Greetings fellow travelers, future travelers, friends and family of the Leap! I’m Sophie, your blogger for the September Leap trip to Ecuador! I cannot  believe that in a week I’ll be on a plane bound for Quito. I swear I still had four months left to pack damn it! How the time flies when you’re planning for the trip of a lifetime.

Although I’ve traveled internationally as a wee babe with the family (Spain, Jamaica, and England), I didn’t truly catch the travel bug until 2012 when I spent a month in Cape Cod, Mass at a youth retreat. At some point during that month I started itching with travel fever. I needed to see everything! Over the next three years, I flew all over the US and saw some amazing things. I also missed a bus, lived in a van, went dumpster diving, mixed caffeine tablets with Red Bull, learned to dance, got a job, quit the job, and gained a few more cats.

Sophie Haworth When 2015 reared its ugly head, I was ready for some international adventures. I briefly considered just packing up and heading out to Spain for a while, but ultimately decided that I wanted a bit more structure for the first part of my gap year. So I began the most extensive internet search of my life. After looking through more gap year programs than I can count, and many forwarded emails to my parents, I found the Leap. Once I saw that they went to Ecuador, I was sold. Living with indigenous tribes and working on the Galapagos Islands? Sign me up!

I’ve earned my big cash money wad with a part time nanny job (that baby is the light of my life), babysitting gigs, housesitting, and dog walking. Can I get a shout out for tax-free work? I love spending time with kids, and getting paid for it makes it even better! When I’m not working, I spend my time swing dancing, writing, and trying (and sometimes failing) to save money.

My advice to travelers is: take socks. They are a precious commodity. Friends may leave you, relationships may fall apart, but dry socks will always be there for you. Socks will never let you down. Side B of my advice track is to Write. It. Down. Journaling can seem forced and awkward if you’ve never done it before; it definitely was for me, but I urge you to persevere! Don’t worry about filling dozens of pages in one sitting with a play by play of your day. Take it slow. Write down a few things that happened that you want to remember the details of. Write down the weather. A sentence or two a day. Lots of small things add up quickly. And when you’re flying back home, or need to cite a good counterpoint you made in an argument three weeks ago, it will totally be worth pushing through that awkward stage.

Well, that all for now folks! Tune in next time for the first post about week 1 in Ecuador!