I have lived in Cornwall my whole life, which is where I think my love of exploring has come from. Even now, at 22 years old, there are so many places in this little county that I haven’t been, but can’t wait to find. The outdoors is just a part of who I am, somewhere that I love to be.
As you can imagine, a career in accountancy, day-to-day, doesn’t fit into this outdoorsy lifestyle. At 18 I started working at Francis Clark LLP, an accountancy firm in Cornwall. At 20 I finished my first qualification, and then I had two years of no studying and no exams to worry about. Two years of spending my evenings wondering what else the world had to offer, and what I could offer the world. I wanted and needed an adventure.
This is when I discovered Camps International. Advertised more towards schools and gap year students I thought I’d look a little further into the trips that they offer to see if it would be at all possible for me to do and be a part of. At the beginning of 2016 I found a one month trip to Lake Titicaca, Peru for November 2016. It looked perfect. An opportunity to make a difference, to explore, to have a physical and mental challenge and to have an adventure.
Luckily for me, part of my contract at work allows me to request sabbatical leave. It is up to my employer as to whether or not this is granted, but I’m able to propose the idea. It wasn’t quite as simple as a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ this time though. In September 2016 I commenced my training to become a Chartered Accountant, which means studying in the Cotswolds, more revision and more exams. The partners at my office agreed that the trip would enhance my personal development and leadership skills, so they would grant me the five weeks off that I needed, so long as it fit in with my training. It did, just! So, I booked the trip and got my head back into my books, knowing I had something amazing to look forward to.
With only four weeks until I left the UK I should have been in full swing of packing and getting excited, right? Wrong. I packed my bags and headed to the Cotswolds for a week, and my first exam. I had two days back in Cornwall to start putting together a ‘Peru pile’ before I left again for a week working away from home. Thankfully, with two weeks until leaving, I had a week at home to get most things I needed together, but not without work during the day and evenings spent revising. One week to go and instead of catching up with friends before I leave and getting excited I’ve packed my bags again for the Cotswolds. The biggest challenge for the week was to not take up any brain power thinking about Peru, because five days before I left I had to sit a Law exam.
Saturday 29th October, the start of my five weeks off, four days until I leave for the trip of a lifetime, and the day I got my Law results back. The best possible start to my time off, I passed my exam! Finally, I could get excited and nervous, I could pack, and I could try and relax.
After the initial nerves of having to fly out on my own the excitement kicked in. I was actually in South America. This is actually happening, after all of the research, the discussions with my employer, the work, the revision, the exams, I’m here. The trip itself taught me a lot, and it wasn’t just how to fit a window, build a wall or greenhouse, how to have a bucket shower or how to play multiple card games. It taught me about people. How to interact with new people, how rewarding it feels to do something good for someone less fortunate, how to be happy living with just basic necessities, and how to connect with people in the real world after you’ve disconnected with the outside world. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of life. A car, a nice house, money in the bank, they’re all nice things to have but they are all replaceable, what you can’t buy is pure happiness and kindness.
Stepping away from the volunteer work and the amazing things we did, next was the Salkantay Trek. A five-day trek through the mountains to Machu Picchu. Physically and mentally it must be the hardest thing I have ever done, and without the team around me it would have been a whole lot harder. I had spent a month around these people, we have lived, worked, eaten and played together and then we supported and encouraged each other to get up these mountains. The power of our team was just amazing. We have all come from different backgrounds and walks of life, and as individuals we were strong, but as a team we were unbreakable.
I can take a huge amount from this trip back to my real life, the quality time I spent with people and to my job and studies.
I came back to Cornwall feeling full of life, full of purpose and ready to face the next challenge, to get my head into my books and pass this qualification. Friday night we flew back to the UK, I had a full 24 hours at home, and without having time to unpack my Peru backpack, the Cotswolds bag has been packed and I’m off again, but I’m ready.
Whether you can spare 2-weeks or 3-months, the difference you can make, the impact you can have and the lives you can change for the better is truly inspiring.