Service Feeds the Solo Traveler’s Soul
by Ladelle Dilli
Helen Keller said, “I’m only one person and I can’t do everything, but I can do something. I will not let the fact that I can’t do everything prevent me from doing what I can.”
Spending vacation time in travel that feeds the soul is possible for me as a Global Volunteer. On a service program, I’m an active participant, not just a passive world traveler. Working under community leaders’ direction, I’m mobilized to wage peace and promote justice through community projects. I’ve been fortunate to teach conversational English and assist in classrooms on four continents: India, Crete, Poland, Ecuador, and the United States.
Because I travel solo, I always travel with an open mind. Flexibility and ability to adapt to any situation is paramount. Rooming with a person who you had not known before opens an opportunity to make a new friend. My credo: Be willing to accept people as they are, even though they may have different ideas about “how things” should be done, and you’ll always learn something new and see the best in every circumstance!
I remember the blond-haired Polish children who came after their regular second grade school day to learn a few English words. I still treasure the beautiful pictures of their families they drew after I had learned the Polish words, and they the English words for mother, father, sister and brother.
I also think of the young man in Ecuador who was in a wheelchair, but so wanted to learn enough English to be able to work in a travel agency. We recorded words and sentences on tape that he took home each night to study and repeat the following day.
When I assisted in a classroom on a U.S. Indian Reservation, I learned a few of the customs and beliefs of that culture. On the Greek island of Crete, our group helped maids, waiters, waitresses and others employed in the tourism industry to learn the words and phrases needed to communicate with English speaking tourists.
In India, I assisted a teacher in a special school for disabled and handicapped persons. One day, I walked with the class to a local “market, ” which was only a small kiosk where food was purchased to be cooked in class the following day.
As is almost always true when helping others, the “giver” gains the most – and that has certainly been true in my case in each country.
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