Profound Realizations from a Mystery Trip

Profound Realizations from a Mystery Trip

Taylor Badt

Mystery Trip 2017 | Moroccan Wanderer 2018

Taylor is a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder majoring in International Affairs with minors in Spanish, Sociology, and Political Science

All photos have been provided by Taylor. Read her story below!

I traveled with Rustic Pathways during the summer of 2017. My trip, however, was unlike their usual programming. I chose to sign up for their Mystery Trip –a month long excursion to an undisclosed destination. I took a risk, hoping to relax in a tropical paradise for the summer instead of sitting at home or working at a country club. I signed up for this trip in search of an adventure, and that is certainly what I received.

I was thrown into the exotic countries of Thailand and Myanmar, the latter of which I had no knowledge beyond its placement on a map. I had no clue its citizens live in constant fear of their government, and of the strife and warfare that occurs within its borders. My limited exposure to refugees consisted solely of Syrian refugee crisis– a few video clips seen on CNN.  So when our leaders revealed that we would be visiting a refugee camp, several thoughts swirled in my mind. But the most prominent– How was I unaware of the Burmese refugee crisis?

When we arrived at Mae La refugee camp, it was obvious that I had little in common with its inhabitants. Forty-eight thousand people all lived in cramped bamboo shacks with dried leaf roofs that span miles of the Thai-Myanmar Border. As I entered the camp, I was overwhelmed with the sight of so many emaciated and frightened faces. Barely clothed children played in the filthy streets and dogs fought for scraps in the sewers. We were not allowed to take pictures– these are people’s lives, not my next Instagram post.

Our task was to visit the junior college and give the students an opportunity to practice their English.We were also tasked with offering a glimmer of hope, despite the fact that UNICEF would discontinue funding to the camp in 2019. The only home most of the refugees know will cease to exist, and English for many is the key to survival when their homes are eradicated.

I moved from group to group of Burmese students, each time struggling to find common ground. It felt childish asking young adults who their favorite pop star was, and I could tell by their faces that my fast pace of speech confused them. After a half hour, though, I encountered a group of young adults that changed my outcome completely.

From the minute I sat down, our interaction was like one between my friends and me. We talked about their futures and laughed about one boy’s new haircut. They showed me the proper way to break open a mangosteen fruit and I taught them about my home state of Louisiana. But, as we kept talking (and they became accustomed to my fast speech) our conversation deepened. They asked me questions I could not answer– What are my dreams? Who did I want to be? When I asked them in turn, their answers were immediate– they wanted to be doctors or teachers or translators. They yearned to return to their native villages and better them. My job of giving these students hope was unnecessary, they had done it for themselves.

As I left Thailand, I came to the realization of the answer to their questions. That, interacting with other cultures, is what I want to focus my life efforts on. These experiences taught me that I crave the excitement of the unknown and want to utilize my fortunate upbringing and resources to aid those in need. I want to live my life in service of others, and my eventual degree in International Affairs can help me do so. I can be the liaison between my country and those in need.

Taking this risk paid off, and my summer was more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. This experience, and the many others I hope to have, are my driving force, pushing me into the unknown praying I and the world may one day benefit from my exploration.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I wanted an experience like no other, and what I found was a trip that profoundly altered my future. I am currently a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, and my Mystery trip was one I still think of to this day, especially considering the recent political uprising occurring within Myanmar. The risk that I took by going on Rustic Pathways’ Mystery Trip not only gave me a way out of a boring summer at home and taught me so much about myself and others that I would not have otherwise even considered.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways’ Mystery Trip, or view more Alumni Stories here