Current Date:  Monday, January 26, 2009  9:00 a.m. (Lima, Peru)

Current Itinerary:  Boarding a plane tomorrow and heading back to the USA.

Note:  There is another email coming just after this one that will answer the “What’s next?” question.  Please give me a couple of hours...I promise I’ll leave no stone unturned.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Well folks...looks like we’ve finally come to the end of the road.  At the risk of sounding like an ad for The Masters...this has definitely been one for the ages.  I’m sitting here in Lima...and in just a couple days I’ll be on a plane back to the USA.  It is a little sad knowing that it’s over...I have been wrestling with those thoughts a lot the past couple weeks as I approach the inevitable.  In the end I must move forward...I know there is always more adventures waiting for me.  Yet again, this journey has been a defining experience in my life...it has been amazing for many reasons.  I wish there was a way to describe what it feels like.  Last year, I put on a backpack, and set off with virtually no itinerary.  Twelve months later, I’ve crossed off an entire page from my life’s “to do” list.  There have been countless new friends, beautiful places and crazy times.  When you are traveling, you feel as if you’re on top of the world everyday...you’re free to go in any direction and you start to realize how truly big the world is.  Once again, on this trip, I have been amazed with this world and all it has to offer.  From ancient Mayan Ruins, to beautiful snow capped peaks, to the exotic animals that live deep under the sea, to vast deserts that sprawl on forever and ever...just when I think I've seen everything there's more around the next corner.

If you think about it, it’s part of human nature...to explore.  It’s been a common theme on this trip as we have traversed the lands of the Mayans and Incas, and many other civilizations that came before ours.  They didn’t have roads, and bus systems, or even a sense of boundaries or borders...for them it was an endless jungle that stretched out in all directions until finally at some point it met the sea.  But when they got to the sea, they did not turn back, they simply pushed on in a different direction.  At the root, they were merely explorers, much like myself and many others who make it a point to venture out and discover the wonders of our great planet.  It’s something that’s wired deep inside of us and has been for centuries.

I love traveling.  I love it more than anything and it has been awesome to get to do something that I love more than anything for all this time.  Even better is the life lessons I continue to learn from my passion.  Is there something that you love?  Is there something you want to go after but feel a little afraid or uncomfortable to make those first steps?  Think about it...it’s out there.  Go for it.  None of those who accomplished great things in history did so by sitting back and waiting.  They went after it.  I can’t help but to think about Barack Obama as one of the greatest examples of this we have ever seen.  There is an overwhelming wave of support for him around the globe and it is true that he has reached an almost “celebrity” status that we have not seen the likes of for any politician ever.  There is a reason he inspires people and it goes beyond the color of his skin and it even goes beyond the opinions people might have of his predecessor.  It’s hidden in a whole bunch of intangible things that are barely noticeable but collectively add up to something special.  It’s the way he trots up on the stage.  It’s the way his broad smile makes you want to smile.  It’s the way he takes over a room.  It’s a presence...a certain charisma.  A level of determination and drive to go after his aspirations.  The man was born to lead.  But here is the thing.  He is the same man he was 3 years ago or 5 years ago, long before being thrust into the forefront of our consciousness.  He was always the type of man that any of us should aspire to be.  Somebody who goes after what they want.  I’m sure if you talked to people that have known him for many years, they would almost all invariably say they are not surprised he has accomplished a feat so many thought impossible.  He’s been doing it for years already.  He embodies a spirit I think is one of the real important lessons of life...simply put: Get off your ass and accomplish something.  It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that you go after that thing.  I look at leaders like that and choose to emulate it as best I can.  We cannot let life just pass as by...it is so precious and we only get to do it one time so you might as well do it right. In the words of the great Doug McLean:  “Don’t take merely what you will accept out of life.  Decide what you want and go for it.  Don’t you owe it to yourself?!”

Before I close out these journals I need to thank several people.  I would be impossible to mention every single person that helped us along during this trip, but there are some that I must mention by name.  Our time in Panama would not have been anywhere near the same if it had not been for Paul and Jenny Saban...the founders of the Paradise Gardens where we volunteered.  Also, thanks to Ted and Jenny and the other volunteers that made Boquete an unforgettable part of our trip (and one of only two places that stayed for longer than a week).  I also have to thank my friends Karina and Mario who put us up in Panama City for almost 3 weeks.  My friend’s Tracy/Australia and Patrik/Sweden were also kind enough to put us up during these travels and can’t forget to thank those who came to visit us: Jodi’s Mom (who came twice!) and our friends Gavin and Lily from Boston.  There are also many travelers we have met along the way, but none had a greater influence and impact on this trip than Drouyn/Australia, who we spent the last 5 months with.  I’ll never forget you my brother and all the great times we had annihilating our life “to do” lists.  Jumping off bridges, trekking through the jungle, and even getting tattoos.  Ha ha...Good times.  People like you make this world a far better place to live in.  Safe travels my friend...thanks for sharing your wit, wisdom, and majestic regalness with us. 

Last but not least, I have to thank Jodi...one of the few people that I know that has the balls (er...ovaries?) to take life by the reins and lead it, rather than to be dragged along.  She gave up everything she has ever known to come on this trip and that part is far more difficult than one might imagine.  Having her to travel with made this experience even more special for me...almost like having a chance to share the ultimate gift.  Something that could never fit in a package.  This journey exceeded any expectations either of us could have ever had and I can’t imagine not having her to share it with.  I’ll always remember 2008 as the year we saw the world...together.

Keep exploring.

AC

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