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¡Gracias por todo, Ecuador! Nos vemos prontito (Thank you for everything, Ecuador! We will see each other soon)

June 6, 2019

I have been contemplating writing a final blog post ever since I returned from Ecuador two weeks ago. My original plan was to explore my feelings upon arriving home to see whether I felt different or sad, lonely or happy, at peace or confused. In reality, however, I just feel a little lost. I manifested such a beautiful life for myself in Ecuador that being back in my house in Indianapolis doesn’t feel quite right anymore. Yes, I’m happy to spend time with my family and friends who I missed while abroad, but now I have this entire other family out there in Ecuador (and friends, too). So, truthfully, although I recognize that Indianapolis was home before I left and will always be a home for me, Ecuador is my home as well.

I haven’t yet figured out how to cope with the sense of loss I feel (not physically being in Ecuador at the moment) for a home I never anticipated, for a family I never realized I would get to know (but am so grateful I did) and for the fabulous journey I cannot wait to continue. I recognize that this particular post is likely a lot more difficult to read (it is certainly more difficult to write) than my previous, happy-go-lucky posts regarding the beautiful spontaneity of my Ecuadorian experience, but it is still an important story to share.

I have grown up being taught a myriad of inspirational messages: Go big or stay at home; You can do anything you set your mind to; Be yourself; Listen to your intuition; Find joy in the journey. Although each of these quotes means so much to me, the one I have always been motivated to live by, especially in recent years, is: Feel the fear, and do it anyway. I knew I wanted to study abroad before I started looking at colleges; in fact, that was the main reason I chose to attend Indiana University in 2016. The idea of stepping out into the brilliant unknown scared me greatly, but the thought of staying put scared me even more. Some people might say I lucked into finding IES Abroad's Quito program that was co-sponsored through my school, but I know it was a divine blessing. I let it be known that I wanted to explore the world, stretch myself far outside of my comfort zone and appreciate the beauty life has to offer. It’s no wonder at all that I found my way to Quito, Ecuador.

For those of you searching for an adventure that will have you laughing and smiling and loving every second of life, I highly recommend traveling abroad, specifically to Ecuador. Ecuador is home to a wide range of ecosystems (the mountainous region full of volcanoes, the spectacular beaches, the Galápagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest) in a relatively small surface area. For that reason alone, it’s a must-see for every adventurous spirit and/or nature-seeker. Studying abroad in Quito broadened my horizons, helped me gain the confidence I yearned to achieve regarding my Spanish fluency (spoiler alert: I do officially claim to be fluent these days) and brought me into greater alignment with my desire to always learn more about the world while writing about the crucial connection we must further develop with the natural world as creatures of the natural world.

How could I not want to ride horses with my host family, visit archaeological sites with my best friends and continue to explore the entire world Ecuador offers within itself after coming back to the U.S.? Of course I miss every single one of those aspects of my life in Ecuador. For that very reason, I already know I’ll be heading back soon. Ecuador knows my heart, so it would be impossible to stay away for too long. I certainly hope all of you who choose to experience Ecuador first-hand feel the same way—that you have found a spectacular home.

Knowing everything I feel, it is difficult to be back in my Indianapolis home, but at the same time, I recognize that I have many beautiful things in my life here as well. For example, I am currently working as a freelance writer and will be beginning my senior year of college in August, doing my honors English thesis in creative writing. I have also been spending a lot of time with my parents, simply catching them up-to-date on the Ecuadorian adventures I have experienced and thanking them for always being here for me in any capacity they can. Living with my host family in Ecuador taught me a lot about the importance of family. At first, I could not believe how tightly knit they all were, wondering if they were the strange ones for being so close or if we (from the U.S.) are the odd ones for almost entirely relying on our independence. The truth of the matter, however, is that everyone has their own beautifully unique weirdness and that we can all learn from each other, regardless of whether we grew up in different cultures or not. We all have beauty to offer. I, myself, am incredibly happy to have been blessed enough to witness this first-hand through my experience abroad in Ecuador, especially through my stimulating conversations with my host family.

I’m running out of space in this blog, and if you know me well, I’m sure you are aware I could talk forever about the remarkable adventures I have had (and those yet to come), but for now I’ll sign off by saying that I am so incredibly grateful to everyone I have met throughout this journey, from the security guards in the airports to my host family in Quito to the IES Abroad staff to my Ecuadorian friends and everyone I have met along the way (and will meet when I return). Thank you for brightening up my life and helping my soul to continue blossoming. I love you all!

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