One journey ends, another begins

After three of the toughest, most rewarding, incredible months of my life, I landed back in Phoenix on August 13th. I covered six countries on five continents, interviewed over 200 people and about 25 pharmacists, got in the water with Great White Sharks, bungee jumped off a bridge, met amazing friends, navigated new cities (including some sketch public transport), ate some delicious food (shout out to Amsterdam and their stroopwafel), shadowed infectious disease physicians, saw beautiful museums and monuments and learned how to embrace traveling the world solo. And that hardly scratches the surface of the experience I’ve had this summer. I’ve finally had the chance to settle down and write this last post!

I’ve been back in the U.S. for 14 days now and every part of me wants to jump on a plane to a new place. As weird as it sounds, it’s like someone tied a rope to my stomach and just keeps pulling me to the airport. I’ve been so accustomed to packing up all of my clothes into a 21″ carry-on bag every two weeks and getting on a plane that it feels really odd to be settled into one place, sleeping in the same bed, using the same shower, hearing English 24/7 and knowing the contents of my next meal.

My journey around the world ended with my mom and sister coming to New Zealand for a week. It was nice not to worry about doing another survey or finding another pharmacist to interview; I was just a tourist in a beautiful country. First on my agenda? Bungee jumping. While my jet-lagged family stayed in the hotel room for the day, I headed for the Auckland Harbor Bridge. Luckily, it was a beautiful day with only a few clouds and no rain! When we got up to the bridge, I was the 3rd out of my group to make the jump. Never before this trip would I have bungee jumped. I’m so happy that this journey gave me more than just a bunch of data for my thesis. I lost a lot of fears and gained  a lot of excitement for life. I can honestly say I wasn’t scared until the instructor said “Okay, now scoot your toes right over the edge”. Then I freaked out a little but I knew the longer I stood there, the harder it would be. So when she said “3, 2, 1, BUNGEE”, I jumped right away. I thought I would kind of just flop off the bridge but I had just spend $50 on pictures and a video so it had to look good. Speaking of, click here if you would like to see the full video!

The next day, my sister and I went on a whale and dolphin cruise around the islands just outside of the city. Though it was windy and freezing, we Orcas, a Bryde’s Whale and hundreds of dolphins.

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If you know my sister and I, you know that we are polar opposites. Even so, I still laugh with her more than anyone else I know. We still have our sister language which mostly consists of Spongebob, Drake&Josh and Will Ferrell movie quotes and I’m happy she was able to experience New Zealand with me.

We also went on a day tour from Auckland to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and to Rotorua. I didn’t take the picture below because we weren’t allowed to have cameras (I just lifted it from Google Images) but this is pretty much what it looks like! It was incredible.

Image result for glow worm cavesDefinitely my favorite part of this day was the SHEEP farm. Sheep widely outnumber people in New Zealand and they were adorable. Here are some pictures from that day. I was real excited about the lamb.

 

After Rotorua, we went to Te Puia to see the geothermal parks and the geysers. Not much else to describe about Te Puia than what is pictured below. Except that, as you can imagine, it really smelled like sulfur. Yuck.

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I am ecstatic my mom came to visit me this summer. She is seriously a perfect angel, so full of life and adventure. It’s no wonder that I can’t go a day without thinking about another international trip. This woman has circumnavigated the world 3 different times. Well, once down, twice to go for me!

On one of our last days, I also brought her up Mt. Eden, the highest point in Auckland and made her be my photographer so I could get some cool pictures with my Circumnavigator’s Club flag in the wind.

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While in Auckland, I also got to meet up with the Circumnavigator from Georgetown! He was researching policies surrounding indigenous education and we had the chance to grab some coffee and talk about our projects. It was so nice to talk to someone who knew exactly what I was going through with such an undertaking. He has some amazing pictures so I would encourage you to check out his blog here !

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On our last day in New Zealand, my mom, sister and I went to the incredible Waiheke Island which is famous for all of it’s wineries. We had a beautiful brunch while overlooking the winery and spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the beach.

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I feel like there is just so much more to say about this trip. I really can’t believe I did it and I’m back home.

What’s next for me? Well, I have one more year at Arizona State, finishing up my degrees in Microbiology and Global Health (graduating May 2017!!! ahh so weird. I’m going to get back to my research lab working with MRSA and will be doing some volunteer community health education at schools in Phoenix. I’m taking a gap year from medical school and right now I am applying for scholarships to fund a master’s program in the UK during that year. This trip reaffirmed my dreams of becoming an infectious disease physician and working with governmental organizations like the CDC to solve outbreaks around the world. But, really, who knows? For the first time in a while, I am excited to just enjoy the moment and not always be looking ahead.

Hopefully I will be updating this blog every now and then if I ever read any cool journal articles or see important news about antibiotic resistance and infectious disease outbreaks. I will for sure give an update at the end of the semester to let you know any patterns I’ve found in my data.

Thank you so much to all of the researchers and doctors that took time out of their extremely busy schedules to help a random girl from the U.S. with a dream to better the world:

Dr. Fernando Baquero (Spain)

Dr. Christina Vandenbrouke-Grauls (the Netherlands)

Dr. Sumanth Gandra and Raminan Laxminarayan (India)

Dr. Marc Mendelson (South Africa)

Dr. Heather Battles (New Zealand)

Also a huge shout out to my mentor and thesis director here at ASU, Dr. Jonathan Maupin.

Thank you to the hundreds of random strangers that trusted an American girl with a survey in her hand and the dozens of pharmacists that did the same. You will never know how grateful I am for the 15-30 minutes you lent me out of your day, with no benefit to you.

And of course, thank you to the Circumnavigator’s Club and Barrett for funding my crazy dream and being so supportive every step of the way.

Finally, thank you also to all of the friends I made along the way. There are way too many to list but I cannot tell you how indescribable you made my trip and how many countries I have added to my list because of you. I hope sometime in our lives, our paths will cross again. But until then, thanks for climbing mountains with me, for speaking Spanish with me, for Great White Shark Cage diving, for cooking with me, for telling me about your countries, for going out and showing me a great time, for keeping each other safe and a million other thank yous.

Don’t be afraid to travel alone or go into the unknown. The world is much smaller than many people think it is and I hope you get the opportunity one day to be immersed in a culture completely different than your own and attempt to gain a deep understanding of what that culture means for the people who embrace it. I have gained such a joy and self awareness from just letting myself trust the world and believe it is a good place. Though there is violence and hate and misunderstanding, it’s important to see the light in the world. I can’t wait for all of the adventures I will have. Thanks so much for reading and caring about me and my work.

 

Te quiero,

Ik hou van je,

मैं तुमसे प्यार करता हूँ,

Ek het jou lief,

Kei te aroha au ki a koe,

I love you,

Carlyn

 

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