Traveling is not always about fun or adventure. When we travel we see things which can disturb us, which can move us and awaken within us a sense and knowing of the world which we did not know before. When Andrea Cabrita went to Zambia she discovered that to travel was to grow. Her story for GoNomad Volunteering in Zambia:’ This is the Growing’ is a beautiful and poetic expose on what it means to encounter yourself in a foreign land.
The first question that I have been frequently asked is “Why go so far away to do volunteer work?” It is a good question. Better than the others like “Why are you going to pay almost 1400 euros to go to the middle of Africa or why are you spending your holidays in the middle of the poorest Africa?
I went to Zambia for two months because the opportunity came up and because doing volunteer work locally, would never, but never be the same as doing it in the real world of poverty, in the core of famine and need. I have volunteered locally, and even though I gained myself every day I did it, I never found what I found in Zambia, nor did I find myself the way I found myself while I was there.
I recall an old article from Candida Pinto, a Portuguese journalist, about the Strait of Gibraltar and the exodus of thousands of African emigrants who come looking for the European dream. They end up dying in the boats of no one, with no policies to defend them and earning nothing but death.
I do not see many Zambians in these reports. On the contrary, despite being a poor country fighting against famine and AIDS, Zambia welcomes a lot of refugees and emigrants from neighboring countries. That is the land God gave them, the land that lets them die and kills them out of work, but in which, out of inertness, lack of ambition, or simply because they at least suffer in their own country, they decide to stay, just as I decided to leave.
When you leave to another continent like this, you feel the weight of the passage out and because of that, everything that is experienced becomes much more real and strongly incorporated and embedded. At the end of the day there is no chance of going back home, to your family comfort and warmth nor to go for a relaxing glass of red wine. No.
When you leave like this, you go without a net, you must go with the notion that it is not going to be easy and that all the comforts must be refound within ourselves and for what we are living outside ourselves.
When you leave like this, you leave to go back to to see and resee everything you saw and felt, whether is good or bad, because there is no concert or play or a night out to alleviate us at the end of the day, to throw us out of the sad realities in which we often live, in the middle of Africa or at home. Away there are no palliatives. To leave like this is leaving with the certainty that it is going to be worth it. And it is.
What you gain out of this kind of experience is much more than what you give. And if my students used a trite expression like this one I would reprimand them saying that I hate clichés. But I do not intend to poetize the idea. It is simply like this: You earn more than you give, full stop.