In Case You Were Curious…

I’m not going to lie: as fun as contributor month has been (thank you so much to every single person who contributed their time and words to TwT!), I miss you guys. Big changes are coming my way… However, I knew not much would happen during February, so I figured I’d do a little hibernating while you all shared your own adventures, and I allowed my new plan to brew.

This worked out perfectly. I know I’ve been a bit vague, but now I’ll explain what I am up to… And don’t worry: I’m off to Puerto Rico at the end of the month so a spurt of wanderlust will be injected back into TwT! CAN.NOT.WAIT.

Three men at the rose garden. Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

But first, a little background…

My mom used to tell me about how, as a little girl, I was always very cautious. Whenever it was time to make a big decision, like what instrument I was going to play or how safe a rickety wooden bridge was to cross, I would stew in my thoughts as long as it took until I decided the instrument was the right choice for me (yes, I played the flute for TWELVE years – don’t hate), or the bridge was safe enough to cross. Once I made a decision though, I went for it whole heartedly.

In the playground, while my older sister would run recklessly up to the top of the biggest slide and tumble down it however she had to in order to prove she was fearless and brave (unsurprisingly, she ended up being the co-captain of the Radcliffe/Harvard women’s rugby team), I would stand at the bottom watching her make all the first mistakes. That was the one nice thing about being the second oldest of five kids; I always had one person who could test out the waters before me. I’d let her go a few times, and I’d watch other kids go up and down as I quietly observed. Once I realized it was safe, and possibly even fun, only then would I be ready to make the risky journey to the top of the slide. And it was thrilling. The way down was always easier, of course.

Once I committed to something, be it a slide, an instrument, a sport, I was 100% committed. I have always been this way. Although now, I’d say I’m more reckless than ever. Not reckless in the sense that I haven’t evaluated how bad things could turn out, but reckless in the sense that I know I’ll be ok: I’ve been through enough to know I can get by with a few extra scars and bruises. But most of the time, it’s not that simple; some of my biggest disasters have been my most profound learning experiences. It took getting knocked down quite a few times to learn that one.

Hammock ropes. Tumbaco, Ecuador.

I love a challenge and I love proving to myself that I can handle something a little crazy — like waking up at 5 am all four years of college to row in the Maine (brrr) sunrise, or taking on the terrifying opportunity to choreograph a 15-person dance my senior year of high school for the biggest school production of the year (when I felt like a completely awkward dancer myself, and I HATE being on stage). That said, I still find myself sometimes sitting back, quietly evaluating the risks involved in very big decisions before I jump in. But, just like when I was a kid, whenever I finally decide to go for something, I am fully committed to it and will do whatever it takes to achieve/fight for my new goal. Whether it’s deciding to start a blog, committing to a whole lot of work, or allowing myself to fall in love… ah yes… I become a part of the decision, 100%, and I jump.

Well, I’m onto my next challenge! Beginning on May 23, I am becoming a student again. I just got accepted to the NYU Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Studies Program and I will be committing to two years of straight up SCIENCE classes so that I can eventually apply to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I AM SO EXCITED.

I know, I know. It sounds crazy, random, quarter-life-crisis-y, or whatever you want to say. But what many people might not know, is that I have been sitting back, looking up at this slide for a very LONG time. Before I went to college, I thought I wanted to be an ER doctor, a surgeon, or a writer. I got to campus, went to the pre-med meeting my first week of freshman year, took one look at all the courses I would have to take if  I went pre-med (Biology, Chemistry, ORGANIC Chemistry…), then took a look at all the other courses offered (Cosmic Sexualities, Archaeology of the Hellenistic World, Ancient Greek Medicine, Latin American Testimonio, Mozart: The Man, The Myth and The Music, Dance, and Art, Science, and the Mind) and just went… NAHHHHH.

I made a very conscious decision that first week: I decided, instead of taking any courses I HAVE to take, I was going to go through college taking whatever the fuck I WANTED to take, and — although this decision is about to bite me in the ass — I have absolutely NO regrets. I loved EVERY SINGLE COURSE I took in college (yes, even Integral Calculus) and I got to study abroad in Barcelona! I know I was a TRUE liberal arts student because, the second I graduated, most people were concerned for me. Hehe. I mean, I was a Spanish major with a triple minor in Archaeology, Art History, and Asian Studies, but I could only declare one minor so I chose Archaeology — my favorite. What the hell kind of career does that get ya? I like to think it made me an, um, interesting person.

A crack in the bridge. Mindo, Ecuador.

