As I sit here working on a paper about the atomic structure of copper, I want to dedicate this entry to remembering the adventures of my “old” life. Last night, I spoke with my parents about the choices that my four siblings and I have made/are making in our twenties. I spoke about how eternally grateful I am for having had the experience I did while in Ecuador. Granted, I was pretty sick most of the time, I was attempted robbed three times (but for the record – nobody got a dime off of me, echem, even with razor blades involved), my building was broken into, I had many frustrations, and at a certain point I knew that it was time for me to come home and make some decisions… that didn’t stop me from having some of the best and most inspiring adventures of my life.
These videos, created by my then VIVA Travel Guides intern and now good friend Allison (AKA “The Traveling Bard”), capture — at least in one form — some of the experience. I guess with Thanksgiving around the corner, it seemed appropriate to recognize how grateful I am for the adventures I’ve had. I distinctly remember one bus ride, when about five friends and I made the 10 hour overnight trip from Canoa (the beach) all the way up to Quito (a 9,400 foot climb through the Andes) to head straight to work. Everyone was sleeping, and I had a window seat on the rickety, dank bus. As it climbed from sea level into the mountains, I remember watching out my window in complete awe as layer upon layer of mountains spread out from all around us. It was just our bus in the entire sea of mountains, climbing up towards the most beautiful display of stars I think I will ever see. And while everyone slept, I may or may not have gotten choked up with happiness watching the scenery go by, because I knew I was living the life I wanted to live. The world is so clear when you feel like you and the stars are the only ones in it. I was living my dream, even if it turned out to be less perfect than I had imagined. I was in the thick of life, whatever mine would turn out to be.
I went to Ecuador immediately after getting my heart broken. I didn’t know a single soul in the entire country. I took a huge risk, I took some tumbles along the way, but now — one year later — I know I will forever be LUCKY that I ever took a chance. Juan the Amoeba (for all those who remember that little sucker) may have been a surprise visitor, but he is gone now. What’s left is some pretty f-ing incredible memories. So what can I say? Take the risk. And be grateful that you did, no matter what.
I’ve got to head to my 8am class. But check these out and enjoy my cameos, if you will:
And here is my attempt to make a video (not nearly as good as Allison’s but it was my first ever!):
A special thank you to ALLISON!! Follow her @ACarlton or check her out here http://www.allisoncarlton.com/ (side note: I took her homepage photo 🙂 Yay).
It’s that time of year. Wanderlust has begun to nestle itself comfortably in the back of my mind, surrounded by a bunch of fluffy pillows, waiting for me to come under the blanket with it and escape one world for another. As always, the invitation is hard for me to resist. When I cannot fully escape, at least I’ve got TwT.
Boat through the leaves. Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Kite surfers in Cabarete, Dominican Republic.
A Haitian man selling snacks on the beach in Cabarete, exactly two weeks before the earthquake hit Haiti. Cabarete, Dominican Republic.
Lava rock and ocean in Kona. The Big Island, Hawaii.
Sunset above the clouds, from the top of Mauna Kea (10,000 feet up). Big Island, Hawaii.
Palm trees and ocean. San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This post is an invitation. Please contribute (as a comment) your #1 wanderlust destination right now (travel bloggers – please share a link if you’ve written about a destination you want to suggest!). For me, that place is an island somewhere in the Caribbean. I want to hike through a rainforest, sit by a beach, eat mouthful after mouthful of perfectly ripe fruit…
I cannot get the thought of soft sunshine, fresh coconuts, that very specific sound of palm tree leaves brushing against each other between waves, the call of birds, the smell of plumeria, the light breeze blowing over my knees, the too-hot sand, the too-fresh air that I want to scoop out of the sky and eat like a bowl of melting ice cream, the sound of calm, the delicious feeling of wanting to be nowhere else, the wish that I could somehow capture all these sensations and take them with me to my real life…
My quads burn, the sweat is literally dripping down my shoulders and neck. I am wearing my tightest ‘dex (spandex, that is) and I’m climbing the biggest hill of my SoulCycle workout, swaying from left to right with nothing but goals in my mind.
Biking the hills of Old Town Quito (Ecuador). Altitude: almost 10,000 ft. June 2010.
I’ve jacked up the resistance as high as my legs will allow. Everything hurts a little, but in all the good ways. I feel alive when it hurts a little. When you are forced to push yourself, you realize how much is there. I want to push harder but I feel a little nauseous in the steamy, candle-lit room. I’m surrounded by 50 other riders, but I’m spinning my own race. This song is playing (see bottom of post) and I’m thinking about everything I want to accomplish, everything that’s hurting, everything I’m climbing and burning for, and yet all that I’m really worried about is each pedal turn, one turn at a time, left then right… So, I keep pedaling.
Hiking the Paramo in Ecuador. Altitude: 4,000 m (over 13,000 ft - well over double the altitude of Denver/over two miles up)
I climb, but on a stationary bike there is no end point that you can see. You close your eyes to find it. As much as I want to get to the top, I love the burn along the way. It lets me know I’m working towards something… towards everything.
Sea Lion Trail. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. November 2010.
One week from tomorrow, I’ve got Biology Midterm II. This is my chance. This is my opportunity to redeem myself from the last one. I’ve got to fight for it and it’s going to hurt along the way, but I’m pedaling and I’m feeling good and comfortable in the burn, in the sweat, in the fight to the top. I’m ready for this one. More ready than I was for the last one, at least. I’m loving the new material (genetics), I’m excited about doing this challenge all over again, and I’m still pedaling, giving it my best, because man do I want to be at the top of this hill again. I need to remember what it feels like. And I’m the only way to get there.
Rachel Tavel, DPT, CSCS, is a published travel writer turned Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). She earned her BA in Spanish and Archaeology from Bowdoin College and her DPT from NYU.
After Bowdoin, Tavel interned at American Express Publishing, where she worked with Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, Executive Travel, Departures, and Centurion magazines.
In 2007, she co-authored the Frommer's guidebook, "MTV Best of Mexico" (Wiley Publishing, 2007), for which she wrote the Acapulco, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, and Taxco chapters.
From late 2006 to early 2010, Tavel served as the editor of an independent school's annual magazine. In addition, she worked as an editor and writer for the VIVA Travel Guides to Argentina, Quito and Guatemala. Her photography has been published in Everywhere magazine and the VIVA Guides to Quito and Argentina.
After a six-month stint working as a staff writer for VIVA Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, Tavel returned to the US to fulfill the 10 pre-med pre-requisites (at NYU and Harvard Extension School) to apply to Doctor of Physical Therapy programs.
In 2013, Tavel was admitted to NYU's Doctor of Physical Therapy program. She graduated in 2016. While there, Tavel became a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and earned her certification in basic mat Pilates.
In addition to working as a physical therapist, Tavel contributes to various blogs about health/fitness/wellness, including the Huffington Post and Bustle.com. [See "Tavel Links" for more information.]
Last but not least, Tavel is writing a travel memoir about her adventures as a twenty-something career-changer... Stay tuned!
In the World:
Argentina, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nevis, Portugal, Spain, St. Kitt's, St. Maarten, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, Vatican City.
In the US:
Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina,Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia.