An Enlightening Experience Through Travel: The Importance of Family - My Family Travels

Family—noun: a primary social group consisting of parents and their offspring, the principal function of which is provision for its members (World English Dictionary).

While there have been many attempts to define it, there are no words to fully communicate the emotional and spiritual connection of a family. I personally believe that it is not blood relation that defines a family. By the definition from the World English Dictionary, I have a family in my church youth group: We have a common Father and faith, and we want nothing more than to protect and provide for one another.

So here is the story of OUR Family trip:

In the summer of 2010, we traveled to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for a mission trip. We had been anticipating it for months, counting down the days; but I did not expect the experience we were given. When we arrived, we were greeted by bright, smiling faces fromthe Colegio Episcopal San Marcos, and they excitedly led us to our Gua-Gua—a small, colorful van that led us down the chaotic and cramped streets of the city. The twenty of us slept in a large room above the church on tiny air mattresses, the sound of traffic and the playful horns of the water trucks streaming in through the open, un-screened windows lining the walls. Looking out, we could see tiny homes dotting the dirty streets for miles around, and in the distance, the ocean and the sky stretched on forever. We were welcomed by a large group of joyful people, each one offering us stories along with the unfamiliar and delicious foods they had prepared with their families. They taught us the Merengue, compelling us to dance, but exchanged esoteric comments in Spanish regarding our humorous lack of talent.

We worked during the hot and humid days, sweat dripping down our sun kissed faces as we painted, hammered, and hauled. The kids living at the church constantly offered their help to us though we were there to help them. They enjoyed the work and through the heavy pales of rock and sand they were never lacking smiles. They took us to the beach, teaching us games and showing us their home. They were thrilled to share their lives with us, leading us down the dirty streets, passing by abandoned houses and stray dogs. It seemed a miracle that in this neighborhood we could step inside a home and find warmth and love radiating inside. I was struck by how joyful their lives were in the midst of poverty. We were shown that in their culture, joy didn’t come from an Xbox 360 or a new designer handbag. They found their happiness in their love and appreciation for their families and for the things they did have. They never focused on what they were lacking but were constantly expressing their gratitude for the simple gifts of everyday. I realized that we require a great deal more from our lives, especially material possessions, in order to feel blessed. They were happy with providing joy to the people they loved and to us strangers that they considered family. Their greatest gifts in life were their relationships. While our purpose was to give to the Dominicans, they gave us the gift of gratitude. We were shown that as long as we appreciate our relationships we will never be without joy.

Everyone should travel; through meeting new people and experiencing new cultures we are taught how to be passionate, how to love, and how to appreciate the many gifts of life.

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