by Jacqueline Martinez
Traveling to another country by yourself to volunteer at an NGO you’ve never heard of? Hard. Traveling to another country by yourself to volunteer at an NGO that you’ve never heard of during Christmas and New Year’s? Harder.
When I first applied for my project The Andes Way in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was beyond excited to start!
I didn’t think about the timing of the project or the challenges I could possibly face; the only thing I was thinking was “A project in Argentina to help a local nonprofit? Sounds like the perfect mixture of work and adventure, count me in!”
I was so excited for the upcoming adventure that I didn’t take into consideration the many challenging firsts that would come from this trip. It would be my first time out of the country alone, first time to South America, and most importantly, first time spending the holiday season without my family and friends. And because of that, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to overcome the initial challenges that I was faced with, without the support of my family. Due to the time difference, internet problems, and glorious phone struggles, my family and friends were not always a quick and simple phone call away, which left me to deal with most of the feelings on my own.
Homesickness is like the ocean: unpredictable and hitting you in waves. Some waves are little measly things that you can easily jump over, but others overcome you completely and take you underwater without warning.
Come Christmas-time, the other volunteers and I got together to celebrate, and everyone pitched in for an asado of choripans. Although I was supposed to be happy and full of holiday joy, all I was thinking about was how much I missed my family and everything I was missing out on. My parents sent me pictures of the gathering that always took place at our house and I couldn’t help but feel like that was where I needed to be, not on the other side of the world. The volunteers I was with all happened to be seasoned travelers, so for most them, spending the holidays away from home was nothing new. It was different for me. Still, they tried to comfort me by telling me stories and reminding me of how happy I should be to be able to be a part of something greater than myself.
After a few tears and woeful messages to my family, I perked up and joined the party, reminding myself of the reasons behind this trip and trying to spark the initial excitement I had once felt. It wasn’t easy but I remembered how valuable the way we choose to spend our time is, and that I travelled all this way to help, not sulk in my sorrows.
Despite all its unpredictability, homesickness is temporary, and just like waves, it will pass and the water will be still again.