(Written by MariaJose Ladera April 31, 2021)
April has been full of adventures. Starting off with Easter weekend, my family decided to take a mini vacation to the beach. We wanted to do something fun and relaxing due to March being such a stressful month, even if it was for a couple of days. Another reason we chose to go to the beach was because of my cousin Victoria, who is about my age and is visiting us from Panama. She had been staying with us the past few months, taking English as a second language course at the local college. It was her first time staying in the U.S for more than a month and has never been to any of our nearby beaches. In the end, we spent a couple of nights in Cape San Blas, a really nice area a few hours from Tallahassee. We all enjoyed it and received a lot of vitamin sea, something we had lacked.
The following week I left for Arizona for my first solo trip, which was also the first time I traveled anywhere without my family. A month prior, I had made the decision to backpack the Grand Canyon for 4 days with a company called Wildland Trekking group. It was a pretty crazy experience, especially since I had never done something like this. The group consisted of 4 women (including myself) and two men (one of them was the guide). We were all solo travelers, so it was the first time any of us had met. At first, I was a little uncomfortable because everyone in the group had experience doing backpacking trips, besides me. After the first day, I became more comfortable with the group and was able to open up; honestly, I believe that happened with all of us. We all struggled together, especially the second day. It was a long hike and in addition there was a lot of wind because of it the two smallest people, another lady and I, had to plant our hiking sticks into the ground to prevent ourselves from blowing away. That may be an exaggeration, but it could have happened, luckily it didn’t. It was a nice trip in which I felt I was able to achieve my goal of becoming a better global citizen, by getting to know the people I was traveling with.
An example is Martyn, the second man on the trip. He is from South Africa, but has been living in the U.S for about 4 years. He is a finance major living in New York City. He comes from a blended family and doesn’t plan on living in South Africa because of the government and the economy. When he was explaining the situation back home, I felt ignorant because I did not know that they had such a bad economy and government. Meeting him pushed me to want to learn more about South Africa and other countries that I may not know much about.
After the trip, as I was re-integrating myself into society through Instagram and other social media accounts, I came across a poem that stood out to me. It talks about how there is always darkness before dawn, meaning that not everything is going to be perfect and there will always be low points before there are high points. This line resonated with not only my backpacking trip but also my gap year. Before my trip, I was not really looking forward to walking 8 miles daily with 30 pounds on my back. While with my gap year, it wasn’t so much that I was dreading something more so not knowing if I was able to go ahead with one of my plans. A couple of lines later the poem says that “life must go on” and then says that “it won’t be for long”. My understanding is that although there is darkness or low points you must continue through them. The time spent in those dark moments won’t be for long, since life continues and eventually the sun will rise and the happy moments will come.
I truly enjoyed this poem because it provided me with some understanding of my experience during my backpacking trip, my gap year, the pandemic, and overall the future.