#GoodVibesOnly

<Yellow Rock Overlook after a thunderstorm – Sunrise Yoga with Fayettechill and Yoga Deza>

Isn’t it the most spectacular thing when you randomly encounter human beings who you immediately connect with? The ones that literally make you ache to learn more about and to hear their perspectives on life. The ones who force you to question the complexities of this world together. The ones who thrive on experiences rather than material things. The ones who encourage you to go on adventures to the deepest and highest parts of this Earth. The ones who challenge you to ignore societal norms and enjoy what nature has to offer. The ones who want to wake up before the sun, hike 3 miles, and appreciate the rain as it falls gently down onto our skin, as we practice yoga amongst the magical Ozark Mountains together. The ones who give warm embraces as you part ways. The ones who send a constant stream of good vibes into the world. Yeah – those are the ones you keep as part of your tribe.

#GoodVibesOnly

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How Hiking Heals…

The cure to loneliness is learning to be content with one’s own company. At least – that’s what I’ve learned after nearly two years of living on my own, hours away from my closest friends and family. When I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in October 2014, I honestly didn’t have any intention on staying here for an extended amount of time. I longed to be in Denver, Colorado with my boyfriend, ready to start a life together. I didn’t go out of my way to make friends because I honestly didn’t feel the need to. In my mind I had already planned my escape out of Arkansas. I had found companionship with my coworkers and with those I played volleyball with and that was enough for me. I was satisfied.

It’s funny how as humans we try to plan our lives in advance, as if we know exactly how our lives will pan out. Well trust me – we don’t. The day after my 25th birthday, I removed myself from my long distance relationship that had already been deteriorating for years. It was long overdue, but unfortunately that didn’t make the heartbreak any easier. You see, that was my first legitimate relationship. My first love, and then, my first real heartbreak. So you can now see why after 25 years of not experiencing any sort of heartbreak – I was sort of a mess. In those dark moments, I sought comfort in professional help. In all honesty, I saw the woman once. She was a great listener and she suggested a really captivating book for me read (which reminds me – I should probably finish it now). And then, I met a fantastic guy. He challenged my thinking on every level (especially science). He was incredibly thoughtful (and easy on the eyes). He was well-cultured, loved to travel, enjoyed talking about politics, and loved to workout. He was literally everything I dreamed of. And best of all, he made me feel worthy of being in a relationship with. But….it was bad timing. I was still dealing with too much drama with my ex and I was honestly beyond exhausted. I couldn’t be the person I wanted and needed to be for him at the time, so we parted ways. That in itself was heartbreaking because I had finally found the comfort of a companion here in Arkansas – something that I didn’t realize I had sought.

For the first time (and because I was completely alone), I finally saw what Arkansas had to offer me (they don’t call it the Natural State for nothing). I found solace in hiking the worn out trails in the Ozark Mountains, feeling the warmth of the sun shine down my face. It was like a battery full of charge, the sun propelling me forward and giving me energy and life as I walked miles away into the wilderness. There is truly nothing more therapeutic then walking along the trails of freshly fallen amber leaves, inhaling and exhaling the clean cool air, and clearing the demons that inhabit your mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” And just like Fitz said, it felt like my life had started over.

Throughout the last eight months, it has been nature that has kept me sane. My weekends have often led me to the most beautiful secluded destinations, hardly touched by civilization. I’ve climbed over 2000ft to reach a 200 ft waterfall, walked along a 350 foot bluff with stunning views of the Buffalo River, and practiced yoga on overlooks surrounded by the greenest trees. I have learned how to be wildly and incandescently happy in my own company because I am in sync with nature. I have learned that with every step amongst the pines, I can also let go of any detrimental thoughts that linger within me. The negativity that once crippled me now streams steadily away, like water flowing freely down the Buffalo River.

And that is what nature does – it allows you to move freely without the constraints of the real world that are constantly tugging at you from behind. If you respect it, it will respect you back and give you 10x more than what you ever expected. I hike alone because it is a safe haven for me to escape. I can be in complete control of my actions and not have to worry about anything other than myself. Call me selfish, but after my last three years of emotional torment, I deserve it. My life isn’t always full of dandelions and butterflies – but for now, I’ll take refuge being amongst them.

