Category: And (Page 1 of 2)

How To Do It

That’s the biggest question, isn’t it.

I’ve been asked it hundreds of times. By classmates, friends, my parents, other adults who grew up in the age of having to request-by-mail maps and tour guides.

We’re 20-somethings. We’re university students, first-time employees, low-budget and low-time people. How on earth do we find the money, time or energy to travel? How do we make these trips happen? Here’s a few ideas to get you started and inspired.

  1. Don’t let them tell you no. Your school will tell you it’s difficult. Mine asked me to write essays and petition the administration. You might apply to a program and get a “we’re sorry” rejection email. You might get lucky with parents that support you or you might not. Even if it’s not outright disapproval, deep down, there are a whole lot of people out there who think our generation should be saving for the future instead of spending on seeing the world. Whoever they are and whatever the obstacles, believe in yourself and don’t let their “no’s” discourage you.
  2. Dedicate yourself. If there is something you truly want to do, do it. Don’t spend your life re-blogging or pinning future travel sites and then give up trying to go to them with the simplest “I don’t have the (you fill in the blank).” Quietly dedicate yourself to planning your adventures, and don’t loose sight of your plans.
  3. Plan. Planning means using sites like Rome2rio, Skyscanner, Studentuniverse, Holiday Pirate, Hostel World, Airbnb, Hostels.com, Couchsurfing, Eurail, Flixbus. It means looking into programs like Workaway, WOOFing, Interning abroad, every study abroad option out there (there are millions). It will take you forever and often it does get overwhelming. Take a break, then go back to planning. Spontaneous travel is really fun, but planned adventures are more likely to actually happen.
  4. Save. I mean it. Sit down with yourself and think about all the things you want to do and then think about all the things you want to own. Which are more important to you? A huge pet peeve of mine is when friends complain about how they don’t have the money to travel and then show up to class with a new wardrobe and large Starbucks coffee. ‘Work hard play hard’ is much more fun when you’re in the “play” phase, but life can be so cool if you succeed in saving for the play.
  5. Make decisions with your dreams in mind. That means if you want to travel, make sure your university of choice says they’ll allow you to do it. If you want to do one long trip, maybe don’t take that short Spring Break one. Maybe don’t give into your deep desire to have a kitten in your new apartment if you also have a deep desire to spend 6 months in France. Schedule your university courses with travel in mind — maybe take the required ones first so you can take those gen-ed requirements when you’re abroad and it’s harder to transfer back the upper level courses.
  6. Google search like your life depends on it. Read the blogs, follow the travel Instagram. Some of my best discoveries have been made because I saw the sight on a blog or because a hostel friend recommended it. Indulge your dreams but then act on them.

And above all, remember that you are no less of a person if you do not succeed in going abroad or backpacking across the world. Perhaps you find something else that makes you want to stay stable and grounded. Perhaps you realize that you prefer short term group trips to the uncertainty of study abroad or solo treks. Maybe you find that the things you love at home are more important to you than exploring.

While I believe that traveling is important when we’re young, it does not define a person. If the travel bug doesn’t bite or if it just doesn’t work out — the world needs all types of people.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Gifts for the Traveler

I would love to give you a list of the cutest adventure themed gadgets, maybe painted with globes and arrows, the best calligraphy claiming “never stop adventuring” or “not all those who wander are lost.”

But anyone who has ever studied abroad or taken off for an indefinite amount of time knows that living out of a suitcase means living without the flowery calligraphy. We agonize over packing and it only hurts our hearts more when we realize that that thoughtful travel themed gift we got last Christmas is either going to have to stay in a box in our parents attic or end up at a garage sale.

Obviously when searching for a meaningful gift it is impossible to avoid striking out every time. Here are some alternative solutions, something to consider when gifting traveler friends and relatives.

Subscriptions:

Some companies and organizations have subscriptions one can purchase that either allow full use of the service or just allow for discounts and added benefits. WorkAway, a group that coordinates traveling volunteers with hosts who provide room and board, charges $30 as a one-time yearly fee to connect with hosts. WizzAir charges $29.99 to join their “Wizz Discount” club, a title that can chop the price of each flight in half as well as allow for free luggage and seat selection.

