Spencer’s Top Ten
ME to WE speaker and seasoned traveller Spencer West takes over the blog this week to look back on some of his most memorable moments on ME to WE Trips.
Hey friends! I am so excited to take over the blog and tell you all about my top ten ME to WE Trip memories. It took a while to choose just 10! Over the years I’ve met so many inspiring people, seen dozens of unique landscapes and worked on a diverse range of development projects. One of my favourite parts of travelling is meeting dedicated youth, like you, who take the time to fly across the globe and get their hands dirty. If you want to learn more and meet some staff and trip alumni, be sure to come out to your city’s stop on the ME to WE Trips Tour! So here’s my top ten:
1. The numbers
When I went on my first ME to WE Trip in 2008, I never imagined what it would lead to! I think the only word to describe the numbers surrounding my trips is EPIC: More than 15 trips to visit four continents, five countries, 10 communities and hundreds of new friends!
2. My favourite landscape
No matter where I am in the world or what kind of a day I’m having, I can close my eyes and picture this one clearing in Kenya. It’s right near our Bogani camp and overlooks the Maasai Mara, with rolling hills and farmland stretching out as far as you can see. As you look across the landscape, you’ll notice the light green roofs of Free The Children schools dotted across the landscape, and hear the tinkling of bells from herds of goats and cattle. And in the middle of this clearing is a giant acacia tree that must be more than 100 years old. It’s the perfect spot to take in the sunset, with the sky’s stunning reds, yellows, oranges and pinks filtering through the branches.
3. One of the most inspirational people I’ve met
When I was visiting the new Empowerment Centre in Kenya, I noticed one man among the crowd of mamas. His name was Daniel. Just like me, he has no legs and walks on his hands. I was moved by his story. When the empowerment centre first opened, mamas from the surrounding communities were invited to come and learn how to bead. Daniel came too, and he turned out to be the best beader there! He showed me that even on the other side of the world, people are breaking down barriers and stereotypes, redefining what is possible for themselves and others.
4. The weirdest food I’ve tried
Goat! It’s a delicacy in many parts of the world, only eaten on special occasions or for community celebrations.
5. The coolest cultural activity
It’s a tie between two: doing weapons training with Maasai warriors and beading with mamas. Both things are so much harder than they look! It’s always an honour when people let us into their lives to learn more about their culture.
6. A difficult moment
One of the most emotional moments for me was the first time I left Kenya in 2008, wondering if I would ever come back or see the community members again that I’d gotten to know throughout my trip. Though it had only been a few weeks, it felt like I had known my new friends for much longer. But I’ve been lucky to return to Kenya many, many times since then. Now when I leave, I know it’s never goodbye, just see you later.
7. A really cool action plan I heard about
One young woman who was a participant on one of my trips started this amazing fair trade website to provide consumers with information on where they could find fair trade products in their area. It’s such a unique idea and a cool way to help people live me to we every day!
8. One person I’ll always remember
The first time I went to Kenya, I met a young girl who, when talking about the loss of my legs, said “I didn’t know that things like this happened to white people, too.” That phrase changed my life. We both realised that we all face challenges, no matter where we live in the world.
9. An unforgettable moment
On my first trip to Kenya, a Maasai warrior, Wilson, chose a Maasai name for me: Olopiro. It’s the Swahli word for the wind that lifts up a bird, and it reminds me of a Barbra Streisand song I’m always singing, A Piece of Sky. “If you can fly, then you can soar.”
10. Where to next?
India! I’m headed there this summer and can’t wait to join more trip participants on the experience of a lifetime and take in all India has to offer, from samosa-making to morning yoga to exploring temples and palaces. I’m so excited to reunite with friends I’ve made in communities across Rajasthan, and see the progress on the volunteer projects I’ve worked on in Rajasthan over the years.
What will make your top ten list? Find out on a ME to WE Trip. Join us on the ME to WE Trips Tour to learn more.