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Saturday, March 19, 2005

It is very telling that it has taken two months to write this conclusion to our blog. Coming home has been like getting swept away by a strong current. Things started piling up on day one and moved very fast. But I am finally sitting down to try and get a little bit of closure for this long great story.

Inspired by the time Jacob and I spent abroad in college we started talking about taking a year to travel four years ago. Four years is a long time to focus on making something happen. A long time to spend planning, saving, dreaming and doing. Sometimes it is hard to believe we already did it and are back again in California on the other side of things.

I think travel is a very validating experience. You get rid of the daily grind and get to step into a space where your main business is navigating a new place and drinking it in the best you can. I don't think I have ever felt as relaxed and focused as I did by the end of this year. I had tons of time to explore life without a lot of worry or mental and physical "busyness". With all that space left over I got real comfortable with myself and saw a little more clearly the core things that matter to me. I spent so much time just observing, being, and loving that new brain space.

I am fully aware that many people will never have the opportunity to do what we did this year. We were reminded everyday. So I feel incredibly lucky. I think to some travel can seem like a very self-indulgent endeavor but I don’t think that this time has been just about me. There is a ripple. It will help me be a better part of my community and better informed member of global society. It has enabled me to reflect on how I want to relate to and treat those around me. I thought a lot about what I think is right and what I am willing to say out loud is wrong. I thought about fairness and justice everyday while traveling. Having all that new space for observation and the chance to slow down allowed me to think about how I want to give back. I learned a lot about myself, but I also learned about history, culture, politics, language, economics and human nature.

In the end, traveling validates my experience in the world. It is easy to imagine a foreign place as this "other" that seems scary and distant. Before we left I had such a hard time imagining myself physically existing way down south because I had never been there. I just had to go on blind faith that my heart would still beat no matter where I am. What was it going to be like? Well, it is just like here with a twist. People talk, move, laugh, live. Take the bus from one place to another. Go out with their families. Go shopping. Enjoy beautiful places and restaurants and bars. Do the things we all do. For me, there is a lot of comfort and fascination in that. It makes me feel very small and I like that. Feeling small in a huge world lifts that all-about-me focus and helps me feel less anxious, less worried about my future, less estranged from my surroundings.

People keep asking us what our favorite places and experiences were. The best thing personally was having the space to just let the information and experience flow over and around me. It was also wonderful to travel with Jacob and be "in it" together. We had such a good time together and really figured out how to make it work. I felt very grateful to be sharing the experience with someone I trust and love. And of course the people we met on the way were amazing. I can not rave about them enough. They were the best part of our travels because we made so many connections. Talk about feeling hope for the world. The generosity we encountered and the sincere friendships we made will never be forgotten.

So to answer that million-dollar question, there are many favorite places. I made two lists here of favorite cities and favorite experiences in case you ever want to make your own trip someday.

Favorite cities and towns in no particular order:

Valdivia, Chile
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cafayate, Argentina
El Bolson, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Itacare, Brasil
Sacred Valley, Peru
Arequipa, Peru
Sucre, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia
Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
Leon, Nicaragua
Panama City, Panama
Copan, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras
Antigua, Guatemala

Memorable things we did, experiences, places:

Goat barbeque and week we spent in the mountains at Las Animas (Chile)
Watching condors fly out of Colca Canyon (Peru)
Hiking the Inca Trail and visiting the porter village (Peru)
Spending time with my parents in the Sacred Valley (Peru)
Getting to know the community at Alta Gracia Farm (Domincan Republic)
Learning to love Bachata music (Dominican Republic)
Riding the gua gua up the mountain with twenty people (Dominican Republic)
Going to the wildest soccer match, Boca vs. River (Argentina)
Being invited home to our friends Ceci and Cristian's town to meet their families (Chivilcoy, Argentina)
Four day jeep trip in the Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
Learning to knit from many good Samaritans (South America)
Going to the neighborhood pasta shop (Buenos Aires)
Meeting all those fabulous third and fourth graders (Buenos Aires)
Trekking in Patagonia (Chile and Argentina)
Iguazu falls (Brasil and Argentina)
The beach (Anywhere)
Latin American markets but especially Masaya (Nicaragua)
That everything and anything can be sold (Latin America)
Christmas with both families (Coast Rica)
Finding out Honduras is a beautiful country
Riding the city buses in Panama City (Panama)
Watching monkeys on Ometepe Island (Nicaragua)
The amazing warm (yet snowy) welcome we got from friends on the East Coast (United States)
Fresh fruit juice
Argentinian barbecues
Brasilian music
Speaking lots of Spanish

I could go on and on but you get the idea. I can not say enough about how great it was to have this blog and get feedback from so many of you over the year. Thank you for reading it, taking an interest and being so supportive. We will definitely write one again the next time. Here’s to hoping there is a next time.
Chao, suerte Raegan

Last photos from Central America coming soon!

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