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"Explore, dream, discover."

As Youth Challenge International blogger Andrew O'Dea prepares to depart for Guyana, he reflects on Mark Twain's famous words. 

“Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Although Mark Twain's quote is applied to numerous slogans for programmes and institutions all over the world, I feel it is more appropriately suited to travel.

Living on a relatively isolated island in the North Atlantic certainly has its perks. With a small population comes a large sense of community. That, along with our proximity to untouched and beautiful landscapes, makes Newfoundland an amazing place to live. . .or at least that’s how I see it! For me, it has nurtured my imagination, sense of adventure and appetite for travel.

Another thing that came naturally is the desire to give back to my community. Already involved in many extra-curricular activities, I developed an interest in volunteering my time with several local and international groups, volunteer agencies and NGOs. When I was younger, I probably had a more idealized version of what international volunteering was. However, that didn’t stop me. When an opportunity presented itself in high school, I was all too excited to get my feet wet in the world of international volunteerism.

So, what have these predispositions and experiences of mine done? Well, as I matured so did my outlook on the world. Without sounding totally altruistic, I’ve learned that two of my passions and pastimes could be achieved in one step. I believe they call it hitting two birds with one stone?

Hip hip hooray! I found a way to not only feel good my doing what I enjoy, but by being productive, helping people, and gaining firsthand knowledge that you cannot learn in any textbook! These are only a few reasons why I chose to seek out Youth Challenge International’s overseas projects.

Now, after having gone through the application process and being selected as a participant, it was time to prepare for GUYANA!! I am so psyched for the project on several levels. Mostly though, what better way is there to explore such a unique country than to integrate into the culture and experience firsthand interactions in a local setting, with local people and through local customs?

When I describe my plans for the summer to people here, they all approach the topic the same way, “Wow! Really? That’s so interesting! Aren’t you anxious?” The world is definitely a big and scary place, although it has never given me reason to be anxious. Of course, the proper precautions need to be addressed, but it is not in my nature to sweat the small stuff. I see this as a rare and special opportunity, and am going into it with little expectations because I know that I’ll come out of it with more than enough knowledge, appreciation, humility and many other things that are not store-bought.

For this reason, I acknowledge Twain’s words. This project is sure to be no walk in the park, but I am eager to see what twists and turns lie ahead. By keeping this little mantra in mind, the limits of this experience are boundless.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Andrew O'Dea

Andrew O’Dea is a 20-year-old from St. John’s, Newfoundland. He's currently studying at Memorial University, working towards an honours in Biochemistry. He loves getting to know the world through travel, which is why he’s volunteering in Guyana with Youth Challenge International.

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