- Lena Baker
- December 14, 2017
- Tagged In:
- Educators Gap Year Student Staff Stories Fiji Islands
After having spent the last two summers with Rustic Pathways in Fiji, it’s hard to believe that life hasn’t always been a series of new and exciting adventures.
A couple years ago I was burnt out by routine and working my way up the corporate ladder at a job I wasn’t passionate about. I’d taken summer internships and built a résumé that landed me at an advertising agency in Portland, Ore., but there was something missing about the life I’d created.
I worked from the same cubicle, sipped coffee from the same mug, and took the same bus home every day.
It was on one of those bus rides during a particularly rainy evening in November 2015 that I realized how much of the world I was missing out on. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done something for the first time.
So I moved to Fiji to work for Rustic, and new experiences piled up just by being there and simply paying attention. One of my roommates, Lena, and I talked about the power of new experiences one evening while sitting around a kava circle at Rustic’s South Pacific Eco-Lodge, and we decided to start a small project promoting the benefits of living life outside of our individual comfort zones.
This summer, we launched a weekly Instagram series called “Let’s Do Stuff,” which aims to inspire all of us to try something new, big or small.
We went skydiving and bungee jumping, earned scuba certifications, learned how to fire dance, got pummeled trying to play rugby, danced at an Indo-Fijian celebration, and made coconut oil from scratch.
Studies show that new experiences have numerous physical benefits, including a release of dopamine, which motivates us and actually creates new neurons and neural connections. Basically, our minds are expanding without us even knowing!
By the end of summer, we conquered fears we didn’t know we had, learned skills that can’t be taught in a classroom, and left Fiji with a tremendous amount of respect for the local communities that let us into their homes and lives in order to accomplish this project.
The skills I gained this summer came from leaving the comfort of my surroundings and immersing myself in a completely different way of life. I got to know another part of myself that was there all along but I’d been too worried to show before.
Trying new things can be challenging for teens—it was for me. But trying something new also provides an opportunity to grow and figure out your passions.
Ask yourself where you find joy.
That’s what I asked myself years ago, and the answer was better than I could have imagined.
Ready to try something new next year? Click below to request a free copy of our spring break and summer programs catalog
In 2008 and 2009, Lena was a student with Rustic Pathways, which widened her understanding of the world and fueled her interest in global service and impact. This continued at Indiana University where she became active in student philanthropy and fundraising endeavors. She also studied abroad In Sevilla, Spain. Lena worked in fundraising and donor relations at Northwestern University before returning to Rustic Pathways for two years as a member of Team Fiji.