My first time on a plane and out of the country was in July of 2012 when I went to Spain with my high school Spanish club. I am realizing now how much of an impact this trip had on me, both then and now, and how I’ve grown in these few years.
A lot of factors played into the possibility of attending.
I didn’t have the money to spend, despite the fact I had been working all throughout high school-I had used this money to survive, to buy a car, to pay for things I needed or wanted.
I was still in foster care- and was told no from the beginning. Actually, I was told foster kids don’t do things like that. And I didn’t see any reason why they didn’t.
And that no weighed in my mind with every other no I had heard in my life. Not the no’s that children hear to keep them safe and out of danger, but the “no, you’ll never amount to anything,” type of no.
But with a little inspiration and a wonderful judge, I was granted permission to leave the country, on a plane, with my friends.
Still having $0 toward a nearly $6,000 trip, I didn’t believe it would be possible in the end. But with support and encouragement from my mom Terri, I saw that in the end God will provide and that it was possible for me to raise the money.
So it began. Candy bar sales. I sold at every gathering in the four-state area, from sporting games, to carnivals, to selling out of my locker between classes. Shhh, that probably was a no-no. But I did. And my wonderful community supported me.
10,000 candy bars later, I had raised the money needed to go. I was so ecstatic. And at the same time, I felt I couldn’t be too excited because I had friends whose parents were writing them a check every due date and it was no big deal.
So I’ll be excited now.
I remember my Spanish teacher telling me she hadn’t seen anyone work quite as hard as me, and to be proud; that I would be able to cherish everything so much more. And I’ve remembered those words, years later.
Walking through the streets of Barcelona, I think I was in as much shock about being there as I was excited to take everything in.
Although we had some spanish classes prior to leaving, I don’t remember ever really using the language for myself. However, listening to my spanish teacher speak gave me the desire to learn more of the language and be able to communicate for myself one day.
Also, walking through the streets of Madrid I told myself “I could never do that,” as another teacher shared about living abroad and her experiences.
I could never do that.
Fast forward three years to the date: I’m sitting on a bus on my way to Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. It’s my 10th week here and I can do that.
I can live abroad. I can speak Spanish and survive. I can have a blast, meet new people from all over the world, try new food, get lost, learn to cook Gallo Pinto, spend the day on a mountain, spend it in a rainforest, I can.
I may not have learned this three years ago, but I have today.
I can’t can no longer be a part of my vocabulary. Because I can.