The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Natalie Barth.

When I was younger, my father taught me how to swim in the ocean. He taught me how to deal with all sorts of waves that I may encounter. Since then, I have spent hours in the ocean, surfing, swimming, and simply floating in its grandeur.

The ocean is always changing, shifting, and evolving. The formation of the waves change with the phases of the moon, so it is necessary to learn to deal with each circumstance. There are the waves that are incredibly severe – the ones that will destroy you if you let them. If this wave encapsulates you, you become intertwined with the roaring ocean. You remain overcome with the absolute chaos of it all, stuck in the disaster with no escape. However, it does not last forever and eventually the water becomes tranquil once again. The ocean is full of bliss; the waves are simple and effortless. The sea wraps its arms around me, washing away my worries and drowning any sense of fear. The euphoria felt at this moment is worth the challenging journey.

The ocean waves

I am learning to be okay with change. I have to be, considering I will be getting on a plane and living in a different country soon. My life has changed more than usual over the past few months. I graduated high school and left the school where I spent twelve years. I said goodbye to students and teachers that I knew I would not see again; familiar faces that I loved, but not enough to stay in touch with. I moved out of my childhood home, the one I had spent my entire life in. I packed up my life in boxes and moved three hours away to live at the beach while my parents bought a house somewhere else.

Today, I said goodbye to my best friends. They are moving into college this week, so they came for one last visit to the beach before we all head our separate ways. I am slowly realizing that change is what allows us to grow. We can only succeed if we are susceptible to change. It is inevitable in this world, and we have to learn how to deal with it. It is what bridges the gap between who you are and who you aspire to be.

I have been living at the beach for the past two months. Every night, I witness the radiant sun disappear into the sea of liquid sapphire. The moon then emerges, illuminating the darkness, which then allows for the tides to change. The constant impermanence is encouraging. No matter the circumstances of the surrounding world, the sun will always rise and set.

This year will be challenging and will bring an abundance of change. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the middle of the ocean, stuck in a whirlpool of denial, spinning and spinning in the churning sea of the unknown. During this year, there will be difficult waves to overcome and it may be challenging to escape the chaos of it all. While I sometimes fail to recognize the beauty in this life, I have learned that the journey is more important than the destination. Neither can survive without the other, and they are equally significant to your growth as a human being. The destination indicates where you are going, but the journey teaches you what you are capable of.

The Global Gap Year Institute helped me understand that change is rather simple; I should not fear it, I should be encouraged by it. I was incredibly worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make any friends, but I left the Campus Y after two weeks with a new family. It was comforting to be surrounded by people who were embarking on the same experience. We all had the same fears and the same triumphs. Collectively, we celebrated whenever someone secured a placement and sulked when someone’s plans fell apart. I found myself admiring each and every one of the other fellows for their unique qualities. It seemed that we stayed up later and later each night, browsing Workaway, frantically sending emails, and singing to whatever Spotify playlist was chosen to set the tone for the evening. We spent hours curled up on the couches, discussing our fears and dreams, sharing our opinions on recent issues, and talking about the experiences that shaped us into who we had become. I am so lucky to share this adventure of a lifetime with people like them.

Global Gap Year Fellows 2017

Currently, it is difficult to decipher what emotion I am feeling. It ranges from uncontrollable excitement to absolute trepidation, usually within the span of a few minutes. I will be leaving on September 13th to head to a town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. While I am there, I will be working with an organization that promotes environmental education to children in rural areas. I cannot wait to immerse myself in a culture that varies from mine. I am hoping to become fluent in Spanish and form relationships with the children I work with.

Before I leave, I plan on spending my last few weeks soaking up moments with the people I love and preparing for the adventure ahead. I plan on giving this experience everything I have. I hope to escape my comfort zone, let go of my fears, and become the person I aspire to be. I have the ability to create how this experience will change me. I have absolutely no clue what to expect, which used to terrify me. Now, I am only inspired. I hope to emulate the ocean; adapting, evolving, and forever changing.