What are the fears that a volunteer has to face? They usually focus on the travelling process, the unknown country, the different language or the costs involved, but what do they know? Yes, these might be the most common fears of new volunteers when they initiate their adventure, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore others that hide in the shadow of the people we love.
The moment I told my friends and family that I was going to Bulgaria for two months as a volunteer was rather curious. I didn’t share the news with everyone at the same time. Thus, I announced the same thing around six times, and the feedback I got seemed more like an animal behaviour than an individual reaction. Friends and family, who did not contact each other between the announcements, did the exact same thing. They all shook their heads… slowly.
From where I come from, a slow head shake is a sign of disapproval. This means all the people I care about disapproved what I was about to do. Did that stop me? Obviously not! If I only did what they approved, I would be at home glued to my smartphone listening to bad hip hop and studying for exams I wouldn’t want to take. However, if you care about someone, you also care about what they think, even if you try your best to hide it.
This is the fear I have to face, not only when volunteering, but also whenever I decide to do something different in another place with different people. If someone has ever experienced this, they must know how lonely you may feel after it. It makes you wonder if you can only trust yourself to support your decisions, and if you should count only on yourself for any other thing you decide to do. You start to do stuff on your own without saying to anybody, without accepting any opinion, and then you realize you’ve became a lonely person.
Yes, I do understand the other side. I know my friends and family feel less important when I join this kind of adventures because I will be gone for a while and it seems I prefer to be somewhere else, and not with them. If you are a youngster who wants to explore everything, then you know there are things you just got to do. This doesn’t mean you don’t love who you left behind for a while. It just means you’re curious and you want to live your life to the fullest.
My advice is simple. Do not shake your head to the shaking heads. Do what you need to do when you need to do. Share with the people you love what your plans are, despite their reaction. Ignore the fear of loneliness, because you know that deep-down, whenever you find yourself in trouble, all the shaking heads will turn into outstretched hands to help you.
João Bruno is a volunteer on a short term EVS project the “Deep Roots” in Kazanlak, Bulgaria. Learn more about her in the article: “Meet the Ecofest 2019 Organizational Team”.