After traveling in five countries, to countless cities and studying in three Spanish language schools, here are some reflections I'd like to share upon returning home.
I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Even the bad hotel (I won't say where it was but trust me it was baaad) or the terrifying panga ride in the open ocean between Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island.
Learning Spanish is hard. But everyday that I learned a new word or cultural reference made it all worth while. Language teachers have more patience than nearly anyone on earth.
Cousins! In North Carolina and Italy, it was a joy to see family. Nobody understands you quite like cousins do, right?
I won't miss the lack of safety standards prevalent in Latin America. Whether being squeezed like a sardine into a microbus with questionable breaks whizzing down a hillside, or seeing construction workers lack basic safety gear, our neighbors to the south have a long way to go to protect its citizens. I'm certain many of you are saying it has gotten better, and sadly, that is probably true.
Food! Cheese, pasta and wine in Rome. Knock-your-pants-off natural juices in Nicaragua. Tamarindo Micheladas in Guanajuato. Hell, almost all the food in México.
Chad is a most excellent traveling companion and partner. I'm a lucky lady that we did this together.
I will never take for granted my access to affordable, potable, hot water. And you shouldn't either. If you think conflicts to acquire cheap gas have been destructive and expensive just wait until the first world starts to lose its water, I mean really lose its water. In Mexico and Nicaragua there are many places where water is sanctioned and it is very expensive. For example, in our homestay in Nicaragua there was no plumbing and water came through one tap twice a week. You can develop empathy by reading that parts of the world suffer with inadequate infrastructure and climate change, but to experience it even for two months is an eye-opener. C'mon people! Eat less meat before we use our last drops of water for that hamburger.
Finally, the world is full of good, fascinating people. Throughout our travels I can't think of a person I didn't enjoy meeting: from the charming, funny owners of the pensione in Firenze to the right-wing conservative Republican from Texas to all who steered us in the right direction and to those that housed us. If we met during this trip, you have reinforced why traveling enriches the soul. Por esto, estoy agradecida. ¡Muchisimas gracias!