This week, we are excited to share a reflection from one of our 2019 trip leaders, Lucas Boyd. Over the past three years, Lucas has led RLT travelers in Utah, Colorado, Florida, and Belize – this summer he will be at the helm of the Tanzania: Hujambo program. In addition to his travels with RLT, Lucas has done his fair share of globe-trotting on his own. He has spent time teaching English in Nepal, visiting Thailand and Vietnam, and his travels have also brought him throughout Africa and Europe. These days, Lucas is staying in one place (for the most part) working as a Naturalist at an outdoor school in California.
While spending a few weeks helping out around the RLT office in Chicago this spring, Lucas sat down to reflect on what his three (soon to be four!) summers with RLT have meant to him.
Reflection by Lucas Boyd
His eyes are down, tears welling. “It’s funny, I was so nervous to come on this trip and now all I can think about is how sad I am to leave.” His feet shuffle around, sliding dirt between his shoes. “It’s just that…” he trails off for a moment, reaching deep to pull out the words. Firelight dances across the faces of thirteen young people, their eyes fixed on him. The silence is long, but not uncomfortable, punctuated by the occasional crackling ember. “It’s just that I’ve never felt this good about myself. I’ve never been so happy. I can honestly say that this trip has made me a different person.” Head nods, smiles, a gentle squeeze of the shoulder. Acceptance, understanding, genuine compassion. A wolf howls in the distance.
Life-Changing Travel. I’ll admit, when I first heard RLT’s motto I rolled my eyes. Epic adventure? Yes. A chance for personal growth? Definitely. The trip of a lifetime? I’ll give you that. But life-changing? C’mon.
Then I led my first trip; a service trip in Utah with middle school students. I watched as a group of nervous pre-teens transformed into a loving and conscientious community built on empathy and shared experience. On the last day, I stood addressing a room of 12-year-old kids with not just visions of how to make the world a better place, but plans to make those visions a reality. All this happened in 15 days.
After Utah, I went to Colorado and led our Call of the Wild program. We ran up and down sand dunes, gave wolves kisses, built fences, chopped wood, and went rafting and rock climbing. Along with my students, I laughed, cried, got frustrated, worked tirelessly and above all was filled with a real sense of wonder again and again. The campfire scene I described above happened on the last night of that program, and throughout the next two summers of trip leading for RLT I would see many more like it. Trade the wolf howls for breezy palm trees on the islands of Belize, or the sound of the ocean lapping against the shore in Florida and there it is again; legitimate transcendent experience.
After all of this I asked myself; how does this happen? How do these relatively short trips end up having such a monumental impact on these young peoples’ lives? The answer isn’t just hidden in the thrill of adventures or the satisfaction of the service projects. After three years and seven trips, I can say that the success of our programs rests in the fact that The Road Less Traveled cares. And I mean really cares. It cares about the staff. The staff care about the students. They care about their feelings, they care about their growth, they care about their safety. I’ve never seen a group of individuals with a more ferocious desire to see their participants succeed.
That is why I’ve returned year after year. This time around I’ll be spending my summer leading a 24-day service trip in Tanzania. While it’s still months away, I’m already getting excited relive that experience that’s come so many times before on RLT trips; that transcendent moment. Maybe it’ll happen surrounded by giraffes on safari, maybe it will be making arrows with the Hadza tribe. Maybe it’ll happen on the flight home, surrounded by close friends that were only strangers a few weeks before. Wherever that moment happens, I know one thing for sure; that for many students, this trip will truly be life-changing.