I’ve thought about it for awhile. The reality of it just always seemed too far off. Too out there. Too unattainable for me. But why?
I asked myself that question during my recent visit from the dream that never seems to stop knocking. It makes it’s rounds like clockwork. Flashing images of Machu Picchu and cloud forests and llamas until I usually send it on it’s way with a “not yet” or a “the money and circumstances are just not there right now”. I’ve dreamt of traveling to Peru ever since I read the book The Celestine Prophecy. This book painted magical and unforgettable pictures in my mind of this place that I just simply had to visit. It didn’t help that I read this only months before my first world adventure with Semester at Sea. At the time, I was eager with anticipation for my impending round-the-world trip and hungry for any contact with other-worldly adventures.
Four years later and the yearning to see and explore Peru has only gotten stronger. It’s the first thing off my tongue when someone asks me “Where do you hope to travel?” My friends know it. My family knows it. But it’s a dream I’ve been carrying alongside a practical dose of reality that if not questioned, will continue to keep me on this side of the dream. Utterly unfulfilled.
My parents are entirely supportive of most everything that I pursue but when I throw out my crazy ideas and limit-pushing adventures to them (which I do often), I am usually met with, “You have the rest of your life to do that. Right now, your focus needs to be on finding a job that supports you and sets you up financially for these sort adventures down the line. There’s no rush here, Amber.” It’s a totally practical response. I get it. I’m young. God willing, I have an entire life ahead of me. But, every time I hear these words, I can’t help but feel like the wind is taken out of my sails. These are my hearts desires and I’m being told to consider them with caution.
I’m a dreamer. I don’t want to live the ordinary life. I want to push my limits, be uncomfortable for a bit, see what I am capable of, discover who I am and what I can offer to the world. I’m sick of playing it safe and doing what’s practical, what’s expected. It takes courage to pursue your big dreams. It often takes risk and faith and a strong mind to tune out the nay-sayers. That’s what happens when you stray from the well-traveled path.
A little background on who I am, as I hope you’ll continue on my journey from dream to Peru: My name’s Amber Dunlap. I graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with a bachelors in Meteorology. When I studied abroad my Junior year, I came back a different person. Changed. More dedicated to living a life of impact. Making a difference. The only problem was I was so lost as to what that was. A year away from graduation, I stuck with Meteorology. And upon graduation I made my way to D.C. where I interned (a.k.a. jobless graduate works for free) at a small non-profit renewable energy marketing firm. College was fun. This internship was definitely not. But it did introduce me to the world of social media to which I now owe my income and flexible lifestyle. This internship also showed me how adversely I react to an office environment and routine. I cannot stand it. Nope, won’t ever do that again. It’s good to know at least something for sure 🙂
Towards the tail end of my internship, I began frantically searching for new opportunities, hopefully paid this time around. Again, finding mostly internships. The job market sucked at the time. At this point, I was willing to take another internship if it meant being surrounded by people who woke up inspired and excited to do their work each day, and if it meant going to an office, at least I want to be around people who feed off of each others positive and enthusiastic energy. I wanted a meaningful job. Looking back, I learned a lot about myself in that summer at the marketing firm. I learned a lot about what doesn’t work for me and as a result was able to better know what I am looking for.
Eventually and just in time (literally the week before my internship ended), I came across a job (okay, internship actually) with a film company. Their mission was to inspire, educate, and engage audiences via the medium of short films centered around sustainability stories from around the world. This checked soooo many boxes for me. I applied. I was extended a phone interview. And before I knew it, I was offered the position. Life was looking up finally! Turned out this was a virtual position meaning I would work from home each day. I couldn’t believe it. That sounded amazing after so many long commutes into the city five days a week.
My college roommate and I had always talked about moving out west. It was always a half-serious, half-not kind of thing. After sharing the good news with my parents, I called her. On that phone call, we decided that we’re doing it. We’re moving to Colorado. Now, notice how I had to wait until I had some sort of security to take such a leap and I needed someone to go with me. Not very brave, if you ask me. My roommate on the other hand was truly inspiring. She too, was afraid to go it alone but she wasn’t afraid to move without a job in hand.
This all transpired in September of that year. By April, we loaded up in my roommate’s Chevy Malibu for the two-day drive to Denver. I-70 through Kansas…kill me now please.
Moving to Colorado has only solidified the fact that you have to follow your dreams. When you do, amazing things happen. Like things you never knew were possible for you. I was the girl who was terrified of opening up and letting people in. Colorado forced me out of my shell and I actually ended up falling in love for the first time in my life. I discovered my passion for culture and am now a regular at every coffee shop in the city. (Thank you virtual job for that among many other things) I can truly say I am so happy here and have found a home that never stops surprising me.
Then why am I looking to get outta town yet again? Because I know I’ll come back here. Colorado, I am beyond proud to say, is my home now. Peru is my temporary adventure into the unknown that can only serve to open up parts of myself that I never knew existed. As Colorado did and continues to do. Plus, life needs to be shaken up every now and again. I need an adventure. I thrive on adventure. That and I really do hope to turn this blog into a travel blog, capturing other experiences abroad and inspiring people to make their dreams happen. I haven’t traveled since Semester at Sea and that’s a huge problem because I fell in love with exploration and diving into new cultures. It’s time to go all in. Peru, here I come.