Verifications:

Depending on which services and opportunities your traveler takes advantage of, Couchsurfing charges a location- dependent fee to “verify” an account. This verification serves as another safeguard to make sure the person using the account truly is who they say they are. If couchsurfing is a concept your traveler regularly makes use of, this is a one-time fee and can help them find hosts more easily. It’s not the only site that offers verification — the ride sharing service BlaBlaCar does as well!

Gift Cards:

In the digital age, plastic cards in physical sleeves are a thing of the past. RyanAir Airlines (a budget airline in Western Europe) offers digital giftcards that can then be put towards their super cheap fares. With a giftcard in almost any amount, it’s possible to finance an entire round trip (really, flights between Brussels and Hambourg can get as low as 5 euros)! Airbnb, the room-renting service that is taking over the hotel industry, also provides this service and again, your giftcard could mean the difference between an extra night in an incredible place or having to cut a trip off early.

Experiences:

If your loved one is spending an extended period of time in one location, check out the opportunities for their favorite activities in that place. While a gift card to a cinema in their home town won’t do them much good, a ticket to a concert or movie in their new home-away-from-home will give them an experience they’re sure to love. Look for gym memberships, yoga classes, famous theaters, concert halls, ballets, movies, expensive museums, special tours — anything that is typically in the life of your loved one but that typically wouldn’t fit in their tiny travel-budget.


In addition to these, the average backpack, water bottle, external phone battery and empty journals make us smile as well. No matter what the gift, the thought is loved and appreciated. But for those of us who live in a plane and out of a suitcase, sometimes the best gifts received are the ones that allow us to continue our adventures unimpeded.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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What is WorkAway?

After hearing about WorkAway from a friend who spent two weeks on a horse farm in northern France with it, I decided to take my chances and spend the remaining 2.5 weeks of my 2017 Schengen visa validity outside the tiny town of Bayonne in Basque Country, France. Nothing like extending a study abroad trip until the very last possible moment…. Although I was initially hesitant, the experience has been incredible – I have met new people and learned new cultures, all well relaxing in the countryside waking up to cows mooing and eating onions pulled straight from the garden. I would return to this location in a heartbeat. In fact, I am writing this post from a brightly colored hammock under a plum tree with a view that overlooks a valley of cows and mountains in the distance. It can’t be beat.

Many people are shocked that for such a well-traveled 20-something, I hadn’t heard of WorkAway until a few months ago. In case you’re like me, here’s a quick run-down of exactly what this program is and why you should strongly consider it, abroad or in your own country!

What is WorkAway?

A program through which travelers can exchange 4-5 hours of volunteer work for free housing and food, anywhere in the world. Hosts can include hostels, farms, even families looking for a babysitter with an intercultural flair. WorkAway is a way for travelers to spend longer periods of time (typically between 1 week and 3 months) learning the culture of one location for almost no cost. It’s also a way for hosts to fill part time job positions requiring few skills that may not be desirable for long periods of time. Hosts experience a cultural exchange and an extra set of hands wherever they may need them.

How is it organized?

The website WorkAway.info lists all of the registered hosts and holds the profiles of all registered workers. The host lists are available to see free of charge, however to message a host and organize a WorkAway trip, one must pay a once yearly $30 registration fee. Couples can pay a reduced rate of $45/year. I promise you, as an extreme budget traveler, this fee is very worth it.

Is it safe?

With the same safety guidelines as Couchsurfing or Airbnb, WorkAway runs off reviews (of hosts and of workers). They caution workers to communicate carefully, read all reviews cautiously and only participate with hosts that they feel comfortable with. Hosts are cautioned the same things and are easily able to say no to any request to work that they feel uncomfortable with.

How do I get involved?

Check out the website! Use a school break to do a short trial run before embarking on your WorkAway trip around the world. Use the site to create a host list of people you might be interested in working for in the future! Find a WorkAway in your own country if you’re nervous about an extreme cultural difference but have a few weeks of empty time.

The only costs involved in WorkAway are the initial registration fee and the cost of transportation to the host’s location. It truly is an incredible way to see and experience the world.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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An Open Letter to Groups I’ve Loved

Dear mission team. High school orchestra. Youth group. Musical cast. Sports team, project group, graduating class, study abroad group. Dear group.

