“I just wanted to check and make sure that you still have no idea what you’re doing.”
This has become the most common conversation I’ve been having with people over the last few weeks. Friends and family that are curious to know what I’m doing and what my plans are, where I’ve been and where I’m going.
The truth is- I have no idea. It’s been quite some time since I’ve sat down to write about my experiences traveling and volunteering. Various experiences throughout the second half of my stay in India, both good and bad, left me in a headspace where I didn’t feel as though I could write. Maybe you could call it writer’s block, but I just didn’t feel like I could adequately put into words how I was feeling. India was incredible, and I loved my time there. The school I volunteered at was amazing, and I would not change the things I learned or the experiences that I had for anything. But by the time I was finishing my six months, I was ready to leave.
Throughout my life, I have collected quotes. Quotes about love, about life; about everything. Maybe it’s because so often I feel like I don’t know how to put my feelings into words or just because I love other people’s perspectives and things that they’ve learned. Most likely it’s a little bit of both. I came across a quote a month or so ago from a book by Carew Papritz in which she says,
“I travel because I am uncomfortable being too comfortable.”
Something I have always felt but never really knew how to put into words. I guess to many people, this is a positive thing, and I guess it is. Of course, there are many, many reasons why I travel, but I honestly think that a major reason that I travel is because I don’t like being too comfortable. I love to challenge myself. I love traveling in challenging places. I want to be immersed in different cultures filled with polarizing people. I want new foods and new experiences and new places. For me, travel is about challenging myself, because when I’m challenging myself, I’m constantly learning and growing.
To anyone who went to school with me, I suppose that this won’t be a surprise. The number of different clubs I joined and various jobs I had very often bordered on insanity. I am certainly the first to admit that I’m a little crazy, but looking back I would not have changed any of it. Sometimes I would see my younger brother and wish that I had his talent to be an expert in his craft. His artistic soul always manifests itself in incredible things and he has always been the type of person to absorb himself fully into his passions- drawing, musical instruments, photography. “Jack of all trades, master of none,” always seems to most accurately describe how I feel, most times in a positive way, but sometimes in a negative way as well. On one hand I am so thankful that I am so uncomfortable with being too comfortable, but on the other hand I sometimes think to myself, “Em, you can’t even handle 6 months in the same city without getting itchy?”
Fast forward 2 months in Nepal and I have had the most incredible experience. My month spent volunteering here was more life-changing than I could have ever imagined it to be. I loved everything about it; from the building and construction work to living in tents day-in and day-out; it was a truly remarkable experience. I have never been around so many remarkable and inspiring people in my entire life. Not, only that, but I have never been in a country like Nepal. Don’t get me wrong, I love India, but I have never been in a country that feels quite so much like home. I was speaking with another volunteer who quite possibly described it best when she brought up the kind of travelers that you meet in Nepal. As travelers, there are so many places that you want to see in the world, there can often be very few places that you end up going to more than once. In Nepal, more than half the travelers that you meet here are travelers who have been back two, three, four times. Nepal draws you back. The people, the energy, the culture; it’s the kind of country that you go to and immediately know that you will be coming back.
After volunteering in the mountains, I attended the wedding of one of our Nepali staff members and then went to visit the masons. Masons are paid, Nepali workers who are trained and being trained to work in construction and masonry. They work hand with us and teach us everything from brick laying to scaffold building to plastering. They are an wonderful humans who I feel lucky enough to have come to know. Most of the masons on this project live in a region of West Nepal, called Bardia. I went there planning to visit for 4 or 5 days. I ended up staying almost two weeks. Two weeks spent working in the fields, showering in the river, dancing at weddings and building mud houses. Looking back, nothing we were doing was normal, but somehow that’s exactly how it felt: normal. There’s nothing I can say to thank my friends and their families for their warmth and hospitality, but I will hold those experiences close to me forever.
Now back in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu, I’ve been spending my time (okay, not really but) trying to plan what I’ll be doing over the next few weeks. In June, I’ll be heading back to travel North India, and hopefully maybe some work exchanges and volunteering in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, everything I’ve done over the last three weeks has been completely unplanned, so who really knows where I'll be? I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, next week or next month, but that’s exactly how I like it. I’m still trying to figure out if being uncomfortable with being comfortable is a good thing or a bad thing, but for now I suppose it’s a good thing. One thing is for sure, it might look like I know what I’m doing but, trust me, I have absolutely no idea. I’ll figure it out one way or another.
Until next time, here goes nothing.
If you would still like to learn about the organization I volunteered with and the disaster relief work they are doing around the world, you can read all about them on their website: https://www.allhandsandhearts.org/