Coming Home

It’s hard to believe I’ve been home for over a month. My final flight landed me home in Indianapolis, IN, where I was warmly greeted by my sisters, father, and boyfriend. It was pretty surreal seeing all the people I had greatly missed.

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My younger sister Abby (left), me (center), and my older sister Sarah picking me up at IND.

Since I’ve been back, the excitement about being home has somewhat faded. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be back home surrounded by friends and family, not to mention the craft beer and eating literally anything you want (covered in cheese). But coming home made me realize what a different culture we live in… dare I use the word “privileged.”

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Craft beer reunion ❀

Anyway, I wanted to make a post sharing my utmost gratitude, a few frequently asked questions and answers, and a little info on my next adventure. Oh, you knew that was coming.

First, thanks. A ton. I had an immense amount of support from my family, friends, and community who helped me move, kept me sane, and gave me a wonderful send off and welcome back. To C, I couldn’t have done it without you. Forever grateful. To the locals we met and the other travelers, you really made the trip. Hope I can cross paths with many of you again somewhere on this globe.

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Some amazing locals that welcomed us like family in BaΓ±os, Ecuador

Next, since I’ve been back, people are dying to know how the trip was. I’ve heard many of the same questions so I thought I’d share them here as well.

Q: What was your favorite part of the trip?

A: Wow, that’s a tough one, and I can’t pick! That being said, here’s my top three. I really enjoyed Colombia and highly recommend a trip there. The food was great, the people were nice, and the country had diverse, stunning landscapes. Don’t believe the media. Colombia is awesome. Next, sailing between Panama and Colombia and spending time on the San Blas islands was like a dream in paradise. Finally, I can’t forget to mention Machu Picchu. We did the four day Inca Trail arriving at the ruins at sunrise. The hike wasn’t easy, but the landscapes served as an unforgettable reward. If you’re planning a visit there, you must do a trek! Oh, shoot. Ok, four. Belize. Beautiful Belize. Caye Caulker and the ruins were un-Belize-able. English and easy currency exchange rate were a nice bonus.

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I hooped in some pretty incredible places

Q: Did you ever feel scared or unsafe?

A: No, not really. The biggest fear we had was getting robbed and despite a few small things go “missing,” we didn’t have any issues. Pay attention to your stuff and don’t go to the parts of town people warn you against. We were always well informed of the areas we were going to. Latin America is far less scary than the media would have you believe. Still, common sense goes a long way.

Q: Did you and Claudia come back friends?

A: 100 % yes. Although we had our moments, our teamwork kept us happy and safe. I will say, to all you future travelers, pick your travel partner wisely. Spending literally all of your time with any person is a challenge. Try adding language barriers, currency exchanges, and the struggle which is always real. Also, we met several solo travelers… even, gasp, women!

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Our first day together in Playa Carmen, Mexico

Q: How much money did you spend (if you don’t mind me asking)?

A: Ah, the money question. And no, I don’t mind. I traveled for 5 months, visited 13 countries, and spent less money than I do living and working in the US. In total, I spent less than $7,000. More details in this below…

Q: Did you experience culture shock?

A: Honestly, I feel like I transitioned really quickly into the different cultures I experienced. (No, not all Latin American countries have the same culture, nor do they all eat Mexican food.) Actually, my biggest culture shock I experienced was when I came home! Wow, the US seems like quite a strange place. I find myself surrounded by people here that are, honestly, quite petty and frivolous. And they have way more money than they think they do. And they’re ALWAYS on their phones! At my new serving job, it’s easy for two people to spend $50 on lunch. That’s two days of my traveling budget… on lunch. I know it’s all relative, but count your blessings, y’all. I spent a year saving for this trip with the ability to take 5 months off work. There are few places in the world where this is a possibility. We are blessed.

Q: How were the busses?

A: Amazing. Ya, I mean it. The busses were so well organized, frequent, and cheap. The public transportation in Latin America is pretty impressive to what we’ve got going on here… at least in the Midwest. And, yes, we did ride local, “chicken” busses. And it was fine.

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View out of a big bus window in Guatemala.

Q: What are you doing with your cat!?

A: Aww, thanks for the concern. She’s in good hands. Currently, she is being fostered by my awesome sister! She’s healthy (well, a little overweight) and very happy.

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Loki in real life!

Lastly, I just want to say, holy crap that was amazing. What a treat. Now go! Dream, research, save your money, buy your ticket. Climb, swim, dive, sail, hike. Seriously, go do it! Challenge yourself, learn another language, stop looking at pictures of beautiful places, and go see them with your own eyes. Stay with locals and eat strange food (you can draw the line anywhere with that one πŸ˜‰ ). Make a fool of yourself salsa dancing. Just, go, ok? Promise?

Good.

It changed my life and it can change yours too.Β And you know what else? You can do it all on a budget. From Mexico to Chile over 5 months I spent about $6,500. That includes everything: gear, major flights, hiring a sailboat, tours, treks, hostels, ATM fees, required entrance and exit fees, meals, and even beer. And we could’ve done it cheaper.

The internet is an invaluable resource. The entire globe is at your finger tips. There are an incredible amount of budget traveling ideas out there like “voluntouring” opportunities such as wwoof.org, helpx.net, and the most popular, workaway.info. If money is an issue, check out these websites for world wide opportunities. Also, hostels are pretty cool, not scary, sometimes dirty, generally awesome places to stay with the added bonus of meeting fascinating people from all over the world.

This has been the biggest eye opening time of my life and I couldn’t recommend it more. Still not sure what you’re doing with your life? Go travel. It won’t tell you what to do, but it will give you the chance to discover what is important to you. What are you enjoying most while traveling? Cities, mountains, beaches? What things do you really miss while you’re away from home base? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? My travels gave me the time and opportunity to do the hiking I always wanted to do. I spent almost every day outside with amazingly diverse horizons. I’m still stunned by the incredible landscapes I was able to enjoy.

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I guess it’s no surprise that during my first week home, Sean (the man) and I began seriously discussing tackling our next dream: thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. And… well… it’s on. As of writing this, we leave in 9 weeks for Springer Mountain, the southern trailhead in Georgia. From there over the course of approximately 6 months, we will summit Mt. Katahdin 2,189 miles later in Maine. We just finished gathering all the items we’ll be carrying on the journey, Β but I’ll cover that in an upcoming post.

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Bags are ready! We’re stoked!

So, keep following Loki (and my) travels! Take off in 9 weeks!!!

2 Comments on “Coming Home

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