by: Sarah Wood “This is something I hope everyone can experience for themselves: To challenge oneself to a long term task, purely out of one’s own desire to experience life in a different way, and then to come out on the other side, satisfied and whole.” –Chelsea Cash


A year ago I left my family. Not my biological family, but a family nonetheless. For two and a half years, I worked with a phenomenal group of people in the mountains of Southern California, teaching science to sixth graders. From hiking in seven feet of snow with a group of students to climbing in the sun at Joshua Tree National Park, we were always together, exploring the world and working to make it a better place for the young people we taught. When the time came for me to leave, my friends presented me with a journal, encouraging me to document my life after our time together.

It’s been a year since they gave me that journal, and I’m proud to say that it’s full. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fill it in 365 days. We’d created such a wonderful bubble for ourselves in our mountain home, and I didn’t know if I’d ever find something so 10419041_10152469168155248_4868712271084135594_ngreat again. But I tried anyway, setting out to ride my bicycle across the country by myself. My journal quickly filled with stories of people I met, sights I saw, food I ate. Those days spent on a bike seat reminded me of who I was on my own: how I made decisions, interacted with strangers, spent my free time. While I enjoyed the opportunities for autonomy presented by this journey, I missed the feeling of togetherness from my little cocoon of community.

My time with ERT has more than fulfilled my sense of belonging. Never have I felt more immediately at home with a group of people. I’ve probably managed to fill my journal so quickly from writing DANCE PARTY and LAUGHING FIT in all caps so many times. I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve once again found myself with people who care about the world, who devote their lives to others, and who do it all while having fun with each other. As sad as it was to begin my journal by leaving a group of people I love, I am thrilled to close it out with memories from another.