Saturday, October 1, 2011

Where are you going, what are you doing?

Are questions I ask myself regularly.
The idea of traveling and seeing new places keeps circling in my mind. I even thought seriously about going somewhere for the whole spring semester (although upon further thought I realized I should start with a much shorter trip,) but then this program for 16 days of winter break in Ecuador came along. I would have never thought to go there on my own, but the guys who run it gave a presentation in my class and after that I just had to go to the meeting. It's a grassroots organization, separate from study abroad, but still affiliated with the school (Global Student Embassy if anyone's interested,) and basically a group of 25 students from my school as well as another group from California, travel with group leaders to la Bahia de Caraquez on the coast of Ecuador and work on reforesting the area. Ecuador has always been one of  the most biologically diverse places in the world but environmental degradation is starting to threaten that. A lot of deforestation happens there, and trees are being cut faser than people are re-planting them. The GSE aims to reverse some of this damage and restore Ecuador's ecosystem. Other projects include building a rainwater catchment system  to help with the town's water supply and planting gardens in an Ecuadorian school. The deal is you work on these projects from like 8am - 2 in the afternoon, then the rest of the day is yours to relax on the beach and explore. We're supposed to be spending 2-3 days in the nearest city, la Bahia de Caraquez (our camp is a little ways away from the city on an isolated beach,) and we will celebrate the New Year there. The trip goes from December 27-January 12. The itinerary says we have a few different trips, visits to museums, and hikes. One day we're supposed to be learning how to surf too. The trip costs a litte more than I'd like..$2300, which covers airfare, food, transportation, travel insurance--basically everything but souveniers and extra necessities. We don't stay in hotels, I think we might spend a night or two in a hostel that the program always uses and has pretty much privacy in, but most nights are spent camping on the beach in large tents the organization provides.
Here's where you guys come in.. I have friends who really support it, friends who are neutral, and a couple of family members who are practically begging me not to go (primarily Grandma...the news always gets her worked up, she doesn't want me traveling at ALL, anywhere..). Then I have a relative, my dad's cousin, who has traveled a lot, but usually is more into tours and sightseeing, although she has been to Africa, Ecuador(briefly and in a different area than my trip would be,) and other third-world countries. She thinks I should go somewhere "easier" first, like Ireland or England. She's worried I'll be disappointed, but I don't know.. I feel like we might have different tastes when it comes to traveling. She loves to go and see the places she's read about and seen photos of--while I like that aspect too, a larger reason for me wanting to travel is just to get a taste of somewhere different and broaden my views. But anyways, I'd like to get some of your opinions on if you think this is a good idea or not. Don't worry about offending me--I'm just trying to make my decision and I know a lot of you have traveled before :). Eventually I do want to go all over--and I REALLY want to go to Australia. My dad's cousin suggested I save my money and go there, but I'm trying to decide if Ecuador really is an opportunity worth giving up. It would definitely reflect well on my resume, there's a chance I can work out some college credits for the trip, and it could defnitely be a life-changing experience. What do you guys think? Please be honest. The financial aspect sucks, but they did mention fundraising usually being successful in the past. Here's some photos I stole from the email they sent out to applicants.
Think I should fundraise and go? Or save my money for a future trip to Europe or Australia? Honestly I'm going to Europe or Australia eventually while I'm still young and free of heavy responsibilities, but I would probably go later on if I did this trip, and if I didn't do this Ecador trip I would probably go to Europe or Australia sooner.

Straying away from life-changing decisions, things overall have been good with me. I spent most of this week with Tom, which was really nice. I don't advertise it much on here, seeing as we don't bother with the boyfriend/girlfriend titles, but we have been seeing eachother for a really long time (yes exclusively, just no title,) and it's definitely nice when we get time together during the chaos of my college career. I like to consider Tom to be my rock. Whenever the little stressors of life decide to gang up and attack me, I know I can just let myself unravel in front of him. I'm never too worried about looking stupid, and it's pretty much a sure thing that he'll find a way to make me feel better. I always look forward to taking turns reading stories out loud from A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes with him before bed, waking up past ten and making big hearty omlettes for brunch. It's not always that glamorous, sometimes I just snooze on his shoulder while he kills godknowswhat on his xbox games, but I love the time together all the same. He's suppoting the Ecuador idea, which has a certain impact on my decison as well, because I know he's got my best interest in mind. He came to a meeting with me too because he was visiting me that night--and he was sold on the whole idea of the trip. He was also there for my emotional call with my dad when he told me that my grandmother was "devastated" by the very idea of me thinking of GOING. "If you go on this trip, just know it's going to cause some serious problems back here." Pretty heavy words to hang above my head. Again, Tom was my rock after I got off the phone all teared up, trying to collect myself before I had to go to class. Tom and my mom are probably my biggest supporters of the whole idea--my mom thinks it's a good thing, she's a little worried about international travel, but she doesn't want to stand in my way if I think it's a good opportunity for me.
Anyways, Thursday and Friday I had off from school due to the Jewish holiday, so I went home with Tom Thursday. Wedneday night was a Rise Against concert(!) so we stayed in my college city instead of driving the hour back home. The crowd was so crazy, everybody moving, everybody so amped up. I even lost Tom at one point when he got separated from our group of friends---but surprisingly I was able to find him and bring him back through the sea of sweaty, rowdy concert-goers, back to our friends. I crowd surfed for the first time! Pretty awesome ;), I didn't really go far, but it was a cool feeling, those bouncers pick you up like you're a piece of lint--you feel like you weigh NOTHING. Definitely cool to feel that way.

Once we were back at home, time with the friends was in order. We had a game night playing Apples to Apples at Derek's house, which is always a blast. The next day Tom and I went to our local apple orchard with the intent to pick apples, but it was pretty pricey, so we settled for cider and of course apple cider doughnuts!!!! There was NO way I was leaving that place without a bag of those, I've been craving them ever since the temperature dropped below 75 :P. So we played with the goats a little, got our doughnuts, walked around, and then went home.
 I was lucky enough to catch this group of senior citizens checking out the goats---something about it kind of makes my heart melt, haha.
 I'm pretty much pro at getting creeper shots of Tom ;), I couldn't help it though, it was too cute.
MY WEAKNESS...... Here you see like..10 out of the dozen we purchased. Yeah, well before the evening was through I managed to pig out on 6 and a half of these bad boys, by myself. Looks like it's time for me to visit the gym again.
So I am currently at my college, by myself. How did this happen you ask? Everyone at work was requesting this weekend off for the holiday, and being a newbie, I decided not to push my luck and only asked for Wednesday-Friday off, hoping I would magically get Sunday off atleast. But alas, I'm working both days over the weekend and the rest of my suite won't be here until later on tomorrow. I'm not really complaining though, I saw a lot of my friends this week and I do need the money. Plus it gives me time to just chillax and watch things on Netflix, BLOG, and hopefully do some reading.

Have a wonderful weekend! Please feel free to give me any imput/advice you have on my traveling situation :), and don't worry about offending me, I'm trying to be totally open-minded about this whole thing.

♥ Olivia