With the end of the season drawing near (at a seemingly exponential pace), I find the craziness of high-season in Jackson has been replaced with a swarm of friends in need of help packing, organizing and consolidating, all ready and eager to embark on the next chapter of their lives- college. Although I am also in the midst of preparing to leave Jackson, my to-do list has nothing to do with course catalogs, room-mates or picking a major.
My parents were far from surprised when I casually informed them one night at the dinner table that I would be deferring my admission to the University of Montana for a year so that I could embark on an eight month journey throughout South America. Although my mother was quick to tell me that she would be billing me the full cost of disguising all the new grey hairs I would surely be giving her, they were both incredibly supportive.
Growing up in Jackson has instilled within me a deeply rooted appreciation for both nature and adventure. However, it has also given me a slightly skewed perception of reality. Thus, in planning my trip, my number one priority is to not be just a privileged Jackson youth enjoying a year-long vacation. I have tried, and I like to think successfully, to combine my love for the outdoors with a desire to help others (all the while operating on a very limited budget).
I will spend the first two months right outside of Sucre, Bolivia as a volunteer trail-guide for an organization called CondorTrekkers (http://www.condortrekkers.org/). This Bolivian based non-profit uses the money from guided backpacking tours to help local children and communities in need. From there, I will spend three months in Guatemala with a completely separate, although practically identical, organization called QuetzalTrekkers (http://www.quetzaltrekkers.com/xela). Subtract a few weeks in Ecuador (to explore) and a few in Argentina (to visit a friend) and the rest of my time will be spent in Peru. This is the last leg of my trip and therefore is intentionally vague- I intend to go with the flow, meet new people and see what types of opportunities present themselves to me south of the equator.
From the moment I first started speaking, my parents have both cursed and admired what they refer to as my intuitive sense of wanderlust. I intend to live minimally and maximize my experiences every second of my trip. I know how fortunate I am to have this opportunity and plan to return to Jackson with an even greater appreciation for this beautiful valley and everything it has given me throughout my childhood.
Maybe I’ll even do some rafting while I’m down there…. Jessica Moore