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Learning to be Fully Present Without Technology

Written by Caroline Coates, Tanzania Alum

Hi! My name is Caroline and I was a part of the February 2019 Global Routes trip to Tanzania

As I’m starting to write this, I’m having trouble trying to put into words how unbelievable and life changing this experience has been for me.  Before this trip I had gone on two service trips to repair homes in West Virginia, however, this was my first service trip abroad and by far my most impactful experience.  This trip has instilled in me a new love and appreciation for life and all things, and for that, I am forever grateful.

One of my favorite aspects by far about this trip was the opportunity to be disconnected from my life at home.  By having our phones locked, we were given the ability to be fully involved and present with one another and with the community.  In a world constantly filled with ringing phones, social media, and technology it’s hard to be fully present in a moment.

This was the longest stretch I have gone without a phone in my hand and to be completely honest my time without it was the most refreshing and free I have ever felt.  It was amazing to have a conversation with people and sit around a table without having someone typing on their phone and without phones ringing and taking people out of a moment to engage in their virtual lives.

Our group was able to have deep conversations, play games and work hard on the worksite which is hard to do when you are looking at a screen.  Having the ability to be fully present turned our group from acquaintances into a family. We gave each other our absolute and undivided attention without any distractions, and we were able to form bonds that I know will last a lifetime. 

When I came home, I made it a point to be more present.  To put my phone down and have a face to face conversation with a person as opposed to sending them a text.

My Tanzania experience has taught me the importance and beauty in a moment that you know you may never have again, and I do not want my phone to take any of those moments away. 

My trip with Global Routes allowed me to be myself and explore who I really was, how I connected with others and how beauty is right in front of you if you chose to look up from your phone.

Our group and some of the school children on our last day on the worksite.  We successfully build all 4 walls of a new classroom in only 5 days. We worked super hard, but we defiantly took breaks to play with the kids! 

This is a photo of myself, my homestay partner and best friend Gabby, and our mama.  When we were at the homestay, we would help her cook, do laundry, and watch the kids.  We did lots of charades trying to communicate but mama helped us learn some new Swahili words and we taught her a bit of English. 

Here is a photo of our group on our first day of the safari at the Ngorongoro crater.  By this point in the trip we had all become a family and I am proud to call each and every one of these girls who went on the trip with me my “dadas” (“sisters” in Swahili).

This is a picture of myself, my homestay partner and only a few of our host siblings.  After a long day of work, they would come running from the house to greet us with big hugs and warm smiles.  We spent a lot of time playing soccer and we taught them how to jump rope!


Want to experience Tanzania for yourself? Our applications for Tanzania Summer 2020 are  open! Learn More by visiting our Tanzania Program Page or go ahead and submit your Early Enrollment, and we’ll be in touch!

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