scattered along my facebook newsfeed are photos of friends and fellow volunteers who have headed back to the philippines for the annual medical mission that we started our trip on one year ago. naturally, the photos have stirred my memories and some reflection about the past year. it’s curious and almost funny that it was just a year ago that i started adventuring around asia with give your gap. to keep the post short and to the point, i just wanted to write a bit on the one big difference that i feel between then and now.
one year ago i had very little idea what was “ahead of me” past the next country on our itinerary. i had put in my applications for grad school, but there was no guarantee there. i was spending my whole savings on the trip, and thus setting myself up for something unknown, without a contingency plan (not typical “me” behavior). now, in school, i feel as if i’m constantly thinking about what’s next. how might this class apply to a job i want? if i doesn’t, maybe i should cut it. is this urgent? important to my future? a good investment in a skill or policy i should know? whereas on the trip, i think, for the most part, we existed in the moment at hand. we didn’t have much of a choice, either. there were pressing and better curiosities to explore about the communities we were thrown into. it made more sense to think about the patients we were trying to serve, to imagine what Occidental Mindoro was like when there weren’t 150 foreign doctors and nurses storming the hospitals, and wonder about access to healthcare in rural developing countries rather than…i don’t know – anything else.
now, i feel more removed from those questions – and certainly more absorbed with questions about my own future. i keep lots of photos of the trip around my room and post it notes to remind me “what matters.” but coming back “to the real world” carries some inevitable and self-centered concerns.
the point is that while you are volunteering, it is much easier and much more natural to focus on the service rather than yourself. it not only “seems” more important, but it is actually more important. traveling to volunteer, or volunteering wherever, is about placing yourself in a situation – forcing yourself- to realize that there are people way more important than you. you wake up thinking about their needs rather than your own, and it’s good for you to do that. i imagine it’s a feeling that teachers know well.
well this post is far from perfect, but i just wanted to make sure to pay tribute to the one year anniversary of the start of our trip and the great work that the medical mission is doing now. a few photos of what the mission looked like last year to close it off. i’m looking forward to seeing the pictures and videos from this year’s mission.