I have been advised to begin blogging on my current adventures and future endeavors. So here it goes…
To fill you in on my story, it goes like this: I graduated high school with no future dreams and no ideas in mind of where to go from there in regard to education. So I picked the safe route and enrolled in college as a nursing major. I stayed on that track for about 3 years, started into the nursing program, got a job at a hospital….and hated it all. In 2008 I really traveled for the first time. So I found myself in Oahu, Hawaii, where I fell in love with the beach, the ocean, the wildlife — everything about it. So I traveled back to Hawaii, this time to Maui, in 2011. While in Maui, at Kaanapali Beach, I had the first of many life changing moments. I swam face to face in the open ocean with a giant Green Sea Turtle. Upon returning to the mainland, I changed my major to Biological Sciences and began on a whole new track. I knew a degree in biology wasn’t practical and I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. What I did know, was that exotic wildlife and spending time in new places fascinated me. I needed to make those experiences part of my future.
I didn’t do much traveling from then until 2013. In fall of 2012 I had a guest professor in one of my general biology classes who informed the whole class of her Amazon Expedition field course to Peru that she teaches every year. She told us that the applications for the course would be available soon and that interviews would be conducted for admittance. Second life changing moment; I instantly knew my next goal. I was the first person to fill out that application for the field course and a few months later in October when I got the email of acceptance, I cried. It was a huge accomplishment for me, just to be accepted into something so extraordinary. From October until May I, along with 7 other students, worked hard in preparation for a two-week stay in Manu National Park. Amidst a long and intricate packing list, passport application procedures, and shots galore, I found myself coming up short for the funds to pay for the trip. I remember crying one night, so worried I would not be able to go. Solution? Sell my car. No worries, I had a back up and everything worked out.
Finally, it was May 2013 and I boarded the plane to head to South America along with seven classmates, and my two professors, Tom and Marcia. We arrived to Cusco, Peru where we met our guide, Leo. Leo was with us every day of our time in the Amazon and amazed everyone with his countless stories and knowledge of the jungle. We spent our days in the forest hiking through trails, navigating the Amazon River, and searching for exciting and exotic species. We were even successful in finding a Jaguar! THAT was a moment I will never forget, and I think it is safe to say it was probably everyone’s favorite moment of the trip. We spent a lot of time living with indigenous people of the jungle and learning to understand their ways of life, which of course, was fascinating. So I will cut to the chase: I found myself growing more and more interested in this Leo character and long story short, feelings were mutual. Crazy, I know.
So, I was back in the US attending classes, and life was back to normal. Well as normal as it could be after visiting the most amazing place in the world and meeting the most incredible person ever, then having to leave it all behind. So Leo and I knew we had to make a plan. About a month after returning home, I bought a plane ticket to go back to Cusco. So after successful completion of summer semester, I boarded another plane to South America — this time alone. That flight was the most nerve-wracking experience I have ever had. I was so nervous to fly to a foreign country by myself, speaking only English. But of course, Leo met me half way and made the hard parts a total breeze. I spent two weeks with him in Cusco, he as my personal guide to places like Ollantaytambo, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. We ended our time together in the Andes mountains on a five-day hike of Ausangate. The Ausangate trek (at an altitude of around 15,000 ft.) was the first actual hike I have ever done, and when Leo found that out, he was scared (for me). Of course I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I was rearing and ready to go. I found the Ausangate hike to be the single most mentally and physically taxing thing I’ve ever done but, with Leo’s motivation and support, I completed the whole trek with flying colors.
Once again I left my second life to return home and begin another semester of classes. This would be my last year of my undergraduate degree, and I was more than ready to be done. Leo and I knew we had to make another plan, so he came to me this time. He traveled to Ohio for two weeks in December and spent Christmas and New Years with me. My family and friends were of course skeptical of the whole “Leo” situation, but, after meeting him and understanding what I see in him, they loved him. We even met up with the Amazon classmates and professors for a reunion night out. But of course, after the first of the year Leo had to head back to his home in Peru.
I am now finishing up my last semester of my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at Wright State University. The plan once I graduate, is to move to Cusco. I figure once I graduate I have nothing holding me back, so why not?! Plane tickets have been purchased and I leave July 30. Leo will be in the midst of his Masters program for education, so I have come up with a new track for myself during my time abroad. While shadowing Leo on amazing trips guiding in the rainforest, mountains, and coasts of Peru, I will be working towards my own Masters degree in sustainable tourism. How you ask? Through online courses and distance education. The search for universities and programs has begun, as well as meeting with past and present professors in regard to recommendation letters. So far the hunt has given rise to a couple of programs that really pique my interest. With my background in biology and interest in conservation, ecotourism seems to be the perfect new track for my new future endeavors. I never thought of myself being in the tourism field, but when combining adventure, travel, and environmental sustainability, saying that I am excited would be an understatement. The past year has led me to so many incredible life changing opportunities, and I am beyond grateful for all of them. I can see and feel myself changing in the most positive way possible, mentally and spiritually. I am the happiest I have ever been and I have so much to look forward to. It has been a long road to get to this point, and it’s not over, it’s just beginning.