As I sit in the Bogota airport writing this final blogpost, I can’t help but notice how I have changed since arriving in Bolivia. For starters, my Spanish has improved tremendously (as I had so hoped it would), and I now have no problem understanding what is said to me, although it still sometimes takes me a while to formulate a response. Before being in Bolivia, it would take three or four times of me asking, “¿Que?”, and, “¿Repite?” before I had any idea what was being said to me, and now I rarely have to utter those two embarrassing phrases. In addition to my Spanish retention, I notice that I feel more comfortable in my surroundings, whatever they may be. This trip was my first time traveling without my family, and although I didn’t know that I was feeling nervous or scared when I left for the trip, I can see a difference in how at home I feel when I am outside my comfort zone now. Retrospectively, I can tell that I was, in fact, nervous and apprehensive before starting this trip, especially in comparison to the general ease that I am experiencing on the other side of my travels.
This trip has also helped to reassure me of my own capabilities. Traveling to Bolivia, living with a host family, being immersed in a foreign language, having to navigate in a new place, and even going to remote locales like the Amazon, gave me the opportunity to stretch myself, and showed me that not only can I do things that are outside my realm of normal, but that those things can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and that it is well worth experiencing some mild discomfort so that you can reap the benefits of having new and exciting experiences. Although this does not mark a change, my time in Bolivia reaffirmed my belief in the value of travel and cultural understanding. I feel that anyone who wants to be a truly effective citizen of our planet should jump at any and every opportunity to explore the world around them, no matter how difficult or scary it may seem to them at the time, because in the end they will be rewarded many times over with knowledge and experience. I am honestly very sad to be going back to the US, but this experience, and how it has shaped me has made me all the more excited to get home, so I can turn right back around and start traveling again.¡Nos vemos otra vez!
– Gabbi Schust-