A Commitment to Inward

A common draw to immersive experiences is to get outside of ourselves - to encounter a different culture, build new relationships, seek the discomfort in which we often find growth. In alternative breaks, we witness the recurring pattern of finding disruption in the world we thought we fully understood. Thereafter, we’re tasked with unearthing new meaning - essentially relearning what we once thought was true.

There’s a catch here: after we experience disruption, it’s dangerous to think our newfound understanding is static. Essentially, if we’ve managed to learn something that has dismantled our previous version of the “truth”, there will likely be something more to learn that challenges our thinking again. For example - at some point, we realize assigned sex has no correlation to a child’s favorite color. We may have felt enlightened when we realized that girls aren’t obligated to like pink just as boys don’t have to like blue, but if we’re not willing to continually be critical of our understanding of gender and gender identity - to push beyond that first new understanding - we’re missing the mark. In a changing world, the (sometimes frustrating) reality is that we never - and will never- be all-knowing.

As much as we ache to look outward and soak up everything around us, the real work is inward - a constant deconstruction of ourselves and what we think we know is essential. The desire for a disruptive experience - like alternative breaks - must be paired with a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique (affectionately known as cultural humility). Without it, what we find while looking outward creates no lasting change because it wasn’t internalized.

As you get closer to spring break, consider: how are you preparing yourself and the participants on each trip to look inward rather than out? In what ways are you educating yourself to challenge your own perceptions of the world, rather than waiting for an interaction or story to disrupt them?