This is a guest post from RLT alumni Andy Reed.
Following a very stressful freshman year of high school, I was ready to enjoy the summer. Little did I know that I would experience something truly life changing.
My plan was to do some service work over the summer, and I also wanted to travel and explore a new city. From the description in The Road Less Traveled brochure, the Gulf Coast trip was a good fit – at least on paper. (RLT has a lot of great community service trips!)
I was excited but incredibly nervous to go on the RLT Gulf Coast trip. I wanted to put my troubles with school behind me and go explore someplace new, but at the same time I had no idea what to expect and was anxious about not knowing anyone on the trip. This proved to be one of the best parts of the experience.
The advantage of being thrust into a foreign environment full of strangers is that you are a blank canvas. I was able to leave all the bad vibes of freshman year behind me and turn over a new leaf with brand new people. I never thought I could be in a room of 15 people and genuinely like every single one of them, but I loved everyone on my trip.
The 16 of us, all unique, came together to pursue the same cause: to help a community and to have fun in the process. We came from all corners of the United States and from all walks of life. I was told for the first time in my life that I have a funny accent, (I’m from Michigan) and what I called “pop” everyone else called “soda.” Learning about others’ interests, hobbies, and passions was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and I relished hearing everyone’s personal stories about their lives and their hometowns. For being so different from each other, it was astounding how close we grew and so quickly. I regard these people as dear friends, and I still keep in touch with them today.
I was so proud of all of the service work we did, and how much of an impact it made on the local community in New Orleans. Being able to work on a house knowing that you are helping to give a family a roof over their heads is such a rewarding experience. It wasn’t just a house, but a home. I was fortunate enough to meet the family that was going to be moving into one of the houses we were working on, and the happiness and gratitude they expressed left me with indescribable feelings of joy, satisfaction, and, accomplishment. I really found a sense of purpose when I realized that I had actually directly helped someone in need. The words of Mahatma Gandhi perfectly describe my experience.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
The Road Less Traveled helped me to find and be my true self, through genuine connection with people, guidance, and unforgettable experiences. I learned valuable skills and met unbelievable people.
Andy Reed is a sophomore at The Roeper School in Birmingham, Michigan. He enjoys playing soccer and loves to ski during the cold winter months. In the summer he enjoys spending his time in Northern Michigan playing disc golf and enjoying Michigan’s beautiful lakes and beaches. He has volunteered for Summer in the City, a program that allows teens to paint buildings, plant gardens and play with intercity kids in Detroit, and currently is volunteering for NoBLE, a program providing education, guidance and support for bullied children and their families. Andy is very eager to learn and explore the world and will be returning to RLT this summer on the Footsteps of Giants trip to Norway. You can find him on Facebook here.