Week 1 Check In: Jess

How are you feeling physically?

Pretty good!  Aside from a touch of stomach grumblings, I'm feeling solid.  I've noticed that I'm sleeping a lot and generally needing a lot of rest this first week.  I think Nate and I both underestimated just how burned out we felt upon leaving.  We worked day and night to get everything ready to go and felt like we crashed onto our flight out.  Our first night here, I slept 12 solid hours despite being in a somewhat uncomfortable room shared with two strangers.  

How are you feeling mentally/emotionally?

I'm feeling a lot of things right now.  On the first night, I curled up in my bed and cried.  Mostly I was just exhausted, but the weight of this decision fell hard upon me.  I couldn't believe we were finally here, and I felt uncomfortable.  EVERYTHING was foreign.  NOTHING seemed to make sense.  But then I slept and ate a good breakfast and started to awake to the realization that this could be a beautiful and challenging experience for me.  

It feels impossible to wrap my mind around this trip lasting a full year.  When I think that way, it feels too heavy of a responsibility.  I can't handle it just yet.  Nate and I talked at breakfast this morning about trying to step back and just think of this as a weeklong vacation to Cartagena.  That seems to take some of the pressure off.

In this first week, I'm trying to be patient with myself.

My Spanish will not be perfect.  I will feel overwhelmed by the amount of change and stimulation.  I will get tired and need to go to bed early.  Sometimes I will need to eat Doritos in bed and watch Source Code with Nate (like we did last night).  And that's okay.  

I'm trying to give myself permission to feel whatever I'm feeling- discomfort, excitement, fear, gratitude.

What is your favorite part of the trip so far?

This place is truly beautiful.  Everything seems brighter, louder, more visceral.  

The streets are lined with colorful doors, and flowers top the buildings.  Music is playing everywhere - loud drums and salsa waft out of restaurant windows.  The smells are intense (both good and bad).  

At night, the plazas are flooded with people yelling, gesticulating, eating, drinking, selling local wares. 

In the morning, the streets are empty, and Nate and I wander around marveling at the colorful doors, taking photos, letting ourselves notice things that felt indulgent up until this week.

What is your least favorite part so far?

The hostel is challenging.  We're sharing a four-bed room with two others (all women so far, but it changes nightly).  

Our hostel room.  There's a second set of bunk beds as well.

Our hostel room.  There's a second set of bunk beds as well.

I'm learning that as extroverted as I am in my daily life, I need a lot of alone time to process all of this newness.  Not having a private space to retreat back to to do that is difficult.  Luckily, I've been so exhausted by the evenings that I am sleeping soundly.

What have you learned about yourself so far?

Already I've learned a lot.  I've been reminded of how much pressure I put on myself to live up to expectations- to always be happy and buoyant, to never miss out.  I'm fighting these feelings and trying to be more patient with myself, not to jump to conclusions about how the trip will be for the next year.  It's going to be a lot of things.   It will be hard and sad but also amazing and eye-opening.  And I haven't even scratched the surface yet.

I've also learned that I can handle a lot of physical discomfort, more than I really anticipated.  

Shared hostel bathroom.  Yuck.

Shared hostel bathroom.  Yuck.

While uncomfortable sharing a room with strangers, I've been perfectly capable of getting good sleep and carving out a little space for myself.  I've re-worn dirty clothes with no difficulty.  I've used one all-purpose camping soap to wash my hair, face, and body and not minded.  Nate and I are sharing a razor.  I haven't had a hair dryer or worn make up.  It's all been fine.  Maybe I'm less of a girly girl than I thought.

What have you learned about Nate?

Nate is an incredibly giving and kind person.  This is great most of time, but it also means he doesn't always ask for what he needs.  

Nate writing on our hostel rooftop.

Nate writing on our hostel rooftop.

For example, Nate loves going out for breakfast and often wakes up wanting a big meal.  At the hostel, breakfast is included, but it's crappy white bread and sugary cereal, which he doesn't like.  I don't mind it, so for the first few mornings, he's gone along with it knowing it will save us money to just eat in.  And he makes himself okay with it.  

This is all fine until you make this choice 15 times in a day.  Eventually the trip doesn't feel exciting to you anymore because you're not really meeting your own needs.  

So this morning he said he wanted to go to breakfast, and we walked half a block and sat outside in the plaza and had delicious eggs and a nice conversation.   He was happy.  

I asked him what's stopping him from doing this regularly.  It's not like he's asking for extravagant things (all together we spent $10 for two big breakfasts, coffee, and fresh juice).  He said it's his tendency to just make do and be okay with what's happening.  I urged him to ask for what he needs.  I want him to be happy and for him to feel like this is his trip too.  He says he'll work on it.

Nate at a delicious ceviche place we visited for lunch.

Nate at a delicious ceviche place we visited for lunch.

How well did you pack?   

So far I'm liking most of the things I packed, although there are a few things I haven't used yet.  Namely our Steripen, which I'm anxious to try out because it's a pain in the ass to buy water bottles all day.  I'd love to have easier access to potable water.  

My maxi dress is pretty perfect for this climate and fits in with what other women seem to wear.   I wore it to dinner last night.  

I like my Osprey backpack, which is good because I stupidly didn't really test it out at all before we left.  I'm still finding pockets that I didn't know existed.