-Anna Brodmerkel, 2014 GGYF Fellow

I don’t know.

I don’t know how to write this blog.

I don’t know how to accept the end of my gap year.

I don’t know how I can say everything I need to in this final blog.

I just don’t know.

But then again,

I didn’t really know anything about this time a year ago.

I didn’t know small and large the world could feel.

I didn’t know how tiny of a speck I was on this earth amongst all the other creatures.

I didn’t know about the endangered Loggerhead Turtle, and how people are more likely to want to save them if they can watch the hatchlings float out to sea.

I didn’t know what it felt like to do nothing and have an empty head.

I didn’t know how to travel, just to travel.

I didn’t know how to muster animals, or that it would be a handy skill I could apply to rowdy children as well.

I didn’t know how people could take strangers into their home and trust them.

I didn’t know what it felt like to be in a near-death experience.

I didn’t know weeding could give you the same satisfaction as an “A.”

I didn’t know what the world would question me about the USA-gun control, Obama, beauty pageants.

I didn’t know how difficult it was for people from developing nations to travel to the USA.

I didn’t know that some people from developing nations traveled to foreign countries more than some Americans.

I didn’t know that I would be just another volunteer, slipping in and out of a revolving door of others’ lives.

I didn’t know people could live like that-always have people coming and going.

I didn’t know that I could become flexible and spontaneous.

I didn’t know how wonderful and terrifying public transportation could be.

I didn’t know I would be able to speak Spanish as quickly as I did.

I didn’t understand how important communication was for my desire to help to matter.

I didn’t know strangers could love me so much, and I could love them.

I didn’t know the generosity of people.

I didn’t know I would break all the golden rules of traveling at one point or another.

I didn’t know how adaptable I had become.

I didn’t know I would have “moms” all over the world.

I didn’t know that I need very little happy, and that would enjoy it.

I didn’t know I would yearn to have that feeling of pure bliss of total disconnection from the rest of the world again.

I didn’t know I should not look to “be humbled” by others’ lifestyles, but to strictly look to learn from them and embrace the differences and similarities.

I didn’t know.

And now I do.

You can ask me for advice about traveling, about taking advantage of what life holds for us, but I can only give vague answers. The truth is, I never knew what I would encounter, and I just hoped for the best each time. That’s all you really can do. Every country, city, culture, people, language is different. My year was all about learning from a well-practiced person, trying my best to imitate them, and then hoping for the best results. I had no idea what I was doing-ever. I don’t think anyone I encountered really knew either. I’ve discovered, in any case, appearing to look like you know what you’re doing will only help you, and make others jealous because, in reality, they are just as confused as you are. It’s all about optimism and confidence, which I’ll be taking with me to UNC. I don’t know about the college life, but you can bet I’ll try to pretend until I actually do.