Traveling has always been a huge part of my life. As soon as I took my first road trip at the age of 17, I was hooked. Every day off, each holiday from school; they were a chance to see something new. I became a list checker when it came to traveling too. I spent most of my free time reading books on things to see and compiling lists to strive for. Traveling this way felt fulfilling and it felt this way for a long time until one day, it didn't anymore.
Eventually, checking things off of lists felt a little soulless and I felt the urge to get a little more out of my trips. Volunteer work had always been an idea that I kept in the back of my mind but as I searched for meaning, it started to work over in my mind much more often. A friend I met while traveling had just got finished a stint volunteering in India with the Idex organization. In a true sense of perfect timing, I grilled her about the experience she had and decided that going to India to volunteer would be my next step. Checking out their website for myself, I did my best to understand the motivations behind the organization and find a program that would fit me best.
Traveling as a woman and often times solo has been another important theme in my life and experiencing the ups, downs, negative stigmas, and the inspiration of others has taught me a lot. That's why, when I came across the Empowering Women Program, I knew it was the one for me. Beginning the program felt natural and I had a sense of belonging that came quickly and with ease. I was welcomed into the family of organizers and volunteers and was thrilled to meet the local women that I would be working to help.
The training went smoothly and I learned how to be a teacher, counselor, mentor and friend to women that I hardly knew. The aim of the program was to empower women to lead healthy and successful lives through proper eating habits, hygiene tactics and learning a sense of self-worth. Us volunteers empowered the women that we worked with by teaching them basic English skills, giving lessons on using the computer and schooling them in women's rights. In many cases, we were learning together; each of us growing in a different way.
Throughout the program I had free time to explore my surroundings and even had the chance to go along on some organized trips. I got to travel to the sights of India that I've always wanted to see while simultaneously exploring areas that I never heard of before. I learned about the local way of life, gave back to a community and gained invaluable experience and skills that have helped me in my personal life since.
Experiencing travel from both the perspective of a list checker and someone doing valuable and meaningful work has shown me that having a balance while traveling is just as important as finding a balance in anything in life. For all of you travelers out there, either new or seasoned, take some time to delve into all opportunities for exploration to find what really gives meaning to your travels.