Alumnus Claire Staley ’12 has elected to defer her college admission, otherwise known as a “gap” year, to engage in an international journey of self-discovery. “I have never once in my entire life regretted time spent traveling,” said Staley. “I remember the people I’ve met, the places that have made me believe in magic again, and the opportunities…I can take this experience and learn.” Staley is documenting and sharing her adventure as an MVS graduate through stops in the far east.
Staley’s semester of travel will take her through South Korea, Japan, the Phillipines, Borneo, and Bali. Her trek will include travel by plane, train, boat, automobile, and even foot. And, while she will rendezvous with friends and relatives for short periods, Claire strikes out on her own with a path designed to meet her needs. Does MVS teach power through risk? Said Staley, “Without the fears, nothing would be a challenge, and I love challenges. Adventures are waiting…”
Excerpts from Staley’s blog and her online journal follow:
Food for the Seoul:
“old and new palaces, guard changes at the gates, shopping, and delicious Korean food…meats, noodles, and SPICE… And, the language of the country… It’s calming in a way English isn’t. Maybe it’s just that I can sit back and let all the sounds flood in, instead of worrying about what each person is saying, but it’s relaxing in an unexpected way.”
“Optimism runs like a current, flowing from one person to the next, until you are smiling goofily along with everyone else. Even clumsy conversations in English/Japanese between me and the Islanders have become entertaining, almost like a game. The sparks of laugher and smiles are like the bioluminescent creatures that litter the inland sea at night- plentiful and ready to make every moment sparkle.”
“loneliness…home…family…two cats… It could ruin this entire experience for me. But I refuse to let it…so much to learn and enjoy. So I continue to swim with the bioluminescent creatures at night, watching how I can light up hundreds at once just by diving in. I watch the sunsets and soak up the way the water reflects them…I stick my feet in the sand whenever possible. I talk with people…I read. And I learn.”
“Eighty-eight temples, four to six weeks, and a lot of walking…You must bow, palms together in front of you, before the entranceway to the temple. Then, you must commence washing your hands with the water provided right inside. I needed to write my name, address, date, and wish on a piece of paper and then place it in one of the boxes in front of the temple…candle and incense for burning…minshuku, and a hard Japanese-style pillow.”
“Walk dogs. All day. Dog after dog after dog. At night all the volunteers sit around and chat and talk and compare everything from food to natural disasters in our countries. Right now we have volunteers from Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium, and America staying in the apartment. It’s this fantastic melting pot of awesome people…one even survived the tsunami.”
The Road Ahead:
“When I decided to take a gap year, I’ll admit that I had no idea where to start or what to do. I wasn’t even sure that I was sure about it, which is precisely why I decided to go for it. It was one of those things that felt right at the time, and so far it’s morphed into an experience that sounds great and terrifying at the same time. I’ll just have to wait and see!”
Follow the journey of a young alumnus. Visit her online blog and travel journal and “friend” her on Facebook to see the complete photo album. Dive into the gap as she engages in the adventure of a lifetime… at 18.
Claire is the daughter of Sam Staley ’80 and Susan Staley. Claire’s brother Evan is a member of the junior class.