I grew up in a small town outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada called Bradford. There is nothing there, and the only thing to do on a Friday night was go to the movies in the next town over, or hang out in the parking lot of Tim Hortons (I know…stereotypes are real). It was a town you're supposed to leave.
In my senior year of high school I was voted most likely to stay in Bradford forever. This label gave me the determination to get out. My goal was to move to Toronto. A big city life was all I wanted.
I am there now, but the way in which I got here was not what I thought possible for myself.
I always really admired people who left and travelled abroad. They pushed boundaries, left friends and family for a greater understanding of the world and deeper connections. This seemed so brave to me, but not something I ever thought I could do.
I studied social work in college, and at 24, I was working for a for-profit organization that facilitated programs to youth in their schools primarily focusing on healthy relationships. There I met my very dear friend who changed my life forever.
She was a traveller. Hearing her stories I would always say “I wish I could do that…” unable to hide the longing in my voice. And she would always say “You can!! Just buy a plane ticket!" However, my level of self-doubt always out weighed my level of courage.
Until life brought unexpected changes, as it does, and I found myself at a cliff's edge. My heart begged me to jump.
But jump where?
Through my old college roommate I learned of an outdoor education organization based in Hong Kong. Outdoor education, what’s that? I had no idea, but I knew I could facilitate programs that focused on bettering relationships, confidence in one’s ability, internal motivation, personal satisfaction and achievements. That role was something I understood well, and had experience in. I’d figure out the outdoor stuff later. I applied on a whim, not really thinking I would actually get it. I was acting through an Amber-Rose that I wanted to be, not one I felt I was. Later, I would learn, if you have dreams of something that you think is impossible for you, it’s because those dreams are your true self calling you. You just need the opportunity to expand into it.
After a video interview, I found myself with a job offer to come to Hong Kong, train, and join the China team.
I had no idea what was ahead of me, the culture shock I would feel, the loneliness, the discomfort, all of which were helping me expand to the next level of myself. The lesson? Growth is uncomfortable, and you need new experiences to create that necessary growth.
It was here that I met Zach, and he told me about Zugunruhe. As a social worker, it spoke deeply to me and the things I value. The population of youth he wanted to work with was one I knew well. To create change in their own community is something I have the utmost respect for. It is the place where change needs to begin.
Youth are surrounded by people who are telling them what to be, what to think, how to act, and where their life can go. I loved that Zugunruhe was changing that dialogue, allowing students to decide that for themselves, by creating experiences that expanded their world.
My growth experience changed me, and I would not have had it if an opportunity had not presented itself. However, this was a privileged experience. Travel and positive life changing experiences should not just be for the privileged. Travel should be accessible for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background.
Zugunruhe provides experiences to those who may otherwise not have an opportunity to evolve past their own community. And love that at the heart of Zugunruhe that is what we're doing.