Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others." Normally, I'd dismiss a quote such as this as nothing more than the teaching of yet another religious philosopher. Little did I know, this simple quote, unrelated to me in any way when I first heard it, would soon come to define the way I view life and the world around me. As my senior year of high school was coming to an end, a diverse group, consisting of eighteen of my fellow students and three teachers, embarked on the journey of a lifetime into a new and unknown world. We were to build houses for two families in Luperon, Dominican Republic. Geographically, it may not seem like a new world, or even an unknown one for that matter, considering the Dominican Republic is well known for its world class, all-inclusive resorts. However, culturally, it might as well have been a newly found planet, and we were its discoverers. .
Being the discoverer of a new planet, I naturally ventured out and explored my immediate surroundings, encountering things I could only imagine. I was in an unfamiliar land, with people far different from what I had grown accustomed to, and yet, instead of fearing the unknown and seeking refugee within the safety of the airport, I knew that my experiences over the course of the next ten days would dramatically shape me as a person and influence the rest of my life. Our journey started with a three-hour trip down some of the narrowest roads conceivable, in two old, rusty, 1980s conversion vans, with broken air conditioners, and packed with ten kids per vehicle crammed into the six available seats. To say the least, I was in a complete state of euphoria when we finally arrived in Luperon. I was euphoric to be at our final destination, but then again, just as euphoric to be able to stand up, stretch my legs, and ring out the sweat that had accumulated in my clothes during the overcrowded van ride.