“I need something new!” – I found myself saying this once again as I scrolled through the endless open calls. I was in a rush to apply for a new project before school began – to fulfill a goal I set in seventh grade after seeing my sister come home from yet another project. I admired her determination. Volunteering is an ambitious job that requires a lot of drive, courage, and dedication. And after two months, there I was, at 2:15 – p.m., wandering around Valencia carrying 20+ kg of baggage. Maybe I had my parents to blame for my drive to be such a hardworking volunteer. They exposed me to the importance of experience at an early age, sparking my passion for adventure and knowledge.
Since we arrived in Valencia two days earlier, I knew this project would be unique. Unlike other projects, my group dismissed four-star hotels and instead chose to stay at a random dormitory in Picassent. I was fortunate enough to find myself in Velencia center square sleeping outside a McDonald’s on a Halloween night. And while trying to get to Picassent, we found ourselves going the same route again and again, front, and back, instead of getting on the right metro, because why not? These experiences, which made this project so different, ingrained a sense of adventure in me. I have spent the last three years researching and learning about people’s passions and what gives them a sense of purpose. In Gandia, I had the chance to talk with the participants who were musicians about music, art, and passion as I sat and stared in awe. I have not seen anyone’s eyes light up as theirs while talking about these topics.
When we were making instruments, I chose to make drums. I struggled to hold the drumsticks properly, but Gennaro and Roberto (volunteers from Italy) were there to help! And I was so impressed at their skill to catch a rhythm. After the first grueling thirty minutes of me trying to figure out the rhythm, the path opened, and I could see myself improving. This is the way it always goes. First, the struggle, and then the reward. Lying on the wooden rocking chair while the sun was chasing off the clouds. Hearing the soft and smooth tones of the Spanish guitar, I never knew life could be this beautiful. I was overwhelmed by emotions while seeing the group effortlessly create a melody. For those six days, I fell in love with life. And now, since I have been buried in schoolwork, I am taking a break from scrolling through open calls, but then again, I am taking a break from unexpected connections, adventurous trips, and friendships, and I am taking a break from sharing cultures and knowledge with other volunteers from around the world. I decided to let go of the blame for all the wrong map routes and metros. Instead, I would give my seventh grade-self a big “thank you.”