If I'm being completely honest, I have to admit being a Christian in the Millennial generation is not the cool thing to do. Stating I'm a Christian doesn't help my street cred at my liberal college, and most other Millennials aren't too interested.
For the most part, people don't long for my experiences as a Christ-follower. That is, until I start talking about the various mission trips I've been on around the world. Suddenly, people become filled with awe as they listen to my stories about the places I've been.
People tell me all the time that it's their dream to go to places like the Caribbean and Africa on service trips, and I always wonder what they're waiting for. You don't need to go through church organizations like I do. There are plenty of other organizations out there that can help you find your next adventure.
If you are still wary about taking the next step, read on to find out why a volunteer trip may be a great option to cure your wanderlust.
1. You can help make a difference in someone's life.
We Millennials are a little crazy. We've grown up thinking we can change the world.
While changing the world might be a hard goal to achieve, it's easy to start with one person at a time. Maybe that means sharing hope with children at vacation Bible School. Maybe that means building wells that help bring clean water to a village.
Sometimes, it just means showing up so people realize there's someone out there who cares. Regardless of how big or small your actions are, you will have a positive impact on someone's life.
2. Your life will change as well.
What people often don't realize when they're heading into their first mission trips is you may change other people's lives, but those people will undoubtedly change your life as well. When I was in Burkina Faso, Africa, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the elders of a remote village.
When I told them I had just graduated from high school and would be starting college in the fall, they all clapped ecstatically. Because of that moment, I have had significantly fewer mental breakdowns in college than I probably would have.
Whenever things get stressful, instead of thinking about dropping out, I embrace the challenge. I think back to those elders clapping.
I realize I am beyond blessed to be able to attend college, challenges and all. If graduation day was like the Oscars, one of the first things I would say in my acceptance speech is "thank you" to those elders.
They didn't know that their claps would leave such a lasting impact on me. But they did, and I will forever be grateful.
3. You'll learn just how strong you are.
I found my favorite Bible verse while I was doubling over in pain on a mission trip. Romans 5:3-4 states,
But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
I once went through an entire 10-hour car ride to the bush with stomach problems and fever, wishing I could just call my mom and lie in bed all day.
You might end up in situations you don't think you'll survive. But you will, and you'll come out a stronger person in the end because of them. A service trip won't just build up your Instagram likes; it will build character as well.
4. You'll get to experience a country's authentic culture.
Millennials can easily spot when someone or something is inauthentic. ("It's like we have ESPN or something.") As wanderers, we want to experience the authentic culture of a place, not just the tourist traps.
I've danced to drums with women in Africa, and I've (accidentally) eaten dolphin in Trinidad. I've sat with village elders as they've told me about their lives, and I've been in groups that have been offered live chickens as a symbol of gratitude.
I would not have had these experiences if I went to places as just a tourist. Now, tourist traps seem so dull in comparison.
5. You go off the grid (literally).
Sometimes, going off the grid isn't so glamorous. It may mean squatting over holes in the ground (a toilet in many developing nations), but it also might mean seeing the Milky Way.
When I went to Trinidad, I was amazed by the stars. There were lights in the city, but not nearly as many as in the place I come from.
Then, I went to Burkina, and I realized just how small the world is. Not only could I see the Milky Way, but I could also see the satellites orbiting the Earth. There are certain views you'll never get to see unless you take the path less traveled.
6. You learn more about the place you come from.
Reverse culture shock is very real. In my experience, I've been more thrown off entering into my own culture than I've been entering a new one. Suddenly, our way of life in America seems pretty miserable.
After watching a small child's face light up when he or she finally gets the chance to eat, it's hard to listen to people complain they're starving after not eating for a couple of hours. After seeing people so genuinely happy and friendly when they have so little, it's a bit of a shock to enter back into the selfish ways of the Northeast.
You start to realize that maybe we're not living the best life we can here.
7. You can fundraise for your trip.
If this is the main reason you want to go on a service trip, then I highly recommend you don't go. However, I have to admit it's a nice bonus.
People like to help people who help people. In other words, if you're going on a service trip, people will be more than happy to contribute cash to your plans. Let's admit it: Not every Millennial can travel like those Instagram models, who seem to eat fruit and do yoga for a living.
But, that should not stop you from going out and seeing the world. Service trips are usually cheaper than vacations to begin with, but the extra funds are definitely helpful.
8. It's a lot of work, but it's also a ton of fun.
Mission trips can be exhausting, but they can also be exhilarating. I've gone swimming in the warm water in Trinidad, and I've starred in a soccer match in Burkina. (I scored three goals and had the crowd on their feet when I showed off my backflipping skills.)
I've danced in the Caribbean downpour, and I've been separated from hungry lions by nothing but a chainlink fence. Mission trips definitely satisfy the craving for adventure that most Millennials face.
Mission trips aren't for everybody, but you should definitely consider participating in one the next time you plan on traveling. Your next adventure may be right around the corner. All it takes is faith, trust and wanderlust.