It's easy to hate on 2016. During the past few weeks, that seems to have been the Facebook post of choice for most of the people on my social media networks. As awful as these past few months have seemed, there was a lot more to 2016 than shocking elections and tragic deaths.
Reflecting on my own year, a lot has happened. I’ve had a variety of highs and lows, and 2016 has been a year with lots of changes. I’ve grown a lot as a person, and there’s a lot that I’m grateful to have experienced and learned from. As it comes to a close, I've realized there's a lot that happened to me in 2016 that has changed my life for the better.
From Nicaragua to California to New York to Portland, this was the year I learned how to travel. Sure I'd flown from one coast to another for college and visited various family members across the nation many times, but I'd never traveled by myself before this year.
It started with a research trip in March to the Makengue Reserve in Nicaragua, where I learned that maybe I wasn't as outdoorsy as I'd thought. A childhood of hiking and camping trips never could have prepared me for the constantly high temperature and humidity, relentless bug bites and lack of water. But despite the dizzy spells and exhaustion, I left ten days in the rainforest with the confidence of knowing that I could make it through that. Not only that, but I left with the most incredible memories and experiences and an unquenchable hankering for plantain chips.
I saw the Milky Way in all of its indescribable serenity, watched wild monkeys and sloths in treetops and realized that I’m truly awful at Spanish.
Next was an impromptu trip to Northern California (you can read about it here) to visit one of my friends from college. In the past I’ve flown out to see family, but I’d never traveled without my parents and I’d never stayed with someone I wasn’t related to. In a weird way, it felt like my first taste of independence. I concluded my summer with a road trip trip to Portland for a weekend of camping.
When I returned to school for fall semester, I managed to squeeze in two New York trips. Through the first one left me lost in Harlem with an anxiety-ridden grandmother waiting for me in the Bronx, I left with a deep appreciation for the 2 and the 5.