Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to welcome 2011 Aloha Aina Hawaii Community Service alum Michael DeMattia to the RLT blog. Michael’s reflections on his time spent in Hawaii are pitch perfect, especially when he says, “Traveling to new places opens doors to new cultures and people, but it also opens up a part of ourselves. Dusting off old memories and recalling the forgotten passions of our lives excites us.” Well done Michael!
Life changing experiences are rare. Even more rare are the moments where you can recognize their significance as the fabric of your life unfolds. Many people spend years seeking such moments, searching for epiphanies; when in reality, they can often be found much closer to home. For me, one such experience occurred last summer, on a beach in Kauai over the course of 19 days with 19 of some of the most incredible people I have ever known. But before I continue with the anecdote, a brief aside for background is necessary.
For those who are not familiar with the college process in this day and age, it is an ordeal I would not wish on even my worst enemy. And junior year could be labeled the summit of such a climb. Needless to say by June, I desperately needed a break from the immense pressures of life. What I hadn’t realized was how busy I had become and how cluttered my mind was with the daily grind of college, classes, and the laundry list of extra-curriculars, not to mention social media a.k.a the haunting shadow of facebook, twitter, and text messages.
But on June 26th after a very brief goodbye, I boarded a plane bound for a far-away island. (I think part of the appeal of such a trip was the 14-hour plane ride’s distance from home).
From the moment I stepped off the plane, something just…. clicked. I met people who were eager to take all their pent up energy and funnel it into doing good for others through our work with Habitat for Humanity. They were funny, interesting, sporty, smart, and most of all, loving people. Loving of life, of nature, of themselves, and over those 19 days, of each other. And day-by-day, my own troubles seemed to melt away. After 2 days, I forgot all about my phone, after 6, I forgot all about my summer work, and by day 12, college wasn’t even in my vocabulary. In losing touch with MY world, I became more in tune with the REST of what life had to offer. Rolling waves on the shore, the way the sun peaked over the ridgeline, the sound rain’s patter would make against the tent roof: each moment suddenly became…. beautiful, magic even. I could wake up at sunrise and simply listen and watch the day come alive. I would find a newly rediscovered appreciation for the breeze, the clouds, and oh, the stars!
Traveling to new places opens doors to new cultures and people, but it also opens up a part of ourselves. Dusting off old memories and recalling the forgotten passions of our lives excites us. The awakening that occurs is like the high we feel as the roller coaster reaches the top of the tracks, as the curtain opens on our very first show, as the whistle blows and the game begins. We crave those moments because they shape us. They remind us in ways which no other person or thing could, about what we truly love doing and exactly what does motivate us to get out of bed in the morning. RLT’s Aloha Aina community service trip to Hawaii was indeed life changing travel. It provided an escape from normality, allowing for a soul-searching mission on a beach far, far away. But it also introduced me to 19 other people who were also ready to make a difference with their talents, and share in the adventure with others. I will never forget those 19 days. And the impacts of that trip and the people I shared it with are, even now, still just emerging.