5 Reasons Why Impact Travel Changed My Life

When I went on the Fathom cruise, I expected to be involved in something different; something that would change the way I viewed the world. I have been blessed to have been able to travel quite a bit in my life, and I love traveling. Growing up with family in Europe and modeling afforded me that.

Twenty years ago, I went to the Dominican Republic. I was working as a model in Miami Beach and got a job to be involved in a commercial that would be filmed there. It was all very glamorous, being flown there with a bunch of young models, and then driven to a luxury resort where we would stay for about five days to shoot the video. I was twenty-five and very shallow.

 

Fast forward twenty years later and I am now forty-five years old with a husband and two small children. I no longer live the carefree lifestyle I once had in Miami Beach. It's not about a simple bike ride to the beach, or a coffee date on Lincoln Rd. Now it's about changing diapers, grocery shopping, play dates, parks, and working.

So when I had an opportunity to be a guest on the Fathom Impact Cruise, a cruise that aims at changing the way people travel and sets the tone for opening up more discussions on volunteerism, I jumped on it. Not just because of the concept of traveling with a purpose but honestly just to get some time by myself, away from the hustle and bustle called life. A life that is a gift, but so often taken for granted. This cruise proved to be so much more. It changed my life forever. It changed it in five ways.

    1. I enjoyed being "trapped" on a boat for two days while we sailed to the Dominican Republic.
The Adonia is a small ship but they had a jam packed schedule for of activities. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and do things like take walks, go to the library, complete workshops and just sit and be still. I explored. I dabbled. I tried food I usually wouldn't eat. I talked to people that I usually wouldn't talk to. Strangers that would become my friends.
    2. I was able to experience a different culture an enjoy the diversity.
From trying different foods on the ship from all over the world to walking into a country where music always surrounds you a long with a smile. The Dominicans are really friendly. They are God seeking people. Their gratitude all while living in such poor conditions was humbling.
    3. Because it was an "Impact Cruise," we were forced to get to know each other on the ship and through the impact activities and not keep to ourselves.
Like I said, I talked to people I usually wouldn't chat with. The first few hours I kept to myself. By the end of the trip I felt like I had left with about 300 more friends.
    4. The impact activities touched me to the core of my being.
I knew I would enjoy them, but I didn't realize how it would impact me and my life when I came back home. I was first overcome with emotion as we were traveling through the city of El Javier to get to the house to make the floors. We passed run down houses, half built with windows and doors missing, some with just a mattress to sleep on the floor. As we passed the bright colored buildings and half built houses, I saw a little girl sitting on a love seat in the middle of an open dirt floor. She was sucking on a pacifier. There was no one around her although I'm sure someone was close by. This is the type of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. But it was hard to take in. Tears welled up in my eyes. I said to myself, "Not now, we're not even there yet."

When I was walking back to the boat from doing the Cement Floors Activity, I was overcome with emotion. Another gentleman that had been on the impact activity with me said that he wasn't emotional but felt emotion that he couldn't "fathom." What irony. We passed buckets of cement to each other for hours and didn't speak, however, we were so affected by what we participated in that we couldn't be silent to each other. We were bonded from that experience.

One thing that stuck with me is the gratitude people shared with us; for a concrete floor for a house that is big as my bedroom that would house a single father and two kids. Those kids just wanted to play on the floor. And the neighbors will get to come over for dinners because there is a local house now with a cement floor. Wow.

    5. I made a difference in someone's life.
Not only did we collectively help make concrete floors for a family, I made a small difference. A small difference maybe, but it was still a difference. I met the family that was moving into the house. He was a single father, about seventeen-years-old taking care of two children under the age of four. He did it with a smile too. The oldest pulled at his clothes and I asked what he wanted as he was crying. The father said that he wanted money to go to the local store, a daily battle I have with my own son. So I realized that he has the same issues as I do with my children which impacted me even more. We are different in our cultures but we are all struggle as parents. I will never forget that family and knowing that I played a part in helping made my travel experience 95% better. I am forever touched by my cruise with a purpose. It has left an imprint in my soul.

I was a guest on the Fathom cruise. All opinions are my own.

©2016 Lucee Santini, as first published on MomJunky.com.