In three days I depart for Ghana, bound for a rural village with no running water or internet access, to work on a construction project for two weeks. I acquired my mosquito net, anti-malaria meds, and a large packet of pre-departure materials. This is how I plan to spend my annual “vacation,” and right now I’m questioning my sanity.
The first time I ever left North America, I ventured to Duran, Ecuador on a high school volunteering trip. My Catholic school had a partnership there and groups visited annually to help out in schools and a soup kitchen, and embed themselves in the local community. In retrospect, we didn’t accomplish much of anything, but the value lay in exposure to the reality of life and hardship in a developing country. As a teenager, it opened my eyes to water and electricity shortages, unsanitary conditions, infant mortality, and other struggles experienced by the warm and welcoming people we met. Perhaps the experience sparked my interest in travel to off-the-beaten-track regions, and service abroad.