Build. Hack. Play. It's just what we do.
Build. Hack. Play. It's just what we do.

Over the past few years I’ve had this idea running around in my head now and then: why not go abroad? The question turned out to have more than one answer: I didn’t want to leave my friends behind, I didn’t want to have to live without them for an extended time, I didn’t want to feel like I missed a vast part of their lives, I was studying, I didn’t study very well so it took longer than planned, etc.

But a few weeks ago my girlfriend, who’s been studying abroad since September, posted this article on her Facebook wall. (On a side note: the fact that I have a girlfriend now is another yeah-but. The fact that she’s been away for the greater part of a year yet another one. “Yeah, but not just now. Maybe in two years?”) She didn’t know about my dreams then, but its main message stuck: Be careful of the yeah-but. The yeah-but will kill your dreams. That got me thinking: I’m 25 now. If I’m going to do this, I have to do it soon before life catches up with me. I have a job that I plan to leave, and I plan to move out of my parents’ house. I’ll finally finish my studies this year (yes, I work and study at the same time. Not because I want to). So maybe this is even the perfect time to travel, as some kind of demarcation: after this, adulthood starts (which sounds more depressing than I wanted it to).

When dreaming about going abroad, it was always Africa, doing some kind of volunteer work. I don’t want to just see the world, I want to be a part of something. I want to live a life that is radically different from the one I’m living right now. I want to help. I don’t know if this is considered a ‘bad’ motivation to be a volunteer in a third world country. It sure sounds selfish. But is it a bad thing to make my selfish dreams come true if I can make myself useful to people who need it by doing so? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

At the moment I’m thinking about this a lot, thanks to the article my girlfriend posted (I don’t think that was quite the result she was looking for...). I’ve found a not-for-profit organization that specializes in these ‘study/work abroad’ programs which is ideal because if I would have to organize everything myself, I would give up before I’d start. They have a few projects in Africa, of which the ones in Ghana seem the most interesting (e.g. working and teaching in a home for orphans). On the other hand there’s a project in South America involving researching and protecting the rainforest and developing educational programs about it. That sounds ridiculously interesting but involves less of a culture shock.

If I decide to go through with it, I’ll leave Belgium in January and return in May or June next year. I have until September to decide. While I’ll probably have a blog about what’s happening to me for friends and family, I’d also like to share some of the experience with you. How will it affect me and my view on Life, the Universe and Everything? Will I learn some valuable lessons? Will it have changed my life after I’ve gone there and back again? Will I miss my high-tech gadgets? Will I hack my life profoundly? I’m looking forward to answering these questions for myself and for you, provided I’ll have regular internet access, which may not be possible.

Have you ever done something similar or are considering the same thing? Or maybe you were a host for someone who lived with you for an extended period? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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