Out of the Country

This is me at 18 hanging from a church steeple in Quito, Ecuador. I worked two jobs to get out of my small town life and really didn't want to go to college. 

This is me at 18 hanging from a church steeple in Quito, Ecuador. I worked two jobs to get out of my small town life and really didn't want to go to college. 

Do you ever get that feeling when you've just started moving on a bus or plane, you look out the window, and a sudden calm overwhelms your senses? The soft hum of the engine and gentle rocking just feels like home? If we are made up of the stories we tell ourselves, then I have always wanted to be going somewhere, anywhere. As a kid my parents would recall memories before I was around. Time is a hard thing to understand at a certain age. In my effort to figure out what it meant as a kid, I referred to the concept of not being born yet as being 'out of the country.'

Mom and Dad liked this. It became an ongoing reference to things that happened before I was born. Oh that time we did this, you were still out of the country. As I grew up, I became increasingly interested in actually being out of the country. Throughout my late teens and early twenties, I threw myself into any opportunity that put me on a plane. As a result, traveling alone, outside of the country and outside my regular life has both hardened my shell and opened my heart all at once. The best lessons learned are the ones about yourself and that even in being alone, you never have to feel lonely. I’ll never pass up the chance to go somewhere because more often than not it means discovering something new, living a little more aware of my surroundings, and feeling that much more alive. 

I'd traveled before my time in Ecuador and have certainly done so afterward, but when I was 18 years old and graduated high school I needed to get out of my small town life. So I worked two jobs and decided to accept the urban university that didn't want me until January. I could never understand the rush to college. It felt like the opposite of being free. So I flew to Ecuador to volunteer as an English Teacher and also worked in an orphanage. I had no idea what I was doing. I had so little money and refused to take anything from my parents who vehemently opposed the trip. But it was my earned money and I was free. And the experience was awful. I cried, a lot. Almost everyday. Living in a village in the dry season was very difficult and my Spanish was atrocious. But my tears dried and I learned how to survive - which for me, meant how not to be scared. I joined a women's soccer team. I lived with a family. I stumbled through lessons with squirmy children. Mostly, I felt alone and sad. And yet, I was forced to embrace so many unknowns and societal fears that I returned feeling like whatever was coming for me in life, I would be able to handle it on my own.