Why Going On A Mission Trip Is Nothing To Be Proud Of

Why Going On A Mission Trip Is Nothing To Be Proud Of

Instead of taking a journey across the world, why not just take a trip out your back door?

I'm sure at some point in your life you've either been on a mission trip yourself or you've known of somebody who has traveled across the world to "make a difference." Personally, I think short-term international missions trips are a complete waste. I grew up going to church and hearing about mission trips. I even went on one to Philadelphia when I was in middle school and that's when my whole perspective on them started to change. Below you will find a list of reasons why I will never go on a missions trip, and you shouldn't either.

Something about asking people for copious amounts of money to go on a under glorified vacation just makes me cringe. Annually, around $2 billion dollars are spent on short-term mission trips. I couldn't even begin to count how many letters my parents got when I was growing up asking them to donate money for a mission trip. Every time I would see one come through the mail, I would feel personally offended. Could you imagine what this money could do for charities in the United States instead of using it as an excuse to travel the world?

There are so many people in the United States that are in desperate need of help. Instead of taking a journey across the world, why not just take a trip out your back door? No matter where you live, I can promise you there are more than enough underprivileged, struggling people to help. Whether they're homeless, veterans, or people impacted by a natural disaster- the list could go on and on- there is always someone who seriously needs your help. These people are our neighbors, so why don't we feel compelled to help them?

In my opinion, a majority of people who go on short-term mission trips do it to make them feel better about themselves. They like feeling like they've made a difference in some underprivileged person's life and feeling somehow connected to them because they spent two weeks living in a place that is much less luxurious than they are used to. I guarantee you that you won't see someone go on a mission trip and not post millions of posts and pictures on social media making sure everyone sees how great of a person they are. They want the attention and the satisfaction that goes along with the trip.

Going out to a different culture and shoving your religion down their throat is just plain disrespectful. If you really want to make a difference in people's lives, go live in their culture for a couple of years. Become a permanent part of their lives and show them that you accept them for who they are, regardless of what they believe in. The way you look at their religion is exactly how they look at ours. If somebody came to you from another country and started telling you about their religion and telling you that yours was wrong, how long would you listen to it? I bet not more than five minutes maximum. So what makes you think they should have to listen to you? Show some respect and instead of traveling the world to preach at people, sit down and learn about what they believe.

Going to these poverty-stricken, underprivileged cultures and telling them that everything will be okay, or will get better is only spreading false hope. When you leave and go back to your privileged american life, these people are still stuck where they are remembering all the empty promises you left them with. You give them a blanket of hope while you're there but then rip it away from them. Telling them that Jesus loves them will only go so far. Remember, you get to leave. They don't.

Finally, most importantly, and the biggest reason that I will never go on a mission trip is that they are incredibly selfish. In order to feel better about yourself, you travel to a foreign, more than likely dangerous country and leave behind family and friends that love you. When you leave to go help complete strangers, you could possibly leaving your loved ones forever. For what? The opportunity to travel the world and give yourself a false sense of changing the world? That's not okay in my book.

Next time you feel like you want to make a difference or change the world, why don't you start in your own neighborhood? You don't need to spend thousands of other people's dollars traveling to dangerous places to help people. You can do it here, in the United States. And it doesn't have to be for two weeks - you can do it everyday.

Cover Image Credit: Latter Rains

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11 Reasons I Won't Forget My Trip To Iceland Any Time Soon

For your next vacation, ditch the tropical island and consider the land of ice and fire.

Although it's typically not at the top of most peoples' lists of dream destinations, Iceland is quickly becoming a popular vacation spot. I recently returned from Iceland, where I stayed in the capital Reykjavik (yes, I went to Iceland in the winter.)

It was easily the best and most memorable country I have ever been to for so many reasons ranging from the people to the magnificent natural wonders it is home to.

I've compiled a list of the most wonderful parts of my trip (but believe me, there are a lot more) and have included some of my own personal photos. Hopefully, I can convince more people to bump a visit to this beautiful country up on their bucket lists.

1. The Kevflavik International Airport

This airport is absolutely stunning, complete with a stain-glass Viking mural and a freaking juice bar. Being a native New Yorker who is accustomed to the dreary, chaotic mess that is JFK or LaGuardia Airport, I was in awe of how clean and bright the terminals were and how easy it was to find healthy airplane snacks. It even had a full-size bookstore with books written in English as well as Icelandic. This airport's many amenities were quite a warm welcome to Iceland (even though we arrived at 6 a.m.).

2. The Hotel Reykjavik Centrum

Hotel Centrum Reykjavik

We stayed at the wonderfully colorful and cozy Hotel Reyjavik Centrum, located in the bustling downtown Reykjavik. The staff was so kind and accommodating, and they also gave my boyfriend and I some insight into the infamously unpredictable Icelandic weather patterns. The only negative aspect of our stay was that our room did not have a queen size bed, but rather two twin beds pushed together... yeah, we were confused as well.

3. The surprising amount of vegan food

It is actually surprisingly easy to eat vegan in Iceland. The list of vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants is growing by the year with more and more traditional eateries adding meat-free options to their menus to appease the tourist crowd. Once a land ruled by meat soup and fish entrees, Iceland is gaining serious street cred in the vegan community. Personally, I visited two completely vegan restaurants, one called Glo and another called Kaffe Vinyl. Others, such as The Laundromat Cafe and Bergsson Mathus (where the delicious breakfast pictured above is from), were very veg-friendly.

4. The colorful houses

Reykjavik is known for its quirky colored houses that line most of its downtown side streets. We passed many bright red, yellow, blue, green, teal and even purple houses while on our walking ventures.

