Tag Archives: first trip

My First Adventure

22 Sep

March 24, 2011 was the day that changed my life. Until that day, I had led an incredibly sheltered life. I lived in a town with only one red light, which I rarely left. I had been to one city in my entire life, and even then I was under the constant supervision of an adult, and I had definitely never left the country. I had never been on a plane, and, quite honestly, I was absolutely terrified of getting on one, as most of my family refused to fly. My life was boring and I was growing restless so I decided to do something about it and take a giant leap towards adventure.

I drove 6 hours across the state, to a city I’d never visited, to jump on a plane with people I’ve never met and go on an 8-hour plane ride, not only to a different state but to a different country at that. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, the day before I left I had decided I was crazy and absolutely not going, and I spent the first ten minutes on the plane saying “Oh my god, we’re going to die. I’m going to die. We’re going to die.” But, it was also the best thing I had ever done.

We flew into Guatemala City just after dark, where we were managed to skip having our bags searched, thanks to the entire soccer team in line behind us, and went straight to our hotel. The next day, we stopped at Pollo Campero for breakfast, and headed off to tour some of the ancient Mayan ruins. The ruins themselves were magnificent (it’s amazing to think about the people standing in the same exact place as you, thousands of years ago) but it was the personal victory I overcame that day that keeps it most memorable in my mind. I faced fears and obstacles I’d been carrying around for years and even though no one else knew or understood, I felt one hundred percent victorious at the end of the day.

We spent the next five or so days in the small, rural town of Joyabaj, which I will always argue is the nicest place in the world with the kindest people you will ever meet. We stayed in a lovely hotel (the only problem was the cockroach in my bed), right next door to the family that would become some of my favorite people in the world. Each morning we rode the bus with the students to the school where we volunteered. The bus rides were crazy and chaotic and unsafe by most US standards but one of my favorite parts of the trips.

I have so many amazing memories from the short amount of time I spent at the school that I could talk about it for days. The students warmed my heart and left such a huge impact on me. We somehow managed to cross language barriers to become great friends. We taught them the Cotton Eyed Joe dance, they taught us about their culture, we taught them a few words in English, and they taught us more about kindness and compassion than anyone ever has in my life.

I will also always say that the most freeing feeling in the world is riding on the back of the motorcycle through the Guatemalan streets in the middle of the night. The stars were shining bright, brighter than I had ever seen them, and a bunch of street dogs were chasing the motorcycle, and it was the best thing I have ever experienced. Even now, I think of that moment and long to return, to experience that feeling of pure freedom and bliss.

It’s no exaggeration to say that those few days I spent in Guatemala were the best days of my life. Every day since I’ve returned home, I have been longing to go back. There’s a box of crayons and pencils and other supplies in my bedroom for the students at the school. I write letters to those I miss most, even attempting to write in Spanish for them.  I have made everyone dread the moment when I jump into a conversation with “In Guatemala…” because I talk about it so much. And I still haven’t been able to properly get across what that experience meant to me. I don’t think I ever will. It has been my goal in life to live in Joyabaj, at least for a while, and I am counting down the days until I return this spring.

It just goes to show that these opportunities appear for a reason and sometimes, you just need to take a giant leap of faith and go for it.