Travelling with a Purpose

By Paul Hagen, Dean of Students

Perched on a half-finished roof in the dusty hills outside of Tijuana, I wiped the sweat from my brow and squinted towards the unyielding sun that cast long, late afternoon shadows of the woeful scrub trees and the haphazard shelters made of chicken wire and tar paper. Until then, I had never travelled far from my wooded home on Whidbey Island. I had never been on a plane before, and had never ventured out of the country – except for a day trip to exotic Vancouver. Now, at fifteen, I pulled another roofing nail from my tool belt and drove it home. A neighborhood dog, mangy and gaunt with hunger, looked curiously on, as I struggled in the heat and hard work.

I hadn’t planned to travel to Mexico, but a family friend who had organized the service trip had approached me six days before departure to see if I could serve as a last minute stand-in for someone who had backed out. The ticket was free, so I packed a bag, boarded a plane, and found myself with a team of mostly strangers building a family home on the outskirts of Tijuana, surrounded by the tangible evidence of profound poverty.

The experience, as it turned out, was transformative – as travel often is. It opened my eyes to a world beyond my sheltered upbringing. A surprising world —a world full of paradoxes—that I had never known. Five days after arriving in Mexico, I left. But I have never escaped the impact this trip had on me. It opened my eyes and mind in a way that nothing else had before, and little else has since. It exposed me to a rich and beautiful culture, gave me a new insight into the stark ugliness of poverty, and shaped my belief that, for all our differences, we as humans are not all that different at all.

On Wednesday we announced our EBC Week Offerings at assembly, and I was reminded again just how important purposeful travel is. Students, whether they are traveling locally, nationally, or internationally, will gain new perspectives and learn lessons that will stay with them for a life time.

For a full listing of our 2017 EBC Week Offerings visit our webpage.