5. The mountains

It seemed that no matter where we walked in Reykjavik, we could always see the mountains looming in the distance. Most easily seen at the waterfront or at the top of the city's tallest church (which is where I was able to photograph the view pictured above), these mountains astounded me again and again over the course of my week in Iceland.

6. The street art

Street art is a large part of Reykjavik culture, and there is an abundance of it throughout the city. Many storefronts and other buildings are adorned with intricate and often colorful murals crafted with obvious skill. I took the above photo on my first day in the city when I was quite taken aback by the size and detail of this particular mural.

7. The Blue Lagoon

We spent an afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland's geothermal spa. Visiting this spa is quite an experience and includes getting naked with total strangers since every visitor is required to shower (without a bathing suit) before entering the lagoon. Once this discomfort was over, however, I was met with a steaming blue hot tub made by Mother Nature herself. I also treated myself to a goopy silica face mask and fuzzy robe. It even started snowing while I was in the lagoon, so it was an overall beautiful but surreal experience.

8. The geysers and waterfalls

Iceland is home to many natural other wonders, notably its many breathtaking waterfalls. During our trip, we were lucky enough to visit this beautiful twin waterfall in South Iceland (courtesy of our brave bus driver, who had to do quite a bit off-road driving through very deep snow). This waterfall, called Hjalparfoss, is one of two major waterfalls we visited during our stay. We also got a chance to see Strokurr, a geyser that erupts every 4 to 8 minutes and spouts water up to forty meters into the air.

9. The night sky

Although I was not lucky enough to see the Northern Lights quite like they are pictured above, I was able to see their greenish tint sprinkled ever so slightly among a blanket of stars. Unfortunately, it was much too windy to view the lights during my scheduled Northern Lights tour. However, I did not come away from this night empty-handed. Iceland's night sky is easily the most beautiful, star-filled sky I have ever seen, and I was not aware it was possible to see so many bright stars with the naked eye. For this, I can graciously thank Iceland's minimal light pollution, which contributes to its high number of Dark Sky sites.

10. The Icelandic language

Admittedly, before visiting Iceland I had never been in a country where English was not the dominant language. It was strange at first to see road signs, store names, and menus in a completely unfamiliar language (although I did learn a few basic sayings before my trip), but by the end of the week, I found myself completely enamored with Icelandic. It is a beautiful and clever language in sight and in sound, and I hope to learn some more basic sayings before my next trip and to perhaps even master the difficult pronunciation of Icelandic vowels.

11. Icelanders

Lastly, and probably most notably, the Icelandic people are truly what makes Iceland so great (and I'm not the only one who thinks so). Everyone I came across, from cafe baristas to cab drivers, truly wanted to ensure my time there as a tourist was memorable. I received many recommendations, heard many anecdotes, learned about many aspects of Icelandic history and was even given some free drinks at a local pub due to the friendly, kindhearted people of Iceland. Icelanders are the main reason I can see myself going back to this wonderful country, hopefully in the not-so-distant future.

Cover Image Credit: Catherine Natoli

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Traveling Is My Happiness, And I'm Happy With That

To each their own source of happiness. Mine is traveling.

Some people find happiness in cooking, painting, reading, singing, writing, and an array of other verbs ending in -ing. I find my happiness in traveling. I enjoy 12 hour car rides and stopping at a truck stop off the interstate to grab a snack. I find joy in hurrying to my gate in an airport where hundreds of other people are on their ways to who-knows-where. I love being immersed in a culture so different than the one I grew up in.

Photo Location: Chicago, IL, USA

I have been incredibly fortunate to have grown up with the ability to travel. The memories I have made while traveling are of my most precious. Traveling has opened my eyes—to see the small aspects of life and to realize their value. The way the streetlights reflect off of the wet streets of Chicago on a cold and rainy Saturday morning. Being up at 3:30 in the morning to watching the sun rise on Mt Haleakalā in Maui, HI. The rainbows created in the air of mist-filled chasm known as Niagara Falls. This stays with me while on my journey at Purdue University—mesmerized at the way the morning sun paints on the east face of the Bell Tower.

Photo Location: Venice, FL, USA

Traveling has led me to be more knowledgeable. I have become more knowing in engaging with others. My travels have introduced me to a wide spectrum of different people and taught me how to engage with each. I have met a couple from San Francisco who have traveled the world and been together for decades. The two grew a remarkable family together. When I was younger, my family traveled to Myrtle Beach, SC each summer. One year, I met a girl my age who was on vacation with her grandmother and older sister. I vividly remember the grandmother telling the story: her daughter, and mother of the girls, asked the older sister to simply run to the story for toilet paper. The mother decided to take a shower while the girl was out and had a seizure while in the shower. The grandmother took the two girls on vacation, because the mother no longer could. This story continues to resonate in my heart. I have come to understand to never approach someone with an expectation of their back story, because I have no idea.

Photo Location: North Shore, Oahu, HI, USA

Traveling is my source of happiness. Traveling brings me this joy by pushing my boundaries, bringing me insight, and through the amount of experience I am gaining. All this travel gives me incredible stories to share with others. When asked for an interesting fact about me, I love to use the fact I have eaten a donut at the top of Pike's Peak in Colorado, the fact I have kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, or the fact I went rock jumping in North Shore, Oahu, HI (pictured above). The happiness I gain from traveling is not short term. The pictures I take on these amazing adventures continue to revive my happiness each time I see them. The memories I have of travel never fail to make me smile.

“Travel makes one modest.
You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
-Gustav Flauber

Photo Location: Gatlinburg, TN, USA

Cover Image Credit: Alley Avery

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