The Gap Year: Orlando

Like many kids from the Southeast US, I’ve been to Disney World my fair share of times. I’m actually not sure how many times I’ve been because my brother and I grew up on humid summer vacations to Orlando and Mickey Mouse ice creams.


One of my first trips to Disney, back when it was still acceptable to nap and be pushed in a stroller when I got tired and grumpy

In the fall of 2015, my mom sprung the idea of a New Year’s trip to Disney World on my family. We hadn’t been since 2012, which for our family felt like eons. I was happy, but then my mom told me I could bring my best friend along and I was ecstatic.

We went to both Universal parks on our first day in Orlando, then Epcot for the entire next day. We spent New Year’s Eve in the Magic Kingdom, and then spent the first day of 2016 in Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

We were exhausted.

But man, it was fun.

My best friend hadn’t been to Disney World since she was a toddler, and it was so much fun to watch her experience the magic of it through new eyes. Charm can so easily disappear from the things we have experienced routinely; witnessing someone encounter them for the first time can make it feel new all over again. I’m grateful that I had that chance with this last trip to Orlando.

We did it all- met our favorite characters, I finally got to meet Russel and Dug from Up and, most importantly, CHEWIE; we rode rides big and small, from Space Mountain to It’s a Small World; and we joined in dance parties with characters and kids. We even bought ourselves brand new Mickey ears (R2D2 for me, of course) and those extravagant flashing LED parade balloons ($15 for a balloon, only at Disney World).

Takeaway: This was the last big week I had with the people closest to me before I left for Peru. I was really struggling with the idea of leaving home for so long, and this trip to the Happiest Place on Earth was the ideal way to replace my apprehensions with pure joy. My heart was so full from four days of laughing and excitement and the simplicity of happy togetherness. Somehow, going back to a place I’ve been so many times had a way of filling me to the brim with the love I knew I needed right then and that I knew I was about to miss.


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