A Change in Me

Author: L Malmstrom

Tags: Central America, Quarter Finalist, Volunteering

My favorite Broadway musical is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." After returning home from being held as the Beast's captive, Belle sings "For now I love the world I see -- no change of heart, a change in me."

My change happened on my trip to Guatemala in May of 2015. I was there for ten days playing the role of both Humanitarian worker and traveling tourist, accompanied by my mom and my schoolmates. I enjoyed every minute, but it was only at the moment that our plane took off, destined for home, that I realized just how much it had impacted me. I’d adapted quickly, during those ten days which were ones full of adventure and life-changing experiences that I never would’ve had otherwise. I’d eaten new foods that I didn’t even know existed; I’d met people who had both healed and broken my heart; I’d hiked a volcano - and roasted marshmallows in its lava beds! I filled an entire journal after just ten days of what I’d seen and heard and smelled and felt that I never had before - and it thrilled me.

Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of those people I met, the children I held, the food I ate, the streets I walked, the memories I made. I came back a different person after that experience, because I came back having left a part of me behind. And it makes me wonder...if that kind of change can happen and that kind of beauty be experienced within me after just one trip, imagine what I could do seeing the whole world?

That doesn’t mean I want to follow tour guides around and buy keychains from souvenir shops. I mean that I want to explore every new place that I can and become a part of it. I want to explore outdoor cafes in France, browse bookstores in England, hike the Great Wall of China, walk along the beaches of Australia or Hawaii, serve in Guatemala or the Philippines, and see the Statue of Liberty up close. I want to see a Broadway show in New York City. I want to taste real pasta in Italy and real curry in India. I want to serve. I want to love and build and experience all that I can. Because I believe that finding those places and understanding what they have to teach me will help me find myself. Find out what life is about, what real beauty is. Is it the Eiffel Tower lit up at nighttime? Is it watching the waves crash against the smooth beaches of the Bahamas? Is it seeing a Guatemalan mother lovingly cradle her child after witnessing the removal of eight of his teeth? What is life about? What do these places have to teach us other than what’s in a textbook? How can they teach us? What does the world really have to offer?

I want to answer these questions as I live around the world rather than merely pass through it. There are lessons that simply cannot be taught out of a book that are waiting for me, and there is so much to see and learn and feel - I can’t imagine that I was created to stay in one place my entire life.

That journal I filled in Guatemala? That’s just the beginning. Life is about discovering yourself through experience and joy and service and relationships. The heart of all of that is Adventure, and that’s why I plan to make my life one.