In food - As a huge food lover, picking my favorite thing I ate is easier said than done. Sadie and I stole this orange from someone’s tree while we were walking around Florence. We laughed our butts off while we were doing it and it was a really good orange. It also represents the thing that I have loved most this year - the way that food brings people together.

In sunsets - My favorite sunset of the year was a sunset in some nameless town in Galicia that I watched from a river valley with Sadie and Tommy on the Camino

How do you measure a year?

I’m drawing inspiration from the fabulous Rent song Seasons of Love this week. I’m going to be posting some of my favorite moments of the year, trying to figure out how to measure this year that has seen some of the worst and best moments of my life.

Mixed feelings

There’s something so special about coming home after a long trip. I love flying into the RDU airport and knowing exactly where I am, feeling comfortable in it. I adore coming up the stair to the arrivals area and knowing that someone I love and who loves me will be at the end of the hall. Nothing feels as comforting to me as putting my luggage down in my house and knowing that I don’t have to repack again in 3 days.

I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to all these things, but I also feel like my heart is breaking to see the end of this year. I’m still looking forward to working in Mexico this summer, but the start of college is looming. Move in day is 4 months from today.

As with the end of the Europe-fest, I’ve gotten more excited to go home the closer I get, but I’m trying to focus on my last few days on Ecuador. I’m sure once I get to the Galapagos with no internet, the time will fly.

Things to appreciate if you really want to be traveling but aren’t

Hugs from people who’ve known you longer than the time you’ve been traveling

Not repacking a backpack every 2 days

The ease of ordering food/buying things/existing in a culture where they speak your first language

The independence you are afforded by not depending on unfamiliar public transportation

Drinking coffee in your empty home

Not feeling even a little guilty about doing absolutely nothing on a Sunday afternoon

Cooking in your own kitchen

Walking into your neighborhood grocery store and knowing exactly where everything is

Final game plan

My friend Cailan and I have just arrived in Baños, a city 2 hours from Quito that is famous with backpackers for its affordable adventure sports. We’ll be here probably until Friday or Saturday and then I’ll return to Quito to meet another friend from my time volunteering in Colombia and he’ll head further south into Peru. Next Monday morning Leslie and I will fly into the Galapagos, where we’ll spend 8 nights, 7 of which will be aboard a 10 person “yacht”. On April 29th, we’ll fly back into Quito and I’ll leave that same night I’ll fly home, putting me back in Durham around noon on April 30th.

This cuts my trip about two weeks shorter than I thought it would be, but I decided that since the Galapagos are a bucket list item of mine, I should just do it while I’m here. There are countless tour companies that sell last minute Galapagos tours that cost less than half of what the same tours would cost if booked online or further in advance. It’s still costing me everything I have left (and then some, thanks mom and dad!) but the idea of giving the Galapagos a miss and not having a chance to come back later in life makes me sick. It’s easy to assume that I’ll have tons of time and money with which to travel later in life but there’s really no guarantee of that and I don’t want to have regrets about this year.

Exploration of Quito