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

Nice To Meet You!

Hey, everyone! My name’s Joe LaRocca, and I’m from Concord, Massachusetts, about 25 miles west of Boston. I’m currently taking a gap year between high school and college and will be going to Williams College this fall. I’m really looking forward to getting to meet all of you and am counting down the days until we arrive in La Paz!

From a very young age, I’ve been a huge music enthusiast. I play trumpet, piano, and sing, and enjoy playing all sorts of different genres, from Chopin ballads to up-tempo swing tunes to Taylor Swift songs. When I was six, I discovered that I have perfect pitch – which means I can tell the pitch of a note by hearing it – by listening to pop songs in the car with my parents. In high school, I also learned that I have a certain type of synesthesia, in which I connect certain chords to certain colors (for example, E major is green and F minor is dark blue).  My favorite artists include but are not limited to Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Miles Davis and Clifford Brown. I’m always looking for new music recommendations, so definitely hit me up with any songs or albums you’ve been into lately!

I’m also a sports fanatic, and despite living near Boston, I was raised as a New York sports fan. I’m a Yankees and Jets guy, but don’t mind the Mets and Giants either, as long as it’s not the Red Sox or Patriots :). I played baseball and ran cross country in high school, and while I continued running by training for and finishing a half marathon this fall, I’m sad that my competitive baseball days are over. I also played JV basketball in high school, but was much more famous for my missed fadeaway shots than anything good; today, you’ll often see me missing 3-pointers in my backyard.

I’ve spent the first half of my gap year working with two different healthcare organizations. My first job was with Boston Health Care for the Homeless, in which I helped navigate patients to appointments and worked in the hospital admissions office. My second was with Partners Center for Connected Health, which is dedicated to making health care more efficient using mobile solutions (super complex, but also super exciting). My job at Health Care for the Homeless was especially eye-opening, and by the time my time there was over, I felt like I had a much better worldview. I’m looking to go into healthcare sometime in the future, so I’m really glad I got this job experience this early.

But just as I spent the first half of the year working, I wanted to spend the second half going to a part of the world I never thought I’d go to before. Some of the aspects of the trip that I’m particularly looking forward to are disconnecting from the rest of the world for three months, trekking and learning Spanish. I enjoy running, hiking and the outdoors, and I’m psyched to go backpacking for the first time. I love pushing myself and trying new things, and this trip definitely represents both of those for me!

A few other fun facts about me:

  • I. Love. Dogs. I’ve got an 8-year-old Havanese named Boomer, and he’s my favorite thing in the entire world.
  • I’m a big fan of humor – specifically, the laughing part. I’m always looking to share a quick laugh with someone if I can.
  • My favorite movie is Boyhood. For some reason, that movie’s really stuck with me ever since I first saw it.
  • I’ve got a lot of favorite TV shows…The Office, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, South Park, Impractical Jokers and BoJack Horseman are a half-dozen of them.
  • I can’t even pick a favorite song because there are so many to choose from.
  • Favorite athlete is easier, though. Either Derek Jeter or Russell Wilson.
  • I’m a chronic over-thinker. I’m always thinking about something every second of every day.
  • My dad has a collection of over 14,000 Marvel comic books, and we obsessively watch trailers for Marvel movies and see them the first day they’re out (I wish Black Panther came out just a couple weeks earlier!).
  • I’m going to be the Student Travel Leader for the trip! We’ll get more details about where to meet in the Miami airport sometime soon, but if you see someone with a Dragons t-shirt and a purple Williams cap, chances are it’s me 🙂

I’ve got a few butterflies in my stomach, but once we meet each other and start our adventure together, I’m sure those will die down. Can’t wait to get to know you all! Only 15 days to go.