I was sitting at my desk on a weekend. Meant to be finishing off an assignment. And for some reason I decided to start Googling.
I have always had a travel bug and it’s not so unusual for me to be dreaming up the next big trip. But this was different.
For as many years as I could remember I’d wanted to go overseas to do a volunteering programme. In fact my Masters was in International Development and at the time I had envisaged it would take me on to the world of Aid and Development work. It felt like it went hand in hand then to “pursue” an opportunity to do a volunteering programme.
Yet every time I’d looked them up previously there was always a huge big blocker in my way. They either didn’t look legitimate enough for me, were too long, too short, or way too expensive.
Nothing had ever just clicked into place right for me. I’d had a couple of girlfriends who had been on trips they just raved about – one to Nepal and one to Cambodia. One in particular had recently been on her adventure and came back glowing. Every time she spoke about it my entire body lit up.
So, there I was on a weekend, meant to be finishing off that assignment, and instead I found myself Googling. All sorts of volunteering programmes.
And I landed on a site that ticked every single box. Time felt doable (it was a five week programme), there was one starting within six months, the money suddenly felt manageable, and it was in a place that completely and utterly lit up my heart and soul. Kenya.
Whenever I’d imagined going on an volunteer project I’d always envisaged Africa. Maybe it’s because of my roots (I was born in South Africa and moved to Oz when I was nine years old). But it felt like more than that, like I was meant to be in Africa.
Before I knew it I’d filled out a form (apparently an application form!) and within a few days I’d been interviewed (over the phone) and had somehow put my name down for the next trip in January.
This was at a time in my life when I had committed to being credit card free – so everything was happening in cash. It’s not like I had a savings account or anything, I just made the decision and somehow everything started to come together. It was if for the first time in a very long time the thing I’d said yes to really mattered. And it had stirred up something deep inside of me to not take No for an answer.
I can be pretty creative at times like this. I recall plenty of times when I was counting out my pennies from my money box and convincing my parents of some new grand scheme to make something happen in my life I wanted. I just hadn’t had that feeling in so long.
Booking my Kenya trip reminded me of what lights up my heart the most. It reminded me that there was an inner stirring and an inner calling and that it was totally and utterly safe and okay for me to pick me first.
For sure I had all the justification at the ready – but that was only to soothe my ego. I told myself I “needed” it for my career. That if I wanted to get into international aid then I “needed” to have this experience. But really, I just really really really wanted it. I wanted an adventure. I wanted an epic trip. I wanted to know what it was like to be there.
I wanted to see what actually happened on the ground when you contributed money to a cause. I wanted to get to know a community. I wanted to feel lit up from the inside and to feel first hand the difference I could make, even if for one brief moment. Because I knew that it was that feeling that could fuel me long after the trip itself.
That moment of saying yes taught me so much of what I try to live my life by still to this day. To keep tuning in to the calling of my heart and to always always allow myself to dream.
It reinstated for me a belief I’ve always had – that dreams really can come true. You just have to stoke the fire.