Dreams and Hard Work

Dreams and Hard Work

Zebulan Lyons

Sun, Sand and International Service, Fiji 2017 | Rice Fields, Monks, and Smiling Children, Thailand 2018

Hi, my name is Zebulan Lyons and I’m 20 years old. I currently attend Stephen F. Austin State University and on the 14x national dance team. I’m an interior merchandising major and minoring in dance team coaching.

All photos have been provided by Zebulan. Read his story below!

Growing up I came from a lower to middle-class family in the United States. My mom was a single parent and I have two older sisters. So, traveling was out of the question for much of my childhood and was not the main priority financially.

The summer going into freshman year of high school many of my friends were going on vacations and traveling. They were going to different destinations in and outside of the United States. I remember thinking “I want to experience that.” I started to look up how kids can travel internationally. After doing some research I found Rustic Pathways.

I remember looking at all the different service trips and opportunities on Rustic Pathways website and being mesmerized. At that point, I was determined to go on a trip with Rustic Pathways. I started to tell my mom and sisters that I was going to go to Fiji next summer with this organization I found on the internet. Nobody believed me and just brushed it off to the side.

It was the end of summer and I sat down with my mom and had a serious talk about my next summer plans to travel with Rustic Pathways. She said I could go on the trip but would not pay for it. I was determined to go to Fiji with Rustic Pathways and would do anything to make this dream come true.

I did more research and found out that Rustic Pathways had a scholarship opportunity. I qualified for it and applied. During the school year, I sold T-shirts in my community to help fundraise the cost of the trip. I raised a little over $1000 with shirt sales. I was shocked!

I realized the shirt sales would not be enough, so I applied for my first job. I waited for the announcements of the scholarship opportunity through Rustic Pathways for months. It would be an understatement to say I was extremely nervous. Although I was selling shirts and got a job, I needed the scholarship to make this dream become a reality.

The day of the scholarship announcements came out, it was the only thing I could think of. I spent the entire day refreshing my email after every class period. The scholarship email came in around 6 PM. I remember opening it and having so much emotion because at that point I knew my hard work paid off and I was going to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Rustic Pathways gave me a 75% covered scholarship. That following summer I got on my first ever plane from Kansas City and flew to LAX, and went to Fiji on the Sun, Sands, and Service trip.

After that, the next summer I went on another service trip with Rustic Pathways. I went to Thailand on the Rice fields, Monks, and Smiling Children service trip. That trip was also completely funded on my own. One thing I learned from both opportunities is if you can dream it you can do it with hard work.

Going on a Rustic Pathways trip you do not just learn about the country or the culture of that place. You learn a lot about yourself and those that are on the trip with you. Something that Rustic Pathways taught me is how important it is to get out of your comfort zone because that’s when you’ll see the most growth. This is what makes Rustic Pathway so special it’s an incredible learning opportunity. I am very grateful and will forever hold the memories.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs Fiji and Thailand, or view more Alumni Stories here