A question I get asked a lot by my friends these days is “where are you off to next then?”
I have developed the reputation for being the traveller of the group, the one who will only stay in the same place for a short amount of time. The one who always has the next destination booked, or the next adventure planned (Berlin, in case you were wondering!)
This is in no small part due to my volunteering with Concordia International Volunteers. I’ve volunteered with this organisation since 2009, and they still manage to find me new adventures to go on! I have participated in a Spanish work camp, attended workshops and seminars across Europe, helped to deliver training weekends in the UK, co-ordinated UK volunteer projects, contributed to the writing of educational resources, and most recently, visited Asia twice to lead on their group volunteering programme.
The group volunteering programme sends groups from the UK to participate on international volunteer projects. I travelled to Vietnam in 2015 and South Korea in 2016, both times with groups of Girl Guides from London and the South East Region.
To say that these trips were challenging is putting it mildly! From non-stop rain for most of our time in Vietnam and living in leaky rooms, to finding a variety of gluten free food in Korea (difficult to find much that wasn’t rice and plain steamed vegetables!). From lost luggage in Hanoi, to an (almost!) lost passport in Busan. Hospital trips, cactus stings, sore hips and knees. Bad stomachs and squat toilets! Early mornings, late nights, hot sun, crowded bedrooms. Eating rice three times a day...
But for every challenge, there was a reward. Moments such as early morning Tai Chi on our junk boat in Halong Bay, or even earlier morning meditation with a Korean monk at a templestay. Finally seeing blue sky after 10 days of rain in Vietnam! Meeting local residents in Busan and being given free ice cream while we painted steps in 35 degree heat. Watching friendships develop between UK and Korean teenagers, who may live 5000 miles apart but share the same appreciation for the High School Musical soundtrack and photos of Zac Efron!
Then there is the personal growth. Sitting in a rooftop restaurant and listening to the youngest member of your group describe so eloquently how the trip has changed how she views the world is a moment that has stuck with me, and is my reason for forgetting all the difficulties and hard times and coming back to Concordia for more.
Eternal part of the Concordia Family