully prepared but I still managed to raise a decent amount, which I was very pleased with.

I also sent out sponsorship letters to a few local places last week. I haven’t done that before so I don’t know how it will work out but my fingers are crossed for a response or two!

My next fundraiser is this Friday, at the local grocery store. I’m gonna have another bakesale outside. I’m hoping for a pretty good turnout, as that will be my last in-person fundraiser for a while.

I’m also working on a few big, really exciting things that I can NOT wait to share. I’m working really hard on them and hope to be able to share in the next few weeks.

Excitement

5 Oct

Just got the okay from my parents that I can return to Guatemala in March with my school. Excited does not begin to cover how I am feeling right now. I know that this trip and experience will be so much different than last time but I am excited to have a new adventure in the place I love most. I have mentioned to a few of my Guatemalan friends that I will be returning and it seems they are almost as excited as I am.

I don’t know the exact dates or length of when we’ll be going or even exactly what we’ll be doing but at this point, it doesn’t matter at all. I am going back and it’s going to be amazing. ❤

Unfortunately, I have to raise the money for the trip first. I am not positive how much it will be this year but I am expecting it to be around $1,500 or $2,000. I have a general plan of how I’m going to raise it and my first fundraiser is going to be this Saturday at my library. I’ll be doing a bakesale and also selling some of the bracelets I made with the thread from Guatemala and maybe some candles. We have a festival going on in town that weekend so I’m expecting it to be pretty productive

March cannot come soon enough! ❤