Read this reflection by Rustic Alum, Mazzy Rosenast, on how her Rustic experiences impacted her and helped her grow into a better version of herself:
7,295 Miles of Gratitude by Mazzy Rosenast
My first Rustic Pathways trip was in 2017. Up until this, I had never traveled for more than a few days without my parents. So here I was, 14 years young, arriving in Thailand without them. Vivid in my memory are those first moments of extreme heat, hustle and bustle, and a rapid intake of a culture far different than my own. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed but excited! I’d be spending the next two weeks in a small community providing what help I could, then heading to an elephant sanctuary. Little did I know that the first week would change me forever.
My first week in Thailand was spent at the Children’s Home helping a local community build classrooms. Days were mostly spent digging up dirt under the hot sun. My arms were on fire and blisters began to form on my fingers. It was hard not to focus on my aching muscles and sweat-drenched skin. I began questioning why I didn’t choose a physically less intense Rustic option. Then on one of the days, we had a bucket line going from the pile to a cliff where we passed the buckets back and forth. Suddenly, a small group of young children ran down and hopped right into line with us. One girl, in particular, stood out to me. She wore fuzzy pajamas in 90-degree weather and was ready to work. As I passed this girl, who was a quarter the size of me, carrying a huge bucket of dirt, I realized she displayed no signs of pain or discomfort. Instead, she floated almost effortlessly with a grin stretching ear to ear. I learned this tough young girl was only five years old. Only five! I was entranced by her determination, work ethic, and genuine joy in getting to participate. I began to reflect on myself as both a young child and as a teenager. Here she was selfless enough to choose to carry buckets over playing with toys or chasing lizards. Here she was sweating in the sun with me and doing it with a smile. How could I not be smiling too? And so, I did. I spent the rest of my time there digging and smiling. More importantly, I spent the rest of my time there with more gratitude, determination, and the work ethic of a 5-year-old.
I think back to her often, always with a smile like hers, and am reminded that those “AHA” moments in life happen when you step outside of your comfort zone. 7,295 miles away from home, without my support system, digging up dirt…that’s when I became a better version of myself. And, with each Rustic trip, I embark on I continue to meet myself and grow as an individual, as well as a global citizen. I have since gone on one other trip to the Dominican Republic. In the works is a plan to do a third trip with friends I made in the DR. Just thinking about what smiles we will meet next has my heart filled with gratitude!
Want a challenge that pushes you to become a better version of yourself? Check out the Rustic programs Mazzy traveled with in the past: Hill Tribe Service and Elephant Conservation in Thailand and Mountain Air and Village Service in the Dominican Republic – 2021 dates have just been added!