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

Oh hi there!

Wow! I can’t believe we are just 3 weeks away from this adventure, I feel like it has been approaching so slowly and yet so quickly at the same time! I’m glad we are posting these because I can’t wait to meet all of you in Miami!

My name is Kendall, and I’m from Excelsior, Minnesota. I am not really a typical gap year student either. I spent the last two years at Boston College where I was a student-athlete on the sailing team (no hard feelings if you were unaware this was a competitive sport). I loved the sport and my team, but the college not so much; so when a torn ACL took me out of athletics for a while I realized that BC was not really where I wanted to be anymore. I’d always regretted not taking a gap year so instead of transferring right away I decided to look into programs that would allow me to explore parts of the world far different from where I grew up and went to college. A family friend suggested I look into Dragons and now here I am! In terms of plans for after this program, I intend on transferring to the University of Vermont in the fall, where I will be a business and psychology student, as well as continue sailing on their team. While I will miss my teammates and friends at BC, I know that this change is the right choice for my future happiness, and this coming experience in South America is one that I would never have been able to take if I had stayed put in Boston.

In Minnesota, I grew up surrounded by either water or snow. Naturally, most of my passions derive from one of those two things. When I started sailing camp, my mom told me she thought I would hate it. So of course, I told her I loved it just to prove her wrong. To keep up the charade, I did a learn-to-race camp with my best friend in middle school, and actually loved it! In high school I quickly turned away from the pain and misery of cross country for a sport that allowed me to go out on the water every day after school– a blessing and a curse, I quickly realized, as 30 degree days were no reason to cancel practice. Since I was already putting up with the cold for sailing why not ski in negative 30 degree temperatures, just for fun? So yes, I was also on the ski team, and I was okay, but my true love for skiing lies more in Colorado powder days and dense Vermont tree runs, not on a slalom course glazed over with ice. If I am not skiing or sailing, you can probably find me jet skiing on Lake Minnetonka, hiking on the flat Minnesota trails, sleeping on the couch with my puppy (he’s on my lap as I type this), or rewatching Dexter for the fifth time. In terms of the no cell-phone policy on this trip, the only thing I’m really worried about is all my plants dying in Animal Crossing Pocket Camp.

Anyway, enough of me making sarcastic jokes, in all seriousness I am so so excited to go on this trip and meet all of you. My dad grew up in Peru, so I cannot wait to see the place that he spent his whole childhood, and I am excited to photograph these beautiful landscapes. At this point, I am most looking forward to the trekking aspects of this trip, I love being outside and anything that gets me moving, and while I have been hiking my whole life, I have never actually been on a long backpacking trip like the ones we have in store for us on this trip. I am definitely a bit nervous, but it is all masked by excitement right now. The thing I am probably most nervous about is getting bitten by a dog because I don’t know how I will resist petting all of them! Honestly, I don’t really know what to expect, so it’s hard for me to even say much here. This will be an experience so different from any that I have had before now, so I am just kind of winging it and seeing where things take me. I will not be winging my Spanish speaking skills, though, because I have none. Now is the time I wish I hadn’t taken 8 years of French and that my dad had actually passed some of his language skills onto us kids. But alas, I will have to settle for the pocket dictionary I got for Christmas and be ready for intense Spanish classes (don’t get me wrong, I am totally excited to learn another language, I just hope I am not too far behind!).

I can’t wait to meet all of you, and please do not hesitate to say hey before we meet on February 7th! Until then… adios! (see, I’m already learning some Spanish)