Hi there! I’m Daelyn (pictured on the right) and I have a question for you: when was the last time you as a high school or university student heard someone tell you to take a break? And they had to mean it, not be mean about it. It seems like fewer and fewer of us in the 18-25 range think about taking a break. We’re right smack in the middle of one of the most competitive times in our young lives – we’re fighting to get into the best schools, fighting for scholarships, fighting for honors, fighting for interviews and jobs. And no one ever seems to say: take a break. That's certainly how my sister Emma Kate (on the left) and I felt until we stumbled across The Leap. Credit where credit is due: EK was the one who found The Leap at a school fair. She thought the people at the booth were charming, engaging, and eager to tell her about their program. She came home bursting with wild ideas about postponing college for a year and traveling to distant lands – and somewhere in the conversation it was suggested that I go with her.
The idea of a gap year had never crossed my mind as something I was even allowed to do. A gap year? That was for rich people on Instagram who could afford to take a year off and travel the world. That was for people who didn’t have to worry about finding for a job or getting a Master's degree. That couldn’t possibly be for me. But... why couldn't it be for me? It would be a great bonding experience, I would get to learn and practice Spanish, I'd be touring places I'd otherwise never get to see, I'd be giving back to the community, and it costs less than a semester of college for a ten-week trip (even after converting pounds to U.S. dollars). Everything about the program was telling me to go. All I had to do was say yes.
Now here I am, three weeks away from hopping on a plane and flying 3,000 miles to Peru. Prepping for the trip has been surprisingly easy. The Leap gave us a simple To-Do list, a tidy packing list, and our representative, Jenny, has been most helpful in answering questions like “what’s culturally appropriate for women to wear in Peru” and “should we bring our phones” and “how bad are the mosquitoes, really?”. Honestly, the most complicated part of prep for the trip was trying to figure out flight details. We live in the U.S., so trying to make sure we ended up in Arequipa at the same time as our European counterparts involved a lot of “flight math” (read: calculating layovers). But once that was figured out, getting the rest of our gear together was a snap (big shout-out to our friends and family for their generous donations, and to Amazon Prime and REI for free shipping on returns).
As the final pieces fall into place, the most common question I get asked is “how do you feel?”, and I find it’s a bit complicated. I’m excited, for sure. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m glad I’ve grabbed it. I’m eager to get started, curious about the other members on my team, proud that I get to go and do something so new and exciting on my own, and a little anxious about spending so much time so far away from home. I’d also say that nervous ranks pretty high on my list of feelings. My Spanish fluency is questionable, I’ve never had to acclimatize to altitude before, and I have no idea what living in a hostel or with a host family is going to be like. As possibly the most Type A personality ever, the concept of not knowing is more than a little nerve-racking. However, with a little introspection, I’ve found that even with all those variables and unknowns, the nerves are more like a quiet buzz on the back-burner than an all-out panic-fest. I’ve spent the last couple of days reading the blog from the latest Peru trip, and from the looks of it, the students on that trip had a wild time getting out of their comfort zones and into something new. Seeing others doing things similar to what I’m going to be doing was somehow immensely soothing. So here I am, three weeks out from going to Peru for the first time, and I am ready. I am ready to learn, to teach, to work, to connect. I am ready to take a break in the most amazing way possible.