We certainly had our ups and downs didn’t we? Arguments, broken rules, relationship drama. But those things fade, and the moments that stay seared into my memory are moments that I treasure. I loved you.

Do you remember our last day? Our last night, when I promised you, my group, that I’d always and forever be a part of you? The last time I hugged my fellow members and cried and ate pizza and told myself that my future would be okay even without you, because I’d always have you to come back to. Once a member, always a member, right?

Well it’s been a few years and I think I was wrong.

What I’ve come to realize is that most often, your name is not what I loved. I don’t love going back to revisit you even though I swore I would always be a part of you. I don’t want to go to your meetings, to have reunions. I don’t want to help reform you for the next generation to enjoy. Because just like people, my beloved groups change. And while I loved the group you were then, I’m not in love with the group you are now.

You are different than the group I used to love. And that doesn’t mean you are any better or any worse, it just means that it is impossible to continue to love you like I did before. Impossible to live the once a member, always a member sentiment that was promised.

I miss you, my group. The feeling of existing alongside the friends who made me cry from laughter, the people with whom I watched the stars rise over a volcanic lake. The people who organized concerts and matches, pasta dinners and cast parties. The people who encouraged me to do crazy things, inspirational things, life-changing things.

What I’ve learned though,  is that I never loved you. I loved the people who made you.

If the same people were to commune, we are different now than we once were. Oh dear group,  the same people that created you back then would not be able to re-create right now who you were, because life has changed us beyond recognition. My beloved group, how I miss you.

Thank you for the time you gave me. Endings are the hardest thing humans have to come to terms with. But with new ends come new beginnings and new groups to temporarily fall in love with.

I hope you give your current members the same experience you gave me. I loved you and I hope they love you just as hard. But I can no longer be a part of you. I can honor and remember who you once were, but I can no longer love you.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

 

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Romantic Things in Romantic Places

Happy February 14th! Whether that means your celebrating your birthday, Single’s Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day or nothing at all, here’s a non-exhaustive, in no specific order, to-be-added-to list of romantic things there are to do all over the world.

Eat pasta and share gelato in Italy: Okay so maybe it’s not the perfect Lady and the Tramp moment, but it’s pretty great either way.

Share a bottle of Port wine on Ile Saint-Louis in Paris: And maybe take some gorgeous pictures you won’t remember taking the next morning.

Visit the Grand Place in Brussels Belgium at midnight

Take a ride in a horse drawn carriage in Cuba: Preferably at sunset

Buy flowers in the old city center in Krakow, Poland

Watch the stars come out in Nicaragua: After a week of volunteer work at Project Chacocente of course! Spend your last afternoon swimming in the lagoon and then lean back and take in the heavens as night falls.

Watch the sun set over the old harbor in Marseilles, France

Wander a small town in Flanders, Belgium (Ghent or Brugges)

Brave a snowstorm in Eastern Europe — nothing like freezing toes and then a cup of hot tea!

Visit Kylemore Abbey in Ireland during a road trip through Connemara National Park

Watch the sun rise under the Eiffel Tower

To be continued….. Next year!

Comment your ideas, perhaps I’ll add them to the list!


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Total Travel Tag

Hi Friends!

I’m unbelievably excited to share this new digital travel magazine being curated by the blogging couple Look at Our WorldTotal Travel Tag is a free magazine for travelers, by travelers, and guess what? Yours truly, your very own Tales and Times writer, is featured on page 55 of the first issue, available here.

Please go check it out, share it far and wide, and when you’re done exploring the magazine, bring yourself back to my site and check out everything I’ve been able to share so far. I’m so excited about this and I hope that you find it as informative as I do!

Sarah

 

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Pack Like A Pro: Study Abroad Edition

You’ve finished the paperwork, made the trek to the embassy for your student visa, followed the instagram accounts of your favorite travel inspos and doodled “adventurer” and “not all who wander are lost” on every notebook you own. However, a few days before takeoff you start to realize that travel sites tend to have #packinggoals and not realistic packing tips. What if you need a formal gown during those 3.5 months away from your closet filled with prom memories? What if your host country just *doesn’t have* your required hair product? How on earth are you going to fit four months of your life into one checked bag and a carry on? The internet is full of everything from already-created packing lists to the do’s and do not’s of study abroad packing, so here I add a few highlights I’ve gleaned over the years and from some of my favorite blogs.

