When I was 16, the travel bug hit me like a ton of bricks. I was given the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic with a church group and it changed my life. Two years later, at 18 I got to go back to the place I left my heart at age 16. The purpose of the first trip was to work with an
organization called Caminante. Caminante helps provide shelter and education to children who may not otherwise have the opportunity. The trip opened my eyes in many ways (we literally witnessed sex trafficking in our own hotel). I had been to Canada briefly before but it was my first real time out of the country and the first time I travelled without my family (other than a mission trip to Kentucky). I am choosing to tell this story because most people don’t know these stories as I don’t talk about them much anymore (even though I really should. I am overcome with memories of joy as I write this post in Starbucks on a Sunday morning). Most people don’t even know that there used to be a time when I was very involved in mission work as I haven’t attended church or had any active involvement in a community of faith in many years.
Exploring such an unfamiliar way of living sparked something in me that I had no idea would stick with me for the rest of my life. Almost 9 years later, I still long to go back. I don’t want to go back to the resort part of the Dominican Republic though. I want to go back and visit the people who stole my heart 9 years ago.
When I was 18, I visited Foundation for Peace in a different part of the Dominican Republic. During my visit with Foundation for Peace we worked on many different projects including construction, visiting retirement homes and hosting vacation bible school. Both times I was there I also toured Santo Domingo and spent a little time at the beach. These experiences are the experiences that put travel in my heart and sparked the desire to make a difference. Over the past few years I have learned a few things: I am not a good teacher, I don’t enjoy working with children and patience is definitely not a quality I was blessed with. I need to use the skills and knowledge I have and not force something that wasn’t meant to be. I have since found my purpose in helping others who struggle with the same mental health obstacles that I do, which is why I blog.
I wanted to put my story of how I learned I had a passion for travel and making a difference out there as an example of the fact that everybody starts somewhere and life has a funny was of evolving. I never thought that teaching vacation bible school in very broken Spanish at age 16 would be the reason I blog about traveling and combatting depression at age 24 but here I am. I am thankful for that spark.