I spent the summer of 2015 in Cuenca, Ecuador working at a shelter for victims of domestic violence and taking Spanish classes. Little did I know that my first week in Ecuador would rattle everything I expected in my life, and put me on a new path. In just a short time, Ecuador changed me for the better. Well, I shouldn’t say changed me, but rather reminded me of who I am at my core – a wonderer, a dreamer, a gal that rejects the status quo. The summer of 2015 was the time I fell in love with a kindhearted Ecuadorian gentleman, Eduardo, and, at the same time, fell in love with myself.
As I said goodbye to Eduardo and the city of Cuenca on that early August morning, I knew my time in Ecuador was far from over. To me it felt as though I had only just begun to write my story. I sat on board the plane and I told myself I would be back, and most logically it would be in just a few short months, after I had completed my Masters in December.
Making the decision to move abroad was simple – I knew in my heart it was what was right for me at this crossroads in my life. There was nothing holding me back, except fear and attachment to my family. Taking each step to move abroad, however, was not that easy. I had to tell my loved ones not only that I was leaving, but that with the purchase of a one-way ticket, I had no idea when I would return. I received bountiful support and encouragement, more than I could have ever expected. Family, friends, and strangers told me: wow, you’re brave… I wish I could do that… I wish I did that when I had the chance.
I also received some not-so-supportive remarks – wait you’re moving for a guy? You realize you’re just chasing love, right? You realize you’re giving up on everything you’ve worked for here, right? Or, when folks found out that love was part of the equation, it was as though my relationship diminished the bravery I had to move abroad. While these things were hard to hear, especially from people I cared for, I knew that only I myself could define my decisions and actions. I had made up my mind and wouldn’t let anyone make me feel inferior.
Despite my confidence to make this transition in my life, not everyday was full of wanderlust wonders. I consider myself a hard-working, independent, goal-oriented gal, and I was leaving the country with no plans, zero jobs lined up, and lacking clarity in what I really wanted in my professional career. I had worked 2+ jobs, been a Masters student, and volunteered regularly for as long as I could remember. I broke down quite a few times – What am I going to do with all of my free time? What kind of career do I actually want? What is my professional identity? Will I make true friends? While the idea of traveling South America sounded like a fantasy, I also knew that was not going to be my reality. When folks began to ask – so what are you going to be doing down there? The Peace Corps? Teaching English? – I began to chuckle the remark: Living life. I didn’t have the answers, and I certainly did not feel obligated to prove that my move was worthy to anyone other than myself.
The decision to move abroad came in waves – my initial gut feeling on the plane returning to the states, telling my family about my idea, buying a one-way flight, maintaining a long distance relationship and apartment hunting, and, at last, hugging my parents goodbye and walking away from them and everything that was familiar, towards the security gate at Dulles international airport.
I dreamed of this moment for so long, the moment that I would live in Latin America, pursue career opportunities, and live alongside a man that supported me and loved me for who I am. As the plane was taking off from DC I could only think – man, I am f**king crazy. But I love it. This is only the beginning and I’ve already had a fair share of doubts and anxiety. But, at the same time, I’ve begun to shed layers of fear that had kept me locked in the societal expectations of the DC metro area. I have begun to embrace a life so unknown, a life where there are no answers. What I can say with confidence, however, is that this is a beautiful life. I wake up alongside a man that I love and I enjoy the small moments and treasures of each day. I try to do something everyday that challenges me, something that makes me think, something that makes me happy, and something that makes me a stronger woman. I’ve taken my first leap into the unknown, and now its time to put one foot in front of the other.