This week I happened on a PBS travel show in which a charming young woman was exploring exotic sites in Central America, one of which was the island of Roatan in Honduras. She hiked, scuba dived, and dined in elegant style on the their gorgeous beaches. She had a blast and learned interesting things about their culture and history.
Coincidentally, some friends had just spoken in church about their own trip to Roatan, spending six months there with their two teenagers, Ethan and Ellie. Family goals certainly included fun, but with their main focus was on serving others and learning to “do hard things” by lowering their standard of living. With no car, they walked, hitchhiked, or took buses and taxis. They only had electricity and hot water some of the time, no washer and dryer, unwelcome bugs, and a rustic home that needed frequent repairs.
The kids did home school for three months, often doing homework in a hammock, then attended a local school the last three months. It was a tough adjustment walking a mile and a half to church and over two miles to their current service project, but they hung in there. They learned to sing to pass the time and get to know people along the way. By trip’s end, the grumbles turned to good memories and gratitude for a rich experience.
What’s the difference? Our first traveler focused on fun and experienced Roatan strictly as a tourist. My friends lived the life of the locals, eating in “hole-in-the-wall” cafes no tourists ever saw or cooking their own food bought at the native market. They volunteered at the local orphanage, in a mobile dental clinic, at the local library, photographed headstones for billiongraves.com, and more. Here are some of their personal photos. I wholeheartedly recommend their blog: What I Learned in Roatan
I can’t help but wonder how this trip will affect Ethan and Ellie’s future, compared to kids raised with not only a silver spoon in their mouths but also in their souls, living for themselves and not so much for what they can give back to humanity.
I think of the following scripture in Matthew 16:24-27:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Jesus was the ultimate example of serving others, not Himself. I think Ethan and Ellie learned precious lessons in Roatan, not just how to do good but also how to live a happier, more fulfilled life, connected to the grand, eternal cycle of life.
Two Roatans. Two perspectives in life. One on self, one on others. It’s a choice we all face. And just like the two roads that diverge in a wood, that choice makes all the difference.