While most of my fellow 2005 graduates are getting engaged (ok, maybe it just FEELS that way) and have JDs, MBAs, and close to MDs already, I am going back to school…as an undergraduate. Yep. My curriculum for the next two years goes something like this (did you know, btw, that there are many more pre-reqs for a DPT program than the med schoolers have? Yeah, me either.):






ANATOMY w/ LAB, PHYSIOLOGY w/ LAB or a combined 2 semester of ANATOMY and PHYSIOLOGY w/ labs



I’m actually supposed to also take an English composition course. Can you believe that I have never taken a college-level English course?! There has got to be a way to dodge this one… I did like five of these courses, but they were in SPANISH! I’ve been a writer/editor for the past six years! I’ve co-authored two guidebooks! Please tell me that counts!

Me 16,000 ft above sea level, next to Ruminahui Peak. Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador.

So, as you can see, the next couple of years are going to be a shock to my system. Folks, I have not taken a science class in 10 years. I have not been in school for nearly six years. I have no idea what’s going to happen to my brain when I walk into my first 700-person physics course, but there’s only one way to find out. I’m about to get my ass completely kicked by science, and a part of me cannot wait. For most people, spending the next few years studying science and going to labs is the last thing they’d ever want to do. For me, the last thing I ever want is to wish I had…

I will spare you my thoughts on my impending and overwhelming financial doom, which may or may not have caused a recent mini meltdown (my first, so that’s a good sign!). That’s definitely for another post.

Today, I just wanted to share with you all the bottom line: I am on a whole new career path, in healthcare, and it is so liberating to finally say YES I CAN DO THIS after years of brushing it aside for adventures and income (ha, barely). I was beginning to think it was too late, and trying to give up on this path, but then I realized it is so NOT too late! Who says it’s too late? Fuck THEM. (Sorry for all the cursing this post… I’m apparently fired up!)

I realized in Ecuador that I absolutely love writing, and I will ALWAYS write, but maybe I didn’t need a boss to tell me how and when to do it; maybe I didn’t want to depend on publishing during this day and age. Maybe travel writing was the absolute coolest thing for me to do in my early and mid-twenties, but I got traveled-out, ran out of money, and realized it was too unstable for the life I want to live now. (Juan the Amoeba wasn’t much help.) I will write because I love it, not because it is my job, and now I will also work with people in a helping capacity just like I’ve always secretly wanted… I am not afraid to be the first Travel Writer turned Doctor of Physical Therapy, and I do plan to combine both eventually. Watch.

I just hope you stick by me as I transition. So far, I am volunteering at two different outpatient physical therapy places, and I am absolutely loving it. Being in healthcare is like being on a different planet for me… but I can honestly say it feels more right and more at home to be on this planet than being in a cubicle and putting on the corporate “show” ever did.

I mean, let’s be honest: I am looking up at one big fucking slide… But this adult Tavel, well she’s not the kind of girl who gets too scared to go for a wild ride. Not anymore.



Filed under Healthcare, Life Stuff, Uncategorized

26 responses to “In Case You Were Curious…

  1. Susana

    Go Rachel Go!

  2. Susan

    Wonderfully written. I am so happy that your recent state of hibernation and reflection has resulted in a wholehearted jump into the world of physical therapy. Keep me in the loop as things progress and we may find ourselves on the same adventure travel therapy path!!

    • travelswithtavel

      GAH, thank you so much, Susan!! Thanks for inspiring me and supporting me along the way 🙂 I will, of course, keep you in the loop, and let me know if you decide to offer internships for DPT students at your private practice in Italy 😉

      Also, don’t forget to let me know if/when you’re coming through NYC! I am blocking off the day NOW.

  3. Marc

    You’re going to be great! If I can do it, you can do it.

  4. You go girl! I want to see a picture of you sliding down a slide in your next post, arms and legs flailing (not that you’re going to flail, I just think it would be a funny pic). I am very proud of you and all that you’ve have seen and accomplished so far. I can’t wait to see what you continue to conquer. I love you and you’re amazing. xoxo

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you, thank you Miss Pendergast!! You’re on this ride with me, I know it 🙂 I’ll try and find that photo for you, but in the meantime, just remember driving around campus with Heather hunched over the wheel, us screaming “WEEEEE!! HEATHER SLOW DOWN!! You’re going too fast!!!!” all while she slugged along at 5 mph. Hehehehe.

      I love you, and thank you for inspiring me by what you do for a living. I think we definitely need to all combine our forces some day… just give me 6 years… and as always, stay tuned.


