48 Hours Until the Biggest Adventure to Date
In 48 hours, I'll be on a plane starting the long trek towards Lesvos, Greece. I've booked three different round-trip(ish) tickets to get there. On Wednesday, I fly from Portland to Minneapolis to Boston as part of RT Ticket 1. I have a little over 24 hours in Boston, a city I've never been to, and I plan on exploring a little bit (weather pending) before my flight Thursday evening. Thursday evening is the start of RT Ticket 2, Boston to Istanbul to Thessaloniki. I get to Thessaloniki on Friday evening and then I take off Saturday afternoon with RT Ticket 3 to Mytiline. Why so many flights? Why take so long to get there? Simply put: because I'm on a budget and this made the most sense. My first RT Ticket was booked on a voucher, the second RT Ticket was a deal out of Boston to Europe and the third RT Ticket is a domestic flight within Greece (much cheaper than trying to book it all on one ticket). As for the timing, it's the best I could do given schedules and the possible threat of bad weather forcing delays or cancellations.
I haven't packed yet. Not shocking. What do you pack for a month of volunteering? I've asked people I know who are there and have scoured through the Facebook group for volunteers and the key to my packing success will be warm clothes. Rainy, windy and cold is what the forecast calls for. My only thought as I go through my closet in search for warm weather clothing is if I'm going to be cold, what are the refugees going to be? Besides warm clothing, I have old clothes that my mom sent to Portland with me to take forward to Greece. My roommate has shoes for me to take--there's a shortage of shoes out there. And there's little things like a journal and my computer and gadgets and gizmos that I'll take with me to record and share the experience. Especially on the days where I don't want to, I know I'll have to force myself to because otherwise it might all fade into a distant memory. My to do list keeps growing.
I have been (almost obsessively) reading blog posts from volunteers who went to Lesvos to better prepare myself for what I'm about to walk in to, and to also be more informed and better about responding to questions that I've been getting. Anything I can do to help with the learning curve means I can jump in and help sooner. From what I've seen, a willingness to help, a willingness to be flexible (and observe how things are done before jumping in), and a kind smile are going to be key. Additionally, self-care. That means staying healthy, both physically and mentally. I'm waiting for the roads to clear up a bit here in Portland before I go on a Costco run and load up on vitamins and medications to keep me healthy. Mentally, I was really happy to see that there are several therapists who have offered free Skype sessions with volunteers to help. There's so much that is seen and experienced, it could become a lot to process and carry on your own, or even if you have someone to share your experience with.
I might be going into this alone, but I know I'm never quite alone. Why? Because you guys have made it known, loud and clear, that you're there and you want to be there with me every step of the way. I have been overwhelmed, in a good way, by all of the support and love you have sent me. From your messages of encouragement to the stories you've shared about your own philanthropic efforts to the offers of help to the generous contributions you've made to my fundraiser, every little bit counts and truly fills me with joy. In a week, you have collectively raised over $6000. That's incredible! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If you've seen the photos or read the stories and wanted to help those in need but it hasn't been feasible, this is your opportunity. My opportunity is your opportunity. I am paying for my expenses for this trip (flight, accommodations, food, etc.) so anything you're able to donate will go towards the refugees in the form of services, food and basic items like warm clothing, socks, shoes, etc. (You can donate through the link which will direct you to PayPal. Unless you use your PayPal balance or bank account, there will be a transaction fee. Alternatively, you can VenMo, Chase QuickPay or BofA transfer me your donation to ensure the entire amount is going towards the cause.) And if you're not in a position to donate--trust me, I get it. Funemployed, remember?--your kind words and support are equally as valuable. (In true Sejal fashion, I'm trying to compile every message into a file that I'm positive I'll look back to help me through tougher moments.) Whether you decide to make a contribution or forward my blog to your community or send me good vibes, I'm truly grateful.
As prepared as I think I am, I'm still going into this a little blind. As ready as I think I am, I don't think you can ever quite be ready for something like this. Two days. In two days I'll start my last adventure of funemployment and I can say, with full confidence, that I'm more excited about this than any other trip I've taken.