This post is the final installment (although I will continue to write about this topic in many forms – your feedback is welcome in the survey at the bottom of this post!) in my diary posts on volunteering in a refugee camp in Northern France with the Roland Levinsky Memorial scholarship. You can read the first three posts here: 1, 2, 3.
This is the second installment in my short series about volunteering in a refugee camp in France. You can read my first post here.
As some of you may remember from my impassioned word-vomit post a few months ago on why (and how) travelers should support refugees, in March I received a scholarship to help me volunteer at a refugee camp.
Well, the time has come for me to actually volunteer! The scholarship donors informed me that they like to keep up to date on the experience via social media and blogs, so I figured, well, obviously Endless Distances is the perfect outlet for that.
I am of the opinion that as people who like to travel, as people who enjoy culture (of any kind), we have a duty to protect refugees. We are the people who have seen the world. Who have seen the art in Russia and tasted the street food in China and drank in the pubs in Scotland. We know that the world is full of people who are DIFFERENT than us, and more importantly, we value this: we take their art home, we wander their museums, we recreate their recipes, we fill scrapbooks with bits of their culture. Is it not our duty to protect these people of different cultures when they need us?
Since I originally started drafting this post, there have been two iterations of the US proposed Muslim Ban, both denied by federal judges, and my fervor has only gotten more intense. This post is a long time coming, but I’m very excited to share with you my views (and some advice) on why travelers should support refugees.
Why do we choose to travel the way we do? I think this is an important question because in an industry such as travel, our small decisions often have economic implications for communities around the globe. However, in the last few months since I began my “nomadic” lifestyle, I have experienced a huge diversity in travel experiences. The most acute example of this is perhaps comparing my time working in the refugee camps to the luxurious seaside English hotel I found myself in a week later. My lack of a consolidated “travel style” makes it difficult to answer my initial question: why do I travel the way I do?
At the start of September, I had a slight shock to the system. I returned to the UK after a month galavanting through the European heatwave and, in my absence, Autumn had arrived. An even greater shock came when I boarded a train to France, where I worked in a refugee camp for most of the month. My summer of short shorts, beating sun and lazy hikes started to seem ridiculously luxurious as I spent each day covered in mud and rain, sleeping in a broken campervan with no hot water, helping homeless refugees in the forests of France. In all honesty, I’m still having a hard time reconciling that experience with my general daily life. Returning to the UK for my graduation and a family reunion, I felt overwhelmed by the superficiality, excess, and associated guilt of my blessed life…. this contrast is quite evident in my blog posts from this month, alternating throwback posts on my Eurotrip with in-the-moment diary posts of working in the refugee camp.
AUGUST. What a month. I think my lack of travel over the past few months of 2017 (#libraryslave) has been made up for by August. I’ve managed to see so many places that I’ve been wanderlusting over for years, as well as places that weren’t even on my radar. It’s been the big Eurotrip that I have longed for but been unable to find time/money for since I have been living in the U.K.