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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Yes, I do have siblings !!!

I am an only child.

This is the response that I gave each and every one of my homestay families along the road the last few months. I have found it fascinating to hear about all the large families that many people have here in Bolivia and Peru. From my host mother in Tiquipaya with ten siblings around Bolivia to my host father in Urubamba with six brothers scattered across Peru. Likewise, each and every single one of the dragons in my group have siblings as well.

I am usually very thankful for my upbringing as an only child as it has taught me an entirely new sense of independence that I feel I would not have otherwise. However, the past few months I have seen the meaning of a sibling relationship from those around me. I have seen the love that everyone has for their siblings. The laughs, the hugs and the smiles. It often felt like something I have missed out on. Something I would never really understand.

The first half of x-phase has provided me with a whole lot of time with the group. The good the bad and the hilarious. I have also come to realize that my travel companions have become so much more than just that. I have in fact gained eleven siblings of my own. We may not be linked by blood or location or anything of that nature. I have come to feel that the experiences I have shared with every single person in this group have been unlike anything I have had in my life. That to me, the relationships I have formed cannot be explained in any other way. These people feel like siblings to me.

There are my three brothers. Sam, Amado and Clemente.

I can ALWAYS count on Sam to get a giggle out of me.  I have learned all the dance moves I know from Clemente, even if it means he is too embarrassed to bring me out in public anytime I am in a dancing mood. Amado on the other hand has been like the older brother I never had. From long talks to much needed hugs.

Then there are all my sisters. Zora is my soul sister in every single way. Need a dance buddy? She is there. Need life advice?  A shoulder to cry on? The funniest moments of your life? Or a helping hand in the kitchen at 5am? She is ALWAYS there. Always. Livana and Gillian have taught me everything and more when it comes to living life. Of course with a little sass every now and then. Claire is the sister that makes me remember to smile and that even at  the worst of the times everything is still pretty amazing. Maggie has filled me with the courage to do anything and shown me what true strength is. Zoe has picked me up every time I am down or been the one to bring me so much joy I cannot contain my tears any longer. Grace has brought me more happiness than I can explain and of course taught me what phenomenal eating looks like. And then there is Noelle, my absolute rock.

At times learning to live alongside eleven other human beings has been a struggle. I am NOT used to living with another human my age let alone eleven (!!!) but from day one I have found that there is space in my life for each and everyone of them. As more than just travel companions or friends, these are people that are like family. So as this phenomenal journey begins to come to a close, I am thankful to not only leave with incredible experiences and memories but with a group of people who have become the brothers and sisters I never had. So a thank you to each and every one of my dragon siblings for making me laugh until I cry, reminding me that everything will be okay, accepting me with all my quirks and most of all for showing me the kind of love that fills me with the greatest joy.

-Tash