While you can find some general tips in this post, here are my tips specific to study abroad.

Let’s start from the feet up.

Shoes: Maximum of five pairs. Sandals (1) that are comfortable for lots of walking and waterproof for rain or beach. A good walking boot (2) that’s comfortable for lots of walking, nice enough looking so that it’s able to be dressed up or down and waterproof for walking through rain. Dress shoes (3) — either comfortable flats or heels depending on your preference. I prefer flats because let’s face it, heels and cobblestone European streets just don’t mix well. Sneakers (4) for the everyday walk or hiking trips. And for the optional fifth, choose between running shoes, flip flops, or another specialized shoe depending on what sort of program and which country you’ll be in. Don’t forget socks that match with the types of shoes you bring!

Clothes: Mixing and matching is your best friend. Pack as if you were traveling for a one week vacation with a few nicer outfits thrown in. Choose outfits that reflect what you’re used to wearing. While it might be nice to think about changing your entire style when you’re abroad, you’re going to want something familiar during an unfamiliar transition and often bringing clothes you’re not used to can add a physical discomfort to the initial emotional one. That is to say, don’t only pack dresses if you’re not comfortable in dresses even though you’ve heard they’re the style in your host country.

Do the shopping for specific items before you leave. Things that you’re picky about and will have to wear every day (shoes, coats, ect) are harder to find, especially in an unfamiliar location, so you should get those before you leave. Things like dresses and shirts — everyday items that don’t need to be specific or special — are much more fun to be purchased overseas.

Coats: Layers are your friend! Check the weather averages before you leave so you know the average temperature of the months you will be there, but in case you under or over estimate how you will react to the temperature, make sure you pack a few different types of layers. A light sweater, an undershirt, a wool sweater, a windbreaker and a heavy jacket are all ideas of layers to make sure you have. While you might not need that winter parka, having multiple options that you could pile on in place of the parka is important.

Face and Hair: Pack a travel-sized bottle full of each of your products. That quantity should last you for a week or so until you figure out where to purchase the things you need in your host country. The travel bottles will also be useful later on if you choose to travel during your semester.

Specific makeup products are often hard to find while abroad. If you’re a stickler about your brands, bring enough of the product to last the entire 4 months. If you’re not a stickler about brands, all types of makeup can be found abroad, they just might be slightly different than what you’re used to.

Suitcase choice: As mentioned in my general packing post, choose bags that will be easiest to maneuver once you’ve made it off the plane. If you’re using public transportation, think about how easily you can lift your bag up or down stairs. If you can fit it, think about packing an empty duffle bag in your checked luggage, so that if you need a smaller bag for weekend trips or to fill with souvenirs on the way home, you have it.

For more general packing hacks, check out this post here and take a quick google search for study abroad packing! This simple search can be overwhelming but the internets are full of new and worthwhile ideas.

Good luck, congratulations for making the difficult decision to study abroad, and go have the time of your life!


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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So You’re A Tourist: Now What

We’re constantly told “don’t be a tourist,” but sometimes, it’s simply unavoidable. Maybe you don’t speak the language at all, maybe you’re only in a city for one day, maybe you have a blog to write or a website to keep up and need the best photos in the least amount of time. Maybe you’ve been living in Paris and God-forbid you don’t spend a night under the Eiffel Tower, touristy and all. Tourism exists and us travelers are a part of it whether or not we like it. But being touristy doesn’t necessarily mean being an annoying tourist. As someone living in the tourist capital of the world, I’ve found both tourists that I’d like to throw out of my city as well as tourists that I’d like to befriend. Instead of a long list of things to avoid in order to avoid the tourist stereotype, here are 30 things you can do.

You can say please. You can say thank you. Small words even pronounced badly in a language you don’t know can go a very long way. You can smile. You can grimace and motion that you know how bad you’re appearing. You can ask for directions. You can clarify that the train or bus you’re in front of is going the way you want it to.

