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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Hello My Name Is

Hi everyone! I’m not much for writing about myself, but this occasion merits a proper introduction. Let’s see…

I like to think about things. Sometimes I’ll just sit and think for hours when there’s nothing else to do, but somehow there’s almost always something else to do, so I usually think a bunch before I fall asleep. A lot of the times my thinking is actually in the form of conversations with another person, or a long-winded rant on some recent topic which I then desperately wish I had written down. I’m a big archiver of thoughts and memories, leading me to journal much of my experiences and such—I think I’m afraid of forgetting it all!

In recent years I’ve become obsessed with spending my time productively. I want to be efficient and feel progress every day, which helps me form good habits and work ethic, but often leaves me feeling uptight and gets in the way of having spontaneity in daily life. While I’m a fan of productivity, I also understand the importance of doing things without achievement in mind, which is a really tough balance for me. I like the process of creating to-do lists and checking things off, but in the end it feels a bit constricting, like my time is distributed too systematically.

Something I’m working on is becoming less judgmental of people. It’s really perhaps one of the hardest things you can do, because as soon as you see someone you have at least an idea of how they’re going to be in your head. The brain naturally categorizes people, sorts them, puts whole groups under one blanket, and it is a tough thing to fight. What I have found though, is that as soon as you can treat everyone with the same base level respect and friendliness, forgetting any expectations or preconceptions, you allow people to really be themselves around you. On the contrary, if you think you know what someone is about, you will only end up seeing what you think you already know!

A key defining factor of my identity has always been my taste. I’m very particular about the music I listen to, the books I read, the clothes I wear, and even the food I eat. It’s a strong habit of mine to try and stand out from other people, and this I do largely by having a selective taste. I have a hard time doing something if I see everyone else doing it, as I have an almost visceral desire to be original in outward appearance and personality.

I must mention pastimes, or else this introduction would feel incomplete. To start with, I have been skateboarding since I was a mere young one of 9 years. Photography has long been my favorite art form, particularly the painful trials and tribulations of shooting with a 35mm film camera. In the last year or so I’ve become increasingly stoked on acting and theatre, finding that learning how to channel my theatric energy helps me out even off the stage in daily life and conversation. Finally, I’ve recently picked up the piano (ouch, heavy) and wish to one day be fluent in the beautiful language of jazz.

I am what we are calling a “typical gap year student,” having just graduated high school and planning to attend college next year. I knew I wanted to travel during this time, and this program seemed to align with my interests in the outdoors, Spanish, community involvement, political awareness, and other such things. I’m very pumped to meet everyone and embark on this radical journey. I’m most excited for our homestay period in Tiquipaya (I like traveling around but home base always feels good) and to learn of the history of these countries as we go. My Spanish skills are pretty solid, having spent 6 months in the Spanish-speaking world, and I’ll be very happy to be a resource for any of you who are just learning. If you are nervous about the insane altitude we will be experiencing, or about being on the move for so long, then I share your apprehensions. Don’t worry, we’ll get through this together, my friend.

Until then,