During my junior year of college I traveled with a group of 18 students around the world. We went to England, India, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand and Colombia in 9 months. The countries and cultures were astounding. The curriculum was real-time and place-based. Our faculty became role models, and our group was a family. Like every known cliché in the book, I came home feeling awed, humbled, confident and inspired to engage my life and learning in new and bolder ways. After finishing my degree in anthropology, I quickly started looking for opportunities to guide students in the way that I had been. I led my first group of high schoolers on a volunteer and adventure program in Belize in 1994 and never looked back!
I have since dedicated nearly 30 years to the field of experiential education. J2Guides, co-founded by myself and my husband Jason, is an innovative counseling service and educational platform that brings empowerment, expertise and affordability to the center of the gap year conversation. I am an accredited professional gap year counselor, and former board member, of the Gap Year Association and have been a keynote speaker at the USA Gap Year Fairs since 2011.
My background in this field has as much depth as it does breadth. I spent my 20s leading programs in Africa, Asia and Central America, honing my skills as a problem solver, nurse, cultural ambassador, general contractor, conflict mediator, co-leader, and financial planner. For another decade I was a program manager and then executive director of an educational travel organization, further expanding my skills in ethical and sustainable program development, risk management, and experiential education curriculum. I have now spent more than another decade as a gap year counselor, promoting the gap year on a national level at conferences and schools, traveling the world to vet quality placements, advising new programs on best practices, and of course working closely with families to curate the gap year options that will best meet the unique needs, interests, goals and budget of each courageous gap year student.
I am a facilitator at heart, and am dedicated to supporting people who are seeking change and growth. In addition to my role as a gap year guide I am a trained birth doula, wedding officiant, ski instructor and Wilderness First Responder. My husband Jason and I have worked and adventured together for 20 years, including starting a family of our own. We have been fortunate to travel the world, but we equally love playing in our beautiful 4-season New England town where we ski, swim, paddle board and trail run year-round. Through it all we aspire to cultivate what we call a #gapyearstateofmind. What does that mean? For starters: living with intention and curiosity, cultivating compassion, pushing beyond our comfort zones, striving for our best version of ourselves, and doing so with integrity, authenticity and fun!