Where I Was
Not to long ago I was wrapping up my Junior year of college at UMass Amherst and I felt like I had no idea what direction I wanted to take my life in. I knew what I cared about: traveling, exploring/adventuring through the outdoors, connecting with new and unique people, and also bettering the lives of those around me. These were and still are my core values, ones that I believe in wholeheartedly, but I was still lost trying to find something that incorporated all of these values in one package.
I vividly remember when I found my first opportunity to pursue all of these values. I was sitting at a table in the Worcester Dining Common distractedly eating lunch while I scrolled through Facebook (as all college students do) when I came across an advertisement for the Choose A Challenge Leadership Program.
The ad promised the opportunity to lead a group of students on a trek to amazing places like Machu Picchu and the summit of Kilimanjaro all while supporting charity. Now typically, when I find these sort of things, I read through them and think they are cool but don't register my interest because some feeling in me tells me the advertisement is too good to be true....there has to be something they're not telling me. But this time was different, I just had a gut feeling that I needed to respond to that ad; it would turn out to be a decision that I am forever grateful I made.
WHere IT Got me
Fast forward to May of the following year and there I was, hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro accompanied by 20 students from UMass Amherst, Rutgers, Ramapo, NYU, and Montclair State, relishing my time on the most epic adventure of my life. Several times throughout the journey I took the time to think or explain to someone just how unbelievable it was to me that a simple click I made over 12 months prior had resulted in this incredible experience.
After descending from the mountain, myself and 12 others began the second part of our adventure: a two day safari through some beautiful national parks in mainland Tanzania and a five day excursion to the island paradise of Zanzibar. These days amounted to a relaxing vacation that gave me even more time to reflect on how one choice gave me the opportunity to do all these amazing things.
As overused as this phrase is, this trip really did change my life and for the better. Not only did I get to achieve some things that I had never dreamed of doing during my college years, but I got to share that experience with some truly wonderful and unique individuals that I will not forget. I finally found that elusive thing: the opportunity to fulfill the interests I hold most dear on a remarkable adventure half-way across the planet, and all it took was that one decision to take a chance.