It’s time to introduce you to another volunteer traveler! Remember Catherine, who traveled to Tanzania with her college-aged daughters, Deirdre, who traveled to Costa Rica with her grandkids, and John, who called his Cuba trip the best investment he’s ever made?
Well now it’s time to meet Jane, a solo female traveler brimming with passion and love for volunteering abroad. Her enthusiasm for giving back is obvious from her interview below — and we hope it inspires you as much as it inspires us!
Please share where a little bit about you: hometown, profession, hobbies, family, etc.
I grew up in the Midwest in a small town in Wisconsin. The youngest of 10, the town was the only thing in my childhood that was small. I have traveled to many corners of the world and lived in Europe for six years, but the community that greets me every time I return home will never leave me.
My free time is spent running, boxing, getting on my mat, skiing, spending time with family, reading, and just about anything that involves nature.
What made you decide to go on a volunteer vacation?
In 2001, the best made plans and my scripted future unraveled in about 24 hours, and there I sat, wondering: What next? How next? Where next? How do I rebuild? From the recesses of my memory, the sage advice of my now late mother echoed loudly, reminding me: when faced with adversity or struggle, the best remedy to pick yourself up is to give back to someone in need.
[bctt tweet=”Best way to pick yourself up? This #volunteer says giving back:”]
So, I did some research and stumbled upon Cross Cultural Solutions. Fearing the unknown, anxious, and a bit broken, I faced each reason not to go, owned them, and signed up for a two-week volunteer trip to Peru to shake things up even more!
After two weeks in Peru, I found new friends, found a new perspective, and even found my legs. But, I left feeling guilty. My tank was overflowing from all the joy, gratitude, laughter, appreciation, and affection of the children, the sisters, the babies etc. — and when stacked up against what I gave to each of them, it paled in comparison, so much so that I felt I got the longer end of the stick.
The look of gratitude in their eyes is my answer when asked, “Why do you go on these trips?” Once you see that look, see those faces and smiles, and feel the depth of their gratitude, you will ask yourself, “How can I not do this?” I was hooked.
Why did you choose Discover Corps?
The perspective you gain lasts for a while when you return, but you fall back into old patterns, and so I find I start craving the perspective again. I went on a few trips with CCS and wanted to do more service — but I also wanted to experience something new.
I was drawn to DC because of the community of RPCVs; I knew they would be like-minded folks with values that aligned with service, giving back, adventure, curiosity, etc.
How was your volunteer vacation different than other vacations you’ve taken?
This trip was different from CCS because of the people who were on the trip, meaning the RPCVs. I learned so much from them and enjoyed their stories about their time of service, their perspectives on life etc. The opportunity to work and to learn about day-to-day life was invaluable and also, having public figures from the local community speak to our group was educational and informative.
So many times I think people travel to different parts of the globe and think they have been to Lima or Guatemala City — but I know they do not see the Lima we saw, or the Guatemala we experienced.
What was the highlight of your trip? The lowlight?
There were many highlights, but on their last day of school, the children gave an assembly to say thank you for building them a new school room. It was profound and I was a puddle.
The low light is always leaving, saying goodbye. Knowing the trip is ending is sobering and as the week winds down, the conversations shift from the doing, the agendas, and the daily schedules to departures and planning the last night dinner. Eventually when you return home, the trip will land in the experience, memory, and the perspective column where it will live.
Is there anything you wish you would’ve known before you left?
For me, reading more about the country, the political history, the social culture, etc. would have been a great investment. The read one, see one, do one model. But sometimes it’s also refreshing to hit something with fresh eyes and a blank slate and no expectations or preconceived ideas as this avoids the set up for expectation/reality mismatch.
Do you think this trip changed your worldview at all? How so?
Without a doubt. Those who know me know I am passionate about this. I wish every teenager and adult could see the world and know that how we live in this country is by far the exception. It teaches you to appreciate everything, to have gratitude, to complain less, to give more, to take less, to do more. You question what you truly need to be happy… it is the luck of the draw that we are born into opportunity, don’t waste it!
What would you say to someone who is interested in going on a volunteer vacation, but is nervous to take the first step?
Take the step and don’t look back. Once you do, you will find yourself saying, “I wish I had done this sooner.” Know on some level, it is scary for everyone. We all carry a little pocket of fear with us, but don’t let fear stop you. Give yourself the gift of trying, and step out of the comfort zone. I promise you, it is a small step with a big footprint!
[bctt tweet=”Why #VolAbroad? Jane says: It is a small step with a big footprint!”]