The word “WanderGrad” came about as a basic combination of “wanderlust” and “graduate”. The quick explanation is that on my 25th birthday I decided I’d learn more if I spent my money on travel instead of more education. I bailed on the idea of graduate school, quit my job a few months later, and set out to travel the world by myself for an entire year! If you’re interested in the full explanation, read it on my “Why Wandergrad?” page.
I’m now six months into my year long trip and it’s been quite the ride. In order I’ve done the following:
• Golfed a famous PGA golf course in Scottsdale, AZ
• Watched the sunset over the beautiful Pacific Beach pier in San Diego, CA
• Visited the equator in Ecuador
• Spent 4 days in the Cuyabeno Reserve, Ecuador, a remote jungle on a tributary of the Amazon River
• Taken a fear inducing night bus to the Colombian border, crossing from Ecuador to Colombia at 4am.
• Learned some salsa and spent an unbelievable couple of days with locals to experience first-hand how Colombians celebrate the Little Candles Day in Cali, Colombia.
• Sat with the hooligans during a raucous semifinal futbol match between two rival clubs from Medellin, Colombia.
• Spent a day in the comunas visiting Angels of Medellin, seeing the reality and hearing the history of life in druglord operated poverty in the hills of Medellin, Colombia.
• Spent Christmas in Bogota, Colombia…being witness to an attempted theft at knifepoint of a mobile phone.
• Sandboarded and watched the sun set over sand dunes in the desert oasis of Huacachina, Peru.
• Visited Inca ruins, speaking only Spanish, with three Peruvians in Cusco, Peru.
• Completed the 4 day Salkantay Trail Trek to Machu Picchu, seeing the borderline spiritual Humantay Glacier Lake and reaching an altitude of 15,250 feet above sea level along the way.
• Bussed to Lake Titicaca, visiting the floating islands and Isla del Sol en route to La Paz, Bolivia (ridiculous border crossing and spooky night scare crows hanging from streetlights in El Alto included).
• Biked down La Ruta de Muerta (Death Road), in La Paz, Boliva and visited El Alto, Bolivia for a view of the beautiful La Paz in the valley below.
• Spent 4 days on a mirror like, baffling Salar de Uyuni tour of the Altiplano, in Bolivia.
• Saw the stars and met astrophysicists in the Atacama Desert, the highest and driest desert in the world, located in northern Chile.
• Took a 24 hour bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso, Chile where I spent days wandering the streets looking at world renowned street art. One night I was invited to “the other side of the tracks” to learn the traditional chiloe dance and drink with some locals as they played their guitars around a table in the bar.
• Hiked “The W” trek in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Patagonia), and made sure to strip to my birthday suit and hop into the icy blue glacier lake.
• Spent a week watching my Denver Broncos win the Superbowl, frequenting Netflix, drinking too much Escudo, and eating empanadas in Santiago, Chile (can’t all be a great adventure).
• Shared a bottle of wine with new friends as we watched the sunset over the Moai (giant stone heads) in the most remote civilization in the world on Easter Island, Chile.
• Spent a month cruising around New Zealand in a campervan as we stopped to kayak in the ocean, hike mountains with hanging glaciers, watch sunsets, enjoy amazing views of the milky way, and stopping in at Hobbiton for a real life view of Bag End.
• Met up with a great friend in Melbourne, AUS where we watched the “match of the round” in the Australian Football League with some locals who helped explain the rules.
• Stopped in Wollongong, AUS to meet up and “surf” with friends I made my first week in Ecuador.
• Took a ferry to Manly Beach in Sydney, AUS before walking the Harbor Bridge and taking photos of the famous Sydney Opera house.
• Missed a train and listened to some live music in a bar in New Castle, AUS before catching a night bus up to Byron Bay, AUS where we snorkeled with 6 foot sharks and sea turtles.
• Checked out the skyscraper filled beaches of Surfer’s Paradise, AUS then went up to Brisbane, AUS for a day of searching for buffalo wings in the rain (I had a craving).
I’m now in Noosa, AUS, getting ready for Frasier Island, Whitsunday Islands, and Cairns (Great Barrier Reef snorkeling) before headed to Southeast Asia. Everything above has been a blast and I’ve definitely crossed a lot off my list, but this year of travel has always been about more than that to me. 6 months of meeting interesting, crazy different people from all over the world has no doubt influenced me in many ways. I’ve grown to know more about myself including my coping mechanisms and personality traits as well as challenged myself to be more courageous with my physical and metal environment. I’ve learned that people are generally good and willing to help, I’ve picked up Spanish to a “conversational” level, I’ve read or listened to over 15 books/audiobooks, enjoyed learning photography and website building, grown comfortable letting go of travel plans, watched countless sunsets, and drank plenty of beer.
I’ve had some cooky ideas for what’s next when I get back, but have to remind myself I’m only halfway through my adventure, so I’ll try my best to remain in the moment and let things unfold as they should. I miss home like hell at times, especially all the people that make it the greatest place on earth, but I know I’ll benefit from another 6 months of wandering. Here’s to hoping everything is well back in Denver and all the other corners of the world my friends may be (beer raised in my hand as I write this).
See you in 6 months…CHEERS!!
PS – Check out my photos from the first 6 months…some aren’t good, some are over edited, some aren’t edited at all, and some are flat out missing because hostel internet continues to teach me patience. Regardless, this should at least paint a solid picture of what these past 6 months have been for me.
Martin Luther King, Jr.