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7 days 23 hours and 6 minutes

As I am writing this post there are exactly 7 days 23 hours and 6 minutes until my adventure takes off for Quito, Ecuador, which is super exciting but also kind of scary. It’s not the fact I am going to a new country that makes me nervous, it’s the fact I’m going there alone. Anywhere and everywhere you can think of in the world I have probably been to. The Caribbean, Europe, you name it. With every single one of those times I traveled with my family. I love them to pieces and have never explored another country without them but I do feel confident that I will be okay.

Let me tell you a bit about my family and myself of course. My name is Madison Hurley, I’m 20 years old and I’m from an average sized town called Arlington outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I loved growing up in Mass and I still enjoy calling this place my home. I love the 20 minute train ride into the city, the one to two hour drives to the Cape, the short distances away from Ski Mountains and the easy access to the ocean. There are more things I love about growing up in Massachusetts but those were just to name a few of my favorites. I come from a fairly large Italian/Irish mix family who can be extremely loud, over dramatic and sometimes just downright annoying but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Each one of them loves to the bottom of their hearts and they are some of the most genuine and strongest people I know. For anyone that personally knows my family and I, knows we have been through the breaking point time and time again. I am extremely proud of all the troubles we over come and honored to call them my own. We all love each other unconditionally and I honestly will miss them tremendously during my Ecuadorian adventure. I’m going to miss my furry little family members too. My two dogs and cat are the sweetest little things every and its going to be rough not having them cuddled up on my bed at night.

As much as I a going to miss my friends and family back home, I think studying abroad is going to be a great experience for me. I currently am a junior at the University of Maine majoring in Marine Science and minoring in Spanish. Traveling to Quito/the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador is a perfect fit for my interests and myself. I’ll have ocean biodiversity right at my fingertips, and be able to navigate around the country in their native language Spanish. I also believe studying abroad will help shape me more as a person. I can be very shy and reserved so I am hoping being independent in a foreign country will help break me out of my shell and try new things. I haven’t really looked into what there is to do in Ecuador but one thing I absolutely have to do is the “Swing at the End of the World” in Baños, Ecuador. I am deathly afraid of heights so I don’t really know how swinging over the Andes Mountains on a wooden plank with no safety measures will turn out. All I know it’s roughly a three hour bus ride from Quito and 3 hour hike to the site but overall that seems worth it to me. Oh and a picture with a seal lion is a must too.

I pretty much have everything all set and ready to go. I decided to apply for my Visa independently and got that the first week of my winter break. It was such an interesting experience. I was expecting an office building or something for the Ecuadorian Consulate. Turns out it was in a tiny room of a residential house in Needham, MA and the lady who runs the consulate of course owned the house. The house was beautiful and the woman was extremely sweet it just wasn’t what I expected at all so I was a little thrown off. After second-guessing if I was at the right location or not, obtaining my visa was super easy. I dropped off all my documents and returned two days later to pick it up. Overall it was a successful experience. As for packing that’s the one thing I have not completed, or even started. I got as far as bringing the suitcases down from the attic but that’s about it. I’m not entirely sure as how much of each type of clothing I should bring, how many suitcases I should pack, If I should shove everything into one suitcase or space it out so I don’t go over 50lbs. I’ve never experienced such a struggle with packing. It’s so easy to throw a week worth of clothes into a tiny bag for a quick vacation but how does one pack four months worth of their life into suitcases. I don’t want to over pack and I don’t want to under pack so I’m stuck in this “lets see how long I can procrastinate” phase. As far as host family gifts go I think I successfully accomplished that. I got both the host family in Quito and my host family on the Islands these adorable wooden cutting boards carved out in the shape of Massachusetts. I’m really excited to start off the New Year on a new adventure! And for those of you who are curious as to what I ended up packing, I’ll be sure to let you know.

7 days, 23 hours, 6 minutes until it’s adios a los Estados Unidos y hola a Ecuador