This weekend, my study abroad program is spending 3 days (technically less) in an indigenous village just outside the city of São Paulo. What we know about this stay: They live VERY humbly, we may not get to shower, there are lots of bugs, time moves slowly, and only two meals are typically made a day. Leading up to this week, there has been little positivity and a lot of complaining; I, myself, am guilty of whining a bit. The question I want to challenge is WHY?
In 2011, I was blessed with my first eye-opening experiences throwing toilet paper into a garbage can instead of flushing it, paying someone to take a picture with his or her llama and walking past handfuls of street dogs and homeless people; I traveled to Peru. With a small group from high school, I roamed the streets of Lima and Cusco, gasped at the stunning grandeur of Machu Picchu and <GASP> stayed in an indigenous village for 3 nights. When I think back to Peru and, specifically, our time in the small village of Atuncolla, not a single bad memory comes to mind. Sure, my roommate, Taryn, almost got stuck in the bathroom because the door was small, slightly unhinged and dysfunctional. Yes, we freaked out about the spiders that were crawling on the walls next to the beds inside the abode, hand-constructed house in which we were staying. And no, we did not shower for three days, yet, somehow, I didn’t and still don’t look at these moments as ordeals- they were adventures!
With some of my favorite traveling memories in a small indigenous village, why so much fret now? Why all the negativity? Was it the way the trip was presented to us? The stories we heard from others? The fact that it is mandatory? Or is it maybe that we have become so comfortable in our luxurious lifestyles that we are blinded from the adventure that lies ahead? Is it not every kid’s dream to avoid showering for 3 days? As I ponder these questions more and more, I think it is a combination of constant negativity surrounding the topic and unwillingness to try something new and step out of our cushy comfort zones.
I firmly believe that experiences as raw and honest as this one will be are the ones that everyone must experience. They are the ones that make and keep us humble. They are the ones that give a new perspective on life. They are the ones that teach us to be grateful for what we do have. They are the ones that help us conquer our fears. They are the ones that make for great stories afterwards. They are the ones that lift the blinders from our eyes. We must stop focusing on what we won’t have and start thinking about what we will gain.
When it comes down to the question “does privilege shade our experiences?” the answer is quite simple: only if you let it. In fact, I think it could enhance your experience and your takeaways if you have the right mindset. We simply cannot allow are usual lifestyles to overshadow the opportunity to see a new way of life. We have to go against the grain and train our minds to see the silver lining in everything. With that, I am changing my thought pattern and looking forward to the opportunity for a new adventure.