“I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure, and it's very difficult to find anyone.”
“I should think so, in these parts. We're plain, quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things, they make you late for dinner.”
Returning home after the trip was almost surreal. It took about a week for my life to settle down, but when it finally did and I had the opportunity to sit down with a friend and let my mind relax for awhile, we decided to have a three day run of the Lord of the Rings movies, which he had never seen. I had the chance to think through the events of the last couple months. If anything, I think the above quote from the Hobbit describes my life before the trip.
I grew up in a suburb, doing my fair share of city traveling, making trips around the States with my family, but starting college, I’d hoped for the opportunity to study abroad. I didn’t know where or when, but I’d looked at programs as a freshman, hoping that somehow I could fit one into my schedule. For the first two years of school, that seemed impossible. I was told about the Scotland trip almost by accident, and I started looking into it on a whim.
My parents weren’t particularly fond of my desire for international travel experience, but I eventually won them over. It took time, but it worked. Looking back now, I was nervous, but at the time I did my best to hide it. Telling my parents I was worried wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
I can say today, without a doubt, that it was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did I come away from the trip with international travel experience and a better idea of where I would like my future career path to take me, but also with a sense of mental and physical strength. Life has its twists and turns, and I’ve made it through many of late that I doubt I would have had the mental fortitude to handle before the trip.
As far as career direction goes, though I’ve always wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on others, I don’t think as many of the options were apparent to me until this trip. Medical writing, though perhaps not the most entertaining work to many people, has always held an appeal to me. Work with a medical technology company would be interesting and almost certainly fulfilling. There are so many companies these days that work with teams around the globe, and I’ve always hoped I would end up working with a project that has a global element. The idea of improving lives on a global scale appeals more than ever, and the trip is no small part of that change.
However, my experiences also opened my eyes to small-scale work and the impact it can have. There isn’t a need to work for a massive corporation in order to impact other people’s lives. Before, I wanted to have a global impact. I wanted to make a change in the world, but remained blind to a number of issues in my own life.
The trip made it obvious: if you want to make a change, you have to start with the problems at home.
By no means does that mean that I’m not interested in a career in global communication, merely that if you want to fix something, you have to start small. You have to understand the roots of the problems through communication with a number of people, the more perspectives the better. I began to realize that making a difference or impacting someone else’s life didn’t have to be done on a massive world-altering scale. Small things, such as the nurse who took the time to explain some of the complexities of the NHS while riding the train or the man I ran into on the waterfront that talked with me about American politics, can make all the difference. Spreading knowledge and information doesn’t have to be on a massive scale to impact the world.
And you know what? That means it’s time for another Tolkien quote:
“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.”
Maybe in this case, it will be small actions that have a large impact. Only time will tell.
On a concluding note: I am eternally grateful to the people that encouraged me to go on the trip as well as the people that made it possible for me to go. Though it may not be apparent just yet and it may take some time for me to find my path, they have made all the difference in the world. It may not seem like much, but it was the chance of a lifetime.