Sometimes life can get too comfortable. Things can become stagnant and everything you do can feel mediocre and unimportant. It can take an act of spontaneity to keep life exciting and start new adventures. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, traveling, and spending time outside so when I found the opportunity to volunteer with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society through Greenheart Travel, it was the perfect opportunity. After so much anticipation, the thought that I’ll be traveling across the world alone to Sri Lanka, still hasn’t sunk in.
Preparing, and packing for my trip to Sri Lanka feels surreal. It’s difficult to comprehend an idea so foreign, and a trip that I’ve anticipated for so long to actually be happening. To prepare I researched online about Sri Lankan culture, customs, and the way people live. I looked into what the human elephant conflict is and got a brief summary of what to expect. I don’t want to be too expectant of seeing anything or expecting something to be a certain way. I was able to get advice from my mom’s friend who grew up there. Having met someone who lived half their life halfway around the world has made the idea of traveling to Sri Lanka much less foreign to me.
Going from living in the suburbs of a small town where everything is within biking distance of itself, to the middle of a national park in a small field house in another country is a pretty big shift. I think one of the hardest things that I will need to adjust to is the climate. I’m so used to a temperate climate and moderate temperatures that going somewhere so hot and humid will be a big change. I think it may be difficult to connect and live with a group of people that I’ve never met, but I hope that our shared interests and working together will help break the ice. I’m anticipating a little culture shock due to the apparent difference of my home in Oregon to Sri Lanka, but I think that as long as I live in the moment and keep busy I won’t be affected much.
As a volunteer working on the Wasgamuwa National Park I am nervous about working in a completely new environment. When working on the project I’m a little worried that I won’t be doing something correctly or that I’ll be unsure on how to accomplish something. I’m also a little scared to be flying alone for the first time. However, I hope that by asking lots of questions and keeping busy I won’t be nervous. It’s such a unique opportunity to be able to do this so I don’t want to waste time thinking about anything that could go wrong!
When I’m volunteering I hope that I’ll be able to learn a lot about the human elephant conflict in Sri Lanka and how people react and live with it. I hope that I’ll be able to learn a lot about elephants. And I’m curious to see what type of research we’ll be conducting. I want to be able to work well with the other volunteer and people that live and work at the field house. I hope that I’ll be able to learn more about everyone that I’m with and learn more about theirs lives.
I’m looking forward to looking at how a different culture other than my own lives. I’m curious to see the way that people live, and how they react to how the elephant issue affects them, their homes, and families. I hope to understand the people’s actions as well and to be able to see things from their points of view. I’m excited to see how long term staff and volunteers live and work at the field house and I’m also looking forward to trying all the different cuisine!
It still doesn’t feel quite real that in less than 24 hours I’ll be alone on a flight, traveling halfway across the world. As I pack it truly begins to set in. That this trip that I’ve thought about so much over the past year is actually about to happen. I’m scared but also extremely excited to be starting this new adventure!
Jessica Hovermale, from Corvallis, Oregon, is a Greenheart Travel First Time Traveler Scholarship recipient. Learn more about Greenheart Travel’s scholarship opportunities to help you travel for a change!