We recently took our kids on spring break. We definitely prefer to curate travel experiences that are culturally-rich. You typically will not find us at an all-inclusive sitting by the pool or beach. Sure, we like to relax for part of the day, but that is after we’ve explored like the locals, connected with communities, hiked or tasted local foods. This last spring break we took it a step further. We volunteered three days of our week long trip in a dental clinic in one of the poorest communities on Ambergris Caye in Belize. It was an experience that my husband and I will not forget and we imagine it was shaping for our kids in ways that we will not even understand for a very long time. Whether it was seeing our children teach the kids how to brush their teeth and floss or hold their hands when they were scared – they took their roles very seriously and we all made a deep connection with the community.
I have experienced volunteering abroad through the adventures I organize in conjunction with my other business, Wildhive, but I was anxious to hear what my husband thought of our service work. After we returned home, before I even had the chance to ask him how he transitioned back, he was excited to share his reflections and he was energized in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. I am interviewing him here in this blog so he can share his experience and outlook on our spring break volunteering abroad:
Me: What was the most surprising thing about volunteering in Belize?
Dr. Roy: I didn’t realize how much fun I would have nor just how fulfilling it would be – despite practicing dentistry almost every day at home – this did not feel like ‘work’. Not that it always feels like ‘work’ at home, but it was…different.
I was surprised by how resilient the kids were. They don’t get to see a dentist very often. Some never in their lives and others only once before. Yet they were so patient, grateful and warm. They were super brave. It was very special to be a part of a positive experience as a dentist. And, even though I could not give them everything I wanted to, I was happy to be a part of saving one tooth or changing daily habits as best that I could, in a short period of time.
Me: How did it impact you once you returned home?
Dr. Roy: It gave me a renewed energy and zest in my own practice and office. The atmosphere was very relaxed at the clinic in Belize and I felt as though when I returned home I was able to remember the joy I get from practicing dentistry. Injecting more lightheartedness and connection. It brought me back to the basics of being driven by doing good for people.
Me: How do you feel it had an impact on…
your health & wellness?
Dr. Roy: Volunteering and travel, in general, have a huge impact on personal health & wellness. It’s eye opening and deepens my worldly view of healthcare and of our human experience. That renewed energy reminds me of the kind of person I want to be – at work, at home, for myself.
Dr. Roy: I love how it instills all of the things we talk about, but actually puts it into action – which is so much more powerful. We aren’t just telling our kids to be good people, to work hard, to be grateful…we are showing them. It brings us closer together as they mature and realize what the world is like – outside of their little bubble. Not in a bad or dangerous way that is inappropriate for their age, but in an experience that shows them love, community and gratitude.
At the end of each ‘work’ day we would reflect on our experiences. It’s a very meaningful experience that we got to share in together. It is life-changing, on a personal level as well as for our family unit.
Together: In conclusion, we both feel that this experience left us feeling as though we are living more meaningfully. This is part of our life vision. We know it’s only the beginning of deeper experiences like this as a family. We are headed to Kenya in August and our three kids are already getting involved in the local communities prior to the trip (raising money) and we will be able to see its impact during our travels as well. While there are opportunities to get involved EVERYWHERE, including our own city, there’s a magic that comes from combining travel with responsibility and sustainability, with community connection and sharing all of the ways we are so fortunate to live in our country, with those who have far less. However, I say that with the firsthand knowledge that while they might not be material-rich, as we are here in the United States, they are seemingly so so happy.
Travel AND giving back have the power to improve one’s life, increase confidence, expand cognitive abilities, increase love and joy and create one big global community.