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Hey everyone, I’m Grace. I can’t believe we are a week away from the trip and I’m so excited to meet all of you. The end of this school year and the summer felt like more of an extended spring break rather than 6 full months so I’m looking forward to getting back into a more structured environment.

My life in the past few months has been defined by looming “uncertainties” that have been out of my control. Experiences and life events that I always viewed to be certain and inevitable were suddenly no longer comforts I could rely on- a graduation, a formal goodbye to teachers and peers, etc. Personally, choosing this trip and embarking on a gap year is a result of me feeling really tired of the uncertainty driving my experiences and my education. Since middle school, a gap year was always something I wanted to pursue as I never felt fulfilled with my education solely in a classroom setting, specifically at a small and rather rigid all girls school. However, as I got caught up in the rat race of competing with my classmates, testing, college applications etc., I got lost in the concept of “proving” my intelligence rather than genuinely engaging in the learning process with a higher purpose. For the majority of high school, the idea of taking a gap year fell off the table despite my reserved desire for (I know its cliche) something different, as well as a serious case of academic burnout. It felt like I was making most of my choices out of fears rather than hopes or dreams. It wasn’t until I received a letter from my middle school academic advisor right before spring break that included a note I had written to “my senior self” at age 12. Aside from the majority of the letter’s content giving my current self a lot of second hand embarrassment, something stood out to me. In the first sentences of the letter, I wrote to myself to “take a gap year, even though everyone is probably telling you not to.” After some parental convincing and a lot of research I couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Some things about myself- In my free time I’ve recently been very into cooking. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and have learned to appreciate local farmers markets. My love for food and sharing it with people is what has always driven my interest in sustainability and what makes me feel responsible for understanding the origins of the food I eat and how it gets to my table. Social justice movements that have recently been at the forefront the news such as BLM and conflict over land rights in indigenous territories have also sparked my interest in viewing access to food and water as a socioeconomic and political issue. I can’t wait to explore this passion of mine in a more immersive environment. I also love watching movies (My favorites are Lost in Translation and Almost Famous if I must pick) and reading. I’m currently reading Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin and Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey as I have a bad habit of reading multiple books at once. I didn’t grow up in an outdoorsy sort of family but my love for the outdoors and hiking has really grown with the help of friends and traveling experiences.

I was really indecisive when picking a quote/poem to conclude this so I chose two- The first is an excerpt from one of Anthony Bourdain’s earlier books who was one of my favorite authors/chefs/people of all time:

“I wanted adventures. I wanted to go up the Nung river to the heart of darkness in Cambodia. I wanted to ride out into a desert on camelback, sand and dunes in every direction, eat whole roasted lamb with my fingers. I wanted to kick snow off my boots in a Mafiya nightclub in Russia. I wanted to play with automatic weapons in Phnom Penh, recapture the past in a small oyster village in France, step into a seedy neon-lit pulqueria in rural Mexico. I wanted to run roadblocks in the middle of the night, blowing past angry militia with a handful of hurled Marlboro packs, experience fear, excitement, wonder. I wanted kicks – the kind of melodramatic thrills and chills I’d yearned for since childhood, the kind of adventure I’d found as a little boy in the pages of my Tintin comic books. I wanted to see the world – and I wanted the world to be just like the movies”

And second is a poem that currently resonates with me-


The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began

Though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice

Though the whole house began to tremble

And you felt the old tug at your ankles.

“Mend my life!” Each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

Though the wind pried with it’s stiff fingers

At the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible.

It was already late enough, and a wild night,

And the road full of fallen branches and stones.

But little by little, as you left their voices behind,

The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

And there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,

That kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,

Determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save

The only life you could save.


See you all soon 🙂

Grace McGinley