Writing from 41.582° N, 85.834° W

If you know me well, you know I really don’t like talking about myself. At this stage of my life, it’s gotten to the point that my closest friends have strategies for pulling information out of me: slowly, deliberately, and without me realizing it’s happening.

The thing is, if I’m asked a specific question — rather than something broad like “How’s it going with xyz part of your life?” — I usually have no problem answering. The word I’ve heard most in the last year has been very consistent:


Now that’s a loaded question.

Once I started publicly sharing my plans/dreams/hopes for after graduation, I was hit with the “Why?” question from all sides. Friends, family, professors, strangers I met at school — most people were supportive and excited to hear more, but every single one asked for my reasoning.

1) Why do you want to go alone?

2) Why don’t you want a job?

3) Why Africa?

4) Why now?

I usually have an easier time forming my thoughts through writing as opposed to speaking, so here goes:

IMG_7312 2

1) I fell in love with solo travel on a weekend trip to Brussels during my study abroad semester in college. February 12th, 2016. I will never forget the day because it felt so life-changing to me. Honestly, it’s funny that I am seeking that feeling so aggressively, considering I’ve never traveled alone for longer than a few days. I guess my plan is to figure it out and find a way to keep loving it, whether I actually do or not!



2) I do want a job. Actually, I have a job. In fact, never in my life have I felt so passionate and excited for a job I’m about to start. The key difference here is that I’m not getting paid. Volunteering for a longer-term assignment is something I have always wanted to do, and stumbling across the Pippi House Foundation has by far been my luckiest find this year. (If you’d like to donate to this amazing cause, please click here.)


3) I have been unable to shake my obsession with Africa since visiting Morocco last spring, and the urge I feel to live there will probably never go away. The range of cultures across the continent is unmatched, and on top of that Africa accounts for 84% of the world’s poorest countries. If my hope is to experience countless different ways of life and offer my help where it is truly needed, then Africa is that place.



4)  The real question is why NOT now? Long-term travel/ volunteering/ living abroad is undoubtedly easiest before ties are made to anything or anyone. That’s the logical answer. The true Lauren answer is this: I don’t feel like I have a choice. I don’t mean that in a dramatic way; obviously this was a conscious decision (and a big one at that). That being said, I know myself. I know that if I am going to create a life that will make me happy, I need to see new places and meet new people and try new things — and I need to do it now. Many of my friends got full-time jobs straight out of college and moved to new cities and are happy as can be. I am SO thrilled for them and I wish them all the best; I just know that’s not for me at this point in time.

So, there’s my answer (in many more words than I would ever be willing to say out loud). Here’s to hoping all of us spend our lives doing exactly what makes us happy.

Why would we waste our time doing anything else?


Up next: How? Part I — where’d I find my program?

3 thoughts on “Why?

  1. Carol Swartzendruber says:

    Dear granddaughter Lauren. I love what you have written and am so very proud of you for doing what you feel called to do! You are so right in following your heart while you have no serious attachments! My prayers are with you in this very worthy adventure. Love, Gram S


  2. World Traveler says:

    It sounds like you are following a calling…and that is a wonderful thing to discover! Even if you don’t know exactly where it all might take you, I think it is wonderful that you are pursuing something that makes you happy…especially when what makes you happy will be in helping others in some way. It also sounds like you have been bitten by the travel bug, like many others. Travel is a wonderful way not only to discover the world, but yourself and your place in the world as well. From one fellow traveler to another…I wish all the best!


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