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Centerpoint Trail to Goat Trail – Overlooking the Buffalo National River

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Hawksbill Crag or commonly referred to as Whitaker Point

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Yellow Rock Trail at Devil’s Den State Park

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Pigeon Roost Hiking Trail – Beaver Lake

Love,

Kayla

Oh the Humanities…

“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.”
Roman Payne

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where I knew traveling the world and becoming a humanitarian would become one of my greatest passions in my life, but the idea undoubtedly unfolded at an early age. Some kids loved math or science – I loved what most kids my age would consider the ‘boring’ subjects – geography and history. Whether it was participating in the local geography bee or sitting in the back row of Mr. Wagner’s history class secretly trying to memorize and locate every country on a blank map, I constantly wanted to learn more about the world around me in every facet. So much so that I would even spend my Sunday afternoons with my history teacher in the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas just because I thought it was fun. Talk about dedication. In high school, I veered from the idea of going to college for history, instead I wanted to become a journalist. I imagined a life traveling around the globe as a photo journalist for National Geographic photographing wild animals on African safaris, climbing the Great Wall of China, and roaming the Roman Underground for lost treasures. When it finally came time to enroll at Baker University, I once again surprised myself and foolishly decided that there was ‘too much’ writing to go into the Journalism program. I clearly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I declared International Studies and later on, History, as my two majors instead (You know because those two subjects don’t require ANY writing or anything – I blame you – Ortiz, Richards, and Beasley). As much as I probably complained about the gruesome amount of work in those four years, I was led to exactly where I needed to be – in the humanities.

The humanities change you. Is there really anything more compelling than attempting to understand the human condition through history, religion, language, art, and philosophy? You don’t actually need to answer that. Too often have I heard the arguments that suggests that the humanities do not contribute to our vast knowledge base like the STEM fields do. Too often have I heard that the humanities will not provide job security or a healthy stream of income. Too often have I been belittled by those who believe that my Master of Science degree in Global and International Studies is ‘less worthy’ compared to their Engineering and Math degrees. Luckily, I won’t stay up at night feeling diminished by their ignorance. I’m damn proud of my education. My degrees emphasized critical reading, writing, and thinking skills, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving — ALL of which will serve me well as I volunteer abroad.

I’ve known since I was 14 years old that I would apply for the Peace Corps. At that time in my life, I saw life in the Peace Corps as glamorous and exotic. It didn’t hit me until I was in college that volunteering in this capacity was anything but. However, the more I learned in my International Studies’ classes about different cultures and global issues, the more I realized how badly I wanted to help other cultures thrive with the skills I possessed. Although I did not apply directly after receiving my undergraduate degree, I knew I needed to gain more life experience through volunteering, furthering my education, and working in higher education to become a competitive candidate for the Peace Corps (23,000 people applied this year after all). In the past four years, I have worked diligently to become an informed, educated, and hardworking global citizen. I most certainly couldn’t have achieved this without the seven years of burying myself in International Studies curricula.

International Studies literally brings out the humanity in oneself. I mean honestly, how couldn’t it? Try sitting in class day in and day out reading about things like the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, food security, the Rwandan Genocide, female genital mutilation, or human trafficking – it will change you. It will make you question everything you can imagine about the intricacies of your own society and if you’re contributing to this Earth in a positive or negative way. It makes you uncomfortable. No one wants to sit around and think about the poor child overseas being subjected to child labor in order to provide you with your clothing – but we have to. As humans – we have to be willing to question and dig deeper into the things that make us feel uncomfortable in order to enact any kind of positive change. And that is why I have chosen to join the Peace Corps – to promote world peace and gain intercultural relationships at a grassroots level. I would have never truly understood the impact of studying International Studies unless I experienced and witnessed the human condition in a different light, far from the comforts of my 1100 sq ft apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My education has served its purpose and it has undeniably prepared me for MY future.

September 19th, 2016 marks the beginning of my journey as a Youth Asset Builder/Secondary Ed English Teacher in Morocco. The program widely focuses on youth leadership, strengthening youth networks, building capacity of professionals who work with youth, and the promotion of girls’ education. I will spend three months in intensive training learning Darija and everything I need to know about Moroccan culture and how to be the best volunteer possible. During this time I will live with a host family (one that I pray respects my dietary restrictions). For those wondering about my location, I will not find out until the end of those three months where I will be placed for the next two years of service. However, once I’m placed at my site, I will find myself my very own apartment that will become home for the next two years. Frankly, I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m still shocked. I really can’t begin to describe the emotions that come to play when you know you will be in a completely new environment for 27 months. My goal is to keep you all updated as much as possible through this blog, Facebook, and Instagram. Feel free to ask me any questions regarding the Peace Corps or my travels abroad at anytime! I’ve searched for quite some time for an organization that I could develop professionally, socially, mentally, and physically and I couldn’t be more proud to have found that with the Peace Corps.

 

Love,

Kayla

 

Photo taken by the spectacular Gloria Atanmo at The Blog Abroad: