This blog was written by one of our amazing board members! Sara has traveled twice with us to Malawi and helps support our organzation in many wonderful ways! Thank you for sharing this with us Sara!
I get to travel quite a lot and because of this people are always telling me how ‘lucky’ I am. I get a bit uncomfortable each time I hear this because I feel like this word, ‘lucky’, exposes a misconception about travel. First of all, let me say I am grateful for the fact that I get to travel; having a healthy body allows me to comfortably fly, drive, hike, bike, run, or walk wherever I want to go and I work hard to maintain that health because I know that it is the only true obstacle that could potentially hinder my ability to hop on a plan and explore the world. However, it is not ‘luck’ that puts plane tickets in my hand or stamps on my passport. Travel takes a quite a bit of work and planning. It takes some sacrifices and forward thinking.
When I wanted to spend 2 weeks in Australia, I spent 2 months eating spaghetti nearly every night and taking on overtime to help save up the money I needed for that travel. It wasn’t luck that made that trip a reality it was careful planning. When I decided to do an Eastern Europe roadtrip for my summer vacation I chose to extend my work contract to pay it off. It wasn’t luck that allowed me to explore my family history and travel through the midnight sun, it was flexibility and sacrifice.
In 2013 I set my sights on volunteering in Malawi through With Change in Mind. I was insanely busy at the time. I was in the second year of my commitment to Teach For America and was working many 12 hour days and spending my weekends tutoring, planning, or grading. It felt like I never had a free moment. I also never had a spare dollar. In fact, by the end of each month I had next to no money in the bank and was putting essentials (like gas and frozen pizza) on my credit card. If you haven’t heard, being a public school teacher is not very lucrative! Yet when the opportunity came to join With Change in Mind’s teacher trip, I didn’t hesitate. I had been feeling overworked and to be honest was struggling to see the positive effects of my efforts.
I desperately wanted to contribute to something bigger, to travel and to get beyond my comfort zone. WCIM checked all of those boxes. Without hesitation, I said “Yes.” When I learned about the cost of the trip, I took a breath and I said, “Yes,” again. I got down to business right away and started fundraising. Suddenly my passion to get to Malawi was giving me more energy, helping me use my time more efficiently and lighting a fire under me to truly engage. Sometimes fundraising was great, like the pancake breakfast we hosted or raffling off Disney tickets before my school’s spring break. Other times it was not so great like the event I hosted at a local bar where a friend of a friend’s band played and were so bad the management said they were driving away business. But regardless of the success of each event, I kept working because my goal was set, I had said ‘yes’ and I needed to back it up.
There were moments leading up to the final due date in April when I stared at the numbers and wondered how it would all come together but each time that happened I realized I just had to push harder, I just needed to keep going. I couldn’t accept anything less. By the deadline I had raised all of the money I needed. I had to keep pushing because I had to go on the trip, there was no other option for me. When you want something bad enough, when you commit yourself to an idea it is within your power to make it a reality. While I am fortunate to have an amazing network of friends and family who supported me every step of the way, it wasn’t luck that made my goal a reality, it was dedication to something I truly believed was worthy of my time and energy.
This July I returned to Malawi to once again to volunteer through With Change in Mind. This year I was in a position where I didn’t need to fundraise. Instead, last November, I started putting some cash in an envelope each month. Without question, I contributed to that envelope each month until I had the money needed. When July finally came, I was so happy to be on Malawian soil again, walking through the village each morning and being greeted by dozens of smiling children. Here at home, I go to sleep each night to the sounds of horns honking and people shouting from my urban apartment, but while in Malawi I got to listen to the silence of the volunteer village each night and spent hours gazing at the starry sky shining outside of my mud hut. Now that I’ve returned and can’t stop talking about my experiences, and many people tell me, “Oh you are so lucky. I would love to do that!” And I can’t help but wonder, why don’t you?
Right now there are 10 months until a new group will board their flight to Lilongwe. That means those people have 10 months to plan and prepare themselves for the journey that awaits. Whether that means fundraising, setting aside a bit extra for the next 10 months, or even just building up your courage to take the leap, the biggest step is committing to the journey. Now is the time to make your own luck and take the leap, say ‘Yes’ to this adventure!