Inspiration can come from anywhere, anytime, from any strange and wonderful event, at the most absurd and unexpected moment. It will burn brightly for a short while but eventually fade to an ember smoldering on a back burner. But every now and again, a spark of inspiration can take a hold of you from the inside and refuse to die. These are the sparks born of a deep love, dream, or faith. These are the sparks that can produce life changing journeys of both the body and spirit and enhance your life and those of many others. These are the sparks that define our humanness and provide our souls with a steady purpose. I have experienced the wonder of such an enduring inspiration. In the last year while volunteering with Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in Canada and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), I have learned more than in my entire previous life and been the happiest I have ever been. My journey began with one of those seemingly-distant childhood dreams being revived by a fateful encounter with a very unique person; Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas. My inspired flames were further fed as I learned of her amazing work and the work conducted by OFI’s staff and volunteers from all around the world.
Then I made the decision that changed my life. I joined the OFI’s efforts in protecting orangutans and rainforests in Borneo by participating in their volunteer construction program. On the surface, this is a three-week program which relies on volunteers to complete critically important projects for OFI’s field programs. But personally, my experience in Borneo turned out to be something I had been waiting for my entire life. I reveled in it. I worked harder than I ever have. I felt freer than I ever thought I could, and I fell in love with that piece of our world. Everything I took in was enlightening and it was all heightened by the joy of being with like minded individuals all working towards a common goal. Daily sightings and occasionally intense interactions with orangutans, one of humankind’s closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, enhanced the surreal nature and vividness of the whole experience and lifted it into another dimension.
Team 2, 2010. Author on bottom left.
Sometimes it feels like the demanding, fast paced routines of our modern life makes these glorious inspirations serve as only nagging reminders of duty. We are forced by our own constraints to see inspiration as an unattainable ideal. There is always an excuse for things not to happen. We have all felt this and know what it is like to feel helpless against ourselves. Like pushing a boulder uphill, we fight ourselves for complex reasons that are really just excuses. Often, all it takes is to simply move out of the way of this boulder. I am talking about letting that spark of inspiration push you to where you may never have thought you could actually go but always wished you could. For me, it meant deciding to take three weeks out of my life to change the rest of my life. It meant putting fear and doubt aside, and going to the jungles of Borneo to volunteer. This may not work for everyone, but only those who take the risk, reap the benefits. I know there are those out there who hear what I am saying and know that this was written for you. I challenge you to take a bold step and feel the difference it makes to follow a dream and then come back again.