Robin Wiszowaty, motivational speaker and partner of Me to We, uses her unique life to encourage young people to explore all opportunities as they may open up a world of choices. In this excerpt from her book, "My Maasai Life — From Suburbia to Savannah," Wiszowaty offers insight into how a decision to visit Israel at age 20 sparked a desire to explore other cultures. That two-week trip encouraged her participation in a school program to Kenya and the beginning of her journey to self-discovery. After immersing herself in their culture, Wiszowaty decided to make this lifestyle — far out of her comfort zone — her own.
I promised my parents I would search my soul about exactly why I’d signed up for the Israel trip. So one gloomy evening, I showed up early to one of our nightly games of Ultimate Frisbee with my residence hall. With no one around, I sat under an awning against the cold stone of our dorm building, curled up with pen and paper in hand.
I had journalised since high school, but now something stirred inside me, yearning to be articulated. I felt on the verge of understanding what it was, but it was so big, just a jumbled mush, tied up inside me. Slowly I felt the knots loosening
I started thinking, Why? Why did I want to go? What would this trip mean within the larger picture of my life?
Just as I felt words approaching, my pen hovering above the page, the dorm hall’s doors flung open and my Frisbee friends burst onto the field.
“Robin!” they called, “Let’s go!”
One of them threw the disk long and the others chased it upfield. I instinctively moved to follow, then paused. Instead, I told them I’d catch up later.
As a soft rain began to fall, my pen raced across the page. I’d wanted to express these feelings for years, to scream them out, but never knew the words to use.
I feel tied to this life. Bound by decisions I never made, decided by people I have never met. Greeted with an outcome, beginning with an end, I am struggling to free myself of an upbringing I did not choose ...
I don’t remember if I went back to practice that day, but I do remember filling most of that page, then returning to my room in Allen Hall to type it out into my laptop. By putting my feelings into words, I knew I was closer to some sort of conclusion. I needed to go as far as possible, to do as much as I could. And, for better or for worse, the first step would be this trip to Israel.
Eventually, my parents gave me their blessings for the trip. Not that I was waiting for their approval, but I was glad to receive it nonetheless.
It was a fascinating two weeks. We visited the Western Wall on New Year’s Eve at midnight and scaled Mount Masada at sunrise. We explored the old and new cities, repelled cliffs in the Negev Desert and swam in the Dead Sea. I was humbled by a visit to the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem and later had the chance to meet both Israeli and Palestinian peers for long discussions of the region’s longstanding cultural conflicts.
I was deeply moved by how attached these people felt to their spiritual lives. And while it didn’t encourage me to pack up and move to Israel to become a devout Jew, it did remind me how fiercely I longed to break out of this Western mindset and find something else. But what that something was precisely, I still didn’t know for sure.
When my parents picked me up at the airport upon my return, I could tell what they were thinking: Phew! That’s out of her system! Now we’re done with that.
Unfortunately for them, relief didn’t last long. A few days later, I sat them at the kitchen table and told them exactly what they were most dreading: Israel was just Step One. I didn’t want to just visit Israel, or any other western country, for only ten days. I needed to find a place far away and for an extended length of time. A space where I couldn’t rely on technology or other people, customs, norms, language—somewhere far from my current reality.
“If this first trip was a big deal for you,” I told them, “then get ready, because this is just a warm-up for what I’m really going to do with my life.”
Have you ever been to 'that place,' and how did the decisions affect your life? Let us know in the comments below.