by Halley Pearson
One of the most influential experiences in my entire life was my trip to Panama. This past summer I went down with 15 other teens from all over the U.S. to build a school on an Island called Aritupo. It has not only made me appreciate the things that I have, but it has also made me realize what a superficial world I live in.
As Americans, many of us live in a somewhat artificial world. There are so many material items that it is hard to tell what we really need and what we don't. While I was in the San Blas Islands and saw how simply the natives lived their lives, it made me think of how much of my world is fake or wasteful. Of course there were no TV's or telephones, but that didn't matter. The kids didn't need fancy plastic toys to have fun. They would play all day long with shells or sticks they had found. Their lives are so simple, from their houses to the food they prepared to the clothes they wore.
Since we were staying in such a simple place, this also made our group tasks and everything we did simple. We had very little clothing and bathed in the ocean every day. The work we did was hard, but the framework of the construction was simple. We had gotten so used to that lifestyle that, when we ventured back to Panama City on the mainland we were overwhelmed with the complexity of city life. The first thing I said when I got home from my trip was:
"I have so many clothes, why do I have this many?"
On the island I had been living with 3 pairs of clothing for an entire month.
Now, after being home for almost 6 weeks, I look back and miss the simple life on Aritupo. Whenever I get stressed out or am under a lot of pressure, I think of that island in paradise and it somehow calms me. I don't think people realize what artificial lives many of us lead. Being able to realize and understand that has been a huge part of my journey so far and will continue to be throughout my life.