Two. Weeks. It took me two whole freaking weeks to talk about what I experienced on the trip. Those close to me would find that surprising, since they usually struggle to get me to stop talking. But when something shakes your soul and inflates your heart, sometimes you just need to sit with it before sharing the joy. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I blindly signed up for the Only Human Give Back trip at 2am through teary eyes and aimless Instagram scrolling.
All I knew is it sounded right, so click click click there I was, driving to Arizona to meet 32 strangers. I sat in my car and cried in the parking lot before getting out and introducing myself. I was so nervous, but the minute I started interacting with others, it was like like my heart took a big sigh of relief and said “here you are, welcome home”. For the first few hours I was convinced I had joined some weird cult, like how can EVERY person in one place be so, so nice?! But rest assured, no creepy cult here, just a giant group of incredible and loving humans.
We arrived to ‘Rocky Point’ in what felt like a few minutes, since I was so indulged in great conversations the whole time. We got to meet the team of even more incredible humans at our stay in Mexico, and we got to work. I learned skills on the trip that I never would have otherwise. I got to work alongside some very grateful locals, as I learned to plaster, drywall, paint, and measure things I didn’t know you had to measure. One thing I still can’t measure though? The impact these trips have had on me. It was like very minute that passed I felt more and more cared about and at home. These physical skills weren’t hard, and they were our pleasure to do. But seeing the gratitude spilling from the people our work was benefitting, you would think we were giving them gold plated diamonds.
You want a humbling experience? Comfort a woman while tears spill down her face in gratitude because you simply painted her wall. See a community come together to celebrate the putting up of basketball nets. See the families walk by and come introduce themselves as you paint their children’s school, while they share they never thought that day would come. These things, that were so simple for us to do, were monumental for this community. How incredible is that? What Only Human is founded on, being loving, kind, and inclusive… is being spread and FELT by these people? Wow, I love that.
Every person that goes on these trips comes home with something different. At the beginning of the trip, we share and talk about our intentions for the trip. For some, it’s to connect deeper with those around them. For some, it’s to step out of their bubble and be vulnerable. For some, the most exciting part is the service projects and helping the community. For some, there is no intention, they simply just showed up, and that is more than enough.
Whatever one’s intention is for the trip, it was accepted, encouraged, and cheered on. For me personally, my intention was to be present and soak in every little thing around me. I am a very outgoing person, but also have waves of crippling social anxiety, so I danced between the two in complete comfort. I watched friendships formed, friendships strengthen, people share things they never imagined they would, and people step beyond their comfort zones time and time again. I watched people love on others, encouraged others, and simply just create a safe space. I watched people dance to wonderfully performed music, sit in silence, and use Google Translate to have more meaningful conversations with the locals. In a chapter of life I was so eager to close, I sat there, happy that it was still being read. I will never say my heart can be full, because I think there is always more room for love, but this is the closest to being full I have ever felt. I went on this trip to Give Back, and in turn, gained and took more from it than I could have ever imagined.
I am so thankful for this group, this trip, and this safe space and love. So if you are considering reaching out to someone in the group, becoming an advocate, joining the next trip, or even just being a little extra kind today…come as you are, human, we will be waiting for you!
~ Juliana Berkeland