I am teetering on the narrow edge of the precipice and I question everything. What am I doing? Can I do this? Do I have this in me? Why am I doing this? Will I make it? Will I survive? Will I plummet? As my thoughts race, I am reminded that how we do anything is how we do everything. I close my eyes. I take a deep breath. I ground my feet into the earth. I prepare to leap.
All the moments of my life flash before my eyes – all the relationships, all the traumas, the triumphs, the highs, the lows, the moments yet to be lived, the places yet to be seen.
This is the story of life, mustering up the courage to leap, bolstering the heart to venture into new experiences with faith in yourself and your resources. I am 8 days away from leaving the country for 27 months as a Community Health HIV/AIDS Volunteer with the Peace Corps. My leap has offered an opportunity to pause and take a look around before I move forward.
My training as a Social Worker, Coach and Healer, has afforded me this opportunity to serve in South Africa for the next two years. My life trajectory hasn’t followed the “normal” course and for that I am grateful. I’ve lived in 15 different places in the last 20 years and will enter the Peace Corps in my late 30s. In the last several months, I’ve waded through to-do lists and a myriad of emotions from grief to fear to excitement to pride in fulfilling a dream I’ve held closely for nearly 20 years. As I pause, I honor the contributions I’ve made and the relationships I’ve forged along the way.
I reflect on some of my most influential travel moments from my first real international travel experience at 20 years old that sowed the seeds of my wanderlust (despite having been stuck on a plane for nearly 33 hours, herded onto a bus in Tokyo with no explanation and being too scared to venture out of my hotel room for fear of missing my connecting flight to Korea the next day) to the post break-up trip to Costa Rica I took years later with my best friend where I fell hard into my first love affair with a country that I visited twice more. Each country and city in which I’ve visited and lived has left an indelible mark upon me and changed me in remarkable ways.
Through travel, I recognize that I’ve gained infinitely more than I’ve paid for, given or sacrificed. My heart stirs as I recall two volunteer experiences in Asia. Nine years ago, I dedicated a day of my travel to an orphanage in Hoi An, Vietnam. Immediately upon arrival, I was directed to pick up a severely disabled child who was, perhaps, 10 years old from the crib in which he’d just awoken. As I carried him through the courtyard to the play area, it started to rain. I looked up into the sky and was filled with this immense sense of calm and reassurance unlike anything I’d ever felt in my life. It was one of the solitary moments in my life when I knew, with every fiber of my being, that I was in the exact right place at the exact right time.
More recently, in 2015, during my daily morning walk through the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I crossed paths with several bright-eyed kids shouting “hello” to me. As we walked, navigating our basic conversation in English and the streets of Phnom Penh together, we reached their stop point. A non-profit, Les Restaurant des Enfantes, a refuge for these street children, feeds them daily meals and positive, healthy interaction. They inspired me to extend my stay in Phnom Penh to serve at the NGO and fostered within me a love for Cambodia and the heartiness of Her people.
From that first trip to Korea to the 15 countries I’ve gracefully trekked through over the last 17 years, I’ve learned to leave space in my itinerary for possibility. Things will happen, both good and bad. The flight will be delayed. The excursion will be cancelled. It will rain. You’ll bump into people who change the course of your day. You’ll eat the most amazing dessert. Something will break, be stolen or misplaced. You’ll get sick. Your eyes will be opened. Your heart will expand if you let it. Though you set out on a journey in the world, you’ll likely learn more about yourself than any climate, geography, history or culture.
I take a deep breath. I place my hands on my heart. I again remind myself that how I do anything is how I do everything. So I courageously leap. I courageously leap into the abyss of the unknown.
And I soar.
I soar beyond my wildest dreams, beyond my greatest fears about my own worthiness, beyond my lack of confidence, beyond my questioning. I will my faith to be greater than my fear. I soar. I soar beyond the confines of my self-imposed limitations.
I choose to soar.
And I soar.
This is the story of life, of fostering the courage to make choices, even when they scare you. I have no idea what the future holds for me, for you, for any of us, but I’m willing to leap, courageously, into this next chapter of service with the Peace Corps. You may be readying your courage for your next leap – that new relationship, job interview, role in your life, to motherhood to the single life, to the next adventure to heal or stir or disrupt the course of things. May you, too, pause, take a look around and courageously ready yourself to leap.
There are many organizations engaging in wonderful work throughout the world, including many within your own community. As a conscious tourist, look into local and global efforts that align with your interests, gifts and talents.
A friend and I filmed during one of our volunteer days at Les Restaurantes des Enfantes:
To learn more about the work of Les Restaurantes des Enfantes and how you may support them in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, here’s their website: http://www.wacambodia.com/EN/index.aspx
To learn more about the Hoi An Orphanage and how you might get involved in supporting their efforts in Hoi An, Vietnam, here’s their website: http://hoianorphanage.com/
Hi, I’m Megan Swindro and I’m a gypsy soul. I honor my path through travel, practice and growth. I believe strongly in our individual and collective capacities to heal. I dance. I write. I seek. I venture. I celebrate. I wander. I pause. I create. I love being in community, holding space for others and starting fresh.
I’ve been drawn to service throughout my life. I actively volunteer and leave later this month for 27 months of service with the Peace Corps as a Community Health HIV/AIDS Volunteer in South Africa.I have a thirst for knowledge and enrichment. I honor my teachers, both formal and informal, with heart-felt gratitude. I am a Certified BodyTalk Practitioner, have completed yoga studies with both the Unschool of Yoga, Inc and Shambhava Yoga™ and am Level II Reiki attuned.
I lived at an ashram in the Rockies, have been coaching for over four years, earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work and look for the sacred in my every day. It’s my honor to connect with you through Facebook and my writing
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