Fatima Verona (September 9, 2019): The Trekk (Gap Year Blog #2)

My goals, my hike.

As a gapper, I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity of taking a year off my studies to develop into a more mature and cultured citizen of this earth. It’s an optimal time to develop plans with clarity and decisiveness, and a different, and arguably more impactful, chance for growth, learning, and reflection.

To truly experience my gap year to the fullest, I set a few main and personal goals, of which I will go through what I’ll do to make them come alive — after all, a goal without a plan is only a dream, right? Hopefully sharing my goals will help me stay motivated and held accountable for fulfilling them.

1. Learn the Portuguese language and become at least intermediately fluent in it.

Photo by mauRÍCIO Santos on Unsplash

Since I can remember, my mother has been playing Bossa Nova on the radio whenever she cooks or does chores. Years of hearing artists like Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto, and Sérgio Mendes has made me memorize the lyrics to countless of captivating pieces, including Constant Rain, Aguas de Marco, and of course, The Girl from Ipanema. I only fell deeper in love with this poetic language as I grew older and searched for the meanings of my favorite songs.

While I’m aware that the Brazilian Portuguese dialect is very different from the European Portuguese dialect, Brazilian music is what inspired me the most to begin learning the language. Now that I see the opportunity to immerse myself further in the culture, I plan to grow my European Portuguese lexicon throughout my gap year trip and for as long as I can afterward. I’m combining apps like Drops and Memrise to help me achieve this goal for now. However, when I go to Portugal I plan to make the most of my cultural immersion experience by interacting with locals in Lisbon, and possibly in Sierra Tomar, and making a conscious effort to only speak Portuguese.

2. Discover more about myself.

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

– C.G. Jung


Last month I came to a bit of a terrifying realization — I’m a complete mystery to myself. When stuck in the routine of a — in my case, a very rigorous — schooling system, it’s a challenge to truly “know thyself.” I’m sure it’s the same drill with the majority of adults, only that they move to and from their 9 to 5 jobs. Before I enter university and become caught up with activities, courses and clubs however, I’m hoping to answer the following questions with more clarity: what else do I like? Who do I want to be? And, what other principles or philosophies do I want to live by?

Part of coming to my conclusions involves doing different activities I’ve started in the past and dropped because of different priorities or doing things I’ve always wanted to try, and learn new skills and information. To do this, I set the goal of reading at least ten to fifteen books, most of the nonfiction genre. I recently began reading Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson, and hope that by the end of it I have more tools to better my mental resilience and negative thought habits. If anyone who reads this blog post has some amazing book recommendations, it would be great if you could leave a comment. 🙂 There are some novels that I’m dying to read out of curiosity as well. Fun fact, I’ve never read To Kill A Mockingbird in school, so it’s definitely on my reading list.

As a Hispanic woman, I’ve always been expected to know how to move my body in time with the rhythm of music… yeah well, I just don’t. So out of sheer internal willingness and curiosity of what I can accomplish, and not out of social pressures or expectations, I’ve decided to learn to dance. This can be done with friends I hang out with or dance workout videos on YouTube. I’m thinking I should practice on weekends or on my days off when I have more time, for at least thirty minutes to an hour. Who knows, maybe I’ll join that Flamenco class I’ve always wanted to. It’s something I’ll look into and keep my fingers crossed in hopes it’s not expensive. This should be interesting. Additionally, I have this amazing camera my uncle gave me that I don’t know how to use properly for every different shot. It sucks that I don’t know the basics of photography, so to fix that I’m signing up for a free online class. That way, I can go on my trips without any regrets for not taking the best pictures I can.

The last thing I’ve been dying to try since I was small is to learn how to play an instrument. For the sake of not going out and spending money on something like the flute, I’ll be starting with the unused viola we have at home. I know the basics of music theory, so I’ll figure out how I can go from there. On this last goal, I’m not putting too much pressure on myself since learning an instrument is a time consuming and probably frustrating task. I only want to experiment and see if it’s something I can get into.

3. Become more self-sufficient.

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

For me, this goal means stepping out of my comfort zone in so many ways. To accomplish this, I’ll continue organizing the different trips I’d like to take in 2020 on my own. This includes continuing to pester the Portuguese embassy with emails and phone calls to see if they can help me obtain the visa. It includes submitting my completed application to the Jaguar Rescue Center in Costa Rica and speaking to a nearby school director so that I can spend at least two months of my trip there. It also means riding new modes of transportation independently in foreign countries and traversing new streets with care and awareness. Moreover, it means learning basic contemporary survival skills that I require of myself, including cooking, of which I am trying to learn by helping and observing my mom in the kitchen, and driving.

In the meantime, I’ll continue journaling to develop self-awareness, keep track of my plans and not lose touch with my internal world.

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