Working and traveling with OG was genuinely the most incredible experience of my life; so far. I experienced cultures beyond Bolivian city-life, stretching from rural communities that spoke Quechua in Bolivian communities to meals in the backyards of Peruvian mothers in Colca Canyon. Along the way, I was taught how to be respectful and analyze what I was learning with a group of passionate adventurers. Each organization worked with had a unique mission but a similar goal, to improve life for someone. This journey encompassed service and the mountains-climbed and salt flats-licked in between were the cherries on top. I would advise anyone to take a leap of faith and travel with Operation Groundswell time after time.
From working in schools, gardens, and communities to playing fútbol with local kiddos, climbing an 18,000 ft mountain, and taking in Southern Hemisphere stars while in a natural hot spring, the potential for growth is endless. Group time prepares you for the encounters along the way and ensures confidence in your independent travel time. Lesson learned, book bus tickets at the station, not online. However, four taxi rides to fix the problem was a fun way to improve my Spanish. Returning home after this trip is when the culture-shock hit me in the best and hardest of ways. I am now conscious of any waste I produce, yearn to work with my hands and have cut down on all of my possessions. This trip put into perspective how little you need to truly be happy. In my 40 South American-days, I learned more than could fit in my joyfully full 65L backpack.