Around the World in (1)80 Days!

In the early summer of 2011, I watched my Little Brother proudly toss his graduation cap into the sunny San Diego sky. As he walked across that stage, each step he took brought him closer to what would be a brand new life. I’ve never been more proud as a Big Brother.

In the same way my Brother stepped down from that stage as a new person – a high school graduate – less than 24 hours later, I stepped off a plane onto Brazilian soil as a new person myself – a rookie traveler and future globetrotter.

June was the beginning.
To start off my travels, I had the opportunity to explore São Paulo, the Southern Hemisphere’s Largest City, and get introduced to the beautiful Brazilian culture. Brazil is complex in its people and customs; the country offers so much more than sunshine and beaches. I learned that one should always expect more, because once you close your mind off to new possibilities, you risk stagnancy.

July was a chance for connections.
The first transitions and my adaptation to the new cultures of Paraty and Rio de Janeiro were the just the beginning of the adventure. The feel, food, and flavor were all especially distinct and being able to note the differences between cultures helped me appreciate the context so much more.
Some of my most treasured memories of Brazil were found while working with youth in Espaço Criança Esperança,Rio de Janeiro. Noting the parallels between the negative stereotypes, low expectations, and yet stubbornly high hopes of the people of the Favela and the people of my own inner-city community helped me understand my newfound friends and myself a lot better. It reinforced the idea that where a person is from does not determine what they can achieve. The joy they brought me and the experiences we shared will stay with me forever and I can’t wait to create more memories with them when I visit Rio de Janeiro again someday.

August was a milestone.
I was in transition between 3 very distinct countries, continents, and cultures. As I said my ‘goodbyes’ in Brazil, shortly thereafter I received brand new ‘hellos’ in China. Working with the Harvard Summit for Young Leaders in China (HSYLC) was yet another unforgettable experience. The students I had the privilege of working with were able to teach me just as much as I was able to teach them as a Seminar Leader, Teacher, and Dance Instructor. They were truly incredible and each of their talents was more impressive than the last. Finally being able to experience the Chinese culture in its birthplace had been a childhood dream of mine. I had always wanted to explore the cultures of Asia and I am grateful for such a wonderful start to that journey. As I left China, headed for Europe, I began yet another chapter of my life as I set foot in what would be my home for the Fall 2011 semester- Barcelona, Spain.

September was a fresh start.
Settling in to a new community, brand new universities, and starting to teach at University of Barcelona (UB) provided for an intense beginning. I had to, yet again, adapt to a brand new culture and way of life. I discovered just how much the experiences in Brazil and China had changed who I was – I had grown.

October was an awakening.
As life picked up with the start of a new semester, I was transitioning well and so I began the European travels. My first international destination while in Europe was Portugal. I was in for a surprise when I thought I would be able to communicate effortlessly with the locals – Brazil and Portugal were, understandably, worlds apart. I learned that your reality, and everything you think you know well, can and will be challenged in new environments. A truth I had known but not actively recognized.

November was fantasy.
The magic of Rome and Thanksgiving in Paris was almost too much in just one month… almost. Additionally, the welcomed visits from friends in between weekends provided for a great way to blend the past, present and future.
I learned that when all three come together, one’s true aspirations are revealed.

&December was bittersweet.
The Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, the incredible selection of cheese in Zaandijk, and the Christmas spirit of the Netherlands provided for a great start to the last month of 2011. Then came Finals period, a goodbye to Europe, and finally, my homecoming and the milestone that came with it.

Let’s do a recap of what this adventure has entailed.
-Flying to Brazil for 2 months
-Bouncing back to Cali for a new flight
-Traveling over the Pacific Ocean to China
-Voyaging over Asia to finally arrive in Europe
-Crossing the Atlantic Ocean and the United States to finally return to California

And at the conclusion of this journey, at just 20 years old, I have successfully circumnavigated the globe – I have finished a complete trip around the world.

I’ve gone through so many other worlds to make it to my return flight home that I’m not even sure at what points I crossed which boundaries – and I think that’s a part of the beauty of it all. One thing I’ve learned after all of this is that no matter how far away we are from each other or how different our cultures may be, we are all interconnected and we all have the same dreams of finding something that will make us happy. The importance of working together to achieve these dreams has never been clearer.

And after 6 months of international travel, I step into 2012 as a new person, ready for even more challenges and welcoming even more growth. All of the lessons I have learned have finally come full circle: Let this year be a new beginning- a chance for connections, a chance for new milestones, a chance at a fresh start. Awake into your fantasy for every year’s end is bittersweet.

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And in the way I started this journey by traveling to Brazil in 2011, I will begin a new journey by traveling back to Brazil in 2012- in just a few hours, actually. You have to appreciate the symmetry!

This January, during Harvard’s 2012 J-Term, I have the privilege of participating in a special program called Mentorship & Language Acquisition in Brazil [MLAB] where I will be working with Brazil’s young future leaders. Words cannot describe how excited I am to be a part of the MLAB Family! I can’t wait to fill you in on all the details of this brand new adventure.Until then, be safe and keep working hard!

5 comments

  1. Pedro’s avatar

    Que tal Jesse como estas?? Te conocí en el avión del DF a Guadalajara espero estes bien, tienes face o twitter????
    Saludos!!

  2. European Mountains’s avatar

    That seems like a magnificient trip. Great experiences you have in varied life activities.

  3. Web SEO Experts’s avatar

    gossh….I am too jealous…i wish the same as elainemarie

  4. Mateo Corby’s avatar

    Jesse Sanchez, you are an absolutely awesome inspiration. I’ll see you at the airport tomorrow morning!

  5. elainemarie’s avatar

    Very cool. Wish I was stil in college.

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