I really hate dating, pretty sure I am missing the gene that make you want to be in a relationship, or maybe I just prefer dating cities instead of boys. Either way, I spend more time thinking about the countries I opted not to visit than the boys who I have broken up with. But the same story goes for both, it doesn’t matter how hard it is to say “No” or “this is not what I want”, with every rejection I know it is the right choice.
Regardless, I have missed three opportunities to live abroad.
The first, Guatemala. Like most recent college grads (or the general public), I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Having spent the previous summer in Ireland, I knew I would like to continue traveling so I came up with the grand idea to spend my upcoming summer in rural Guatemala volunteering for a micro-financing organization and practicing my Spanish. I was beyond excited, until I started having reoccurring nightmares about the situation. Despite Guatemala being a developing country, I knew several girls who volunteered in Guatemala doing similar programs and the culture sounded like a warm and welcoming community environment that I could not wait to be enthralled by.
As months went by and the nightmares refusing to subside, I began to encounter difficulties in making contact with the company and quickly realized their level, or lack their of, of organization. I yearn for the day I finally make it to Guatemala, but I am whole-heartedly convinced the summer after graduating college was not the time for me. I was raised to always listen to my conscience and gut feelings, and in that situation I am glad I did.
The second time was one I had absolutely no control of. It had always been a dream of mine to join the Peace Corps, so after spending a few years working I decided I was ready for a new challenged and wanted the Peace Corps to be it. I spent a year volunteering at organization where I could gain applicable skills, studying, gaining different certifications and applying. It was a full time job in and of itself. Finally I made it through all the hooks, dazzled my interview, corresponded with my local contact in Seattle and got nominated for Mongolia! It was better than I ever could have hoped, in a country so uninhabited and magical where I would be doing a job I could be excited about, I was ready to pack my bags right then and there. But wait, there’s more. Being nominated is NOT the same as receiving an invitation. My nomination went to Washington D.C., where they decided I was better suited for another job, another program, another country….
Which leads me to my third, Lesotho. Apart from being a mountainous country, I felt like I could not have been placed in a country more opposite than the one I had already fallen in love with before even arriving. I was bitter, I was angry, I was lost. When you receive an invitation from the Peace Corps they give you five days to respond. I remember finding out on a Monday and spending the entire weekend making pro/con list, Googling Lesotho and Peace Corps experiences, reaching out to family friends who had lived in Africa, contacting acquaintances who had/were in the Peace Corps, gathering any kind of information I could get to make the decision that was best for me. Eventually, I declined the invitation, deciding this opportunity was not worth giving up everything I had to move to a country where I did not know anyone for 27 months to work a job that I could not find a passion for. Turning down the Peace Corps felt like someone had combined all the bad experiences from my last two break ups and multiplying it by ten. I was devastated but I knew that opportunity was not what I wanted in the long run and not what was going to get me where I want go.
I still have a passion for travel and a mile long list of the places I want to go and am continuing to pursuit it despite my set backs and failings. What I learned is just because it looks similar to something you think you want, it is fine to say no and waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Never settle.
Have you turned down a travel opportunity? How do you feel about it now? I would love to hear about it!