Now that I’m back home in Oregon after two weeks of volunteering with elephants in Sri Lanka, what I’ve just done hardly feels real. It was such a difficult, fun, life changing, and eye opening adventure, and now that I’m home it’s hard to comprehend that everything that I’ve just done is over. It’s strange to think that the trip I worked towards for so long was over in just two short weeks, but all the things I learned from it makes those two weeks very special to me.
Volunteering with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society gave me the incredible opportunity to see and work around wild elephants. I was able to see the way a different part of the world lives. I was exposed to a different way of life and a very real problem that many people face. I didn’t realize the reality for many people living in Sri Lanka is living in fear that their homes or crops could easily be destroyed by elephants. It was such a meaningful experience to be able to meet and spend time with the farmers and local people, while also doing work and research with the program.
Living in the Fieldhouse gave me the opportunity to meet a whole variety of people. I learned a lot about the staff who live and work at and around the Fieldhouse. It was interesting to see how the lifestyle there was so different than my own at home. It was amazing to experience all the local people’s hospitality and kindness. All the people in Sri Lanka were incredibly friendly and welcoming and really made you feel at home. Getting to meet all the different volunteers at the Fieldhouse was a really cool experience. I hadn’t expected the diverse range of countries that everyone was from to be so broad. There were people from all over the world! It was fun to meet people from different countries and hear about their lives.
I not only learned about the people and the country while I was in Sri Lanka, but I also learned a lot about myself. It was a very different experience from anything that I’ve ever done before. I realized from traveling so far from home alone, that I am capable of doing more things on my own than I first thought and I am able to problem solve on my own. I learned that I really enjoy hands on experiences and I loved always being outside. I also learned that I love a simple living style. I realized that even though it’s scary to put yourself out there and be outgoing, it’s worth it and more fun. This trip has changed me in a lot of ways, it helped me become more independent and responsible for myself. I’ve realized that the world around me is more vast than I could ever imagine and I want to experience as much of it as I can. I definitely pushed myself out of my comfort zone on this trip and I’m glad I did because I grew a lot from it.
Being back home in the US after two weeks of outdoor volunteer work in Sri Lanka is a big switch. It’s hard to go from doing field research on elephants to sitting in front of a desk trying to write a history essay. This trip made me realize that I have complete control over what I want to do in the future and I hope to continue having more experiences like this. Volunteering with the program gave me a more clear idea of what I may want to do in the future. Adjusting to being home is strange, but I hope to take everything that I’ve learned from this trip and apply it in my daily life.
Traveling to Sri Lanka to volunteer with wild elephants has been an unforgettable experience and I’m so glad that I was brave enough to take this trip. Traveling abroad is such a life changing experience and volunteering can give such an insight into a different lifestyle and culture. It’s an experience that I would recommend to anyone!
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!