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Samantha McGowan
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I hate people.

I’ve said it many, many times, while sitting in traffic, while scrolling through Facebook, while watching reality TV, while being stepped on and ran into in crowds. I hate people.

I believed it for a long time, too. If only I could just get away from everyone. If only I could just be alone. And then I decided to travel the world by myself.

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In life (as in hiking, it seems) the most difficult paths are the most rewarding, the most beautiful, and shape us into the people we want to be.

So here’s to the messy, the scary, and the slightly dangerous. Here’s to adventure and imperfection. Here’s to difficult paths that push us to our limits and test us. And here’s to the climb, because the summit is beautiful, but it’s the climb you remember.

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As I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, freeing it from God knows what kind of grime, I reminded myself I wanted this. I wanted to travel by myself because I wanted to push myself to my limits, to see what I was capable of, to test myself and to get to know myself better.

At this point, only a month into my six-month trip, I realized: I’m brave. I’m brave to be doing this in the first place, and I’m brave to continue doing it even after days like this.

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I wrote this before the attacks on Paris. I wrote this when I felt far removed from war and terrorism and hate. And today, in the wake of the Paris attacks, feeling sick at the idea of people being killed while they were eating and dancing and living, I’m having a hard time feeling this way again.

And so I’m posting this because I think it’s important, even more than when I wrote it, to see the beauty around me, to see the beauty through the darkness, through the pain and injustice and hatred.

My body isn’t in Paris, but my head, heart, and soul are.

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It's been a week since leaving Italy. Here are my heart's ramblings about the place I called home for a month. 

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Guys… I am shaking with excitement about writing this post. I have been waiting to write it for MONTHS, ever since I decided to only bring a regular back pack to Europe with me. DUN DUN DUN. GASP. WHAT? ONE BACKPACK? FOR 6 MONTHS OF TRAVELING? ARE YOU GOING TO BE NAKED THE ENTIRE TIME? ARE YOU INSANE?

Yep. One backpack (and a small day pack).

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It hasn’t even been a week and I’m in love. They warned me this would happen, that I would be sucked in. But I guess I already knew that since I decided to come back after being here for 10 days last year (in which it rained the entire time).

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Some people see greatness when they look at the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or when they look at famous actors and actresses or when they look at billionaires and millionaires.

I see greatness when I look at Arielle. I see greatness in people who serve, who give back, and who put others before themselves. I strive every day to be greater, to be like Arielle.

On May 29th, Arielle is traveling to Nepal to help the people of Kathmandu post-avalanche in any way she can. Her and the team she is traveling with will set up clinics in accessible areas that are in need of medical attention. They will provide treatment to every person they possibly can over the course of 10 days.

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I hate talking about this. I really do. It makes me vulnerable. It opens me up to criticism and shame.

But my intent for this blog is to be honest and vulnerable with you (and, by extension, myself) , to show you what is really going on in this life of mine, to make you feel not-so-alone in something maybe you’re going through, too. And so, honestly, as I looked in the mirror this morning I hated what I saw. I saw the huge pimple rearing its ugly head on the tip of my nose and the constellation of pimples running along my chin. I saw the extra weight being held in my face and my midsection.

I looked at myself in the mirror and all I could think was, “Ew. Ew ew ew EW.”

And in the midst of this particular instance of self-loathing, I thought of my daughter. I thought about, if I were to ever have a daughter, how I would want her to see herself

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Today isn't any old Friday. Today is my last day at my job; my first full-time job out of college, the job where I met friends and mentors I’ll keep for the rest of my life. Today is the day all of my friends are gathering in one place to say goodbye as I leave for over a year, first to work in Alaska, then to travel around Europe and Asia. Today is the day I start saying goodbye to the place I've called home for the last six years.
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