EVS – how stepping outside of my cozy apartment led me on a road to self-discovery, sacrifice and knowledge
It all started with my beautiful wife telling me about a presentation regarding international volunteering which was going to take place in a couple of weeks, which I agreed joining without even processing was she was speaking about; I woke up a week later in a room full of big-eyed enthusiastic people listening to a presentation about going abroad and do something for other people.
The concept of volunteering was not strange to me, having been part in the past in quite a few organizations, in one of which I met my future to be wife, but this, well, this was something new. It sounded like someone was willing to pay me in order to volunteer, and at the same time I could feel the burden of responsibility and the weight of the commitment involved in signing a one year contract with people I knew basically nothing about.
Well, like with everything else in our lives, we decided quickly, applied for our chosen organizations, and after a series of interviews got accepted, bought the flight tickets, prepared our bags, sub-rented our room, quit my job, while she took one year vacation from hers, said goodbye to our friends, and in three weeks after the aforementioned presentation we were both in Lithuania at the beginning of what was going to be the best year of our lives.
I do not have the necessary space in this story to describe the whole experience, and probably I would need a book or more to give it justice, so I will try to resume it in a couple of sentences.
I met a tone of people, hosted through couchsurfing more than 300 people in the course of one year, made close friendships that I will cherish for a lifetime, I can actually call five people I met in this year ”brothers” and “sisters” both from the community of volunteers and Lithuanians I met there.
From an emotional standpoint, I probably went through all the feelings and emotions a person can possibly go through, from intense pain and near-death experiences to joy, happiness and pure ecstasy from living every day with an open mind and “helping those around you” attitude, ending up gaining what I like to call an “emotional vocabulary” which I was lacking.
Most of all, I thank the amazing people around me for all the lessons they taught me over the months, from how to listen to others and stop acting like an arrogant bastard, reflection and learning process, taking and giving feedback correctly, climbing and drawing, to speaking my mind and taking things for what they are.
As experiences, well, I almost died crossing a lake in the middle on the night in a canoe, saved a life during a mentor meeting, joined a hippie festival for a weekend, hiked, played with hundreds of kids, trained volunteers, jumped in puddles of water in the middle of the street, hugged people in the city center for the sake of hugging(meeting a guy randomly on the street coming back home who ended up joining my organization as a volunteer and became my friend), organized two huge public events, got a 2.75 euro ticket from the police, saw a fox three meters away from me, almost broke my elbow and ankle on two separate sports events, went to a wedding(of two of the greatest people I met there, one of them being my mentor) cried and hugged dear friends saying goodbye and many, many more that skip my mind right now.
So, my advice, if someone if actually reading this to decide either to go EVS or not is this: No matter where or with whom you end up, it will turn out to be the best thing you have ever done!
(if you do it with all your heart and an open mind)