"I will always look back on my time in Colombia with infinite gratitude for allowing me to reclaim something I lost."
|Leaving for Bogota on January 1.|
Many years from now when I sit down to tell my grandchildren about my year in Colombia, I will tell them that it was one of the best, worst, and greatest years of my life.
I will speak of how I followed my heart to a distant land in hopes of making the world a little better, a little brighter. Although I found reality to be sobering, I nevertheless stayed the course.
Nearly a year ago, I boarded a plane to Bogotá.
I was hopeful.
When I arrived, my unchecked enthusiasm slammed headfirst into the stonewall of a dysfunctional education system. I found the abundant talk and little follow-through to be aggravating. I found it incomprehensible how such an invaluable resource could be allowed to go underutilized for an entire year. Despite it all, I did the best I could with what I had.
|With some of my students.|
It is a scary thing to walk where you have never walked before—to leave the comfort of familiar shores in pursuit of something greater than yourself. I set out to change the world but ultimately found it to be the other way around.
Away from everyone I knew and loved, I experienced true loneliness. But rather than let it break me, I learned to become a more independent, self-sufficient individual. After growing up in one of the most privileged communities on the planet, I saw what it was like to live in one of the most underserved.
|At Machu Picchu.|
In leaving all that, many believed I was putting my life on hold. But they had it all wrong.
In leaving, I was finally able to begin truly living.
Explored ancient ruins at the heights of the Andes Mountains.
|Swinging into the water in Costa Rica.|
Scaled active Costa Rican volcanoes.
Sipped wine on the Chilean coast.
Hiked through the Colombian jungle.
Saw the Panama Canal.
Met Pablo Escobar’s brother.
And so much more.
But the most rewarding thing about this year were the people I met along the way—inspiring individuals who taught me to look at life differently. That there is more than one way to lead a good life. Nobody has all the answers.
Living in such a world, our hearts are the only reliable compass.
|Watching a Caribbean sunset.|
But now find it pointing north.
I am ready to go home to the land that I love, to rejoin the friends and family I miss, and begin the next chapter of my life. Although I don’t know where life’s winds will take me, I will always look back on my time in Colombia with infinite gratitude for allowing me to reclaim something I lost.
Last year, before embarking on this crazy adventure, I wrote that “…there can be no courage without fear and no real reward without risk.”
After a year in Colombia, I have learned to summon the courage to face any fear and that is, in and of itself, the ultimate reward.
|Watching over Bogota.|
Tomorrow, I will board a plane that will take me home. What awaits me there, I don’t know.
But something tells me I’ll be able to handle it.
If you'd like to consider volunteering in Colombia like Mike, visit our website at www.worldteach.org/colombia to get more information. If you have futher questions, feel free to contact our Cambridge office at 857-259-6646! Apply today!