You can step out of the way for the business man who’s in a hurry. You can open maps on doorsteps as to not fill the entire sidewalk. You can pull your head out of your phone while you walk. You can keep your group on the same side of the sidewalk so that others can pass you. You can walk with a purpose — if you end up going the wrong way, just walk with a purpose in the opposite direction. No one likes the person walking slowly with a confused look on their face. You can say excuse me and move quickly.

You can call once to your child up ahead, then trust that they’ll find their way back when they realize you’ve stopped, instead of screaming down the street. You can make mistakes without swearing or making a fuss. You can stick your head in your phone or the nearest empty shop to find the answers you need instead of wondering them out loud. You can ask people you meet in planes, trains or taxis for recommendations, as they’ve often done each touristy thing twelve times and will know the best way to go about it. They are also the people who aren’t too busy to be bothered, because they’re also waiting out their commute into town.

You can observe the actions of those around you and then follow them. You can wear comfortable travel clothes without wearing colors that stick out. You can put your selfie stick away and ask a neighbor to take your picture. You can take that gotta-have picture quickly and then move on — no need for a ten minute photo shoot.  You can be kind to strangers without being intrusive into their life. You can answer questions about where you’re from without being nationalistic.

You can be street smart — don’t stop for scams. You can walk around street performers without getting so involved that you become the performance. You can oh and ah at monuments without stopping directly in the paths of others.

You can purchase your post cards and stamps all in one go instead of buying one from each kiosk you see. You can buy souvenirs that you might actually use — things like vases and paintings, instead of magnets and key-chains that you’ll loose within the next few weeks. You can seek out boutiques instead of tourist trap stores that all look alike.

And finally, you can be as polite as you have ever been in your entire life. If you’re unsure, be the polite that is correct in your culture. Accept the fact that you are probably in the wrong because you don’t understand the culture or language. Whether or not you actually are in the wrong, deferring to the other person will help you out in the long run.

I don’t mind when someone asks me for metro directions. I do mind when someone doesn’t bother to ask, but complains out loud about how confused they are. If we’re destined to be tourists, we might as well be the best tourist we can be.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Pack Like A Pro

Pack light, they say. It’ll be worth it, they say. In this case, they’re right. In the short term, packing can be miserable. But in the long-term, having an overstuffed suitcase can ruin the fun of traveling. Here’s seven ways to make it look like you know what you’re doing when it comes to packing.

  1. Make it the ultimate game of Tetris. Whether you roll (like some blogs suggest) or fold your clothing, place everything into the bag like you would a Tetris piece — no space in between items. This may mean you roll half the things and fold the other half.  IMG_6155 (1)
  2. Think about your transportation method and pack accordingly. Don’t forget things like the public transit travels after you disembark from your plane or bus. No one wants to get in trouble with airline regulations or be unable to carry their suitcase up flights of stairs in a crowded metro.
  3. To avoid over-packing, take notice of the things you wear the week or so before the trip. If the climates are similar at home and while traveling, don’t bring anything you wouldn’t wear typically. “Oh, I might need this in a specific situation” moments lead to suitcases stuffed with items that if really needed, one could buy on the road.
  4. Put necklaces and bracelets through drinking straws before you clasp them to prevent tangles. This also creates an easier way to pick up and hang them as you unpack.
  5. Underwear and socks make great shoe stuffers, keeping the shoe shape intact and making the space inside the shoe productive (see tip #1).
  6. If flying, put all the items that security checks will make you remove (liquids, computers, ect) in one bag. It’s much easier to totally empty a bag than to dig through 3 trying to pull one thing out of each. Flight over Nicaragua
  7. Plastic Bags! A tip given to me by a few traveling friends, they promise that filling gallon size bags with folded clothes or smaller items and then squeezing the air out compresses the clothes to take less space. While I haven’t tried it quite yet, you can be sure that it’s on my list of things to try in the next few months.

Please comment if you have any great tips to share! I’m always looking for new ways to lighten and organize my suitcases!


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Mission Trips

Mission Trips? Spreading Christianity? Religious Tourism? Huh?

