I have a whole arsenal of thoughts and blurbs and quotes for the beginning of an adventure—even for the middle of one. But what do I say at the end?
What do I say here, now, as this incredible month of beauty, awe, adrenaline, laughter—of complete and utter bliss—comes to an end?
It’s been an extraordinary journey. I’ve climbed mountains, done field research, tracked down giraffes, spotted big cats, stood within centimeters of elephants (both wild and rescued), jumped off cliff faces, pulled myself through cave tunnels, and made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. There’s seemingly nothing to say but “Wow. That was amazing.”
I feel like I can’t go back home yet. Though it’s definitely in part because I’ve had so much fun, I think it’s mostly because I’m not the same person I was when I left. I’m more open minded now, more eco-friendly, more focused, more dedicated…different…from how I was when I stepped onto my plane at JAX a month ago. Physically, I suppose I haven’t changed much at all, but I feel like I have changed. I feel like this trip has made me strong and smart, ready to take on whatever comes next…ready for the next adventure.
I don’t know what will come next for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever have an experience better than the one I’ve just had (it is going to be awfully tough to beat). I do know, though, that I’ll never stop looking for the opportunity to at least get close. I may be headed back home to my tiny little Florida town, but it’s a big world out there, and I intend to see it.
In the meantime, I guess this is goodbye. I do usually to prefer to say “See You Later,” but I’m beginning to realize that all good stories must eventually come to a firm and finite close. This adventure truly has been one of a kind, and while I may (and hopefully will) return to Africa again in the near future, I think this is one of those times when you have to finish that last, beautiful page, and close the book.
And so, as bittersweet as it is, this is the last chapter of my spectacular four weeks in Africa as an International Student Volunteer. I’m scribbling out that resounding The End, closing my now rather beaten up and incredibly well traveled moleskin notebooks, and stacking them on my shelf with my other unchangeable novels and texts.
Thank you so very, very much, to everyone who has joined me on this journey—to the people who’ve made these four weeks into the spectacular adventure that they have been.
More importantly, though, I’d like to say thank you to each and every person who has helped turn this dream into a reality for me. This trip has exceeded every single expectation I had and has truly changed my life forever. Without you, none of this would have been possible, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you.