[FW]: Life-Changing Travel

by cynthiarendon

Yup, back to travel.

About a year and a half ago I made a conscious decision to go to South America to do something for someone else for once. I did it because I felt like it. I did it because my conscience wouldn’t leave me alone about it. I did it because I noticed that the most miserable people, those always complaining about life, were, in actuality, incredibly obsessed with themselves (Thanks, Gordon Hinckley). In essence, I did it because I was looking for perspective.

This is a very dangerous and potentially damaging thing to do. I was looking to go find myself, when, in reality, there was a huge possibility that I wouldn’t.

I began to get nervous. What if this trip didn’t change anything? What if that life-changing moment, the one where the world stops just for you, and God breathes new life into your soul, and . . . What if it just didn’t happen?

Travel is supposed to change your life, people say. People get very pensive and dreamy when they mention their travels. It’s as if they’re suddenly back on a black-sanded beach in Costa Rica wrapped up in the knitted poncho they bought from a local because they just, you know, really wanted to live the vagabond life. They’ll explain that it was a really amazing experience that they can’t exactly put into words. Then, the very very cynical (Cynical Cynthia they used to call me) side of me would come to the conclusion that the jumble words they’re spitting is the result of their fear — the fear to admit that they came home exactly the same person they were when they left.

I was afraid that this would happen to me. Would I emerge from the perspiring Venezuelan jungle as a beacon of humanitarian hope? Would I be a better person?

I remember coming across something some important dude (ie. a philosopher of education) once said. Jacques Barzun remarked that “a self is not found, but made.” It came to me that I was hoping the South American jungle would offer more interesting and exotic materials to make that self than here, where everything comes relatively easy.

I was miserable. I was utterly and pathetically obsessed about myself. Thinking about the trip and not knowing whether or not it would change me made me want to throw up.

I did everything I could to let the fear go. This meant distracting myself. I was going to help kids after all, so I began to think of them — creating activities, crafts, lesson plans. And yes, it did help. I was making myself — making myself more useful, upbeat, caring. After all, I didn’t want to be the dead weight on the team.

Blessedly enough, there is a happy ending — I did happen to find some of myself during the trip.

welcome to the jungle. venezuela.

The point is, I can’t just expect to change my life, my perpective, my worldview by just taking a plane ride to another continent, expecting the people and setting there to magically change everything. I have to put a bit of effort in too.

I now am the person that spits a jumble of words when people ask me about my trip (as evidenced my this post), and on this Fantasy Wednesday, I fantasize about going back. I yearn and fantasize about the travel and service experiences with the power to unveil the selfless and gracious phoenix goddess within me.

So people, you want your life to change? You want to take a trip to catalyze that change? Great! Just prepare for it, make God aware that you want it and are willing to do everything you can to change. In other words, don’t just expect to tour, but prepare to travel.

P.S. I can say that there was a very crucial, life-changing, deeply personal and spiritual moment that helped aid that change during the trip, but that’s for another post. I can also go on and on about the people I met and the settings I encountered, but, yup, that’s for another post.