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On Friday, September 7, 2012 I was balling like a baby and walking through security in Chicago’s airport, with my mom, dad, sister, and cousin Sara waving me off. As excited as I was, I was feeling such an intense sadness for all that I was leaving behind. In my head, I was slightly angry at myself and this crazy desire to explore myself and this world. I was nervous that I was making a mistake. In Milwaukee, I had everything I could have possibly wanted. I had faith that it would all work out, but I couldn’t help but hear the doubting whisper that I was putting a boulder in my path. It is quite an overwhelming feeling to look ahead and not have any ideas to form a picture of what that looks like.  Will I like this new job? What will I do every day? Will I make enough money? Will I make friends? Why do I want this, again? I had a million and one question running through my head.

Fast forward a year to Saturday, September 7, 2013. I woke up to such an odd yet blissful sensation. I really wasn’t supposed to be waking up in Chile. I let a flight leave without me on July 10th. Looking back, it’s really hard to believe it’s been a year… it truly has felt like pure moments. There’s been some challenges but many, many more joys. There’s been a fair share of tears but thousands of more laughs. It’s refreshing to remember that the “scariness” of the unknown is really never that scary once it has a face. It’s just another reminder to always go for it!

I’m truly amazed by how our human nature just adapts. Almost immediately I felt peaceful – as if I hadn’t just situated myself in a place where I was linguistically disadvantaged and had no friends. I settled into my new room and into my new house with 3 strangers, waking up, sharing over a cup of (instant!!!!) coffee, and fumbling my Spanish as if this was all normal.

Without a thought, it became normal to walk everywhere, which has definitely made me re-think what I thought was a “walkable” distance back at home with my car so easily waiting outside. I really enjoy these times where I can think, center myself, and get lost in the happenings passing by. No lie, my time-challenged self doesn’t always fit with the walking/public transport culture, but, in retrospect, a car didn’t really help me that much either. Aaah, maybe someday.

I love waking up every morning and not knowing exactly what it will bring. Every day, something interesting happens, a new thought perspective dawns on me, or I have a moment of “huh, I like that” or “hmmm, not sure how to take that one.” On the other hand, it’s been a fun feeling to also see what is my new “norm.” Every morning, when I walk to the metro, I say good morning to the shoe-shiner, smell the fresh squeezed orange juice from the lady with her shopping cart full of oranges and grapefruits, hear the voices of people selling homemade sandwiches to those quickly heading to work, and pass the ladies laying out their blankets that soon will be filled with scarves, jewelry, second hand/homemade clothing, and other random goods.

One area that slightly surprised me, because I didn’t know exactly what to expect, is the rewarding relationship I’ve found with teaching. While I came here never having taught, I’ve always enjoyed training at my various positions in the past. In the classes I do through a language institute, my bosses have received many kudos from my students and, on the private class side, I am lucky enough to receive so many word-of-mouth references from my students that I often cannot take the “unideal” classes. Like at Gravity, like at LBWN, like at Latte Donatte, so often this work does not feel like work.

Upon wondering how I’ve been so lucky to find all this, I thought about something a friend said to me once after her rejuvenation weekend, “What a blessed life I have created.” While, hands down, I have to admit that good luck and the right things have frequently come my way, this also made me reflect on the things each of us does to impact and guide those results. For me, I think the core comes from the building of strong relationships, a genuine positive attitude, and a little bit of risk. This all also brought to mind something my boss at LBWN told me when I left that job to do some work in Ecuador and then backpack. But, I’ll save all this for another post because I think there are good applications we can all take as we simultaneously follow and direct our paths in life.

I’ve fully enjoyed the creative culture, the graffiti art, people painting in the square near my house, the multitudes of people playing music on just about every metro station and street downtown, the tendency to dance at bars and not just drink… oh, and, of course, that bars don’t close until 5ish in the morning. It’s true that lunch is around 2, dinner around 8, and, even for the older folk, it’s normal to not hit the hay until around midnight.

Having my parents visit in December was fantastic. Sharing with them my life here felt so good. Finally, after my study abroad, after my backpacking adventure, and after a couple of months into my “living,” they were able to come and fit right into it all. It was a blast being the guide, translating everything, watching them put themselves out there, and welcoming them into this part of me. I’m sure they always wondered a bit of what it was like.

Since arriving, I’ve taken many, many weekend trips and 2 big vacations. In January, alongside my friend Carl, I  tested my mind and my muscles with an 11 day hike in Patagonia, a volatile-weathered and spectacular piece of Mother Nature at the bottom of this world. In March, I checked off another bucket list item by meandering throughout Bolivia accompanied by my best friend Teresa. Bolivia was a rugged, incredibly gorgeous, and eye-opening ride that made me think deeply about some of the challenges our world faces and smile from the pure beauty of the human soul.

I’ve come to better grips on what I want, what’s important, and what’s extra. It’s been a reality check on many levels, which usually has left me humbled. Although I never in a million years expected it, I am glad I am still here. I feel like there’s still something left for me to discover and I look forward to whatever that is.