A large part of my life has been traveling on these stigmatized things called “mission trips.” But they’re not….Yes they are. But wait, are mission trips different than work camps, or missions trips, or evangelical missions? Or vacations? And do they actually do any good? You know, maybe these trips are really just a guise to smuggle me out of the country with some well-meaning religious folks to avoid having to decide my future. …Ha. Ha. Ha. (Maybe).

What I do are Mission Trips, and often I change the name to Service Trips. Not going to camp with the intent to work, not changing the missions of others. Nothing anywhere near evangelicalism. And not vacationing. I understand the underlying worries though — religious tourism is an actual phrase and it is something I am uncomfortable with every time I take a trip of this sort. Because why on earth would a small group of well meaning individuals spent thousands of dollars to travel to a hot sticky place to “help” some people when we’d do a lot more good by simply mailing that money to them instead?

First, I know that I personally may not cause lasting impacts on the place I go or the people I meet. I know that I’m paying money for a plane ticket that could be put to use creating the community the people desperately need.  I know that my culture is drastically different than the one of the people I will be working alongside and that we may not have even remotely the same values. I know that to the rest of the world, I must look like some sick tourist, trying to make the rest of the world more westernized and materialized. And because I know these things, I can accept them and move towards becoming the opposite of them.

Second, I know that truly I go for myself. To satisfy the little piece of myself that wants to get out of the structured material world I live in, to do something not 100% focused on myself for a change. To stop thinking about which pastry I want as a snack between classes, and start thinking about the people who work for their every meal around the world. To satisfy the voice in my head that won’t let me rest because each month I spend in the same place with no end in sight makes me feel a little more claustrophobic.

To minimize the danger mission trips may cause, here are my top 5 things to aim for before committing to a trip.

1) Work and Connect With Locals

This can mean anything from connecting with a local church directly and asking what can be done in their community, to working with an international organization that pairs teams with local non-profits. While working alongside locals, I’ve found that teams really get to know people from other cultures instead of just hearing presentation after presentation about them. Teams also get to see the human side of whatever problem they’re working to relieve. Poverty is just not real until you’re staring into the eyes of someone exactly like you and realizing that they don’t have a private place to take shelter from the blazing heat like you do.

2) Accept your Incompetence

If Sally is the founder of the local non-profit that you’re working with, and she has hundreds of people receiving aid, do you think she’d rather spend an hour cleaning her bathroom or applying for a grant that keeps her organization running? If you weren’t there to clean her bathroom, she might loose the grant and those hundreds of people might loose hope. While this may be an overstatement, it is imperative to understand that while we may jump into trips wishing to do something huge and tangible, sometimes what is needed most is simply a conversation or a cleaning hand.

3) Open Minds Open Minds Open Minds

This is something that is said over and over again, and yet I am going to say it three times more. Coming into a new place with a goal already in mind is dangerous. What we think a place needs may not actually be what is at the top of their list. As stated before, sometimes the things a community actually needs aren’t the things we really wanted to give.

4) Religion and Service

As someone who’s not very religious, I suggest watching out for organizations or companies that promise a certain kind of work for each team, or promise a specific type of spiritual guidance. While these trips may be great for spiritual reflection, they tend to be heavy on the free-time-for-reflection and light on the hands on work that helps the community. To maximize the impact we make on the people we work for, we need to put ourselves aside and focus on them.

5) Stay Connected

When the trip is over, it’s incredibly easy to mold back into the version of ourselves that we were before the trip, forgetting everything about the place except the stories that we embellish to win us admission to prestigious universities and the ears of our family members. I believe that one of the biggest problems with short-term mission is that they become not only short-term, but short-lived. With the internet, it’s easy to keep in contact with individuals and organizations that touched our lives, and it’s important to at least put in the effort to do that. In the best case scenario, we would take what we learned about the world’s challenges during the trip and use the knowledge to shape ideas that could eventually remedy the problem.

So really, why do missioners go? We might go because we support the organization we work with. We might go because we love the group of people we’re going with. We might go because we truly love taking cold showers and hauling cement, sleeping on hard ground and getting very little sleep. Or, we go for a combination of those things, backed by a selfish desire for more in our lives.

The important thing, is simply that we go — for whatever reasons. Because any helping hand or foreign smile is better than no interaction at all, for all parties involved.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

 

 

 

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