Get Lost, Then You’ll Be Found

Get Lost, Then You’ll Be Found

Jaron Flynn

Golden Lands and World Heritage Gap Semester 2018

Jaron is a lead Content Creator & Marketing Director involved in multiple independent ventures | 3+ Years of Agency/Client-Direct Experience beginning in high school

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

To try to encapsulate and do justice to my experience with Rustic Pathways’ gap year program isn’t an easy task.

Let’s rewind to right before the idea of a gap year first entered the equation… junior year! I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. If I’m being completely transparent; I felt incompetent scholastically when compared to my peers in nearly every subject besides anything involving creative writing, digital media, art, and interacting with/analyzing people, (I didn’t have that kind of self awareness back then though.) I always felt lonely and a bit out of place to say the least.

But, whenever I created something cool or wrote or spoke or joked well, I got a reaction I loved and… if I’m being honest, I think that could always be seen as a bit of a miscalculation, distraction, or escape. But that’s all I knew that made me happy at the time! Things were very simple… or at least I was.

Someone from Rustic Pathways came to my high school college/career center to present to a small group and showed what looked to me at the time, like an informative Red Bull commercial. “THIS IS IT,” I thought to myself. “Pump the brakes. I’m from a lower middle class family and as supportive as they might be or want to be, we can’t afford this. Wait… I can’t even afford university.” Boom. Another crushing realization. “Off to community college I guess?” I probably thought.

Maybe this was more escapism but the more I read this seemed like the best kind of escape I could go for. Educational, hands on, traveling across the world?! Why not?? It’s not like I had plans. THEN: I found out there was an essay contest where applicants would be awarded full & partial scholarships to be accepted into the Rustic Pathways Southeast Asia aka “Golden Lands” Gap Year Program. I wrote something honest about myself and answered their questions with the best I could offer at the time… I rewrote and rewrote my essay until it felt just right. Somehow. Somewhere. Someone read it and gave me the chance of a lifetime.

Fast forwarding quickly through my Indiegogo fundraising video campaign that was necessary to raise the rest of the money; I got my passport expedited after late donations–finally bringing me close to my goal! BUT…I didn’t hit my goal completely despite working very hard on the fundraising and saving money. I was so close though!! I was a bit heartbroken but still hopeful after lots of dialogue with the representatives who helped me throughout the process with suggestions and hands-on assistance. Rustic decided to let me go, pay what I had, and we figured out the rest shortly later.

Next thing I knew I was on a plane. I was in complete disbelief! The foreign landscapes, accents, culture and food were all so new to me. The histories of each individual country are so rich with ancient stories that fascinated, crushed, and enchanted me in a way I had not known before. During the trip I even decided to shoot an amateur documentary focused on the importance of travel in education!

BUT THEN, I got dumped by my newly long-distance girlfriend one week into the trip which was a tough challenge to say the least. I was in Bagan, Myanmar and just got the chance to reconnect on the phone with her. I wasn’t in close contact with any of my friends those days since she became a huge part of my life so this was an emotional flat tire. I felt lonelier than I had ever known before despite all the new friends around me and incredible experiences I was having during the day. (I’m an only child and an introverted extrovert at heart to this day.)

My facilitator/guide Hugh and my roommate Nick were a newfound support system that taught me a lot from their encouraging proximity alone. I was a rather private person and didn’t share much but they were perceptive… we had so many heart to heart discussions that healed lots of issues I had with people. That newfound camaraderie I found with those two, as well as growing past my own limiting social patterns by realizing my privilege to connect with others and learning how to keep it “Sabai Sabai” with everyone else on the trip was one of the biggest personal feats for me. “It’s not about you,” was the most freeing lesson I brought home with me.

I think everyone suffers from a “hero of their own story” perspective or “ego” to some degree… but for me, that was a big self-realization when I learned that I had somehow figured out a way to make this educational service-focused experience into a Netflix drama in my head. I stumbled across the book “The Power of Now” as well as some other very relevant lessons on my travels which really added another layer to the trip.

I also broke my phone by accident very early on, which looking back on it was definitely an essential step in my path towards acceptance of my privilege. Yes. No matter how unfair things can feel, there’s always people with way fewer opportunities, and meeting some of the locals in each country and homestay really was essential in teaching me that lesson. I realized one really does need to SEE to UNDERSTAND what other people are going through; reading in a textbook about Vietnam was one thing for instance… but seeing the effects and another perspective on the story you thought you understood is another thing altogether.

I quickly assumed my newfound duty to educate myself, pursue my interests passionately, and continue to develop my perspective as I now am amazed at how little philosophical authority exists on any of the issues of debate today. This is why opinions and taste start to develop I suppose!

My trip in Southeast Asia with Rustic Pathways was more than just an amazing educational & humanitarian experience…It helped me find motivation, inspiration, and focus. Content creation and creative writing continued to grow as obsessions for me from there as new ideas started to invade my everyday thoughts. I later found out from internships/gigs in the industry and not going to college that I am more of a kinesthetic learner! People come and go but I discovered a newfound sense of purpose, self love & creativity. Feel lost? Go somewhere else for a bit… get lost, then you’ll be found!

Learn more about Rustic Pathways Gap Year programs, or view more Alumni Stories here