  5. Felicidades amiga!!! This is a big announcement! You’re going to kick ass in school, I have NO doubt! Besos!

    • travelswithtavel

      Gracias, Andi!! Just checked out your latest blog and I am now drooling over the Bahamas…

      Thank as always, my fellow travel blogger, for tuning in 🙂 I hope you’re getting excited for your Buenos Aires wedding!! Abrazo.

  6. Lisa

    You already have my vote! You know that! But for the record, and for those who read TwT… as soon as Rach told me that she was going to make the move to PT… I thought.. YES! That’s PERFECT! How come we didn’t think of this sooner!? haha Anyway, I’m very proud of you, Rachie. Go KICK SOME BUTT!

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you Lisa! Yes, I know that, but please remind me when classes start 🙂 I’m gonna need your support! Thank you for being such an amazing friend, and listening to me blab about what I might want to do, career-wise, all these years. LOVE.

  7. missy

    i agree with lisa!
    but what makes this new path perfect isn’t so much the choice you made but the roundabout way you made it! *that’s* how you know it’s for you! (anyone who’s never done the roundabout business is afraid to go down the slide by themselves and figure out what’s *truly* perfect for them!)
    amen to your post and amen to YOU, tavelita! you’ll have to work hard, and you know that, but that makes the reward all the more satisfying. you can DO IT!!!!!

    • travelswithtavel

      Yes! I always felt like “how can I possible combine all the random stuff I love” and then I realized, it can be done!! Agreed about the slide. Funny thing is I just started writing and I never know what I’m going to write until I get to the last paragraph. The slide turned into a pretty functional metaphor! Glad to see you using it too 🙂

      Thank you SO much Missy, for the constant support. We so need to chai it up soon! Let’s hope the noggin’ wakes up because it’s been on a looooong siesta over the past years… (What’s math again?)


  8. katie wagner

    Rach, if there was someone I trusted to become a great success at whatever adventure she goes down, it would be you. Proud of your new decision, and am with you always. Xoxoxo

  9. Allison

    As always, I stalk you via blog: Know that despite my constant seeming absence, I think about you a lot while I’m wondering around in the hospital. You’re going to do amazing with this, and I’m so excited about hearing about it along the way. Those intro (and not-so-intro) science courses aren’t always the most fun thing in the world, but you know where you want to end up and I am confident that you’ll have absolutely no difficulty getting there! Lots of love and luck from Snowy Syracuse!!!

    • travelswithtavel

      Stalk me all you like… I was SO happy to get this comment from you. THANK YOU ALLISON! This means a ton to me, coming from someone who knows me so well, and has a good sense of what I’m getting into. I just hope I can pull this off and make you all proud!

      Love back at you, and please please please make an appearance in NYC soon!! Or maybe a phone date… HUGE HUG. Oh, and at this rate, you’re going to graduate med school before I’m even close! Who wudda though?!

  10. Oooo how exciting! Both for the trip and going back to school!
    I’m going back to college when I get home too so I’m very excited! I know the feeling about all your previous classmates having jobs already. Everyone seems to have settled down, bought a house and a dog and I’m still going to be a student!
    Good luck and I look forward to reading about your next adventure!

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you! Yay, I am not alone 🙂 Well, congrats to you too. I hope you share what your transitional experience is like, as well. Who doesn’t like to know they aren’t the only one going to school at 27+?! (Wait, maybe that’s just me…)

      Thank you so much for reading TwT, and thank you for the luck — I might need it!

  11. Geordie

    Hey T. Wow, your comment section’s blowing up! Great seeing you today and getting the in-person version of all that’s going on. Good luck with all projects.

    • travelswithtavel

      Thanks G. So glad we got to catch up in-person, although I still need to hear more about Rwanda (no big deal, just Rwanda. Heh). I am glad you enjoyed your alfajore 🙂

  12. Ricardo

    Hey congratulations! I know it’s like months after you posted, but I just got to this post. I was doing some Ecuador research found your blog and kept on reading. It takes courage to change the direction of your life – no matter how old we are we can always start anew. I think.
    Btw. Just finished mapping my Ecuador trip. Quito/Cotopaxi/Quilotoa/Banos/Galapagos. Looking fwd to it. Saludos!

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you so much Ricardo! I am so glad you found the blog, and I hope I didn’t scare you away from Ecuador. It truly is a stunning country. Looks like you’ve got the perfect trip planned — great itinerary.

      Enjoy, and please do keep reading!

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